Modern landscaping practices bring more formal designs and tidiness to homes. With narrow plantings in straight lines, and mulch beds cut and shaped in perfect arcs its hard to imagine wildflowers and native grasses belonging there. But just because a plant has native beginnings, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a spot in a formal landscape. Just like how dogs were once wolves and now come in every shape a size, plants can come from wild heritage and be bred to be the perfect companion for your home.
The first step in finding a plant suitable for your home is to find one that has unique features and hardiness to survive and look great in any landscape it’s thrown into. Some plants require years of breeding to get a great selection, like Rudbeckias, Penstemons, and Coneflowers, while others can be plucked from the wild and do just fine. A great example of a wild plant put right into the nursery is Prairie Dropseed. This native grass was once common in the short grass prairie with the native range extending from Canada down to Texas. Its natural tidy nature combined with its soft tufts and good fall color made it a good selection to be used in modern landscapes. There are also other important factors for plants from the wild, these include how easy they spread (Don’t want a noxious weed), how long they show their best attributes, and how easy they are to adapting.
The next step to finding a great plant to cultivate and breed is how well it will sell to potential buyers. Plants with prickly thorns or poisonous attributes can sometimes deter potential customers, along with complicated care instructions and messiness towards the end of the season. A great example of a native tree that went from a messy tree to a clean tree for homes is the Kentucky Coffeetree. This tree is unique in that the tiny leaves and smaller branches fall off during fall to leave only the original thicker branches. A new variety named “Espresso” eliminates the seedpods that can be a problem to clean up in the fall and also prevents seedlings from popping up the in yard. This leaves only the twigs to pick up as the leaves like are too small to pile up and most blow away in windy weather.
Every year plant varieties get better and hardier. Walk into your local nursery and look around this spring, you’ll be surprised by the amount of native plants that have been bred and cultivated to be great additions to any landscape, including your own.