New Natives

Flag Iris in Pond

“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening

Summer is upon us and there are so many things happening this week.  If you didn’t know about the Pollinator Partnership, and that it is Pollinator Week you should check it out.  So what better time to have Wildflower Wednesday at Clay and Limestone then during Pollinator Week.  Pollinators depend on native plants, and they certainly go crazy for them in my garden.  Trying to capture pictures of pollinators is another skill I am still working on.

Moonbeam Coreopsis Surrounded by Horsetail

I was reminded by a wonderful blogger, Karla, at Gardendaze’s Blog about the Great Sunflower Project.  Needless to say I signed up.  It reminds me of some of the other phenology type projects out there; easy to do, but you have to be diligent.  I chose monarda as my flower to track bees since sunflowers are a long way off here.  I’ll let you know how I it goes once my monarda bloom.

But for this post, I thought I would concentrate on some new natives I have decided to plant in my garden and a wonderful native plant nursery I was reacquainted with recently.  I’ll start with why I wanted to add more natives.  I have been overrun with horsetail and it is becoming quite a mess.  If you don’t know about horsetail, then you are lucky.  Horsetail is a wild plant, and in my garden it has taken over.  Many call it a weed, but really it is an ancient plant so I do give it some reverence.  It is said to be a remnant from the Carboniferous Period from about 354 to 290 million years ago during the late Paleozoic Era.  I always think of them as looking like little evergreen bushes that are virtually indestructible.  They spread by spores in the spring, and quickly take over an area.

It certainly looks harmless, but it can totally fill in and obscure other plants like the yarrow above.  The yarrow is tall enough to rise above it, but anything smaller and the horsetail covers it.  I thought it was bad before, but this year with all the rain it has made the problem worse.  Think of any of your gardens overrun with any weed or plant and then you get the idea.  So do you smother it with newspaper, use organic weed killers, pull it and mulch it?  Actually no…none of the above…they do not work or can actually make it worse.

So when I was reading a blog recently (unfortunately I cannot remember whose blog it was), I happened on a link to Controlling Horsetail.  Now I have searched and read a lot about this plant, but had found nothing helpful that I didn’t already know until this article.  It really is quite simple-horsetail thrives in boggy conditions.  To get rid of it you have to improve the soil.

  1. Wet soil is the worst, but I have improved the drainage the best I can at this point so on to the next point.
  2. Raise the pH of the soil above 7.  I had not considered my soil acidic, but it probably is if horsetail is thriving.
  3. Add nutrients to the soil.  Well the soil has been unchanged for at least 4 years now, and the areas where it is the worst could use a good layering of compost and manure.  Can’t hurt it.
  4. Add good ground covers to act as a weed suppressant so it can’t get a foothold.

Once you do this, the horsetail virtually dies back on it’s own or at least improves in a year.  It can thrive is dry clay soils where the soil may need amending too.  What I have discovered through all this is that my soil is probably in need of amending in any area where horsetail growing.  I would bet horsetail is a good indicator that you need to improve the nutrients in your soil too.

So as I was making plans to spread dolomite lime and then the manure/compost, I thought I should look into some ground covers.  I have many in other areas, but they are not native.  I researched some native ground covers and remembered I had read about a native plant nursery nearby.  That’s when I checked out Amanda’s Garden.

Blanket Flower Surrounded by Horsetail

Amanda’s Garden is a native perennial nursery that has a wonderful selection and ships your order.  When I emailed the owner, Ellen Folts, she was happy to take my order through email.  They also take your order via mail or phone too.  The website is full of great information about the plants they grow.

The nursery is about an hour south of Rochester, NY which is west of me about 2 hours.  Located in Springwater, NY, they specialize in woodland wildflowers, and carry some prairie and wetland plants.  I am lucky because Ellen has a wonderful sister that lives close by who is willing to pick up orders and bring them back to my neck of the woods.  She is about 20 minutes away so it is an easy pick up saving me shipping charges.  As Ellen and I exchanged emails, it dawned on me that I knew her.  Come to find out Ellen was at the Native Plant Symposium my school had put on about 6 years ago.  As a matter of fact, I have many of her wonderful native plants thriving in my gardens.  I cannot wait to reconnect with Ellen and visit the nursery.

So on to the plants…..they were large, lush and not expensive at all.  I think the most I paid for 1 plant was $6.


