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Mixing It up! Two great bloggers Chloris and Mandy enrich my blogging world + information, I found about being “wise” about what native plants you put in a small garden


LEWIS’ MOCKORANGE Philadelphus lewisii Pursh

Mock Orange Native to USA in my back yard ( read more here)– she is a beauty !Everyone knows, I mix-it-up in my garden with natives and non-natives.In my posts, I mix-it-up often…. for I never follow the rules + this is a post that mixes up a lot of stuff….Two bloggers I admire…A great native bush in my garden which if you love fragrance you just have to find a place for her!!!She is BIG and perfect for a privacy screen. + Why you should be careful what natives you put on a small city lot.


Something Chloris said, from The blooming Garden/ Ideas from a Suffolk Garden stuck in my head today after reading her comment. I have been reading for a couple of days about “Native plants vs. Non Native” plants. She has a beautiful garden on acreage in England, and she honored me the other day by nominating me for One Lovely Blog Award. I hope she does not mind, if I change-up the award stuff for I tend to do my “own thing” and those who read my blog, know, I do!

She said in response to my last post about biodiversity on city lots “You have a much richer flora than we do here. Ours is the poorest in Europe. We only have 32 species of trees. I do believe in planting native flowers, and indeed I have wildflowers in my orchard. But I plant exotic trees and shrubs and just have native ones in my hedge. I agree that biodiversity is vital though I hope your message gets across and that The Great American Lawn and all its chemical care will become a thing of the past.,It made me think, she is “spot on!!! I admire Chlrois when it comes to knowing everything about plants! I am waiting for her to write a gardening book! I will be the first to buy it since she has a great blog that covers a wide variety of gardening topics. I consider her an expert!

She also is right about us and “The Great America Lawn” obsessionIt is a PROBLEM in America, if we would just ALL decrease their size + MIX in more native plants, we might find we argue less about this subject. The lawn is a non-native plant but WHY can’t it share its space with some native plants. Possibly Rudbeckia hirta, commonly called black-eyed susan or Annise hyssop/Agastache foeniculum, would be a nice mix-up addition. These changes are not that hard to do and by just MIXING it up, we can live with nature. It does not mean we can’t have other non-natives, but we can’t make them the entire growing area. I found Kentucky Blue Grass on the invasive list!(check it out here)


Thank you Chloris for nominating me and being so wise- go visit her blog (here)!

Since my last post, I have been reading from many sources about this debate, for I am a person that does not follow extremes, but tries to find a balance.

What exactly are native plants?

They are usually defined as plants recorded as growing wild in an area at the time that scientific collection began in that area. Other plants are considered introduced. The scope of Wildflowers covers several Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin). Plants included on the website are native to one or more of those states (some may also be native to states outside the scope of this website).

From a more subjective viewpoint, gardeners need to consider what native means to them. Some people are satisfied as long as the plant is considered native to North America or the United States. Others may feel that they only want to use plants native to the state in which they live. Yet others may want plants to be native to their immediate area (the region or county in which they live). Each gardener must decide what they will accept as native (read more here)…..

I feel that is where I stand with this “argument” about native vs non-native going on between gardeners. I will decide what I consider a native plant. I will not try to tell you what to believe since it is up to you. One of my favorite plants, I use in my “rotating” beds is “cosmos” and it is NOW on the Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. (check it out here-I bet you have a few on this list) I have found the bees cover this flower from mid-summer to early fall as much as they do our native asters. I have many more asters on my city lot, but the cosmos I use in my garden beds to provide for native pollinators. This plant is native to Mexico, which borders the USA. They also have many more annuals on the list that I use for food in our small garden. There are herbs that escape and become problems in nature. I have been reading about this debate for the past few days + come to the conclusion; I will sit myself in the “gray” area. I will not align myself with either extreme but evaluate my site based on what I observe from growing season to growing season. For example, I have observed that  “shiso”  Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton beefsteak plant is  now on USA invasive list-check it out (here). YIKES- I had no idea at the time I planted it. I enjoyed using it for tea the past few years, but it  has become VERY invasive in MY garden. It spreads too rapidly. I started to become concerned this summer when I “observed” it was spreading too rapidly outside the original place I planted it. Which means it has the potential, in my opinion, to be invasive, and I don’t need a long list to tell me that, I just need to take care of it! I won’t share seed + I won’t continue to plant it in my garden. It may not be invasive in another place/country, but in my urban potager/ Modern Day Kitchen Garden it is more than invasive it is on garden steroids!!!!



 Native Plants can have the same problems with becoming invasive in our small gardens

check this out from the University of Illinois-Extension Office

A Note of Caution

The interest in native plants is growing, but a plant’s nativity does not make it automatically a great garden plant. Every native plant will not be a good match for every garden. Some native plants can be aggressive in their growth, so that factor must be considered, especially if the plant will be placed in a small garden. If naturalizing is the goal, however, plants that are aggressive growers or self-sowers could be considered desirable.

Not all native plants are attractive and that should be taken into consideration. This is a subjective decision that each gardener must make. Another subjective choice, but a far more serious one, is the matter of poisonous plants. Among both introduced plants and natives, there are plants that may be harmful to some degree and a few that are deadly. It is not the intent of this website to list which plants are poisonous. In some cases, the poisonous nature of a plant has been noted, if the plant is particularly toxic. However, if a plant is not designated as poisonous, it is not automatically a ‘safe’ plant. Safety should always be a concern in the garden. Don’t select a plant without knowing more about it, whether it is a native or introduced plant.



