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Transform your yard with native plants.

So you hear people speak of "native plants" in the landscape and perhaps you imagine that they are describing the empty, lot near your house, all tangled up in multiflora rose and Asian bittersweet. You shudder at the thought, contemplate lending your lawnmower, and politely decline their invitation to come over for a cook-out. What you might not realize is that native plants can be just as beautiful and easily maintained in your garden and landscape as traditional European plants and exotic ornamentals. The only difference is that they will be less inclined to suffer plant diseases, having had countless generations through which to evolve and develop resistance. In fact, beyond the initial planting and the occasional maintenance of weeding and trimming, native plants are usually very low maintenance, requiring very little in the way of additional feeding or doctoring. Another benefit to landscaping with native plants is that you are participating in the stewardship of one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country. The native birds, animals, insects, and waterways will thank you for it.

Some of the plants you see in yards here all the time are actually native plants: Rhododendron, Azalea, Black-eyed Susan, American Holly, Redbud, Flowering Dogwood, Daylilies, Irises, Oak-leaf Hydrangea, Heuchera, Strawberries, Southern Magnolia, Creeping Phlox, and Tall Summer Phlox. These are the tried and true favorites whose blossoms are so ingrained in our memories that they might conjure up images of Easter-egg hunts, the bright flashing colors of returning songbirds, iced tea at your grandma's house, and summer adventures with your cousins. For many people these plants are the heralds of the seasons.

Perhaps your taste in landscape plants is a little more eccentric--perhaps quaint means "common" to you. You don't have to import non-native species whose appropriateness in this bio-region might be questionable; perhaps the exotic plants won't thrive in our moist climate or perhaps they will thrive too well and invade upon natural habitat spaces, as was the case with Asian bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese wisteria, English ivy, and (need I mention it?) Kudzu. Southern Appalachia happens to be home to some altogether uncommon and breathtaking plants! Strategic placement of some of these gems against your home, out in the yard, in front of a natural backdrop, and even as a privacy screen can make your yard

To start with, let's look at some of the wildflowers we have to brag about. A dynamite little combination of plants for fans of flaming colors is Cardinal-flower (Lobelia cardinalis) with Fire-pink (Silene virginica), Eastern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), and Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica). Don't be confused by the name "pink" here--the Cardinal-flowers and Fire-pinks are red as red can be! The Columbine and Indian-pink are both red, combined with shades of yellow. In July, you will likely have a period of overlap with all the flowers in bloom, but between the different species, you can count on brilliant colors from April to September! You will likely also get dashes of color from visiting hummingbirds, who are especially fond of the Cardinal-flower and Indian-pinks.

These plants will all want to be in dappled shade and moist but well-drained ground, so they go nicely at the foot of moisture-tolerant trees like Bald-cypress (Taxodium distichum), Overcup Oak (Quercus lyrata), River Birch (Betula nigra) and Black-gum (Nyssa sylvatica)--these last two echoing the gold and red shades in fall foliage. In a nearby sunnier spot, you might also insert a Hawthorn tree (Crataegus phaenopyrum) or two, but not directly behind your flowers as the Hawthorn makes a fiery specimen itself and would distract from the bright contrast of the red against green. The Hawthorn will kick off the season with its foliage coming in red before turning green, producing red berries for the birds late summer, and then finishing in orange-red fall foliage. Be warned though that the Hawthorn gets its name from the fact that it is thorn!

If your yard is sunnier, you could have fun with some other ostentacious plants such as Bee-balm (Monarda dydma), which I have affectionately re-named Phyllis Diller Flower, because its blossom looks like something one might have seen her wear on her head in the 1970's. The Carolina native dydma is bright red, but there are other shades of Monarda native to the Eastern U.S. that are white, lavender, magenta, and even deep burgundy. My favorite is the bright purple-magenta color (Monarda media), which could go well with the sleek and dramatic Green Dragon (Arisaema dracontium), the sun-golden Purple-head Sneezeweed (Helenium flexuosum), or the cheery aster-flower New York Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis). It would also go well with Northern Rattlesnake-master (Eryngium yuccifolium), a relative to the Sea Holly plant, which is often used in cut and dried flower arrangement. Monarda usually colonizes a nice stand wherever it is growing, especially where the ground is a bit moist. In the wild, you will often see it accompanying wild raspberries and wineberries along forest paths. Town or country, you will inevitably see honey bees and butterflies flocking to this plant!

