On natives—we’re all alright

On natives—we’re all alright

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There’s no more surefire way to get everybody all riled up on this site than to talk about native plants—whether or not to use them, how much to use them, who is too obsessed with them, who isn’t obsessed enough, where they work best, and where they work worst. I’ve read many an impassioned comment on these; too often, such comments are riddled with straw men arguments.

Is there a need? Aside from a very few fanatics—and in spite of Doug Tallamy’s arguments for natives, I do not consider him a fanatic in the least—most proponents of natives I know encourage their use. They do not enforce their use, nor can they. Unless certain plants—like ivy in the Pacific Northwest—are banned, or you live in some kind of HOA hell, you can pretty much plant what you want. Nobody is making you plant natives; nobody is making you plant anything.

But, in spite of all the hot air, I find so much satisfaction in my native plants. There’s the Collinsonia canadensis (at top), with its tiny but interesting blooms. Known commonly as horsebalm, this, like many of my natives, provides late summer interest and statuesque foliage. My Eupatorium varieties are starting to bloom now, as well, including the tangentially related blue mistflower.

I’m very pleased by the Clematis virginiana (above), which doesn’t seem to suffer from wilt, like the Sweet Autumn variety, and climbs undaunted through trumpet vine (not a native everyone likes).

This is the time of year, when the lilies are ending and the roses just coming out of pause, that I appreciate natives the most. They’re not spectacular, flower-wise, for the most part, but they add lush foliage at a time when the garden is beginning to harden, and their aggressive tendencies help them survive in my shade- and root-laden urban wilderness.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on August 5, 2014 at 7:30 am, in the category It’s the Plants, Darling, Ministry of Controversy.

3 Comments
    • Susan
    • 7th May 2017

    I completely agree with you, Elizabeth. There’s room for both, as well as an appropriate place for both, in our gardens. What sets me off are the native adherents who are completely rigid about it – natives good, non-natives bad, no ifs, ands or buts about it. No gray areas. Natives or nothing. That doctrine, in my opinion, would make our gardens into pretty dull places to be.

    • Vincent Vizachero
    • 14th July 2017

    Okay, except no one outside of your imagination takes such a hard line on native plants.

    • Ivette Soler
    • 28th July 2017

    WRONG Vincent- maybe where you live, but in other parts of the country natives are being foisted upon the gardening community. I can’t plant anything I want in a client’s Malibu garden, it has to go through a code process where my plant list is approved.
    I love planting natives, along with well adapted exotics. But the fact that many who advocate turning back time to a so-called pristine wild place want to take away my right to plant responsibly, well, it makes me angry! And just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
    BOTH natives and well adapted exotics have a place in our planting schemes – invasives, both native and non-native, do not. Super simple, I think.

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