Native Plants: Problem Solvers

I am not sure whether you have had this experience but in each of the places I have gardened, there is always one particularly challenging feature. This is about plants that solve three common situations.

Planting a heavily traversed corner beneath a large oak tree:

A good friend lives on a lively corner where the garden gets oodles of passersby, pets and kids playing. On top of that, a nearby oak tree shades the area and sends roots out along the ground surface. Despite the challenges, my friend planted a lovely corner bed featuring a native dogwood (Cornus Florida f. rubra) underplanted with a mix of natives and ornamentals.  Dogwoods are understory trees so planting a younger dogwood beneath the canopy of a mature oak tree seems like a great choice.  Two types of coral bells (Heuchera), blue fescue (Festuca glauca) and several ornamental hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) turn what could be a trodden corner into a neighborhood gem of a spot.  The mix of textures, layering of natives with ornamental hydrangeas and selection of plants that do well in dappled shade make this a problem solved!  It’s also a great example of how to blend favorite ornamentals with natives.

Planting in construction fill:

I have added lots of compost to this gravelly spot in a corner of our garden. The never-ending appearance of more rocks leads me to think a load of fill dirt was placed here.  I finally found something that will grow amongst the rocks. Native pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia), a low growing perennial, grows in dry, rocky, sunny places.  Plug sized plants, planted last spring, are beginning to fill in. The silvery blue foliage, foot high spring flowers and incredible hardiness make pussytoes a problem solver.

If you are a fan of the perennial lamb’s ears (Stachys Byzantine “Big Ears’) for its soft sage colored velvety leaves, pussytoes makes a great native substitute.  While the smaller leaves don’t have the same texture, the color is very similar.

Hiding unsightly objects:

Lonciera sempivirens Denver Garden

Native trumpet honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens) will climb over just about anything.  It grows relatively quickly but not in a crazy way that requires constant pruning.  This Denver gardener masterfully covered her utility pole corner with an inexpensive screen, added a trellis and let the honeysuckle vine do its thing. In our area these will grow in full sun or part shade. As with many plants, though, they will bloom more prolifically the more sun they get. Hummingbirds love this vine.

This trumpet honeysuckle vine is also an excellent replacement for Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) which has yellow and white blooms and is invasive in our area.

In gardening, there really aren’t any problems. It’s more about finding the right solution for a challenge.  I spoke to a colleague out west yesterday who was busy putting up “springtime hail protection” for her garden. Makes gardening for the Chesapeake look pretty easy!











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Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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