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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Going Native

When I moved here to southwest Ohio, I came to a 3/4 acre lot, almost three times the size of the lot I had in Connecticut. Virtually, nothing was there. There were a few trees (some of which I had to remove because they were place in the wrong spot). I also had a luxury that most people don't have. I discovered we were moving in the fall of 2004. My husband was going to commute, and my daughter and I would follow after she finished her year at school.

Therefore, I was able to pot up divisions and some things from my garden and take them with me. As long as they were gone before we put the house on the market, then it would be fine, and I have a bad habit of putting too much in too small of a space.

Where I can, I like to use native plants, but I'm no plant snob. However, many of the trees and shrubs I have put in are wonderful and under utilized. Using natives also gives the added benefit of usually requiring less care than using a non-native plant as well as providing good materials for cover and food for local fauna.

Ohio is known as the Buckeye state. Above, you'll see a small tree or shrub I was delighted to locate and put in my yard. It is the Aesculus pavia, or red buckeye. The buckeyes the state is known for is a larger tree, the Aesculus glabra or Ohio Buckeye. I like this little tree. It only grows about 10 -25 feed tall, and likes wet soils... I planted it at the back of my property which remains wetter than the rest...the land slopes back to a creek, and I suspect that there is quite a bit of underground water. The clay soil doesn't help much. The fall color isn't a biggie, but the flowers are great! Hummingbirds like them, and the seeds are a gorgeous golden brown which the squirrels and chipmunks make short work of.

I have many viburnums which I planted. This one is the Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum). Guess what! The long, straight stems on this shrub were once used for making....arrows! It has creamy white flowers in the spring and provides good cover for birds. The flower doesn't smell as good as some of the other viburnums, nor is the fall color as great, but it is still a useful plant.

Without a doubt, one of my favorite (and underused) shrubs or small tree is the fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus) also known as "Old Man's Beard." It grows to a height of 10 - 20 feed with about equal width. The fall color is yellow.

They are fairly slow growing. I looked for years to be able to find one, and in 2003, I finally found one in a small nursery in Connecticut. I had this at my house there, and I dug it up and brought it down. It was about four feet when I moved it and I'm happy to say that it is about 6 - 7 feet now.

I really wish that there were "smell-o-vision" on computers. The threadlike blossoms have a sweet, wonderful scent. The flowers are threadlike, hence the "fringe", and flutter in the breeze.

Another, more showy tree is the Sweet Bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). The flowers are about three to four inches wide. The scent is lemony and absolutely wonderful. This will grow about
20 -60 feet tall (if I'm lucky and certainly not in my lifetime) and about 8 - 20 feet wide. It blooms sporadically through the summer, and the leaves are not as big as many of the other native magnolias such as the Bull Bay, or southern magnolia.

Most people when they visit my garden are sort of dumbfounded that I planted this one here. I guess they tend to like acid soils, and mine is more alkaline. I need to have soil tested, but it seems to be doing OK.

Lest you think that I only plant native trees and shrubs, here are a couple of native plants.
Here's the wild Canadian columbine (Aquiligia canadensis). It likes to have a bit of shade and has the typical columbine leaves. It is a woodland plant and likes to live on the edge. It seeds itself well, but isn't one which will take over your garden. The pointy thingy at right is the seedpod. It will get dark brown as it ripens.

I was pleased to see that this Jack-in-the-pulpit managed to make it down here to Ohio. I dug up several of my shade plants, and the seed managed to hitch a ride with a hosta and established itself here.

It is a shade loving plant, and you can see Jack standing in the pulpit. the "hood" over the top of the "pulpit" is representative of the "sounding board" which often hung over the top of 18th century (and earlier) pulpits and allowed the voice of the minister to carry out over the congregation. These pieces were used in the 19th century as well, but I think by the 1850s were pretty much out of favor.

This particular plant "mother" was one which I got from a seed in a garden at the Pardee-Morris House in New Haven, Connecticut (which I wrote about in another post). I don't advocate "wild collecting" any plants, but the Arisaema triphyllum readily reproduces by seed and I don't know if the "mother plant" in this case was one which was planted there or did live in the shade garden there and in all probability is gone now. Look for plants which are labeled as cultivated rather than wild collected.

I'll end with this handsome Louisiana iris. It is a marginal and can do well in a pond. In fact, I bought this one several years ago to put in my pond, but in the fall I was nervous that it wouldn't overwinter so I stuck it in the ground next to the pond and there is has sat ever since.

I'm sorry about the color on this photograph, it was getting a bit dusky out when I snapped it.

I expect I'll take you on some more explorations of the native plants in my garden as time goes on.

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