Looking out at my garden, an ever-changing experiment in Elderyarding®, I’m seriously thankful for native plants. The phrase, “Grow Where You’re Planted” is aptly demonstrated by the beauty and will to survive – and thrive – of native plants.
I’m so thankful that these plants exist, that they grow with no help from me, and that they so generously contribute to the loveliness of my garden in all seasons.
Here are a few of the plants either existing on my lot or planted from seeds gathered within 10 miles of the garden and planted with my “tough love” approach”:
· Agave scabra
– Already on the lot when I bought the house, these seriously big agaves with rough surfaces on their leaves are tough, tough, tough. I’ve occasionally dug up pups and stuck them around. They thrive with no special treatment from me, in sun and shade. A substantial one lives under the edge of the screen porch with only morning sun. Another has grown into a cluster of gigantic curving leaves though stuck in full sun on the south side of the lot at the edge of a limestone cliff in about a teaspoon of soil.
· Native hollies
– I’ve gathered seeds from a possum haw, Ilex decidua, growing in a low spot where runoff from the highway cascades toward the lake right here in the small town where I live. And from yaupons, Ilex vomitoria, scattered in the woods of a church camp just north of Houston. Every seed stuck in the ground has grown, blossomed and fruited, in my test beds, in highly alkaline soil, in hot sun and shade. The birds think the berries are fabulous in late winter. And just after the birds finish off the fruit, the shrubs start blooming to fill the tummies of bees who’ve awakened to find it’s February.
· Mexican plums
– Two locations provided seed sources for me. The first fruit was collected from the original native plant landscape at the nearby mall. And I later harvested additional rotting plums from trees near an empty big box store. All the seed developed into tough trees with gorgeous dark brown smooth bark and an amazing blossom fragrance in spring. While the landscapes I gathered from have shriveled due to lack of decent maintenance, I’m glad to be able to provide a home for the genes of these trees rather than adding tissue-cultured clones to the yard.
· Native grasses
– When the weather gets cold and clear with bright sunlit days, native grasses come into their own here in the central Texas grasslands. The amazing diversity of fluffy seeds displayed and catching the sun’s rays in the autumn gold of late afternoon takes my breath away. I’ve trialed cultivars of native grasses grown in other parts of the country, and they struggle. For example, little bluestem, Schizachryium scoparium, can be found in nurseries in the eastern US and the upper Midwest. Magazines like Fine Gardening can sing the praises of colorfully different choices tested at the Chicago Botanic Garden. But don’t believe ‘em for Texas! Plants sprung from seeds I’ve poked into the ground here and there are ten times the size of the “tourist” natives from other parts of the country.
Gardeners and non-gardeners alike who want ageless gardens that prosper with little from us and that help us to flourish throughout life can be deeply thankful for what native plants bring to our landscapes.