• Fall Garden Prep for the Native Plant Garden 
    The leaves are starting to turn colour, the air is getting cooler, and there are lots of gardening articles being written about what to do with your Canna Lilies and rose bushes and dahlias for the winter. But what about those of us who grow native plants? Do we have to do anything to prepare our plants and flower beds for winter? After all, Mother Nature has been looking after herself for millennia.  How much fall prep you do will depend primarily on WHY you […]
  • Got Shade? Part 2 – Summer in the Shade 
    This spring, I wrote an article about spring ephemerals – those woodland species that flower early in the spring and then, for the most part, disappear till the following year. Summer has arrived and we have a number of shade tolerant plants for your woodland gardens that bloom through the summer and into the fall. In today’s article, I’ll talk about some of these and share some images from my shadier gardens.  Plants that grow under the tree canopy of a forest have to be […]
  • Pollinator Gardens and Bee Stings 
    A growing gardening trend is to plant pollinator gardens, often using native plants, to attract and feed bees and butterflies. This is occurring as a response to the news that our bees and butterflies are quickly disappearing. This realization likely started because honey bee farmers were faced with major financial losses as a result of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) starting in the early 2000s. Around the same time, folks began noticing that Monarch butterflies were in trouble. It wasn’t long till we also began to […]
  • Why I Grow Native Plants 
    This month’s article is going to get personal. It won’t be a “how-to” or a “what to grow where” blog. Instead, I’ll share a bit of my personal journey into native plant gardening – a journey that has gone from curiosity to complete addiction.  I was lucky as a kid in that we often lived in rural areas and, when we didn’t, I had my uncle’s farm to visit for the entire summer holidays. We also camped a lot. Because we moved around a lot, […]
  • Boulevard Gardens
    A Note on Boulevard Gardens  Most suburban, and some urban, yards have a narrow grass strip between the sidewalk and the street. Invariably the municipality requires you to maintain this strip despite it being their property. And because it is their property, they often have restrictions as to what you can or can’t do with it (always check with your municipality before creating a boulevard garden). Some of these restrictions make total sense – like the ones that say don’t plant tall things that will […]
  • Got Shade? The Spring Ephemeral Garden 
    It is April. Finally, depending on where you live, the snow is mostly gone, the days are getting wonderfully warmer, and the first flowers of spring are braving the cold nights and providing a source of nectar and pollen for the earliest of pollinators. Many of these early flowers bloom for a very short time and, surprisingly, many are found in shady forested areas. This is likely because in the forest they need to grab pollinator attention before the tree canopy fills with the leaves […]
  • On Native Plant Range Maps 
    Have you ever thought about the fact that almost all books on native plants define their ranges as “Native in the Northeastern US and Southern Canada”, or “Native in the Midwest States and Southern Prairies”? Very few plants are native throughout those rather large areas of geography. Soil type, microclimates, even underlying geology can have a great influence on which plants would be found naturally in any given location. Wouldn’t a map be much more accurate and useful? After all, native plant gardeners, more so […]
  • Are My Plant Seeds Native Enough? 
    There’s a lot of activity on the various native plant gardening Facebook groups these days about winter sowing.  I’ve never tried it, but it makes total sense to do what Mother Nature does – set your trays of soil with seeds outside and let the natural refrigeration of winter do the cold moist stratification for you.  In my research for native plants sources, I have come across a handful of companies that specialize in native plant seeds. In fact, some ONLY sell seeds and not […]
  • Gateway Plants
    Gateway Plants, or How to get your neighbours addicted to growing native plants  Most people have heard the term “gateway drug”, referring to habit forming drugs like marijuana or alcohol whose use is thought to lead, in some people, to the use of other more addictive drugs. Well, in the native plant gardening world we’re always searching for the “gateway plants”, those plants we can convince our neighbours to grow that, we hope, will lead them to become addicted to growing native species in their […]
  • The Boggy, Boggy Dew
    Creating a Bog Garden I am fortunate, as a native plant gardener, to have a ½ acre property with dry shade, dry sun, moist shade, moist sun, and everything in between. Combine this with rich, sandy-loam soil and, for the most part, if I accidentally drop a plant on the ground, it will take root and grow (at least that’s what my friends claim).  This has allowed me to create gardens of deep-shade forest perennials and tall grass prairie, of moisture loving ferns and drought […]
  • A Marsh Marigold by Any Other Name 
    William Shakespeare, in his play Romeo and Juliet, wrote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. So why does it matter what we call it, then? And why do people like me sometimes get so frustrated when folks use common names instead of the scientific names for plants? In today’s article, I want to explore the benefits, and in some cases the frustrations, of using scientific names for our native plants instead of (or, at least, in addition to) the common names.  […]
  • Time for a Black Eye
    Which Black Eyed Susan is Which?  Do you want a black eye? Black eyed Susan, that is. Or is that a brown eyed Susan? The other day someone asked me how to differentiate this group of plants that, at first glance, look so much alike. Today, I will attempt to tackle that question here.  Those who know me know that I get really frustrated with common names for plants. Depending on where you live, the name black eyed Susan is used for a number of […]
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?
    Many of is remember the old nursery rhyme Mary, Mary, quite contrary, How does your garden grow? Although historians disagree on the possible political meanings behind this 18th century English nursery rhyme, I wish to use this question “How does your garden grow” to explore the various approaches to gardening with native plants. Naturalized Gardens We all garden with native plants for different reasons. Some gardeners attempt to create a more ‘natural’ habitat for insects, birds and other wildlife on their property and design their […]
  • Invasive Species, Weeds, Nativars and Other Terms of Confusion 
    The native plant gardening world is full of terminology that those gardening with non-natives have seldom had to consider. In this month’s article, I hope to shed some light on what some of these terms actually mean so that you can speak confidently and knowledgeably with garden center staff and fellow gardeners.  Native vs Naturalized  I started my journey into native plant gardening with the purchase of a package of “wildflower” seeds. When I recognized California poppies, bachelor’s buttons, and a few others I knew […]
  • 2b or Not 2b – The Story Behind Plant Hardiness Zones
    Most gardeners are familiar with the Plant Hardiness Zone (PHZ) maps that are found in many seed catalogues and garden centers, and with the paired numbering system (2a, 2b, 3a, 3b) etc. found on plant labels.  But what do these numbers really mean? How did they come about? And are they really relevant for native plant gardeners?  The earliest PHZs were delineated in the 1920s by the Arnold Arboretum at Harvard University. In the 1960s, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) devised their own set […]
  • Can I have continuous bloom in my native plant garden? Part 2
    In my previous article, I discussed continuous blooms for the shady garden as a response to someone’s query, so in this piece I will look at plants for the “average” garden – moist to dry soils, full sun to part shade. (Unless noted otherwise, all images are from my southwestern Ontario garden.) Part 2 – The Less Shady Yard When I started growing native plants in my garden, I was disappointed that for much of the early part of the growing season there wasn’t much […]
  • Can I Have Continuous Bloom in My Native Garden? Part 1
    Part 1 – The Shade Garden. In northeastern North America (where I live), Mother Nature likes to constantly change things up. Few of our native plants stay flowering for more than a month or two, and some for only a few weeks. But, in nature, bees and other insects cannot survive for long periods without flowers, so there ARE plants blooming from early spring right through till snow covers them. Unfortunately, the bees (and we) need to search them out. In the spring, our earliest […]