The team at our sister blog, Native Plants & Wildlife Gardens, has been posting about Native Plant alternatives to commonly used plants.
I thought I would take up the banner here at Beautiful Wildlife Gardens, and give you some native plant alternatives New York style. I am still learning about additional plants to add to my native gardens, and while many of the photographs in this post are mine, some are not. Unfortunately some of my newer plants have not grown enough this year for pictures. So where necessary I will be crediting the pictures that are not mine.
I decided to highlight native alternatives to ordinary plants that may be over used in gardens and that are also invasive, especially in New York State. After all many gardeners do not know that these commonly used plants are invasive especially when they purchase them locally or by mail order. Who would sell an invasive plant?? These must be all right if they are selling them. And many are featured in gardening magazines as plants to have. So I should plant them, right?
Of course the scary answer is garden centers and mail order companies will sell what ever is popular including invasive plants. So it is up to us to learn what we should and should not plant.
Do not plant anything but a native honeysuckle. The list of invasive bush honeysuckles is long; Lonicera tatarica; L. maackii and L.morrowii. Then there is the invasive vine Lonicera japonica or Japanese honeysuckle. If you want to attract hummingbirds you can’t beat the native Lonicera sempervirens or Scarlet Honeysuckle. It grows in part shady and sunny conditions, dry to moist and in all types of soils. Mine grows in dry, part shade and clay soil. And look how gorgeous. I can see these red/orange beauties lighting up this shady corner from anywhere in my garden. It is a big hang out for those hummingbirds too. In the fall the berries that form are devoured by the songbirds. Easy to care for and very hardy, it will take a good pruning in spring and still flower profusely.
The next plant to trade in is the ever popular barberry or Berberis thunbergii. These invasive plants can be found practically on every street in America. They are sought after because they need little care, have fall color and red berries in fall and winter. So what can we plant instead? I love Winterberry or Ilex verticillata. The birds love this shrub for its berries. I find birds don’t eat the barberry berries. Winterbery tolerates a range of planting conditions and especially loves moist areas. The one thing to remember is you need to have at least one male shrub for a number of females to get the berries.
Next on the hit list are the ever popular ground covers Periwinkle (Vinca minor, V.major) and Snow on the Mountain/Bishop’s Weed (Aegopodium podagraria). These invasives are taking over the woodlands in my state and if you have ever planted them by mistake you know how hard it is to get rid of them. Instead I suggest you plant wild ginger (Asarum canadense) pictured below or wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) pictured right. I bought both these plants from a wonderful local native plant nursery about an hour away, Amanda’s Garden. The pictures of the wild geranium and wild ginger are from Amanda’s garden since my ground covers are just starting to take hold. Wild geranium is great under trees and will tolerate the shade, dry soil and organic matter found there. What a gorgeous flower too. Wild ginger likes it a bit more moist and is a great food source for Pipevine Swallowtail Butterflies.
Another popular plant that many folks don’t realize is invasive is Rose of Sharon or Hibiscus syriacus. A better choice is the native hibiscus or Swamp Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos or Hibiscus grandiflorus) pictured at the beginning of the post. These beauties are adaptable growing in dry to moist conditions up to 8 feet tall. They love the sun and will produce, pink, white and red flowers from medium to huge dinner plate sized blooms loved by hummingbirds.
Lastly is the too used Euonymus alatus or Burning Bush. I almost think it is invasive because so many people have it. And yes it has a gorgeous red color come fall, but so does the Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). Besides the blueberry has delicious fruit for you and the birds. Of course the rabbits will eat my smaller bushes as they are growing so I do protect them until they are more established. These bushes will grow in a variety of conditions. Mine prefer moist, sunny conditions in acidic soil, and can grow up to 6 feet tall.
So why plant the common ordinary plants everyone has when you can plant the more diverse, unusual and critter loving plants? Be different for a change….
“A garden is an awful responsibility. You never know what you may be aiding to grow in it.” ~ Charles Dudley Warner
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