Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Changing Face of Gardening

I see some real change starting to happen. First up this year I'm hearing the hot item at nurseries is fruits and vegetables. That's fantastic! It shows people are growing more of their own food and devoting limiting the size of their lawns.

The other trend I'm seeing, and very happy about, is the increasing number of native plants available to buy. Lowes had a great selection out and has been labeling their plants accordingly. However, I did notice they have such a tag on a Dogwood I believe originated from China, Cornus kousa. But it was with all the other Cornus florida's which are native and has been the only mistake I've seen so far.

A lot of the native plants are good problem solving plants. For example: Trilliums, Bloodroot, Trout lily, and Bleeding hearts all do great in shade. And what's more convenient they're spread around by ants. So you're really getting your money's worth because the plants will multiply in time. Other plants like Columbines, and Blueberries do great in full sun. Columbines are a hummingbird plant, though I think they flower a bit early for hummingbirds around here.

Blueberries are an underused landscaping plant that only need good drainage to survive. The thing about blueberries is they require acidic soil in order to flower, anywhere else and they'll just turn into a big green bush. This is fine though as you can simply add things like special soil mixes and pine needles to make the soil more acidic. If the plants didn't have these conditions though for a year then they won't flower the next year. So you'll have to fix it as needed. And I assure you, if you don't eat the fruit the birds will. Blueberries are also very beneficial because loads of species of Lepidoptera (Butterflies and Moths) use them as a host plant.

Going back to my original point though, I'm happy to see people gardening in general. Even for people who don't know much about what they're buying the fact that native plants are around in stores helps. My neighbor just bought an Eastern Redbud, Cercis canadensis, and didn't even realize how beneficial it was.

What we need now is for Home Depot to get in the game. I thought I had herd a commercial for them but might be wrong. I think it was advertising their gardening sections and I swear I herd them say their garden center has plants specially picked for your area. Now this caught my eye because it was a Home Depot commercial but had the saying I'd seen on Lowes commercials recently. (perhaps I am mistaken?) In any case I went there to try and compare how many natives they had. As it turns out almost nothing in their garden section is native to the US. Sure they sell Blueberries, Concord Grapes, a few native Dogwoods, and Eastern Redbud, but this pails in comparison to everything else they're selling. To be fair though, Lowes isn't doing much better but at least Lowes has a much bigger selection of native plants.