04 June 2010

The Return of the Native...Plant!

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...


  1. You've really made me think about my garden and if I do have any native plants. Now I have some research to do. Thanks.

  2. I think this is a great post. Beautiful photos. Keep up the good work!

  3. Lovely! I am trying to plant more native plants. There are so many beautiful bloom and stunning foliage that can be found all around us!

  4. Thanks for the heads up on the plant sale, jodi -- I'd love to be able to take that in! Your natives are certainly not restless...they look quite content as they are. :)

  5. Native Plants, great topic!!...we did walk about here tonight, and the highlight was, the natural and wild part of the garden. I left a post on my blog regarding your comment including Aguilegia Canadensis. The first time I ever saw it,..a wild thick froth below a tree on SSI.

    I notice your first photo is of the "lowest form of dogwood"....you would know the proper name)))). The forest beside us is full of this, and the lady slipper... Stand by for photos tomorrow)) if the light is good.

    We are truly blessed to have such an abundance of beautiful natural native wild plants here in Nova Scotia Jodi. I get very enthused...I must admit...

    Really enjoyed your post!

  6. When I moved to a larger property with a large treed area I switched to the use of native plants. They do bring in more wildlife, but I also use cultivars. I watch to see if any insects use them, if not I try to replace them. But being a gardener, there are a few plants that I keep such as my Iris and Peonies. Happy planting this weekend.

  7. Eeee by eck lass!Fantastic Blog, love it love it. I cannot make the sale tomorrow alas for ground work and other things. Tomorrow J goes back to old blighty for permanent, I've lost my partner, and now going alone. No doubt we will talk soon. Until then 1000 dollars of flower seed to go in, so somehow to meet the deadline. Now there's a challenge for any gal!

  8. You expressed my sentiments exactly about natives. My garden would be paltry without the natives, and I would definitely have to work harder!

  9. Love the term "green pavement". I've never heard that before but it describes the yards of so many subdivisions perfectly!

  10. Very close to my own natives philosophy Jodi. They grow so well at C&L that I almost always look for the native plant first....then others. I would miss the heck out of zinnias, cosmos, Autumn Joy Sedum and spring bulbs. Gail

  11. Oh those kind of landscapers, you mean..."men with trucks."

    Natives are gorgeous, and when I start to collect plants for our farm [in the future] they will definitely be on my list.

    I love the thought of having more butterflies, and birds.


  12. Well said, and nice photos. I love the bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) in your first photo. I've finally established a nice patch of them in my garden, and hope to get berries some day.

  13. I live on a rural five acres. I try to blend the edges of my garden into the surrounding Landscape my encoraging the native plants Arnica, roses, spruce, Indian paint brush , yarrow, and ahost of others I don't know the names of. I agressivly weed out a nd stomp on invasive weeds like hawkweed, oxeye Daisys, and others. Although unless I can invent some kind of plague for horsetail, I will always be fighting with it.
    Your photos are lovely.

  14. Beautiful photos!!! I'm trying to add more natives also. Ones that can tolerate some drought since we often have prolonged dry spells here.

  15. Whenever we finally settle down in a place for longer than the projected six months, I plan to plant natives. You know me, I'm all about supporting the wildlife! I want my garden to feel connected to the larger picture the ecosystem is painting -- even if I am only copying its brushstrokes as clumsily as I'm able.

    I was noticing today that a particular invasive here is quite the food source for the bees, and trying to decide how I felt about that. So far? Conflicted.

  16. I love native plants and you have some very healthy looking specimens. Nice

  17. Jodi those picture were fabulous girl ! .. I too have my favorite natives .. Bunchberry is almost number one ? with me : ) I have one Canada Lily that seems to want to be an only child, but it is a show stopper when it smiles .. I love Joe Pye .. so tall and handsome. Aquilegia canadensis is a tiny beauty that manages to scream "look at me" when it blooms in my shady garden. Solomon's Seal is amazing with its jewlery of pearl drops .. well what can I say ? How can you have a garden without some of these beauties ?
    Joy : )

  18. I definately love natives and plan to plant more. I love your shot of Joe Pye Weed - it's one of my fav's!

  19. I'm glad I came here to see what else you'd posted. I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the subject, and recognized most of the plants in your wonderful photos.

    I've been thinking I need to look up the difference between a wildflower and a native plant. In my mind, a wildflower can be a native one, but not all native plants are wildflowers. I plan to go to the links you provided.

    I like to grow a variety of plants. I avoid buying perennials that are illegal to propagate, if I remember to check. What silliness! What do they think gardeners do?


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