Native Plants for The Garden

Spring is soooooo close! Our Saturday classes have been full of gardeners getting their creativity flowing and garden plans together in time for planting this year. Last Saturday’s classes were standing room only so we thought we’d share some highlights from both presentations: Native Plants for the Garden and Right Plant in the Right Place.

Why Plant Natives?

Native plants have evolved to survive our climate and can grow successfully in your garden when planted in the right place. Think of natives as planting for the birds, butterflies and bees, not only in the summer but also in winter. So many of the natives add interest and texture to our winter landscapes and are often a source of seed for birds year round. How wonderful would it be to look out your window and see a yellow finch atop the dried brown Echinacea (pallida or purpurea) coneflower seed head swaying with the breeze next winter?

Our Growing Place native experts, Mary Saba and Kyle Lambert, urged everyone to incorporate natives into our gardens as we would any other plant in our garden design. These native plants provide habitat for birds, butterflies and beneficial insects that is rapidly disappearing in the natural world. There are natives to fit all soil conditions and natives that will thrive in sunny, as well as shadier areas. Remember our 2015 Plant Guide will provide all details on these plants in written format and online. Here are some of our favorite varieties:

Natives for Sunnier Areas

Allium cernuum, Nodding Onion
Amorpha canescens, Leadplant
Asclepias (incarnata, tuberosa), Milkweed
Echinacea (pallida, purpurea), Coneflower
Geum Triflorum, Prairie Smoke
Penstemon digitalis, Beard Tongue
Sporobolus heterolepis, Prairie Dropseed

Natives for Shadier Areas

Adiantum pedatum, Maidenhair Fern
Carex (plantaginea, muskigumensis), Sedge
Matteuccia struthiopteris, Ostrich Fern
Mertensia virginica, Virginia Bluebells
Phlox divaricata, Woodland Phlox
Stylophorum diphyllum, Celadine Poppy

Right Plant in The Right Place

Know thy site: The conditions of your soil, moisture and the amount of sun at any given time of the day will help you to determine ideal plants for your location.

Know thy limitations: What is your time commitment, style choice (formal, cottage, controlled, open or natural) and expectations of your garden? Consider what you want to do in the garden. If you don’t enjoy weeding than you may want to consider a groundcover and/or mulching to keep the weeds away. It’s your garden and you get to design it your way. Incorporate your favorite color by planting a variety of plants that bloom in various shades of the same color with different heights and bloom times throughout the season. Even though the same color is predominant in the plant blooms the color tones will vary by plant as well as the shades of green from the various plants foliage.

Know the plants requirements and tolerances: In the afternoon session Mary Saba talked about the zones in your garden. Zone 1 is closest to the water source and is the easiest to tend, so it’s the best place for your needier plantings. Zone 2 is the middle area for plants like Baptisia that still need some attention but are not as needy, and Zone 3 is your outer reaches providing a place for those grasses and more hearty plants and shrubs that need the least amount of attention and water.

What will be your prominent view of the garden? Think about the perspective from which you will view your garden. Are you viewing from your kitchen window or sitting on the deck? Do you have a statue or a bench that will be a focal point that you want to incorporate into the garden? Stepping stones are a wonderful way to bring your eye and people into and through your garden by offering a path to walk along.

Mass plantings of the same plant in an area can make a big color and texture statement. You can also interplant threads of the same plants. Plant each line as a different plant. Where the lines cross the plants will grow in and around each other. It’s the perfect way to intermingle plants with different bloom times, colors, textures or structure. For example plant one thread of Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Drop Seed) and plant the intermingling thread with Geum triflorum (Prairie Smoke). These two plants have different heights, contrasting foliage and the Prairie Smoke has a very early bloom time offering color and a smokey burst.

The backbone of the garden should provide support and some reliability. Make that your favorite plant. One that as you sit on a bench you are surrounded by it’s beautiful color, fragrance or foliage. If it’s a sunny garden you could plant a backbone of roses, a rainbow of Echinacea or wave of sunshine with Rudbeckia triloba (Brown-Eyed Susan). If its a shade design you might want to make the backbone a wave of Hosta, Lavender or possibly a rainbow of different varieties of Heuchera.

An existing garden can get an infusion of color, structure and texture by adding some intermingling threads of plants. Is there an area that needs a punch of color or has died out? Have you thought of making the garden bigger? By adding a few threads of select plants to extend or add to an existing garden you will enjoy the intermingling of color, contrast, texture and structure giving your existing garden a new look for 2015.

Aurora Location

2000 Montgomery Road,

Aurora, IL 60504

Phone. 630-820-8088

Naperville Location

25w471 Plank Road,

Naperville, IL 60563

Phone. 630-355-4000

Spring Hours

March 30-June 30

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm

Saturday: 9am-5pm

Sunday: 11am-5pm

Memorial Day Hours

Monday, May 27


Growing for the future with
right plantsĀ in right places.