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Disappointing Native Flowers

Posted by bemidjigreen z3 MN (My Page) on
Wed, Jun 27, 07 at 7:33

Hi all--My garden is a mix of cottage garden favorites and native plants.

My impression of native flowers has really been mixed. For example, I've started prairie larkspur from seed every year for the last 3 years. The seedlings seemed very slow growing and germination is probably about 25% at best. Despite these pitfalls I would end up placing one or two of the tiny seedlings out in the garden.

Well, this year I spied a flower amid my malva and thought--if I didn't know better that looks like prairie larkspur. After looking at some pics of it online, I am pretty sure that's what it is.

I will post a pic of it later, but if this is it all I can say is what an unimpressive plant. Hardly worth the coddling. Makes me consider pulling the few seedlings I planted this spring.

I've had a similar experience with purple milkweed (aka swamp milkweed). Poor germinations, tiny seedlings, they have been in the garden for 2-3 years and grown slowly. They may flower this year. Hopefully their blooms are worth all this patience and fussing. Otherwise, compost pile for them too.

What native plants have you had satisfying experience with?

So far, my happy experiences have been:
Penstemon digitalis (large beardtongue, pretty flower, but too early and short lived flower)
Echinacea pallida
Echinacea paradox
Petalostemom purpuream
Heliopsis Helianthoides
Baptisia Australis

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

We grow about 90 Alberta natives. Some of which are our favorite plants in the garden. they are anythng but disappointing.

Be sure to replicate their natural needs and not the needs of garden cultivars. Is you soil as found in the wild?...correct moisture?...over fertilizing?...companion plants... etc.

In our garden the native orchids, clematis, cacti, paint brush, wood lilies,saxifrages, bunchberries, larkspurs, pentstemons, etc. thrive when planted together in natural groupings and left alone except for a bit of weeding. We have beds for alpines, prairies plants, woodland plants, badlands plants.

RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

My worst one was a wild rose hedge I had at one time. The flowers were fine, but the plant habit was horrible and it was always covered in some kind of rust fungus. I dug it out. I don't feel the need to love something in the garden just because it's native.

Some of my favourites are Geum triflorum, opuntia cacti, wild columbines and false Solomon's seal, that I can think of right now.

RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

I like Geum triflorum also. I have Canada violet growing wherever it wants.

RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

"My worst one was a wild rose hedge I had at one time. The flowers were fine, but the plant habit was horrible and it was always covered in some kind of rust fungus. I dug it out. I don't feel the need to love something in the garden just because it's native."

There are 6 species of wild roses here in Alberta. 2 make good hedges. We've never had any issues with orange rust on our bush-like species. If you chose the right species they make a well behaved hedge that can be kept natural looking or trimmed (shudder) to square shape.

You are right about not all natives being suited for the garden. Some just aren't attractive in an artificial setting and some natives need special attention as they don't fit the shoebox requirements of plants bred for bulk production for garden centers.

RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

One native (not here but in Alberta) that has been an outstanding addition to ny garden is Geranium viscosissimum. It stands up to out prairie winds and rains and has very showy flowers in many different shades of pink.
Then a treasure is the Yellow Lady slippers that was rescued from in front of a ditch scrapper. One I tried and have regretted ever after is our native anemone. It is uncontrollable in good garden soil.

RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

I grow so many natives in my garden that it would take me awhile to list, but I would have to say these below would be my favourites, all do very well growing in my garden and all of them have been started by seed.

Allium cernuum
Aster laevis
Cleome serrulata
Dryas drummondii
Echinacea purpurea
Epilobium angustifolium
Gaillardia aristata
Geranium viscosissimum (I agree Leo!)
Geum triflorum
Lupinus sericeus
Mimulus guttatus
Monarda fistulosa
Oxytropis splendens
Penstemon nitidus
Penstemon procerus
Petalostemon purpurea
Ratibida columnifera
Solidago canadensis
Solidago rigida

I love my natives, they are fuss free easy to look after and of course hardy plants.


RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

As promised, here is a pic of the larkspur...

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Looks really pretty right?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Unless you tour your garden with a magnifying glass, this plant is hardly worth the effort.

Plant pictures are deceiving....especially online. I rarely see a plant photo that shows the entire plant so that one can make an informed decision. Then when it comes to bloom size, it seems the information for native plants is the scantest of all--including online state/USGS/university herbaria sites and seed/bareroot vendors.

It sure makes it hard to decide whether the plant suits your taste and is worth the fuss that some require to germinate.

Since I plan on starting a shade bed with exclusively native plants, after I saw this larkspur I went ahead and spent the $25 and bought a book that has pictures with the appropriate perspective in order to select my plants. I think I will be much happier with the result.

RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

It's so true, Bemidjigreen. Many native plants are too subtle for most gardeners' style, or have a weedy looking growth habit. Native plants have a job to do, which is to reproduce themselves at the right time using the right method. This often doesn't require a large, showy flower, or a long/repeating bloom cycle. The ones that do make a good garden plant are remarkable.

Some gardeners have more natural-looking gardens, or a penchant for collecting, which is fine with me.

Alpiner, about that rose hedge, it was supposed to be a natural looking hedge just trimmed to an approximate heap. I don't know exactly what wild rose it was but like I said it had rust and also some black smutty stuff all over it. It was a taller, spindly species. I guess it would have been ok on the 38th acre of 40 but not in the small yard I had at the time.

RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

I bet that native Larkspur would look really nice mingling with other native plants, not with chicken wire around it.


RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

As for its location in my garden--Its an unfortunate success. I figured they had not made it since they were so delicate looking when I planted it (2-3 leaves after coddling it for over 3 months inside and out) and had not seen hide nor hair of it and its companions since.

The larkspur had been planted with a number of other seedlings in 2004--Ruellia humilis, Asclepias incarnata, Petalostemom purpuream and chinese delphinium seedlings -- only the delphs had done much. The spot was basically bare save some flax, a poppy and the delphs when I decided to relocate a self seeded malva and heliopsis to this location last august.

I am sure it would look much nicer in a grassy meadow where it grows naturally. In the garden it looks like a weed.

RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

We don't have any white native larkspur in our area. We have a brilliant 'true blue' species. It's much more showy. In our garden we have four 'true blue' native species ...larkspur,alberta pentsetemon, alpine forgetmenot and big mountain gentian.

My definition of 'blue' is asking an 8 year old. 'What colour is this flower? If they answer 'blue' it is blue. If purple, violet etc. then that's the colour regardless of the name or tag claim (such as bluebird clematis, tulipa 'Blueberry', etc.)

RE: Disappointing Native Flowers

Try wintersowing your native seeds, no coddling indoors, no stretching or leggy seedlings.

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