Posts Tagged ‘native plants’

North Carolina’s List of the Ten Top Choices for Native Plants

Saturday, October 19th, 2013


The value of native plants comes as much from what they do (ecological value) as how they look.  Some native plants can be too rambunctious for a residential garden.  And, some are so finicky that they’re very difficult to grow outside their natural environment. So, the following list of natives were selected because of their adaptability to residential gardens, benefit to wildlife and ornamental value.  To learn more about the native plants of North Carolina (which we share with a good portion of the Eastern Seaboard and beyond), take a look at our website or NC Cooperative Extension’s interactive website Going Native: Urban Landscaping for Wildlife with Native Plants

The Top Ten

Coneflower and Butterflyweed, Lisa Tompkins

Coneflower and Butterflyweed (photo courtesy Lisa Tompkins)


Orange Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa – Host plant for the Monarch Butterfly and nectar source for many native bees and butterflies.  Bright orange flowers on a compact plant.  Long bloom period.  Dry-moist native soil.  Full sun to part-shade.  It even makes a good cut flower but who would want to do that?  Looks great with Purple Coneflower. (don’t confuse this with the more readily available A. curassavica – a tropical, tender perennial).


Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea – Good food source for butterflies, bees and birds, especially Goldfinch, who love to eat the seeds.  Long bloom period.  Good cut flower. Widely used as a medicinal herb and, therefore, increasingly rare in the wild.  I find the species to be hardier and preferred by its wildlife friends.  But, it will reseed.  More Coneflower!




Chrysogonum virginianum

Green and Gold, Chrysogonum virginianum (photo courtesy Lisa Tompkins)


Green and Gold, Chrysogonum virginianum – This is one of my favorite little natives for shady areas. I use it for added color and texture in front of foundation shrubs in part shade or morning sun. The cheerful, bright gold flowers appear in mid-spring and continue for a good six weeks, often occurring with another favorite described below.  The foliage is often evergreen for me.






Iris cristata, Lisa Tompkins

Iris cristata (photo Lisa Tompkins)


Dwarf Crested Iris, Iris cristata This cheerful little spreading, groundcover produces proportionally, large blue-violet flowers in spring.  The blossoms are said to attract hummingbirds and bees. Although the bloom period is relatively short, the foliage remains attractive throughout the growing season.





Little bluestem 'Blaze.' Reiman Gardens, Ames. 23 Sept 2003. Photo: Anna Gardner

Little Bluestem grass (photo courtesy Iowa State Extension)


Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium – A short, erect bunch grass that is blue-green when it emerges in spring and turns a rich reddish-gold in fall. It maintains both its form and color through winter.  Little Bluestem is a host plant for a number of small butterflies, provides food and cover for birds and nesting material for native bees.  Its small stature and bunching habit make it a good companion for native wildflowers like coneflower, goldenrod and aster.  Use it to create a pocket prairie or for erosion control on a sunny embankment.  The birds, bees and butterflies will thank you for it and it looks great in winter.  But, it does reseed so Neat-o-philes might want to choose Pink Muhleygrass, instead.



Bignonia capreaolata, Lisa Tompkins

Bignonia capreaolata (photo courtesy Lisa Tompkins)


Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata – A cousin to the more rambunctious Trumpetvine (Campsis radicans – great for hummingbirds but needs careful placement), Crossvine produces a profusion of orange/red/gold tubular flowers in spring, reblooms intermittently in summer and into fall.  The dark green foliage takes on a dark reddish hue in winter.  Provides early nectar for hummingbirds and butterflies.









Lonicera sempervirens, Lisa Tompkins

Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens (photo courtesy Lisa Tompkins)


Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens – Sadly, we are much less familiar with our native honeysuckle than its invading Asian cousin (Lonicera japonica).  Trumpet Honeysuckle’s bright red, non-fragrant tubular flowers occur in spring, providing nectar in time for the arrival of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds from their southern overwintering sites.  It climbs by twining so plant one in a sunny spot where you can enjoy the color and visiting hummingbirds.  Choose the species for spring color and hummingbird nectar or a selection like ‘Major Wheeler’  for  longer, recurring bloom.








