Saturday, March 20, 2010
Keeping the natives under control
You should also be careful what "native" plants you go for. Learn what is considered a noxious weed in your state, such as Canada and Scotch thistle, some varieties (or all) of lythrum, kudzu, multiflora rose, among others, and also know that they are NOT native plants, but like Japanese honeysuckle, have been imported and are vicious invasive marauders, and in some cases, it is illegal to grow them. Also, some true natives are considered rare and endangered (like the Virginia waterleaf) in some states and may grow prolifically in others.
Knowing your zone is also important. There is probably no way to grow ferns from the Pacific Northwest, in Missouri (ask me, I have tried), or desert sage in North Carolina. What you should look for are plants that are native to the area in which you live. Not only will they look natural in your setting, you will not be introducing a species that might go hog wild and try global domination in your good soil conditions that they wouldn't get where they normally grow. Or, just die because you don't have cool nights, or hot enough days, warm enough winters, too warm winters, or the elevation is wrong.
You will find that there is a lot of overlap between zones, and many wildflowers and lovely natives that grow in Minnesota or Canada will grow as far south as zone 7, possibly 8.
But regardless of their zone, you probably cannot grow saltwater beach plants in the Ozarks, or freshwater swamp plants on the oceanfront. You need to give them the kind of soil and growing conditions they have in the wild, in order to be successful. But always take with a grain of salt what the books tell you; e.g. those Virginia bluebells? Books say they need moist, cool woodland soil. In my Ozarks plateau woods, they are happily making well-established colonies in rocky, dry soil in our hot summers, reseeding themselves in the gravel paths, between stepping stones, and in odd corners everywhere. They do go dormant in the summer, their beautiful blue bells only a brief spring show, so they never get to be a nuisance. Others, needing a lot of shade in the wild, may grow very well (too well) in part sun if they have extra moisture.