We have had a blessed, blessed amount of rain in the past few days, including a truly impressive drenching last night with a spectacular thunder and lightning storm. It's almost too wet to work in some parts of the garden, but I did take a little break and go out to pull some couchgrass, plant some heathers and astilbes and look for the right locations for some of the new plants sitting in the dooryard. I came in the house with scratches from roses on my arms, wet feet, bits of spruce buds in my hair, and a serene attitude.
Tomorrow, the annual Friends of the Acadia Forest Region Society Native Plant Sale is being held at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens at my other alma mater, Acadia University in Wolfville. This will include plants grown by the Friends as well as plants from local nurseries, such as Bunchberry Nurseries in Upper Clements and Baldwin Nurseries in Falmouth.
The owner of Bunchberry Nurseries, Jill Covill, and I went to Agricultural College together back some years ago, and it's always a treat to go visit Bunchberry and catch up with her, which Long Suffering Spouse and I did on Wednesday. Jill was preparing for tomorrow's plant sale and deciding what she should bring, and we got into a discussion about native plants and what parameters we should use in defining natives.
I said for me, it's easy; I decided some time ago that I'm going to follow Allan Armitage's definitions of native, and use North America as my region when considering natives. Of course, not all North American natives are hardy or suitable for a zone 5b maritime climate, but still, there are plenty of options for my garden.
For those who enjoy bird watching or encouraging wildlife in their gardens, the use of native plants can put out a big welcome mat to wild creatures. If you visit a garden that includes natives in its plantings, you’ll find it alive with sound and activity, far different from the “green pavement” of many subdivision gardens.
I'm not an absolute, 'natives only' gardener, and never preach that at others, either. I simply make a case for adding natives to a property because there are so many beautiful, functional, effective plants to choose from. I also stress that they aren't all fool-proof, pest-free, or maintenance-free. No matter what we expect to grow in our gardens, we have to know our soil and climate conditions before we add any plants, native or introduced, heritage or hybrid, to our plantings.
I do find people are often surprised by just how many gorgeous plants ARE native, and how multi-season they can be. The same amelanchier whose flowers enchanted me just a couple of weeks ago will be causing me to oooh and ahhhh this autumn, putting on a display of colour as spectacular as any shrub or tree you could imagine.
So that's my stand on natives. Wonderful plants, many of them--they aren't all perfect--and great for encouraging wildlife and pollinators, providing multi-season colour, and just adding more charm to any garden. I'm glad to see more landscapers--real ones, not the fly-by-nights who think Stella d'oro daylilies and globe cedars and Norway maples make a perfect planting--are also embracing adding natives to their designs. I bet there will be a great turnout of people to tomorrow's sale at Acadia; and if you're there, do have a walk through the native-plant botanical gardens, because they are not to be missed either. I probably won't be there, as LSS tells me I have over 100 things (perennials, annuals, shrubs, trees) that need planting at the moment...