Monday, January 11, 2010
While there is a growing interest in native trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials there are very few native annuals promoted for landscape use in native landscape designs. This focus is due in large part this is because the longer-lived species can be counted on year after year to uphold the integrity of the design. When included in a design, conventional annuals are often used as temporary accent pieces, just to add interest or fill a gap in the permanent landscape. In general, many of the annuals used in designed landscapes and home gardening are of exotic origin and have been further improved horticulturally for maximum visual affect. These plants and methods are not bad or evil; they are just a few steps away from what would be considered natural to a given area. While beautiful, these plants lack local character, certainly on a regional, if not continental scale. To the extent that they are different from the local flora, they may have lost some of their ecological value as food and shelter for wildlife in the area. In contrast, native annuals may function more as perennials. Those that are adapted to the local environment are able to reseed and return year after year. For some people, this may be a problem since the plants will move around, disrupting the design. Others would consider this as a natural phenomenon and appreciate how plants are able to find their proper niche. The ideal native annual could be considered as a plant that develops quickly with more flowers, a longer flowering cycle than perennials, and that reseeds but is not invasive. This blog will discuss many species of North American native annual and biennial plants and explore how they might be used in a residential landscape.