*Note – I know lilacs are not considered plants for native plant gardening. However, they are everywhere here in eastern Ontario. And they are so beautiful and fragrant that I have a bunch of photos of them and thought it would make a nice header image…
Spring is my favourite time of year. The snow finally goes, and the plants awaken from their winter slumber.
Here in Kingston, sometimes winter drags out for a very long time. (That’s one of the reasons I try to visit the City of Kingston’s Greenhouse when it opens for public tours in late winter. I get a dose of spring flowers while the weather is still frightful!) But when the warm weather finally appears I am filled with a humongous desire to get outside and into my gardens!
I’ve been gardening at my house long enough that my gardens mostly run themselves. The spring bulbs pop up and then the perennials come alive. I always add annuals (and veggies in the backyard) but this year I want to start a native plant garden.
The appeal of native plant gardening is 3 fold:
- Because they are “native” the plants should thrive in the soil and weather conditions (including harsh winters) here.
- They are often drought tolerant and very hardy plants.
- Provides food and shelter for native animals, including bugs.
But what is a native plant?
I think the term “native” can be interpreted in many ways. For me, I want to find plants that naturally grow in my local area. I also want to take into account the critters that depend on those native plants that may be disappearing due to development. For instance milkweek is very high on the list of plants I want to include in my native garden.
Where to find Native Plants:
Lemoine Point has a Native Plant Nursery. There is no information online about what plants they actually have, but if you’re heading out for a nature walk, stop by the nursery at the north end of the conservation area. I have never stopped to check it out, but I have driven by and see the hard work the Friends of Lemoine Point are putting into the nursery.
I wrote to a few local nurseries to find out if they have native plants, and if they are marked as such for consumers like me who don’t really want to bother the people working there!
Here’s what I learned:
Located at 2542 Perth Road, Glenburnie, Ontario (That’s just north of Kingston, out Division St.)
Allison at Sun Harvest took some time to respond to my emails.
Here’s her take on native plants and gardening:
Native plant gardening is for those gardeners who appreciate the importance of populating our outdoor living spaces with plants that are resilient, well adapted to our region and are interested in maintaining plant diversity in our landscapes. However, gardeners should become educated on their judicious use in their landscapes, as some native cultivars grow to a scale that some garden sizes simply cannot support. So choose your varieties carefully and make sure that a smaller urban garden can support the growth potential of a certain plant.
Our perennials in the garden centre have variety descriptor signs and we identify varieties as begin Native.
Burt’s Greenhouses is located north west of Kingston off County Rd 6. The address is 539 Maple Rd, Odessa, Ontario.
Ruth at Burt’s was quick to reply in the winter months when I started researching this post. Here’s her thoughts on native plant gardening:
I grow lots of plants that are native in origin. I don’t always know what people are expecting when something is called native. How narrow a part of North America is it? The other thing is that many plants have been bred for different colours etc so you get as examples a wide variety of Echinaceas and Panicums.
One plant that I am growing for the first time is Heliopsis Burning Hearts. It was bred in Europe from north american plants. It is a wonderful plant that is very attractive to pollinators.
When there is no ambiguity I often mention that a plant is a native on our information signs.
I wrote to a few other greenhouses or nurseries but I either didn’t hear back, or they said they didn’t carry native plants. I did not reach out to the big box stores with greenhouses (Home Depot, Rona, Lowes, Canadian Tire, Walmart etc.) From my experience visiting them I have never seen labelled native plants. Some of the “native plants” are there, but not marked as such – echinacea, lupins, lobelias, goldenrod and so on. If you’ve done your research and know what exactly you’re looking for, you may find them at the big box guys, but I prefer the knowledge base of a garden center where the people really know their plants!
While I was browsing the web for information on native plant gardening I found a great website. It’s simply called Ontario Native Plants. They specialize in ordering and shipping native plants. I spent a good amount of time looking through their great images for some plants I may like to include in my own garden. I wouldn’t order plants online until I have a better grasp of what plants I want and how they will behave (and I may not ever order plants online, but I liked this website!) If you’re an established and experienced gardening, I’d recommend checking them out for your native plant gardening.
Now it’s time for me to get planning. I have a spot in the back of my yard just crying out for some landscaping, so I’m going to go native plant crazy back there. If I can find some spare time (!!) I am going to get out to these greenhouses and take a look at their stock. My kids like visiting greenhouses, so one of these weekends we’ll get out there. Watch my social media for pics from these plant factories!
Do you have any suggestions for me? Here in Kingston, Ontario I’m in zone 5b (or 6a depending on the map you’re looking at.) Is there a favourite native plant you have in your garden? I am open to trying most anything! Leave your thoughts in a comment for me.
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