Oakleaf hydrangea, Sikes Dwarf , Lisa Timpkins)

Oakleaf hydrangea, Sikes Dwarf (photo courtesy Lisa Tompkins)


Oakleaf Hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia – One of two hydrangeas native to the Southeast, Oakleaf Hydrangea’s heat tolerance and long ornamental period make it a favorite of mine.  Its creamy white, panicle blooms open in late spring, fading to pink as they fade.  The blooms’ showy outer bracts conceal masses of tiny, fertile flowers which leave them buzzing with visiting pollinators.  Its large, lobed leaves remain green throughout the summer and then turn burgundy/red in fall.  I like to use groupings of a dwarf selection like ‘Pee Wee’ or ‘Sikes Dwarf’ as a much needed break from the usual sea of evergreen in foundation plantings.  Deer, who unfortunately like them as much as I do, are less likely to find them there.



American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana

American Beautyberry, Callicarpa Americana (photo courtesy Lisa Tompkins)


American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana – Most beautyberries being sold are the smaller leaved, smaller berried Asian varieties.  The (much) larger leaves of American Beautyberry turn a golden yellow in fall contrasting with its tightly clustered, brilliant purple berries.  This is one showy plant in fall before the birds find the berries.  And, it’s very adaptable to a range of sun and moisture conditions.  The deer don’t seem to bother it so use it at the edge of a woods or natural area or in a mixed border.  The berries are said to make a delicious jelly while its leaves contain compounds that repel mosquitos.




American Fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus

American Fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus (photo courtesy Lisa Tompkins)


American Fringetree, Chionanthus virginicus (aka Grancy Graybeard) –  A true Southern Belle of a tree that balances toughness with delicate beauty.  This small, multi-trunked tree rarely exceeds 20’ x 20’ making it suitable for smaller properties or mixed borders.  Its green, elongated leaves are slow to emerge in spring.  But, when it blooms, watch out!  The creamy white, strap-like petals appear as an ethereal haze.  The blooms last for a several weeks and are lightly fragrant.  Although the male trees are showier in bloom, the females produce fruit, attractive dark blue drupes, in summer.  Plant in part-sun to part shade and enjoy.



So many wonderful native plants to choose from! Thanks go to Lisa Tompkins from the Southern Piedmont Chapter of the North Carolina Native Plant Society for putting this list together!

Submitted by Lisa Tompkins, Chair, Southern Piedmont Chapter, North Carolina Native Plant Society

Visit them on Facebook too at

Favorite Natives of WA Master Gardeners

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

natives for blog


At the September meeting of Grays Harbor-Pacific Counties MG and at the Washington State Master Gardener Advanced Education Conference. When the 184 results were tallied, the top 5 favorite native plants were:

Trillium-  Trillium ovatum

Red Flowering Currant-  Ribes sanguineum

Evergreen Huckleberry- Vaccinium ovatum

Vine Maple- Acer circinatum

Oregon Grape – Mahonia Nervosa

If you would like to find out more about these native plants go to:

If you would like to see the complete results, keep scrolling!

