Friday, March 14, 2008

Learning more about native plants

Adding native plants to your garden sometimes feels a bit serendipitous. Commonly used natives may be widely available in nurseries, but many are little known as garden plants, and so much harder to find. It's also important (just as it is with all plants) to choose the right plant for the right place. So, selecting natives of your region, or that those that are adapted to it, are the ones to try.

Some natives are fussy, and not easy to grow, but many, when planted in appropriate sites, are relatively pest-and problem-free, being adapted to the regional environment.

One of the first steps to adding natives is to learn more about what’s available and what’s recommended for landscape use. Some species that are hard to propagate or that are slow-growing, or don’t take well to containers may be impossible to find; similarly, herbaceous species with a limited market are the venue of specialty mail-order nurseries.

Here are some of my favorite references about using native plants in the landscape (for the Southeast, where I live.) This post is for SE gardeners, but other parts of the country have equally good references.

Wasowski, Sally and Andy Wasowski. 1994. Gardening with Native Plants of the South. Taylor Publishing Co.: Dallas. 196 pp.

This book is an outstanding guide to native plant choices, combining plants, where to plant, complete with planting suggestions. It’s been tremendously successful, and is probably the book I reach for first.

Jones, S.B. and L.E. Foote. 1990. Gardening with Native Wild Flowers. Timber Press: Portland, Oregon. 195 pp.

This is a classic, much reprinted, and just as useful today. It includes much more information than a standard wildflower guide.

Cullina. William. 2000. The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers of the United States and Canada. Houghton Mifflin Company.

Cullina. William. 2002. Native Trees, Shrubs, and Vines: A Guide to Using, Growing, and Propagating North American Woody Plants. Houghton Mifflin Company.

Bill Cullina’s thorough descriptions of landscape-worthy natives are accompanied by excellent photographs, making these books an easy way to learn more about native plants to consider in your own landscape.

Bir, Richard E. 1992. Growing and Propagating Showy Native Woody Plants. University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill, NC.

An expert horticulturist, Dick Bir provides hands-on advice for propagating our showy woodies, based on his experiences in the Fletcher Mt. Research Station in Western North Carolina.

To help learn and identify native trees, shrubs, and herbs in natural plant communities, here are a few reference suggestions. There are also many good field guides that include native plants.

Brown, Claud L. and L. Katherine Kirkman. 1990. Trees of Georgia and Adjacent States. Timber Press.

Duncan, Wilbur H. and Marion B. Duncan. 2000. Trees of the Southeastern United States. University of Georgia Press,

Porcher, Richard D. and Douglas A. Rayner. 2002. A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press.

Foote, Leonard E. and Samuel B. Jones, Jr. 1989. Native Shrubs and Woody Vines of the Southeast: Landscaping Uses and Identification. Timber Press.

Finally, there are a number of excellent organizations that promote interest in native plants and have both comprehensive programs and informative websites, which include plant suggestions, and numerous other resources.

Visit the websites of these regional organizations to find out more about the organizations and the resources that they offer.

South Carolina Native Plant Society

North Carolina Native Plant Society

North Carolina Botanical Garden (focused on native plants)

South Carolina Botanical Garden (many native plants in the landscape and offered in our spring and fall plant sales)

Georgia Wildlife Federation

And, here are a couple of national organizations, among many good ones, to learn about native plants and how to use them in the landscape.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (focused on native plants of the U.S.)

National Wildlife Federation (their backyard wildlife habitat program focuses on native plants)

Learning about native plants of our region and where they grow will help give you insights into how you might include them in your landscape.


    We Have different kind of plant and
    also the character. but I interested
    with your garden arrangement.
    good luck.pal

  2. Nice to have a comment from Bali. The native plants in Bali are quite different than those we have in the Eastern U.S., but the sentiment about learning about them is the same.


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