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Mr. Smarty Plants - French Provincial Garden using Natives

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Monday - January 31, 2011

From: Waco, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: French Provincial Garden using Natives
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I am designing a French provincial garden near Waco Lake, I am looking for some native shrubs and ornamental grasses to augment the myriad of lavender, roses, and lilies in the proposed design.

ANSWER:

That sounds like a great project.  I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful!  Interesting that you asked this question.  A very similar topic was discussed just this month in the Wildflower Watch Newsletter

In France, a provincial garden is a well designed display of their best local flowers to showcase them, using blankets of color and taking into account the flowering seasons of each plant to best effect.  Mr. Smarty Plants would like to recommend that you strive to produce the same effect here in Texas rather than trying to exactly copy the plants grown in France.  In particular, you should not totally copy a French provincial garden, because the plants they use are not native here and will ordinarily not do well in Texas (although most of the Mediterranean herbs do okay). Also consider that if you design a garden that is a mixture of natives and non-natives, the intense care and high watering that the non-natives need to do well will be detrimental to the health of the natives.

OK, enough far warnings! – Lets have some fun and review some plants that might show very well in that type of setting. Mr. Smarty Plants’ method of recommending plants is to use the Wildflower Center “Recommended Species” list and then narrow the search using a combination of general appearance, height, and perhaps bloom color or time.  For instance, looking at grasses in the North Central region of Texas, some very colorful and interesting specimens include   Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) , Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly), Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feathergrass)  and  Andropogon ternarius (Splitbeard bluestem). Accent these grasses with some of the native flowers, and you will attain the Texan French provincial garden effect!

                           
Bouteloua gracilis
          Muhlenbergia capillaris            Nassella tenuissima       


Nicely colored shrubs abound: Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo) (grey and green), Pavonia lasiopetala (Rock rose) (pink that blooms all summer long), Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) and Ilex decidua (Possumhaw)(beautiful foliage and red berries in winter), and the Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana) (deep orange). Consider members of the paintbrush family Castilleja miniata (Giant red indian paintbrush) (shades of red), Engelmannia peristenia (Engelmann's daisy) (yellow),  Eustoma exaltatum ssp. russellianum (Texas bluebells) (lavender to purple), Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot daisy) (white), or perhaps the Salvia farinacea (Mealy blue sage) (Blue and purple), Gaura lindheimeri (Lindheimer's beeblossom) (pink and white), or Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower) (pink).

                        

  Castilleja indivisa          Engelmannia peristenia             Eustoma exaltatum                Salvia azurea

Noted below is an excellent reference book by Sally and Andy Wasowswki, “Native Texas Plants, landscaping region by region”.  This is one of our favorite references and contained many of the pictures used here. This book has some good ideas for different landscape designs using wholly native plants.

 

 

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