For butterflies galore, you might also consider growing an assortment of Asclepias, or milkweed plants. This is also one of those often disregarded plants for its commonness, but its one of my favorites. The pink swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is crucial to Monarch butterfly populations and is nicely complimented by tall Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium fistulosum), which looks almost exactly like the same plant but twice as tall. The large round tufts of flowers on these native plants are light pink with accents of darker pinkish purple tints, If pink is not your thing, or if your soil is drier, you might try the orange vibrant Butterfly-weed (Asclepias tuberosa), which is also lower growing--about two feet tall.

There are so many more plants worth mentioning, but alas, only so much room on a page. Take your pick from the plants in the sidebar for more amazing Appalachian native plants!



Adam's-needle, Yucca filamentosa

Bee-balm, Monarda didyma

Black Cohosh/Snakeroot, Cimifuga racemosa

Blazing-star, Grass-leaved, Liatris graminifolia

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria Canadensis

Cardinal-flower, Lobelia cardinalis

Columbine, Eastern, Aquilegia Canadensis

Common Grass-pink, Calopogon tuberosus

Day Lily, Hemerocallis fulva

Dwarf Crested Iris, Iris cristata

Eastern Bluestar, Amsonia tabernaemontana

Eastern Shooting Star, Dodecatheon meadia

Fire-pink, Silene virginica

Great Blue Lobelia, Lobelia siphilitica

Green Arrow-arum, Peltandra virginica

Green Dragon, Arisaema dracontium

Indian-pink, Spigelia marilandica

Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum

Lance-leaf Tickseed, Coreopsis lanceolata

Narrow-leaf Blue-eyed-grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium

New York Ironweed, Vernonia noveboracensis

Northern Rattlesnake-master, Eryngium yuccifolium

Obedient, plant, Physostegia virginiana

Phlox, Creeping, Phlox stolonifera

Phlox, Summer, Phlox paniculata

Pink Turtlehead, Chelone lyonii

Pitcher-plant, Sarracenia species

Purple-head Sneezeweed, Helenium flexuosum

Rose Pogonia, Pogonia ophioglossoides

Tall Blue Wild Indigo, Baptisia australis

Trillium, Wake-robin, Trillium erectum

Turk's Cap Lily, Lilium superbum

Virginia Blueflag, Iris virginica

Whirling Butterflies, Gaura lindheimeri

Wild Bleeding-heart, Dicentra exima


Coastal Sweet-pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia

Flame Azalea, Rhododendron flammeum

Mountain-laurel, Kalmia latifolia

Rhododendron, Rhododendron-numerous varieties!

Smooth Northern Spicebush, Lindera benzoin

Snow Queen Hydrangeas, Oak Leaf, Hydrangea quercifolia

Witch Hazel, Hamamelis virginiana


American Holly, llex opac

American Smoketree, Cotinus obovatus

American Snowbell Tree, Styrax americanus

Bald-cypress, Taxodium distichum

Black Elderberry, Sambucus nigeris

Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia

Black-gum, Nyssa sylvatica

Chalk Maple, Acer leucoderme

Dogwood, Comus--various species

Eastern Red Maple, Acer rubrum

Honey-locust, Gleditsia triacanthos

Redbud, Cercis canadensis

Sassafras, Sassafras albidum

Sourwood, Oxydendrum arboreum

Ti-ti Tree, Cyrilla racemiflora


American Wisteria, Wisteria frutescens

Cross-vine, Bignonia capreolata

Passionfruit, Passiflora incarnata


Cinnamon Fern, Osmunda cinnamomea

Southern Shield Fern, Thelypteris kunthii

Brandi Hubiak has managed several organic C.S.A.'s in the past and lived/farmed in several eco-village communities. She currently resides in Asheville and runs a small organic landscape/garden design business called Garden Graces 828-712-2609.
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Title Annotation:digging in
Author:Hubiak, Brandi
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Previous Article:We are being called.
Next Article:Traditional western herbalism: the energies of four elements.

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