I purchased (clockwise starting upper left):

Pachysandra procumbens or Alleghany Pachysandra–ground cover for shade

Carex appalachica or Sedge, Upland–perfect for the dry shade under the trees once I weed it out

Asarum canadense or Wild Ginger–great ground cover for shade

Stylophorum diphyllum or Yellow Wood Poppy–for the moist sunny areas in spring

Geranium maculatum or Wild Geranium–ground cover for moist shady or part sun areas

Solidago caesia or Goldenrod, Blue-stemmed–moist sunny areas

Carex mertensii–moist sunny location

Actaea pachypoda or Doll’s Eyes-moist shady location (already planted with my native collection in the shade)


As the horsetail project unfolds this summer, I will keep you updated, and I will follow up on my Amanda’s Garden plants.  Don’t forget Friday it will be Fertilizer Friday at Tootsie Time.  Time to wander around and see more June blooms.







“Summer is a promissory note signed in June, its long days spent and gone before you know it, and due to be repaid next January.”
–  Hal Borland




Special Note: All natives pictured here are in my garden.  Soon the wonderful natives from Amanda’s Garden will be too.  Monthly around this time (usually the 10th) I guest blog at Walkabout Chronicles.  I hope you can join me for my most recent post and interview.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.
All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.


  1. Alistair says:

    Good luck with all your new natives Donna, horsetail, not a weed that has been a problem with us, thankfully. Your Flag Iris is a great colour.

    • Donna says:

      Thx Alistair…the flag iris by the pond were gorgeous this spring and are still blooming daily…I have noticed that beds filled with more natives in my garden do better against horsetail…anyone spared from this weedy plant are lucky unless you have a meadow only for a garden or a medicinal garden with woodlands and natives…

  2. Donna says:

    Donna, I am very interested to see if you can curtail horsetail. We have to document it’s occurrences here in Niagara County for Cornell. It is a plant that even the home gardener version of Roundup does not kill. Here, my landscaper/nursery friend applies a commercial product used by licensed applicators. And it must have multiple applications to remove the plant for good. Any wonder the plant lasted from prehistoric times!

    • Donna says:

      I knew I would have to use very harsh chemicals to get rid of it, but thought I would try the experiment…I have found I am becoming quite the little scientist these days trying more organic ways to control things…I am always up for a challenge!! I will definitely keep you informed. I plan to amend sunny/dry, sunny/wet and shady/wet areas although the shady/wet and shady/dry have less issues I think because the soil is amended with leaf compost.

    • Donna says:

      Heather that one intrigued me and I have just the spot for it to grow and fill in…Knew you would know a lot about these plants 🙂

  3. catmint says:

    Dear Donna, it’s so interesting reading about natives that are so different to one’s own native plants. I have heard of horsetail but don’t think I’ve seen it here. I recently read that weeds like ground that has been cleared and disturbed, so planting other things thickly when you have improved the soil is probably important. I once filled a large skip with weeds, and they have never come back to the same extent. btw, which came first, the horse or the horsetail? (lol) cheers, catmint

    • Donna says:

      I think you are absolutely correct that this weed took hold once the land was cleared as did so many other weeds we are still trying to battle…this is why a gardeners work is never done…

      • catmint says:

        makes me think of the Garden of Eden – a garden without weeds, and now we pay for A and E’s curiosity by having to live with weeds. I guess it makes our garden lives more interesting, well, challenging anyway!

  4. Marcia Richards says:

    Donna, lots of great info here and, boy, am I glad I don’t have horsetail in my yard! Though I do have other persistent ‘weeds’. Beautiful pics as usual and I love that blue Iris…gorgeous, vibrant color!

    • Donna says:

      The iris is a native plant that hugs the pond and it was so gorgeous I had to lead with it…you know when you see something and you want to capture what your eye is seeing…this one was giving me the eye yesterday!!

  5. Gail says:

    I have admired horsetail but knew I could never contain it~I did see on another blog where it was contained by a concrete patio! I wondered if it could find a way out. Thanks for the link and Wildflower Wednesday mention! Native plants rock! gail

    • Donna says:

      Gail it spread by spores so it will get out…you just need to brush against it in the spring when it sends up the heads of spores and you will carry the spores all over…I do admire and love it just not taking over as much as it is…I will use the method I mentioned to see if it can be contained or tamed a bit!! I find it is contained more in the woodland native garden…

  6. Holley says:

    Interesting about the horsetail. It’s almost as if its job is to fill in where other plants couldn’t thrive. Have fun with your new plants!

    • Donna says:

      Holley that is a great perception…Unfortunately I would rather amend the soil and have flowers grow…thx for the good wishes

  7. The Sage Butterfly says:

    Trying to control the horsetail by amending your soil composition is such a great method to try. I am really interested in seeing how that turns out. My cottage garden was overrun with red sorrel a few years ago, and I tried adding lime to reduce the acidity of the soil. It worked. I still find little pockets of it from time to time, but it is much better than it was when it kept popping up all over.

