Aliens in the Landscape

Aliens in the Landscape…

So we aren’t talking about ET, the extra terrestrial or martians wanting to take you back to their planet. Worse! We are talking butterfly bush, honeysuckle, ivy, and some ornamental grasses amoung other plants stealing our landscape.  While these plants might bring beauty and fragrance to your property, they are also actively succeeding in defeating our native plant species.  So, with a bit of education you can conquer the aliens and improve your landscape.


So why native plants? Native plants are the right choice because they are resistant to drought, insects and disease and require less care.  Native plants also improve soil fertility, provide food and shelter for wildlife as well as reduce run off.  There are so many wonderful native plants to choose from. Native plants  are readily available from most reputable garden centers or landscape contractors. Often, the best choices are right under your nose.  Here are a few of my favorites.


To attract hummingbirds or songbirds to your landscape consider Clethra ( Clethra alnifolia) especially the variety ‘Ruby Spice’ with its pink bottlebrush blooms and yellow fall foliage it’s a wonderful addition to any shrub border or garden. Also, Red Twig Dogwood ( Cornus Sericea), Winterberry Holly ( Ilex verticilatta), and Serviceberry ( Amelanchier sp.) is another great choice for a small-medium choice with its rich fall color and desirable winter berries.


If you are a butterfly fan, they will make an appearance with Turtlehead( Chelone glabra) , Blazing Star

( Liatris spicata), and Sourwood ( Oxydendrum arboreaum). These native plants provide nectar for butterflies. The monarch population is in severe decline. The reason why is somewhat controversial but the leading theory is climate change.  With drought leading to fires in the monarch’s migration pattern, some of the plants monarchs feed on are lost with  the fires, thus no food source and decline of the monarch.  Resist the urge to plant butterfly bush believing it will attract butterflies. Butterfly bush is an aggressive weed that will grow in pavement, streambeds, and everywhere you don’t want it to show up. It is not a great source of nectar for the butterfly either. Its nectar is not known to be rich in nutrients.  Instead plant butterfly weed, joe-pye weed or one of the most important plants for specifically the for monarchs, milkweed. It is the only plant where monarchs will lay their eggs as well, they feed on it as caterpillars as well as enjoying its nectar.


In conclusion, Go Native! Supplement with ornamentals. Native plants will bring you less maintenance, lots of joy and attract wildlife. There are many sources available to find the best native plants for your garden. Consider of course exposure, soil type, and mature growth.  Check with the local Cooperative Extension office for a current list of plants considered invasive exotics. The list changes as we learn more about these “imports”.  A great website for more information is .

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