In this blog I will write about my experiences of using North American native plants in the residential landscape in the Mid-Atlantic US. In particular, I will focus on working with Native Annuals and Biennials and how they can add surprises to the garden.
I spent last week in the Charlotte, NC area to see what late winter is like a few zones warmer than New England. While for me it was a great break from 2+ feet of snow , the locals were complaining that, because of the unusually cold weather, they were running 2-4 weeks behind normal. Never-the-less it was nice to see some bare ground.
My first visit was to the botanical gardens at the UNC-Charlotte. Here you can see the 3-acre Susie Harwood Garden which contains mostly exotic ornamentals planted in an oriental-styled garden. Since there were not a lot of plants blooming, or leafed out, it was easier to appreciate the structure of the garden. Some early spring bloomers were familiar like the ‘Jelena’ Witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’).
This Wintersweet, at 15', perfumed the air beneath.
Two shrubs that I had not seen before were the Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) and Yellow Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha). The Wintersweet had a very powerful, pleasant fragrance and was in full bloom. The buds of the Paperbush were quite striking in the winter garden; I’m sorry I could not hang around another week or two for them to open up. As zone 7 plants I will just have to enjoy the photos of these two.
This Dragon-eye Pine (Pinus wallichiana ‘Zerbina’) with its yellow-banded needles really caught my eye as I entered this garden. It grows as far north as zone 6 and could make it in southern New England. While there were several example of this species in the garden, I particularly liked this prostrate-growing cultivar.
Just across from the Harwood Garden is the 7-acre Van Landingham Glen featuring plants native to the Carolinas. The plants here are sorted out by habitat, including Pine Woods, Flood Plain and Costal Plain. In addition to the native species there is a collection of hybrid rhododendrons. Unfortunately for me, most of this garden was still at rest with only a few plants, such as Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) just beginning to stir.
Footbridge in the Van Landingham Glen
The next day was a little warmer, pushing 50°F, and I drove across Lake Wylie to see the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, NC. While relatively new, opened in 1999, the gardens here are very impressive. The current installations are primarily ornamental with a mix of native and exotic species and cultivars.
Canal Garden at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden
It was very nice for the winter visitor that the gardening staff left many of the dried perennials and grasses in place to show off their winter-interest. This is certainly true to their mission of being a four-season garden. The native Possumhaw Holly (Ilex decidua) really popped out in the winter landscape.
In addition to the fountains and walks in the ornamental gardens there is a ½ mile woodland walk that is very well done with signage indicating key native species in a natural setting. Opening in May 2011 will be a ‘Meadowood’ walk featuring more native species in a natural setting. For the color starved there is an orchid conservatory that was in full bloom. This garden certainly merits future visits!
Another ‘garden’ in the Charlotte area is the Latta Plantation Nature Preserve just a little north in Huntersville, NC. Here are over 600 acres of land with native species, flora and fauna, in their native habitats. If spring had been a bit closer I would have made time to spend an afternoon here to see how the native plants really grow here – maybe next time.
After about 20 years working in the field of organic chemistry, I decided it was time to start a second career. I have always had an interest in things botanical, especially species that are native to a particular locale. I decided that the best way to follow this interest and educate others about the wonderful plants that grow in their own region was to train to become a landscape designer. I completed the Landscape Design certificate program at Harvard's Landscape Institute in 2009 and have since launched my own business, Adams Garden, where I do both design and residential landscape maintenance.
In 2012 I moved to Knoxville, MD where I am continuing to evaluate native plants and work on removing invasive plants from the property.
In addition to use of native plant species, I am also engaged in creating natural habitats and the use of sustainable practices in both design and maintenance.