18 Trillium Trillium ovatum
10 Currant- Red Flowering Ribes sanguineum
10 Huckleberry-Evergreen Vaccinium ovatum
8 Maple- vine Acer circinatum
6 Oregon Grape Mahonia Nervosa
5 Fern- sword Polystichum munitum
5 Madrone- Pacific Arbutus menziesii
5 Mock Orange Philadelphii Lewisii
5 Salal Gaultheria shallon
4 Bleeding heart Dicentra formosa
4 Dogwood Cornus nuttallii
4 Fern- maidenhair Adiantum pedatum
4 Rhododendron R macrophyllum
4 Serviceberry Amelancluir
3 Elderberry Sambucus racemosa
3 Fern -deer Blechnum spicant
3 Huckleberry Vaccinium (sp)
3 Huckleberry-Red Deciduous Vaccinium parvifolium
3 Lady Slipper Cypripedium montanum
2 Cedar
2 Cedar-Western Red Thuja plicata
2 Columbine Aquilegia formosa
2 Scouler’s Corydalis Corydalis scouleri
2 Twinflower Linnaea borealis
1 Alder-Red Alnus rubra
1 Arrowleaf balsam root Balsamorhiza sagittata
1 Bitter Root Lewisia rediviva
1 Black eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta
1 Bunchberry Cornus canadensis
1 Camas Camassia quamash
1 Cranberry-high bush Viburnum edule
1 Currant- golden Ribes aureum
1 Devil’s Club Oplopanax horridus
1 Fern
1 Fir- Douglas Pseudotsuga menziesii
1 Fir- Noble Abies procera
1 Fireweed Epilobium angustifolium
1 Foxglove Digitalis purpurea
1 Greasewood Sage Sarcobatus vermiculatus
1 Heuchera-native Heuchera glabra
1 Indian Paintbrush Castilleja miniata
1 Indian Plum Oemleria cerasiformis
1 Inside-Out-Flower Vancouveria hexandra
1 Iris-Pacific Iris tenax
1 King Gentian Gentian sceptrum
1 Lewisia Lewisia Colmbiana
1 Lily- Fawn Erythronium
1 Lily- Tiger Lilium columbianum
1 Lupine Lupinus arcticus
1 Maple- Big Leaf Acer macrophyllum
1 Mountain Sagewort Artemosia
1 Nootka Rose Rosa nutkana
1 Nootka Reedgrass Calamagrostis nutkaensis
1 Oregon Sunshine Eriophyllum lanatum
1 Pacific Nine Bark Physocarpus capitalus
1 Penstemon Penstemon davidsonii
1 Rattlesnake Plantain Goodyeara oblongifolia
1 Salmonberry Rubus spectabilis
1 Salvia S. dorrii
1 Shooting Star Dodecatheon pulchellum
1 Skunk Cabbage Lysichiton americanum
1 Spring Queen Synthyris reniformis
1 Thimbleberry Rubus parviflorus
1 Vanilla Plant Achlys triphylla
1 Wild Ginger Asarum caudatum

Desert Four O’Clock (Mirabilis multiflora)

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Native Plant Profile:

In the Intermountain West high deserts and in southwestern states, Desert 4 O’Clock is an amazing herbaceous perennial plant. It seems to spring up from nowhere in early summer and grow into a large showy mass of long blooming one inch magenta flowers. This plant is very drought and cold tolerant making it a great choice for the xeriscape perennial garden.

Take care to plant Desert Four O’Clock in well-drained soil. Once established, Four O’Clock usually grows 18–24 inches tall and about 2-5 feet wide and needs little to no additional water.

Four O’Clock dies back to the ground every year making it difficult to locate in the spring if not marked with a stake or flag.  It also grows from a large tuber making it next to impossible to transplant so choose your site well!

Desert Four O’Clock’s natural distribution is southern California, northern Mexico, Nevada, and Utah and may be found in Colorado, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico.

FACT SHEET: Desert Four O’Clock

Close up picture of magenta Desert Four O'Clock flowers

Desert Four O’Clock in Bloom
Photo credit: Bryant Olsen
Flickr CC BY –NC 2.0

Other common names for Desert Four O’Clock include: Colorado Four O’ Clock, Maravilla, Showy Four O’ Clock, & High Desert Four O’Clock.

Susan Buffler – Cache County Master Gardeners, Utah


Go Native! Idaho Xeriscape Gardens Grow in ‘Tough’ Conditions

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Learning about plants and soil to avoid plant failure

I liked to garden until I moved to Mountain Home, Idaho.   High desert with extreme temperatures, highly alkaline, hard clay soil with a caliche layer, and often rocky in many areas – what grows in that?  After a lot of plant failure, I turned to xeric and native plants as a solution. I had planned to take the University of Idaho Extension Office’s Master Gardener class for several years but never did.  I’m glad I procrastinated because I did come to love xeric and native plants.  However, if I had taken the class years ago, I would have saved myself a lot of money and time. Mir Seyedbagheri and his assistant Kim Kovac start the Master Gardener program with the awesome class: “Missing Links in Soil Management.”  What an epiphany this class was for me —  it changed everything!

A xeriscape garden project at a city golf course?

