Using Native Plants

I recently took one of the tours of the Chesapeake Native Nursery (CNN) with Sara Tangren. It was a very interesting visit, and I got to see a lot of different native plants growing in their full size and bloom. Many of them are quite nice and would be good additions for the garden. I was amazed at how attractive some were, and wondered why it was not possible to find them in local nurseries. The reason is that there is no demand for them. If we want more natives to be available, we need to demand them from the growers. One way to do this is to download the cards from the Maryland Native Plant Society's (MNPS) Web site and give them to the retailers. This expresses your interest. Another way is to buy the plants from places that have them, so that those vendors will continue to provide them, even if they are sometimes a little more expensive. And, of course, another way is to get some from your fellow gardeners. The cards can be found at: .

June Plants of the Month

I am making up this category. If there is space, I'll try to feature some plants each month that you can try to find and trial. These plants are usually not available or are hard to find. If you call Sara Tangren, she'll be happy to sell them to you.

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed). These have orange-colored clusters of flowers, which, depending on the variety, range from a pale yellow-orange to a bright orange that can sometimes appear up close to have red stripes running through it. En masse, they are spectacular. They tend to stay put in their own clumps, which get bigger over the years. After flowering, they produce seed pods which are easily harvested; the seeds also serve as food for wild birds. Butterflies and bees like the flowers.

Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver's Root). This is a tall stately plant with white upright spike inflorescences. This plant would look fine in the middle to back of a perennial border. I have not grown this, yet, but plan to get a small plant from Sara sometime soon.

Elymus hystrix (or Hystrix patula, Bottlebrush Grass). This is a grass that actually requires some shade. The grass grows to about 3 feet tall, and the flower/seed heads look like a bottle brush, no kidding. It's quite nice, but it needs space and works best in a naturalized shade planting. It can self-sow.

Sedum ternatum (Mountain Stonecrop). Yes, Maryland does have a native sedum! This is a small spreading sedum that works well as a groundcover for shady areas. Yes, it's a sedum for shady to part-shade areas, and not for the full-sun dry areas. It's a cute plant. I haven't tried this, either, but plan to get ahold of some in the future.

I am currently trialing Viola sagittata (Arrowhead-violet) and a native member of the mint family whose name I have forgotten (but will find out later)!

Rabbit Food - Not!

I decided I wanted to take advantage of the seeds Abby brought to one of our meetings, and plant some lettuce. From past experiences, I knew that if I put them in the ground, the rabbits would eat them before I could get to them. So this year, I bought two window boxes and mounted them over my entrance rails. I filled them with one of those container garden substrates, and after starting seeds in smaller pots, I transplanted them to the window boxes. I am enjoying my organic "salad bar" almost every day! Sorry, rabbits.


© Iris H. Mars, 2004.