Native Plants Reconsidered

Monday, November 30, 2009

Back in the day there was time when I was mildly bombarded with request for plants that were native to the area. This drove me nuts because most of the plants that these folks wanted for their gardens were in my opinion green and boring with flowers that only lasted 2-3 weeks at best.

My interest in plants was and still is about plants with oodles of visual appeal. I have grown things for years. However, I am not a plant nut to the point that can go out and botanize any vacant lot in the western hemisphere and be thrilled with the stuff you might find in a place like that. Generally speaking, it’s a bunch of green stuff with eeny weeny flowers that are very easy to miss blooming unless you know exactly when they are going to bloom. My take on natives is probably a little harsh. I just want to let you know where I am coming from. Or a better way to put it would be where I was coming from. I grew a little bit as a gardener in the past few weeks.

A bit of this has to do with a new friend I met named Phil Davis from the organization Trees Indiana. Phil is really into native trees. He owns an island on a local lake where he is planting 99% natives. His house on the island is a hundred years old and he wants to make it look like it may have a hundred years ago. This is a cool take on design. As I often say he has a vision.

Last year I met the Lupkes and they were really into native trees as well and we had a few good conversations on them that started to open up my closed mind. One of the reasons these folks like natives is because they are easy to grow because this is where they grow naturally. Transplant shock is almost always less intense with natives than plants with origins in Asia or Europe. That is not to say some non-natives do not grow easily when planted away from their natural surroundings. There are lots of non natives that fall into this category. Look at Kudzu for instance down South, that stuff just grows and grows.

I always use to think in my mind when I had a native plant person encounter that the plants I was growing and selling were native somewhere. I am reconsidering this approach. I have grown a lot of non natives over the years. I suppose I am thinking wildlife probably prefers native plants for subsistence. We have all met someone that did not like Chinese food. Well animals in the woods are probably like us some of them just do not care for non native plants to eat.

Another development is that the industry is starting to come out with a few new cultivars of natives that have better looking or more colors of flowers than their predecessors. One good example would be Asclepias better known as Swamp Milk Weed. Coneflowers are another group of plants that are benefitting from a lot of breeding and selecting.

There must be more varieties out there. I just wanted to let you know what was going through my mind. Maybe you are coming from the same place I was coming from.

The gardening world seems to be changing. Everyone is changing as a response to weather, economic, biological, and entomological pressures that are on some of the non natives that are so common in our landscapes today. This is understandable and necessary if one is to be a successful gardener.

Lets grow together.

We couldn't be happier with the landscaping they designed and installed!

» Kevin from Warsaw