Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
Exterior Design by Julie Bawden Davis - Winter 2004
Until recently, native plants suffered an image problem. Rather than tout their beauty and long-lasting blooms, persuasive arguments for growing natives focused on drought tolerance and practicality. Both outstanding attributes, true, but how dull they sound when all many gardeners want is an eye-catching garden.
"Saying you should plant natives sounds a lot like you need to eat more Brussels sprouts because they're good for you," says landscape designer and horticulturist Jill Nokes, author of How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest. It gives the impression that by planting natives you'll be going on a garden diet."
Natives have suffered from a reputation as weedy, out-of-control plants that bring little interest to the garden, agrees Potomac, Maryland landscape designer Carole Ottesen, an associate editor the American Horticultural Society's The American Gardener magazine. "It wasn't until recently that gardeners discovered that natives are plants like any other and that they can be used like any other plants," she says.
People are just now realizing what a wide appeal natives have and how versatile they are, according to Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of gardens and growing for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where a variety of homeowner inspiration gardens feature how natives can be as versatile as exotics in garden design.
According to DeLong-Amaya, "Many people have had the misconception that you can only use natives for a naturalistic garden or a wildflower meadow when in fact they can be used in any garden design. Plants don't dictate the style of the garden. The design dictates the style, and you can use any plants you want in the design."
Alrie Middlebrook of Middlebrook Gardens is a San Jose, California garden artist, builder, and designer who is completing a book on garden design with native plants. She has created a wide variety of native gardens that would traditionally showcase exotics and recently designed a Mediterranean style garden featuring natives that are able to handle the intense summer sun and heat of Northern California.
"I wanted the look that is so common in Mediterranean gardens - long-lasting saturated color that doesn't bleach out in the sun," says Middlebrook, who, instead of planting well-known exotics, made the most of a variety of California natives such as the Santa Cruz Island buckwheat (Eriogonum arborescens), which has the gray-green foliage of lavender but a much longer bloom cycle.