Going Native

As the month of February keeps moving along, I have decided to “Go Native”, Native Plants that is.  It is Wildflower Wednesday at Clay and Limestone the fourth Wednesday of every month where Gail Eichelberger hosts posts about our native wildflowers.   In a few days, it will also be Fertilizer Friday and time for another post for “How to Find Great Plants” at Appalachian Feet.  Please take time to visit these three wonderful blogs to see more flowers and plants.  You won’t be disappointed. 

I love Native Plants in the garden and so many bloom in early spring for you to enjoy their incredible flowers and foliage.  Using plants native in the garden is not new, but it certainly is catching on and catching steam, and I for one am excited!!   Natives are unusual, wonderful for naturalizing and surviving the conditions Mother Nature dishes out through the seasons for your area, and wildlife just love them. 

So consider adding some native plants to your landscape this year.  There are many websites for you to consult so you can find plants for your area.  One of the best is NPIN:  Native Plant Database put together by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin.  

Look to local nurseries to help supply you with natives especially suited for your area of the country.  Natives are divided into the following categories and I try to add more into my garden yearly from each category:  ferns, grasses, wildflowers, vines, shrubs, trees.   The main source I use for my area comes from a great book, Native Plants of the Northeast: A Guide for Gardening and Conservation by Donald Leopold who is a professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York which is just down the road from me.  I met Don when he came to speak at a Native Plant Symposium we were hosting at our school.  He also assisted staff with designing and securing plants for a Native Garden at the school. 

The following is a short list of natives you would find in spring for my zone 5 Central New York area.  You may find some of these same plants are native to your area as well.  I will continue to document the natives in my garden this year and post what blooms throughout the seasons. 


While forsythia is thought of as a native plant, it is not.  It has become a harbinger of spring and I love to see those yellow blooms as they welcome spring, but fothergilla (pictured above) is a beautiful native shrub that gardeners should try. 


Honeysuckle is an easy growing forgiving vine that rewards you with blooms from spring through fall, and beautiful berries for winter interest; hummingbirds love this plant and it has an intoxicating scent. 


Scouring rush (the green stems) are in the category of native ferns.  These grow along my pond and will definitely move where they want.  The flowers are from a non-native (to my area) hummingbird mint. 


This pink trillium turns white as it matures.  I have yellow and white varieties as well.  Many of my more unusual native plants are in a special bed until they mature.  Then they can be moved to other areas of the garden. 


This amsonia is the native variety called Common Bluestar.  It’s relative, Arkansas Bluestar, is the 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year. 


Trout Lily is a stunning plant that grows in a naturalized colony in my meadow and a few other spots.  The spotted leaves put on a beautiful show before you are rewarded with the delicate yellow flowers. 


This Softrush Juncus is especially suited in the wet areas and stays evergreen all year.  Even looks great sticking up through the snow. 

Gardeners are key land managers.    Our choices therefore lie not
in whether but in how we manage the land.  We would all agree that
we must do it in an ecologically responsible way.
–  George Seddon,  Gardening Responsibility 


59 Replies to “Going Native”

  1. That scouring rush is new to me, and I’d love to try around my own pond, though I may not have enough sun for it. Love the trilliums and the trout lilies of spring!

  2. Cyndy, thx for visting my natives today..the rush may do Ok in part sun but be warned, it will travel all over…easy to pull out and it is so unique as it pops up in the garden

  3. Hi Donna. I find all your natives here but the amsonia. Do you find it in your meadow? I will be on the look out at the farm this year, maybe near the lakes I will find some of the more unusual natives. Forsythia is in fields of them. The fields blaze yellow come spring. What a pretty sight. Hope to remember to shoot them.

    1. Donna I have yet to discover it in the wild here but did procure some from a grower so I could put it in the garden…I will check and see where we might find some to view in the wild…I hope to put together a Native wildflower calendar of the NE with photography and landscaper friends.

  4. Donna, Welcome to WW! I am so glad you love wildflowers, too. I loved the post and your beautiful flowers. I am a fothergilla fan, but, it doesn’t like my neutral soil! Dang it! But, trilliums, toadlily, amsonia and honeysuckle are happy. I grow the same licorice agastache, but, here it has to be in a container! gail PS Sharing wildflower books is a great idea!