My Master Gardener project initially was to plant a xeric/native plant garden at our city golf course.   A desert oasis in a sea of green? The golf course superintendent, Jay, had an area already selected for this garden, and then he took me to two more garden areas that needed work – so I had three big projects to undertake, two of them xeric gardens.  I was going to need some help for sure.

Native plants in xeriscape gardens (Photo credit: Martina Breuer)

From proposal to finding plants

I drew up two landscape designs and a PowerPoint presentation for the ladies’ golf club with the help of my partner, Christine Hopson.  They voted to provide me with some funds and helping hands for the project.  Kim from the Extension Office suggested I contact Steve Love from the U of I Aberdeen Research and Extension Center.  Mr. Love donated a lot of native plants to the project.

Though I did buy some plants from local nurseries, there really wasn’t much available for xeric and native plants, so I ended up buying most of my plants online.  How sad is that!

Gardens brings master gardeners, probationers, and golfers together

We contacted the local jail and asked for a work crew, and they sent over some volunteers.  We also received help from the adult and juvenile probationers who had community service work to complete. . .  and, of course, help from fellow Master Gardener Volunteers and the men and women from the golf club! I had a great time working with such a diverse group of volunteers.  Jay was able to get some compost from the local dairies, as well as some sand.  He had a water tank filled with water mixed with humic acid.  Kids and adults alike were digging hole after hole and amending the soil…or gravel, really.  We planted globe mallow the size of my thumbnail and barely inch-high grass plugs.  We did some weed identification and ended up pulling hundreds. We had fun.

Volunteers return to check on gardens

Some of the inmates and probationers said they didn’t golf, but they were going to come back to the gardens and check on the work they did.  One girl who was doing her community service hours that day said she really wanted to grow some plants, but she didn’t have a place for a garden.  After we were done, we met at a store and I helped her pick out pots and plants so she could start a container garden of her own.

Plants and relationships have grown with gardens

Our Idaho Master Gardener program now has a good working relationship with juvenile probation in Elmore County.  They continue to send the kids over to help maintain the garden as we start into our third year of working together. We again had golfers, probationers, and Master Gardener Volunteers out weeding and avoiding getting hit with golf balls, as garden ‘number 11’ as we call it, has become a hazard.  The garden is on the edge of the golf course and along the walking path, so folks will stop by and ask questions about what kind of plant is this or that.  They may make a nice comment about the garden…..or not, if their golf ball is in the middle of Fringed Sage rather than on the green.

Native plants in Xeric gardens (Photo credit: Martina Breuer)

(Photo credit: Martina Breuer) The garden areas are quite large and still need more plants.  My interest now has increased to plant propagation and planting protocol.   I need a lot more plants for the ongoing project.   I hope to continue to educate folks here about xeric gardening and show them how beautiful the plants are.  I want to make plants available for other community projects if possible.

Master Gardener Volunteers return favor to local juvenile probation office

This year, the juvenile probation office has started their own community vegetable garden, and this time, the Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are helping them with their project.  I was over at the juvenile garden earlier this week. One of the juvenile girls was there and asked me what I was doing.  I told her I was checking on the garden they planted.  “It’s a cool garden, huh,” she said. “Yeah, Emma, it is.” -Blog post by Martina Breuer, University of Idaho Extension Master Gardener, Elmore County -Submitted by Kim Kovac, Program Assistant, University of Idaho Extension, Elmore County For more information about exciting garden projects in Elmore County, Idaho, see A COMMUNITY THAT GROWS TOGETHER or contact Kim Kovac at 208-587-2136 ext.509 or email at

Wordless Wednesday: Blooming Desert

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

We’re in a severe drought, but these plants don’t act like they know. We usually have about 7-8 inches of precip. a year, but in the past year and a half, we’ve had almost 5 inches total.

