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Fifth Day of Christmas

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

fiiiiive! naaaaative! plaaaaaants!


…four hummingbirds!
…three moorhens!
…two mourning doves!
…and a replacement for a Bradford pear tree!

You all know by now that I’m a native plant junkie, both because I want to support wildlife (and not just the eat-anything-generalists—I am still deeply honored to have had a Stinging Rose Caterpillar in the yard) and because I thinking it really contributes to the sense of place. A garden should be deeply rooted (ha) wherever it is, not as interchangeable as a McDonald’s.

My garden runs about sixty percent native—a much higher percentage in the shrub and tree department, where my non-natives consist of things like hardy pomegranate and a potted Daphne odora. This has worked out as the best proportion for me, since it means I can still fall madly in love with random perennials and keep old favorites like Walker’s Low catmint, while still being majority native for all the little critters.

Five native plants that have done really well for me this year:

Hypericium buckleyii — “Appalachian Sun”  A cultivar of our rare native prostrate St. John’s Wort, this made a very satisfying ground cover over the summer. Not entirely evergreen, so the chickweed is starting to overrun it now, but I am quite optimistic for its return.

Asplenium platyneuron — “Ebony Spleenwort” Picked up recently on a whim, and has established very vigorously for a wee little fern in a less than hospitable spot.

Iris virginica — “Contraband Girl” A cultivar of our native Louisiana iris, this sucker gets to be six feet tall. If the thought of a six foot iris does not excite you, you may already be dead. One of the few plants plugged into my proto-wetland that could hold its own against the late season Japanese stiltgrass assault.

Lycopus virginicus — “Virginia Water Horehound”  This one is related to the mint family and thus should probably not be set loose in just any garden bed, although it’s not as weedy as some of its relatives. It takes just about any soil and part shade. I am growing it with trepidation and pull out a substantial portion. Next year I may transplant some to the proto-wetland. Nevertheless, it’s largely idiot-proof and hosts the hermit sphinx moth, a gorgeous hummingbird-mimic moth with big, liquid eyes, like a small insectile muppet.

Agarista populifolia — “Florida hobblebush”  A shrub native from Florida to the Carolinas, also known as Pipestem and Florida Leucothoe. Tough, will take the shade and root competition under pines, and so far one of the few shrubs I’ve planted in multiples where I haven’t lost a single one.  Supposed to be a good screening shrub, but we’ll see how it goes.

Originally published at Squash's Garden. You can comment here or there.


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I am totally not a gardener, but not only am I loving these 12 Days of Christmas posts, but I really do love your gardening posts in general. They make me wish I did garden!

That is both horrible and kind of awesome.

Ooogh; we used to call those "Devil's Fingers" when I was little!

I am nooooooot going to say what the one in the middle is shaped like. Not gonna say it. :P

Just in case you haven't seen it, I wanted to post this: http://imgur.com/865Gb

Also, more Taza Chocolate is forthcoming. My chocolatier friend was amused.

That is pretty freakin' adorable!

As another Somervillian, may I recommend McCrea's caramels from Hyde Park? They are super tasty (I have a tube of ones made with very good Scotch that I meant to give as a gift but failed a Will save on, so I bought another to mail).

Our local council are kinda garden fascists, they even have regulations on how tall your grass is allowed to grow... and I prefer a more natural look [plus, I'm kinda lazy about cutting the grass.]

I snookered them good a couple of years ago, by planting native species that were endangered and encouraging wildlife to move in by cutting the grass only twice a year. [spring and autumn.] When predictably they sent a nasty letter round, I sent back a survey of what was living here, and pointed out I could get my garden declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which would be protected under law.

I haven't heard for them since, and my garden continues to delight me and provide an oasis for wildlife in a desert of concrete and regulation height grass mono-culture.

Oooh, that is awesome. :D I am going to remember your scheme in case I ever get stuck in a place with a homeowner's association.

That is bloody brilliant. Just sayin'.

Not only am I excited by the idea of a 6 ft Iris, I am utterly delighted that its name is "Contraband."

A six-foot-tall iris [swoon]. Is it standard iris purple?

The only 6 foot iris I've ever seen was in the Lord of the Rings movies.

My mother's name was Iris, and she was 6 ft tall. Does that count?

"Insectile muppet" just about coated the screen with coffee! This begs for an illustration!

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