    1. I think that is why I love natives the most because they are so great in shade and the scents and fall colors..I am sure you gardens are just chock full of beautiful shade natives that I hope to see someday!!

      1. You have some of my all time favorites Donna! I love amsonia from the minute it begins to show those tiny starry flowers. The trout lily and trillium are also wonderful surprises within the forest . . . all along the floor . . . and dotted along the fields. I love the fothergilla and honeysuckle too. Your book suggestion looks very interesting. It is exciting that more and more people are going native! Similar to the movement to reclaim our food! Year round farmers markets are so fabulous here in the NE!

  5. Those gorgeous flowers don’t look wild to me. I especially like the honey suckle; both the flowers and the leaves. I imagine they would attract hummingbirds.

    1. Honeysuckle is a personal favorite because it reminds me of my wild youth…we had it growing outside our door when I was a child. You can imagine what memories the scent brings back!!

  6. Your trout lily has leaves just like our Veltheimia, but the flowers are quite different. Ours has a spike of bells like a much taller hyacinth, in a very gentle green tinged pink.

    1. Diana, it sounds like a gorgeous plant. How interesting the natives with similarities and differences around the world…even just here in the US..

  7. Oh how I’d love to have some of those native plants here! I bought a honeysuckle though last year but would like to find a white forsythia. Your photos are fantastic – I’ll be back for sure to see what’s growing here!

    1. Heather, thank you…I actually have a white forsythia if it will bloom this year…I think I found it online at Nature Hills.

  8. Donna, this is a great post and you provide some great resources!

    On quibble, though: there is no forsythia native to North America. All species of forsythia are introduced, most from Asia.

      1. Donna, I’m glad I found your blog!

        While forsythia is, indeed, beautiful the truth is that is NOT native to North America. In fact, in some parts of the country it spreads aggressively to the point of displacing plants that ARE truly native.

        It certainly is not the worst plant you could install in a landscape, but I hope the post could be edited so no one is misinformed.

        1. Point taken and I would not want people to plant this as a native so I have edited the blog…it has been disputed as a native because of the different definitions of native…and in the true sense it is not a native…

  9. Esther,

    Most people consider a plant to be “native” to an area if would be found there without any human intervention.

    There is no true biological definition of “wild”, but at the loosest definition people would say that any plant outside a garden is “wild”.

    So, garden plants that spread by seed prolifically can be “wild” but not be “native”. Examples of wild-but-not-native plants are Norway maple, garlic mustard, English ivy, Japanese barberry, and so on. These plants spread from gardens into “wild” areas and displace the native plants.

    Hope that helps. Some of the links that Donna gave in her excellent post also address this question.

    1. thank you Vincent for pointing out the wild not natives that have taken over our wonderful native plants because they are invaders as I call them…

  10. The native honeysuckle is beautiful! If you mention honeysuckle where I live most people will think of the invasive Japanese honeysuckle. The native honeysuckle is often called just trumpet vine.
    I’m hoping to add more shade natives to my garden this year!

    1. How interesting that some honeysuckles are invasive in your area..I plan to blog on wild non-native plants that got away…you will love the shade natives

  11. I have the honeysuckle, trillium & trout lily…or should I say, I have PLANTED them (last year). Spring will tell whether they survived the winter or not. I wish I’d thought of a ‘separate bed’ like you did. Mine are all out there to fend for themselves in various big areas throughout the back and side yards.
    You’ve done a great job of bringing to light a lot of nice natives and the book sounds like one I need to get!

    1. You will not be disappointed in the book….I learned the hard way about about the separate bed…it works and it is a nice shady, protected, moist area…

    1. that was a great post and I hope to post on invasives soon…I have noticed we think alike in other posts too…I have a post on Harry the Rabbit called Tolerance from Oct and I loved your Peter the Rabbit…

  12. Fothergilla is one of my favorite shrubs. i love the wonderful smelling flowers, and I love the beautiful foliage even more! Several species of amsonia grow here in Alabama and I hope to add some to my garden this year. I am not a purist, but I am trying to add more natives to my garden.

