Natives in the Cottage Garden

Tuesday, 18 June 2013 16:14

This month my cottage garden is in full swing. Some of my favorite native plants are playing star roles. Orange Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberose), False Yellow Lupine (Thermopsis villosa), Coreopsis (Tickweed) and Stokes Daisy (Stokesia) sing soprano to rest of the choir. Filling the musical gaps are the non-natives; Happy Returns and Stella Dora Daylilies, Red-hot Poker (Kniphofia), Catmint (Nepeta) and Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'). It is a symphony of sunset colors.

This garden was inspired by the Cottage Garden at Sissinghurst Castle in England. Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson created the famous gardens in the 1930’s. It includes many American natives such as Columbine, Solomon ’s seal, Goldenrod and Cardinal Flower. American gardens have been greatly influenced by their English counter parts for the past 200 years.   In that time American native plants have been collected and put to good use by English gardeners to the likes of William Robinson, Gertrude Jekyll, Margery Fish, and Penelope Hobhouse.ah It has only been the last quarter century we, as Americans, have placed value on these plants.

My native plant aha moment came in 1991 when I worked in Seal Harbor, Maine installing a garden designed by Penelope Hobhouse. Mrs. Hobhouse mixed natives with non-natives effortlessly as was the style in Great Britain. Her design added native lilies, Sweet Fern, Snakeroot and Baneberry to the garden. I contributed a Sweet Bay Magnolia and Aromatica Sumac. I didn’t consciously think of these as natives. They were just great plants worthy of any garden and used in my designs today.

erhMaine was a hotbed of great native plants. Too cold for evergreen Hollies, the deciduous Winterberry Hollies flanked the Maine “ponds” with bright red berries all winter. Cardinal flowers grew along streams and lupines on embankments. Low bush blueberry was used as a groundcover. I often use Winterberries as a great addition to evergreens for winter interest. My Magnolia Virginias have been perfuming the neighborhood with their sweet scented flowers all month. Next month Cardinal Flowers will bloom outside my office windows, their bright red flowers attracting hummingbirds from near and far.

Weather to spruce up a meadow, add interest to a perennial garden, or attract butterflies and hummingbirds, native plants are a worthy addition to your garden.

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