On natives—we’re all alright

On natives—we’re all alright

There’s no more surefire way to get everybody all riled up on this site than to talk about native plants—whether or not to use them, how much to use them, who is too obsessed with them, who isn’t obsessed enough, where they work best, and where they work worst. I’ve read many an impassioned comment on these; too often, such comments are riddled with straw men arguments.

Is there a need? Aside from a very few fanatics—and in spite of Doug Tallamy’s arguments for natives, I do not consider him a fanatic in the least—most proponents of natives I know encourage their use. They do not enforce their use, nor can they. Unless certain plants—like ivy in the Pacific Northwest—are banned, or you live in some kind of HOA hell, you can pretty much plant what you want. Nobody is making you plant natives; nobody is making you plant anything.

But, in spite of all the hot air, I find so much satisfaction in my native plants. There’s the Collinsonia canadensis (at top), with its tiny but interesting blooms. Known commonly as horsebalm, this, like many of my natives, provides late summer interest and statuesque foliage. My Eupatorium varieties are starting to bloom now, as well, including the tangentially related blue mistflower.

I’m very pleased by the Clematis virginiana (above), which doesn’t seem to suffer from wilt, like the Sweet Autumn variety, and climbs undaunted through trumpet vine (not a native everyone likes).

This is the time of year, when the lilies are ending and the roses just coming out of pause, that I appreciate natives the most. They’re not spectacular, flower-wise, for the most part, but they add lush foliage at a time when the garden is beginning to harden, and their aggressive tendencies help them survive in my shade- and root-laden urban wilderness.

Posted by

Elizabeth Licata
on August 5, 2014 at 7:30 am, in the category It’s the Plants, Darling, Ministry of Controversy.


    • Vincent Vizachero
    • 19th July 2015

    Okay, except no one outside of your imagination takes such a hard line on native plants.

    • Ivette Soler
    • 24th April 2016

    WRONG Vincent- maybe where you live, but in other parts of the country natives are being foisted upon the gardening community. I can’t plant anything I want in a client’s Malibu garden, it has to go through a code process where my plant list is approved.
    I love planting natives, along with well adapted exotics. But the fact that many who advocate turning back time to a so-called pristine wild place want to take away my right to plant responsibly, well, it makes me angry! And just because it doesn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
    BOTH natives and well adapted exotics have a place in our planting schemes – invasives, both native and non-native, do not. Super simple, I think.

    • Vincent Vizachero
    • 30th July 2016

    Ivette, all I can say is that what you think you see is only in your own mind. And, apparently, your imagination is powerful.

    • admin
    • 29th October 2016

    Vincent, come on now… The term “native Nazi” didn’t come out of a kind warm place. There is overwhelming dialog on the part of nativists that insists that all of us that plant non-natives are Satan’s spawn. I hear it all the time. You hear it, everybody hears it.
    In this very forum I was accused of committing “ecocide” for advocating the planting of non-natives.
    The cranks, as is often the case, have taken over the conversation.

    • Mary McAllister
    • 4th December 2016

    Perhaps Vincent lives in a place where the native plant movement is not so extreme. Or perhaps he is not on the receiving end of the abuse dished out by native plant advocates because he agrees with them.

    • Tia Scarce
    • 12th December 2016

    A couple of years ago the city of Seattle attempted to create a new “green code” that would have mandated 75% natives in any new or replaced landscape. It was so shockingly arbitrary (and so poorly written) that they were forced to withdraw it. Western Washington is a unique place–many natives are understory plants and others are enormous trees. The forest is a beautiful place, but expecting to recreate it to that extent amid streets and buildings was misguided.

    • admin
    • 17th December 2016

    I am a proponent of natives…and adaptives…because, quite frankly, it is somewhat impractical to think that a garden or landscape (unless never touched) could be anything other than a mix. Have you ever tried to spec plants for a native only garden…it is really difficult. The availability is just not there. But if a plant has been proven to be hardy, water-wise, and noninvasive (an adaptive) then put those puppies in! As with all things…extremes are dangerous! My 2-cents! ~Julie

    • Lois Hinrichs
    • 17th December 2016

    Not to throw a wrench into the works, but apparently Christopher C of Outside Clyde has spent major energies trying to eradicate invasive and tenacious Clematic virginiana from his North Carolina garden. I hope you have less trouble with it in your colder region.

    • Mary McAllister
    • 17th December 2016

    I like native plants too and I encourage everyone to plant whatever they wish in their own gardens. My only objection to the native plant movement is their demand that non-native plants and trees be destroyed on our public lands because of the herbicides needed to accomplish that. Garden Ranters often respond to my objection that Garden Rant is interested only in private gardens. Of course, what people choose to do in their private gardens is not my business. However, Garden Ranters should take into consideration that the native plant movement is also intruding into private gardens.

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