Thursday, July 28, 2011

Native Plants - There Be Giants!

Silphium perfoliatum
(Cup Plant)
Haven't had a lot of time to get out in my garden, not least of all because I've been spending most of garden time taking care of client's gardens, or doing pottery-related stuff.  If I do get out there, it's usually for a few minutes in the morning to make sure everyone has enough water (although that really wasn't an issue this morning!)  So, when I actually do have the chance to take moment and see what's really going on out there, it's pretty amazing to see the changes since the last time I had such a moment.

Eupatorium purpureum
(Sweet Joe Pye)
When I started converting my garden over to more and more natives, part of my "agenda" was to embrace the native plants for what they are instead of going the way of "well-behaved" cultivars.  (I have a philosophical objection to anything "well behaved," as most folks who know me would agree.)  I figured that, if the species could work, I'd grow it; if not, I'd give it a pass but not without at least trying to make it work.  So, no 'Little Joe Pye Weed' or 'Miss Manners' for me; give me the real deal and I'll see what I can do with it.

Rudbeckia laciniata
Cutleaf Coneflower
When my friend Don sends me a photo he's taken of a Monarch butterfly nectaring on my nine-foot-tall Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum), I'm reminded of how it serves as a critical water source for small animal species,  When I see swarms of pollinators working over my six-foot-tall Sweet Joe Pye anchoring my big central bed in my back yard - so many insects, the efflorescences are positively vibrating with their activity, I know I'm also helping my neighbors who raise food crops in the area by spreading a complementary repast for the folks who help their tomatoes, squash and peppers bear fruit.  And even though the Cutleaf Coneflower is running rampant and is well over the three to six feet that William Cullina attributes to it (try eight to nine, Bill!), I can't help but be impressed with its scale - and I know it's visible to anyone looking for a little nectar!

So the next time you're out in your garden, think about how you might be able to fit in just one native plant species, even - maybe - one of these giants.

(Photos courtesy of Don Schulte at

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