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Monday - September 10, 2007

From: Cambridge, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Resources for wildlife garden in Maryland
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I've recently bought a home in Cambridge in Dorchester County on Maryland's Eastern Shore. I want my small garden to have native plants that will sustain birds, butterflies and visiting wildlife. Could you kindly direct me to resources and where to buy these plants? We all miss Lady Bird Johnson. Thank you.


We are assuming that, because to asked for information from us, that you are interested in planting a garden of plants native to North America. The focus of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is on encouraging the use of native plants, their protection and propagation. This is important because natives require less water, less fertilizer, are adapted to weather conditions, and will not "break out" and become an invasive in their home territory.

That having been said, we have a lot of information on our website that can help you. Being firmly Texan, we don't have the needs of a garden in Maryland right on the top of our heads. We would like for everyone to believe we know everything there is to know about native plants, but, sadly, it's not true. So, as we answer your questions, we will tell you how to find the self-same information on our website so you can expand your inquiries and find out more, on your own.

To begin with, go to this page, How To Articles, where you will find a list of excellent articles on subjects like "Landscaping with Native Plants", "Butterfly Gardening Resources" and "Creating a Wildlife Garden." You can read these onscreen or print them out, and that will get you started.

Next, go to the "Combination Search" page. You can indicate the state of Maryland, and then check boxes that relate to your search, including habits (shrubs, trees), light requirements (sunny, shady), and normal soil moisture. You can even ask for the times of year you want blooms and color. Check all the boxes that relate to your search and then click on "Submit Comination Search," which will produce a list of plants that fill your criteria. You can click on each plant name in turn, and get a screen with information about that plant and, usually, at least one picture. To give you an example, we indicated Maryland, all habits, all durations, 6 or more hours of sun a day, and moist soil. This produced a list of 144 possibilities that fit those requirements. We selected Asclepias syriaca (common milkweed) because we already knew this was a monarch butterly host. You can refine your search by making it for shade or sun, for different parts of your garden, or specific colors or bloom times, or whatever you're interested in. You'll have to look at the descriptions to see if it fits what you want your garden to look like, and make a list.

Now, you have articles with instructions, and you have a list of likely plants, with information on where they will flourish and what their cultivation needs are. Next, you need to know where to find these natives. So, go to the webpage "Suppliers" and, again, enter the state name and when we did this, we got a list of 17 suppliers. These are all approved vendors of native plants. When you click on the individual nursery name, you will get a page of more information: address, phone number, maybe a website in Maryland.

You have chosen an excellent time to start thinking about this wonderful project. Whether you begin to seed or plant perennials in the fall or wait until spring will depend on what part of Maryland you live in and where it appears on the USDA Zone map for hardiness in Maryland. More importantly, even if it's not safe to start planting until spring, fall is an ideal time for preparing the site: removing weeds, rocks, etc., adding compost or other products to correct soil problems or simply improve it. You can make your plans, begin to place orders, visit nurseries and talk to the professionals there about what you want to do. And, please let Mr. Smarty Plants know how does your garden grow?

Asclepias syriaca



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