Submitted by Sylvia Hacker
Doña Ana Co. Master Gardeners (On Facebook)
Texas Master Naturalist
Las Cruces, New Mexico

All blooming desert photos are courtesy of Benny Pol, Texas Master Naturalist

Echinocereus triglochidiatus or Claret cup cactus

Echinocereus triglochidiatus or claret cup cactus

Dalea pulchra-Indigo bush

Dalea pulchra-Indigo bush

Rafinesquia neomexicana-Desert Chicory

Rafinesquia neomexicana-Desert chicory

ibiscus denudatus-Rock Hibiscus

Hibiscus denudatus-Rock hibiscus

Fouquieria splendens-Ocotillo

Fouquieria splendens-Ocotillo

Echinocereus Viridiflorus-Green pitaya/nylon hedgehog cactus

Echinocereus Viridiflorus-Green pitaya/nylon hedgehog cactus


Ecuador EMG Adventure – Still Going Strong – Sort Of!!

Thursday, February 14th, 2013




Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener volunteers are tough!  We are on day 5 and still going very strong.  We had an exciting day today that started with our bus ride up the mountain with the sole purpose of gathering Alnus alcuminata  or Andean  alder seedlings to replace ALL of the 2000 Oreopanax ecuadoriensis (Puma’s Paw) seedlings that we moved yesterday.  We went up to about 10,000 feet high and worked our way down the mountain alongside the road.  Matias showed us the size he wanted, about finger size, and how to gently tease the roots out of the soil.  We used empty water bottles cut in half to collect the seedlings.


Matias shows us how to collect the seedlings

Matias shows us how to collect the seedlings

Getting Up Close to Native Plants of Ecuador

This was certainly a highlight for me as we really got up close and personal with the native plants of Ecuador.  We saw many familiar plants but didn’t necessarily know the species.

Some of the plants we recognized were cleome, hydrangea, fuschia, many ferns, wandering jew, persicaria, rhododendron, salvia, bromilead, a plant that looked like pokeweed, and much more.  We also saw some really cool mosses and lichens and some saw hummingbirds.  The views were spectacular.  We had fun taking our time moving down the hillside finding alder trees and the seedlings nearby.  It was a bit of a challenge at first  as we had to get our eyes adjusted to what we were hunting for.  It was sort of like hunting for mushrooms – once you saw one, you found a bunch!

Collecting seedlings of the Andean alder

Collecting seedlings of the Andean alder

The altitude kind of got to many today.  We have normally been at about 7,000 feet and most have gotten used to this.  It was a little harder to go up the hill at the higher altitude without a shortness of breath.  We were really glad the bus came down the hill to pick us up.  The weather all morning was sunny and very comfortable. As we headed down the hil the clouds started rolling in and the views were even more beautiful with the cotton candy clouds.

views from 10,000 feet up

Views from 10,000 feet up


After this, we came back to the hotel, which is called the La Posade del Quinde (the house of the hummingbird) and had a great picnic lunch on the terrace.  The hotel  is quite lovely and the courtyard is nicely landscaped.

Labeling Hotel Courtyard Plants to Teach Visitors About Local Plants

One of our projects this week was to identify and label the plants in the courtyard in order to teach visitors about the local plants.  One of the plants in the courtyard was  Solanum betaceum or tree tomato.  The fruit of this plant is used quite a bit in juices and sauces.  The plants can get around 8′ tall and have somewhat large, fuzzy sliver-green leaves that have a purple cast when they emerge.  We saw quite a few vegetable plots around town that included the tree tomatoes.  One of the plants that the EMGs were especially interested in was the New Guinea impatiens or Impatiens hawkerii.  Of course, down here, these plants are about 3-4′ tall and have stems that are about 2″ in diameter.

This is the first day that the sun was out fully and it was quite warm.  At this high altitude, you burn pretty quickly.  We have all been wearing sunscreen and hats all week but it’s been overcast.  Once the sun came out we commented that it’s a good thing it’s been overcast.


We headed to the town of Cotacachi in order to visit an ethnobotany garden that was  started by students as a community project.  The purpose of the garden is to teach people about native medicinal, fruit, and vegetable plants.  The garden is somewhat overrun at this point and in need of some work.   Our EMGs spent a little time weeding the pathways and then it started raining.  So, we headed into town for more SHOPPING!  Cotacachi is know for it’s leather goods and there were quite a few places to visit.  The “feel” of the town was very different from Otavalo.  There are a lot of expatriates (someone living in this country that is not a citizen) and apparently, this is a retirement area for Americans.  some of the shops seemed a little more modern and even had clothes with name brands from the US.  Dinner was in Cotacachi and then back  home for some much-needed rest.

church in the Cotacachi town square

Church in the Cotacachi town square

Tomorrow is our last day at the vivero (nursery) and we will be potting up the seedlings and finishing up some odd jobs.  Three of us started to repair a drainage ditch on Tuesday and will finish this as well.