    • Donna says:

      Seems this remedy will help many things least of all the general health of the soil and plants in my garden…I will let you know how it goes…

  8. b-a-g says:

    Donna, I don’t have the “ancient plant” horsetail in my garden. I’ll keep watching this space because I’m searching for a natural method to combat bindweed.

  9. island threads says:

    love the blue iris Donna and can see why you started with it,
    as you know I have horsetail too and yes raising the hp level and creating good drainage helps a lot I have found, I never read/heard this just commenting from what I’ve noticed in my garden, the areas with lime treament don’t get it so bad and it grows less thickly where drainage is improved, I’m interested you say it’s not so much a problem in shady areas I have found this too so perhaps it needs sun,
    I did read once to remove the spore carrying shoots in spring before the spores are released to cut down the amount of horsetail, maybe if you could just remove some it would help, I look every spring but never have seen these shoots, I think it also spreads by runners and the root goes DEEP!
    my lupin, dayliy and other plants in the damp meadow out grow it and I think it looks sort of nice growing near them but I keep it away from new plants, just pull it out, I know I’m only taking that stem, it grows through the newspaper and shingle mulch I put around new plants, it doesn’t grow through old carpet that I have put around shrubs when new planted, I’ve been dealing with it for 9 years now so if I can answer any question I will, oh just remembered it has a silicon (or something) coat so chemicals can’t penetrate you have to bruise/crack the surface for them to enter the plant (that’s one I can be bothered with), years ago it was used as a pan scourer, the long stem was wound around and you scrubed your pans with it,
    I look forward to seeing your new natives grow, Frances

    • Donna says:

      Frances I did remember you have horsetail and glad that you chimed in here with good advice…one of my posts shows what the spore heads look like…

      second to last collage; bottom right picture.

      I do see these and never thought about it but will next spring…I will let you know how I get on with it…and yes horsetail has been used for scouring pots to used as a tea to help with different ailments.

  10. debsgarden says:

    Good luck on getting rid of the horsetail and with your new natives. I will look forward to reading about your progress. Your blanket flower is beautiful!

    • Donna says:

      Good to know since I need them to grow in fast to prevent the horsestail…I will put the native pachysandra in a spot where it can take its time

  11. Loret says:

    What is the scientific name of the plant you call horsetail? I’m happily growing Equisetum hyemale var. affine. but then again, don’t have a “typical” wildlife garden, so to me it isn’t a problem.

    • Donna says:

      Thx…actually I think they mostly are just need to relocate a few from certain gardens…the pollinators sure cannot tell the difference 🙂

  12. Cat says:

    So happy to hear that you’re trying to tame the horsetail without chemicals. Look forward to hearing how your plan turns out – good luck.

    • Donna says:

      Thx Cat….I really have no choice since chemicals don’t work on it which is why it has been around for millions of years…so keeping with being more green and using less chemicals should be the best choice all around for the garden.,..will keep you posted

  13. Cathy says:

    Congratulations on your new native “babies”. We have also made a concerted effort to use native plantings in our woodland and rock gardens and it is such a sense of satisfaction when we do. The hard part – and what I consider the saddest thing – is that it’s not always easy to find “native” plants at the nurseries!

    • Donna says:

      You said it Cathy…that’s why I was so glad to find Amanda’s Garden again…I plan to scout out the nurseries in the surrounding 2 hour radius to see what else I can find…I wend up buying online many times because I can’t find the natives close by…I wish more would sell even the tried and true ones…

  14. Tammie says:

    beautiful to see your garden plants.
    i was wondering why I have so much horsetail this year. It has been nonstop raining all spring and winter had lots of snow, so the ground is wet as can be.

  15. tootsie says:

    your new additions are spectacular!!! have a great weekend!
    thanks for linking in this week. it is nice to finally get around to say hi and thanks to all the gardeners who patiently grow their flowers and who flaunt with me each week!

  16. igardendaily says:

    Hi Donna,
    Thanks for such an informative post. I am interested in the Great Sunflower Project. Also, I wanted to mention I think you are being SO creative in your method of combating horsetail. I bet it works!

    • Donna says:

      So happy you liked the post and found t useful. Hope you enjoy the project as well. My monarda are just starting to open so I hope to see pollinators on it. They are swarming on the lavender, clover etc. I will let you know if my creative endeavor with horsetail pays off… 🙂

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