Maryland's State Flower, the Black-eyed Susan, is a native plant that
will brighten up any garden. It is praised for being heat, drought and
pest tolerant, however, if you've ever had it in your garden you know it
is terribly invasive. But that shouldn't stop you from using it or any
other native plant. Simply divide and conquer. Or create an environment
such as a "BayScape" that will allow you to sit back and enjoy your low
maintenance landscape while making the local wildlife happy too.
Native plants are considered plants that were growing in our Coastal
Plain Region when the settlers arrived from Europe. Their best
characteristics are being able to thrive in the soil, water, and
temperature conditions here. But in our busy, busy, twenty-first century
lives, they might endear themselves to us even more because they need
minimal maintenance such as trimming, fertilizer or pesticide
applications. Over time they have developed natural immunities to
harmful insects and diseases. And they can match the finest cultivated
plants in beauty.
"I began with a garden of perennials, mostly non-native and some
old-fashioned flowers that my mom and grandmother always had," says Sue
Veith, St. Mary's County Master Gardener and Environmental Planner. "I
started my native plant gardening by simply not mowing parts of my lawn
in paisley shapes. I let Mother Nature take her course and in two years,
with a little help from my seed eating winged friends, I had some nice
native plant beds. Now I just weed out what I don't like and add more
natives for density and color."
Sue has also incorporated natives among her established beds.
"I have learned that native plants spread and fill in very quickly. If
you're thinking of starting a new bed by planting it yourself, I suggest
you place native plants in the middle and nursery perennials around the
edge to control the hardier ones from spreading out of the bed. Also,
you can easily control the natives by division. Then you'll have plenty
to share with friends and neighbors."
"I encourage you to buy native plants from a local grower, don't dig
them up in the woods," Sue adds. "The plant is filling a need in that
area, plus you could shock the plant while transplanting and it will be
a double loss."
For those of you who want to follow a plan, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service has a program called "BayScapes." The program was developed for
"the benefit of people, wildlife, and the Chesapeake Bay." The BayScape
program is an advocate of native plants since they require less or no
pesticides, so the water run-off that goes into the storm drain and
eventually spills into a nearby waterway is cleaner.
Native plants are also problem solvers for erosion, poor soils, steep
slopes or poor drainage. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service puts out a
publication called "Native Plants for Wildlife Habitat and Conservation
Landscaping, Chesapeake Bay Watershed," which has a section that matches
the plant, shrub or tree to a specific problem.
You can also see a plant in color and learn about the wildlife it
attracts. So if you were specifically looking to create a butterfly
garden, there is a symbol you'd look for.
The first step in a BayScape design would be to size up your yard.
Analyze the site by drawing your property and listing its
characteristics such as problem areas that are always wet or dry. Then
list current plants, trees and shrubs, walkways and retaining walls.
Seriously consider traffic flow. What do you use your yard for? Pets,
children, Bachi Ball? Also, its not a bad idea to get your soil tested,
by the Cooperative Extension Service, to determine the pH factor and
type you have. Soil types are important because you want the right plant
for the right location to keep maintenance simple.
A water feature near the house is part of a BayScape design because it
draws birds or frogs. Add fish and you've got insect control. Even a
non-circulating birdbath counts.
When creating a BayScape from scratch, start with trees, then
under-story plants and lastly privacy screen, flowers, then ground
Repeat after me, "Native is better."
If you'd like to view a native plant garden visit the following:
Maryland Nurseries that carry Native Plants:
- Lower Marlboro Nursery, Dunkirk/301-812-0808
- Homestead Gardens, Davidsonville/410-798-5000
- Chesapeake Native Nursery, Takoma Park/301-270-4535
- Waldorf Pottery, Waldorf/301-934-1277
- Wentworth Nursery, Charlotte Hall/301-884-5292, Prince