    1. Deb it is a great shrub and you will love amsonia too…I am not a purist either but I try to have the native of a species and then I feel OK when I also collect the hybrids

    2. The really good news is that if, over time, gardeners simply increased the percentage of their gardens planted with natives they would see a dramatic increase in wildlife.

      Doug Tallamy has a great book about this (called “Bringing Nature Home”) and his website lists some of the most valuable plants for butterflies and caterpillars.



      1. Vincent that is exactly why I went native was to attract wildlife and be a better steward of the land..the wildlife is incredible…I will make sure that I put these resources in another post and I plan to check them out as well as your web site…you should be blogging yourself…

  13. Very enjoyable and interesting post Donna. I like the idea of planting natives, unfortunately for us it generally has to be your native plants. Here in the North East of Scotland there are plenty weeds but not so many garden worthy plants. Maybe I should do a little more research.

  14. We have native trumpet plant here which is quite bright and red and the hummingbirds love it. I have been trying to get a piece every summer but it always seems to grow right next to its good buddy: poison ivy. I’ll keep trying.

  15. Donna, This was a great post, and I’ve really enjoyed the discussion, too. Thanks for the recommendation of Leopold’s book; I didn’t know about that one and will add it to my wish list. My own native plants journey has been a progression from being oblivious to the natives/exotics/invasives distinctions to incorporating native plants that were already growing there when I developed new garden areas, to consciously adding native plants to my garden.

    I’m not convinced that Vincent’s definition of native plants is as straightforward as it seems on the surface. How do we know if a plant arrived in a place without human intervention? As long as there have been humans on the earth, they have probably been manipulating plant materials. Even in prehistoric times, humans migrated from one place to another; and as they did so, they purposely or inadvertently brought plant material with them. So if a plant was already growing in North America when Europeans first arrived, does that mean it was growing here without human intervention? Who knows?

    1. Thx Jean…I enjoyed this post and the spirited discussion here and in email with Vincent…Natives have become an area where I am passionate…I know that there is much discussion as to what constitutes a native…like you my journey with natives is similar…

  16. Love this post. When we first moved here, our soil was so bad, almost everything expired. We started looking for native plants, which to our delight, thrived. Our soil is better now, but still, I’d rather have the natives.

    1. glad you enjoyed the post Holley….that is the beauty of natives, that they will thrive in your soil without much amendment…

  17. Those are some great natives.. we sell a lot of natives at the garden center I work at.. My nursery designer is a native buff and promotes native’s in all of his designs..
    Stopping by from Fertilizer Friday and following you via Facebook.


    1. what a great garden center to be promoting natives…I am loving your blog as well and I appreciate your kind words and that you are following my blog…it is an honor…

  18. hi donna, i agree natives are very desirable but i love having a multicultural garden and mixing natives with plants from other countries that suit the climate. i like the quote and when i clicked on it i found he is writing about australia! cheers, cm

  19. Hi Donna,
    I have visited a few times, but was a bit stumped as to how to leave a comment. There is no obvious “leave a comment” at the end of your post. Anyway, I thankfully figured it out.
    I found your post very interesting. I would like to learn more about native plant species.

    1. I am glad you found it Jennifer. This is a simple WordPress template and I hope to change it to make it easier soon…I am glad it has sparked an interest in learning more about this important subject. And I hope you come back to visit…thanks.

  20. Great information. I’m in love with that amsonia, I must find some for my gardens. Thanks for the hint on how to leave a comment here, never ran into that problem before.

    1. Thx Carolyn…I know you have left comments before so I am glad you are back… I am a bit behind on my reading so I hope to visit some blogs including yours today…you will enjoy the amsonia…

  21. you know something? I learned something new just by reading you today! I did not know that honeysuckle has a smell! I wonder why I have never noticed it before?
    thanks for linking in today…I have very much enjoyed your lovely flaunt! I hope you will again soon!

    1. Make sure to stop and smell the honeysuckle…not all have a heavenly scent, but if you find one that does plant it where you will be able to pass it daily or sit and take in its scent…so well worth it!!

  22. Donna,

    Glad to hear you’re going native!
    Amsonia is a great plant, so drought tolerant, flowers early and the foliage turns gold in the fall. What more could you ask for?


    1. Heather I have been slowing going native since we moved in and am now on a mission in earnest…your blog is a great resource and inspiration

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