Using Native Plants

Why Use Native Plants?

The trend in gardening is to use more native material ,which I’m all for. When you use native plants in your garden you have plant material that can survive without your intervention. Much less work for the gardener and definitely good for water conservation. This all goes back to “right plant-right place” gardening philosophy. It’s not always possible to use the native plants within your garden as depending where you live many of them are a bit too rough around the edges or invasive. Sometimes a native shrub or tree just needs a little make over to fit into your yard, such as a good hair cut. Pruning can go a long way to alter the appearance of an otherwise scraggly specimen. It can take a few years to get just what you want but in the end it is well worth it.

Going Native in the garden with Sensible Gardening. How to use native plants.

Saskatoon Berry (Serviceberry / Amelanchier alnifolia) 

Considered to be a shrub or small tree reaching around 15 feet tall at maturity. In spring it is covered in showy white flowers in clusters on the branch tips, each with 5 petals. It produces a black, seedy fruit in the fall which the birds love. The berries are edible and tasty however in our arid climate by the time they are ripe they are very dried out and we don’t bother with them. We’ve tried but you have to use too much sugar for our taste.

The more natural growth of the Saskatoon Berry is upright but gets quite thick and tangled. The picture below shows one that I have kept pruned. It was growing in this location all by itself which I thought was perfect. Over the years I have been pruning to keep it’s shape and size appropriate for our garden.

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Every area will have its own choices of native plants to use, but here are some of ours that we enjoy incorporating into our garden:

Mariposa Lily is lovely. They pop up here and there, they are the boss. A delicate native bulb that is hard to beat.

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Balsam Root literally covers our hillsides for about 2 weeks in early spring.

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Oregon Grape makes for a great shrub in the mixed border or along a wall or fence. Glossy, thick evergreen leaves, vibrant yellow blooms and blue-purple berries make it a winner.

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Fritillaria bloom in the spring and are great for the rock garden. Small but worth it to bend down and take a good look.

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Prickly Pear Cactus also makes a good rock garden plant. They occasionally bloom in the spring with bright yellow blooms.

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Gallardia bloom in early summer. They may not be as showy as the hybrids but are still beautiful.

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Kinnikinic makes an excellent evergreen ground cover.

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Wild Rugosa Roses make a good hedge along an outer boundary. Scented flowers and beautiful rose hips in the fall.

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Where to source out Native Plants

Using natives is a great idea and more and more nurseries are beginning to offer these plants. If you decide to try this alternative in your garden  please visit a reputable nursery which is growing these natives ethically. Never go out into the wild to dig up your own specimens as you will do more harm than good to your environment. Most transplants from nature do not take, so there is nothing to be gained from this practice.

Study up on your local area flora, head out to nature to have a look at what grows then source out what you like. I’m sure that over time more of these plants will be showing up at your local nurseries to help make this process a lot easier. You might like to check out Wildlife Gardens Forum, lots of great info for native gardening.

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 Going native in the garden with Sensible Gardening. How to use native plants.

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