I am a very tired Pam Bennett but still thoroughly enjoying Ecuador (EMG State Coordinator, Ohio State University Extension)


Learn about Xeriscaping and Native Plants With the Pros in New Mexico

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

What’s so bad about native plants? Nothing! Unfortunately, many native plants have been labeled as weeds. As water restrictions become tighter and tighter, this attitude may change. In the desert southwest, we are teaching gardeners that it’s okay to “go native.” There should not be one standard for a beautiful yard. What works well on one part of the country may require too much water and maintenance in another part of the country. For example, landscapes commonplace in New England struggle to survive in New Mexico.

Do you know what a Xeriscape is?

For those of you that do not live in the desert, this term may be unfamiliar. It is a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilizes water-conserving techniques. This includes the use of drought-tolerant plants, mulch, efficient irrigation, and water harvesting. The xeriscape concept has been misused in the past.

Some thought it was simply covering your entire yard with rocks and, perhaps, one lonely cactus. You can use drought-tolerant plants and efficient irrigation and still have a colorful, lively yard with flowers, fragrance, and hummingbirds as seen in last January’s blog post  Lots of Beauty ..very little water (Sandoval Co, New Mexico).

Undesireable "xeriscaping"

Xeriscaping is more than rock mulch and a lonely cactus. (Photo courtesy: Cheryl Kent, Bernalillo County Extension Agent, New Mexico)

Xeriscape by WaterWise Landscapes Inc. Albuquerque, NM

Beautiful xeriscape installation (Photo courtesy: WaterWise Landscapes Inc. Albuquerque, NM

2012 Xeriscaping Conference and Expo in Albuquerque, NM!

The Xeriscape Council of New Mexico is trying hard to provide education on xeriscaping, water conservation, the effects of climate change on gardening, and to generally create awareness about conserving nature in our own backyards.

The Xeriscape Council holds an annual Conference and Expo in Albuquerque NM in late February. The Conference is followed by a free two-day Expo with vendors and educational seminars.

New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension is involved in planning the conference, obtaining speakers, providing Master Gardener volunteers to help at the conference and Expo in all capacities (everything from giving out gardening advice to selling raffle tickets to support the council).

Please consider registering for this conference. We hope to see you there!

Collaborations for New Solutions
17th Water Conservation Conference & Xeriscape EXPO

Conference: February, 23-24 2012 • Crowne Plaza, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Xeriscape Expo:
February,  25-26 2012 • NM EXPO-Fairgrounds • Albuquerque, New Mexico

Please visit our website to learn more , “like” us on our Xeriscape New Mexico Facebook page, or e-mail us at

So back to you, how might you be familiar with Xeriscaping?

  • Were you familiar with the xeriscape concept before reading this blog post?
  • Do you utilize xeriscape in your yard?
  • Can you give examples of beautifully xeriscaped gardens in your area for people to visit?

Cheryl Kent, Bernalillo County Extension Agent, New Mexico

2011 Search for Excellence Demonstration Garden Award Winner- 3rd Place

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

The Master Gardens of Carteret County- Carteret County, North Carolina

The rain garden located at the N. C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores is used to teach about water quality.

The Carteret County Master Gardener’s demonstration garden project was established to address the needs of its community from its inception. Recognizing the ways in which development had changed the natural landscape, the Master Gardeners planned a series of gardens that addressed issues of rainwater capture,native plants, and vegetable garden management.

The Rain garden is part of the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores where it shares its goal of water quality education. The herb/vegetable garden is located at the Beaufort Historic Site where it provides historic education and the butterfly garden is at the Core Sound Museum and Heritage Center where native plants are kept vibrant and visible. Between these three sites, the gardens are seen by half a million people each year.

To learn more about the Carteret County Master Gardener projects visit: