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The surest way to build a landscape of native plants is to look at where they came from.  “With our sixty-five mile-per-hour lifestyles, we have forgotten how to look closely,” explains Rick Huffman owner/principal of Earth Design, an environmental landscape design business in Pickens, South Carolina. 

According to Huffman, gardeners should, “learn to look at nature.  There are models all around us.”  He says, “Statistics show that a well-maintained landscape increases property values 15-20% and native plants located in the proper environment require much less maintenance than the average landscape.” 

Where did all of this love of nature come from?  Like many people, a family member opened his eyes to the wonders of nature.  Huffman’s grandmother was his catalyst.  She took him hiking through woods and fields.  He grew up loving the wilds and seeing beauty in the natural world.

There are plants that will flourish without trimming and fussing and that are adapted to local rainfall and soil types.  “If you choose natives and place them in the same or similar conditions where they grow in the wild,” said Huffman, “they will thrive in your garden.”  You can be a gardener and still have time to lounge in the garden furniture and hammocks of your garden rooms. 

Low maintenance habitat gardening places focus on plant communities, their relationship to each other, and the wildlife they support.  Huffman said, “Many native plant choices that help to recreate colorful native habitat gardens are available in garden centers...”

“Many of our native plant choices are extremely hardy,” Hoffman pointed out.  He calls these, “Stick plants - you can beat them with a stick and they still grow.”  

Protect the wild areas.  Sustainable gardening is all about “being in tune with the world around us,” Huffman points out, “Once you have lost it, you forget what it looks like, and the next generation will never know it.”  Don’t be tempted to dig a plant from the wild.  Very often, they just don’t survive.  It is also illegal to remove threatened or endangered species.  Be responsible and buy from reputable dealers.

Small yards and busy lifestyles combine to keep many people from enjoying their outdoor spaces.  Growers are aware of this and are busy indulging our gardening habit, offering many choices to fit shrinking gardens.  Choices available to you include native plants that help build the perfect backyard environment.

Making a difference starts with one person and an idea.  Plant trees to clean the air.  Plant native grasses and sedges to clean the water.  Plant flowers to feed the pollinators.  One person can make a difference.

There is a list of Eastern native plants below.  For listings of wildflowers and native plants in other areas, look for native plant societies in your own state.  Links for more information include:

Desert wildflower suggestions at the GardenSMART show #5/705,

Texas wildflowers in the GardenSMART show #17/1204,

and California wildflowers in The Article “Wildflower, Just Add Water” by guest writer Kirk Anderson, Collection Manager at the Living Desert and zoo,

Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)
Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)
Golden rod (Solidago spp.)
Pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia cappilaris)
Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum spp.)
Gloriosa daisy (Rudbeckia spp.)
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Bee balm (Monarda didyma)
Southern shield fern (Dryopteris marginalis)
Crested iris (Iris cristata)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Sweet shrub (Calycanthus floridus)
Flowering anise (Illicium floridanum)
Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginicus)
Summer Sweet (Clethra alnifolia)
Sweet azalea (Rhododendron arborescens)
Piedmont azalea (Rhododendron candescens)
Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
Drooping leucothoe (Leucothoe axillaris)
Lacecap hydrangea (Hydrangea radiata)

Fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus)
Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis)
Red buckeye (Aesculus pavia)
Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

Check the Plant Hardiness Zone map to see which of the plants are adapted to your area:


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GardenSMART Featured Article

By Natalie Carmolli, Proven Winners ColorChoice, Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

There are few things more satisfying than seeing your beautiful garden in full bloom...and it's especially thrilling to see it abuzz with the activity of butterflies and bees. Want to bring more activity to your garden? Here's a guide to choosing unique, colorful, easy-care plants that provide a much-needed place for pollinators of all sizes to do their work. Read more...

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