Fifth Day of Christmas

By December 18, 2012 plants 3 Comments

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

fiiiiive! naaaaative! plaaaaaants!

…four hummingbirds!

..three moorhens!

…two mourning doves!

…and a replacement for a Bradford pear tree!

You all know by now that I’m a native plant junkie, both because I want to support wildlife (and not just the eat-anything-generalists—I am still deeply honored to have had a Stinging Rose Caterpillar in the yard) and because I thinking it really contributes to the sense of place. A garden should be deeply rooted (ha) wherever it is, not as interchangeable as a McDonald’s.

My garden runs about sixty percent native—a much higher percentage in the shrub and tree department, where my non-natives consist of things like hardy pomegranate and a potted Daphne odora. This has worked out as the best proportion for me, since it means I can still fall madly in love with random perennials and keep old favorites like Walker’s Low catmint, while still being majority native for all the little critters.

Five native plants that have done really well for me this year:

Hypericium buckleyii — “Appalachian Sun”  A cultivar of our rare native prostrate St. John’s Wort, this made a very satisfying ground cover over the summer. Not entirely evergreen, so the chickweed is starting to overrun it now, but I am quite optimistic for its return.

Asplenium platyneuron — “Ebony Spleenwort” Picked up recently on a whim, and has established very vigorously for a wee little fern in a less than hospitable spot.

Iris virginica — “Contraband Girl” A cultivar of our native Louisiana iris, this sucker gets to be six feet tall. If the thought of a six foot iris does not excite you, you may already be dead. One of the few plants plugged into my proto-wetland that could hold its own against the late season Japanese stiltgrass assault.

Lycopus virginicus — “Virginia Water Horehound”  This one is related to the mint family and thus should probably not be set loose in just any garden bed, although it’s not as weedy as some of its relatives. It takes just about any soil and part shade. I am growing it with trepidation and pull out a substantial portion. Next year I may transplant some to the proto-wetland. Nevertheless, it’s largely idiot-proof and hosts the hermit sphinx moth, a gorgeous hummingbird-mimic moth with big, liquid eyes, like a small insectile muppet.

Agarista populifolia — “Florida hobblebush”  A shrub native from Florida to the Carolinas, also known as Pipestem and Florida Leucothoe. Tough, will take the shade and root competition under pines, and so far one of the few shrubs I’ve planted in multiples where I haven’t lost a single one.  Supposed to be a good screening shrub, but we’ll see how it goes.