Going Native

By: Gabrielle Phillips

The days begin to get longer and hotter, sweat seems to be a regular part of our wardrobe and the lush foliage of our landscape is in full effect. Flowers are in bloom everywhere and if you have a vegetable garden you maybe harvesting fresh tomatoes, herbs, and squash for your dinner. The summer brings us a feeling of abundance due to the great amount of growth we see on the plants around us and the long days that fill our calendars. Our yards are great spots to spend a cool summer evening, enjoying the beauty and ambiance plants bring to our environment. As I spend time in my garden in the summer, I like to know more about the plants that reside in my beds and I always enjoy learning more about the natives that are in full bloom during the summer. Let us take a brief dip into a couple native plants that may be filling up your gardens in the summer.

“Purple Lovegrass” by treegrow is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

Purple Lovegrass (Eragrostis spectabilis) is a grass the grows one to two feet tall and wide. Lovegrass prefers full sun and dry to moist, sandy, and gravelly loam soils. However, it is a very hardy native and can tolerate poor soil and drought conditions. This native will self-seed but it does not have an invasive growth behavior. It is a plant that needs very minimal care and adds a great amount of texture and color to a green space. When viewing Purple Lovegrass in late summer you will see its red-purple inflorescences open, which offer a glowing effect at sunset.  Lovegrass seems like a great addition to any garden bed.

“Monarda didyma” by cristina.sanvito is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

Another summer native to note is Scarlet Beebalm (Monarda didyma). This perennial will grow to about two to four feet tall and two to three feet wide. Beebalm loves full sun to part shade and does best in moist to wet soils. This native comes in a variety of colors and attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. This is a great plant to add a pop of color to your garden and is also a plant that can be harvested to dry or use fresh in many homemade botanical applications. If you are interested in learning more a quick internet search will get you far. Beebalm is a classic summertime native, if you do not already have it in your yard you may want to consider adding it, the hummingbirds will thank you!

“Baptisia australis 001” by delirium florens is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

Last but certainly not least is Blue false indigo ‘Purple Smoke’ (Baptisia australis). Many of you may already have this plant in your yard. I think it is so lovely because not only does it have desirable flowers but also desirable foliage. This hardy native will grow three to five feet tall; it thrives in part or full sun and adapts to dry or moist soils. In the wild it is found in open woods, sandy soils, alluvial thickets, stream banks and floodplains. It is a very adaptable native species and can withstand drought conditions, most likely because it can root up to ten feet into the ground. Blue False Indigo’s root system is important in keeping soil intact and helping prevent any erosion in our gardens. It has showy purple flowers from May to June that attract butterflies and pollinators.

May your summer garden be filled with all the plants that bring you great joy. Maybe these highlighted natives can be added to your list of summertime favorites.

“Rudbeckia hirta” by Robert Couse-Baker is licensed with CC BY 2.0.


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