I mix it up here

I will tell you about one of my Hero’s in life, Mandy 

When one gets these awards they are supposed to nominate a list of other bloggers, but I have a hard time picking them so I will suggest one blogger, I have grown to admire + read weekly. Our blogs discuss different subjects, but the common connecting thread, we have, is “our gardens.” She loves to garden. She might not be a blog you visit or find easy to read(subject is difficult), but she provides a voice for those that are unable to speak out. Let me introduce you to, Mandy.Her blog is titled Healing beyond Survival A Blog about Post-Traumatic Growth. She talks about a subject that is hard for me to read about at times since it upsets me greatly that people would hurt children or others to cause them lifelong heartache. She has a book coming out this year ( correct me if I am wrong Mandy on the time) about her abuse. Through her blog, she helps people + she makes a difference in this world. She is my Hero. I tell her all the time how brave she is, and she can handle anything this life throws her way. She is a survivor. It is hard for me at times, to read her blog posts. One time, I told her, “Mandy, I can’t “like” the post you wrote today for it upsets me too much. She said,” I understand but when you like it, you are letting me know you read it not that you like what I am writing about.” Well, she is a brave person + I nominate her for this award for she is a Hero, in my eyes for she is tackling a subject matter that most people would never want to address. Her blog is not all about abuse, but about people trying to piece their life back together after traumatic hardships.Mandy educates us about those things that we don’t want to talk about or read about in this world.Well, because they are difficult. Mandy keeps them “out there” so we can work together to  change what is going on in this world. I may discuss things  about nature, immunity gardens, or about building community with our  gardens….but mine is not as difficult as Mandy’s subject. I admire people like Mandy that take something ‘horrible” that happened to them and instead of giving up on life,hurting themselves or others…she makes a difference! She tackles the tough stuff as the weeds in our gardens!

Go visit her blog and support her on her journey to educate  others about the “Weeds” in our world…+ like invasive plants they are tough to deal with but we need to..

People need to heal + nature needs to heal + together we can all heal with nature. Mandy stopped by my blog one day to comment about gardening + that is how we have become friends over the cyber fence. Gardens heal us. Gardens connect us. We create them to heal us. When we dig in the soil and grow, we heal for it is that simple. We were created to work in the earth, and it is our responsibility to take care of it….


 It is good we have people like Doug Tallamy and others that want to debate the native vs non-native.We ALL need to step back and OBSERVE how we are impacting nature. It is not about “native vs. non-native” but about acting responsibly + caring about how we treat our land and each other. By replacing our chemical driven lawns with more native plants + non-natives, we can help nature heal as well as ourselves. All this fighting among groups of people needs to stop. We need to stop “hating” on each other and find a common place we can work from for when we work together, we accomplish a lot more in this world.

Misconceptions about Native Plants

There are some commonly held misconceptions about native plants. It is often stated that native plants have fewer disease and insect problems. This is not necessarily true. Some native plants have few problems while others are constantly plagued. We have higher expectations in a managed landscape. A native plant suffering from a disease or insect in the woods, may go unnoticed. The same plant in a traditional landscape may give a poor appearance.

Another misconception is that native plants are adapted to the area so they will have superior growth. In terms of cold hardiness, this is true. However, when we look at soil conditions we see a different picture. Many of the soils in suburban and urban sites are disturbed; they may be primarily subsoil (which is inadequate for plant growth) or a subsoil/topsoil mix. Mycorrhizal fungi that are found in undisturbed soils may be missing. These fungi help native plants absorb water and nutrients from the soil, leading to better growth. So we may have a native plant in an altered environment. This doesn’t mean that native plants can’t be grown in urban and suburban sites. It means that we must do what we can to make those sites as appropriate as possible. We should expect the possibility that the plant will not reach its full potential (in terms of size and flowering) in these sites.

A third misconception is that native plants are always more desirable than non-native species. Poison ivy and poison sumac are natives, but they are far from desirable. Some natives are aggressive growers, spreading rapidly. They may overwhelm a small yard or may not fit well in a traditional landscape. As with any plant group, careful selections need to be made.( read more here..)

Just like Mockorange she takes care of nature in my yard + I take care of her!

35 replies »

  1. I love this post! The same topic has raged in Australia since the 1980’s, where those in favour often want to shame everyone into feeling they ‘should’ only plant natives. Many Australian natives are invasive in Australia (the Cootamundra Wattle – Acacia baileyana – is a good example of a plant that was once endemic to only a tiny area and that has now taken over almost the whole country).
    Most animals – if they tolerate the man-made environment – adapt readily to exotic species in gardens. In my own garden, despite having a lot of remnant native trees and being surrounded by 700,000 acres of native forest, all of the birds use the exotic trees in my garden to roost in!
    Personally, I believe in using the best plant for the situation. At any rate, much like a house, the garden is a man-made thing, and just like making sure a house is green and environmentally efficient, the gardener can choose between millions of different types of plants to get a beneficial, sustainable, non-harmful result. It’s just about understanding the impacts 🙂

    • I love your comment!!! I want to stand up and applaud your comment-WOW.( okay sitting down-lol)…good to hear you feel the same:-) I am so tired of all the fighting and arguing and back and forth etc…. everyone has valid points to make. I respect Doug Tallamy + Mark Davis which is sitting on the other extreme. I wanted to include a bit of what Mark Davis and other biologists had said about non-natives,but was getting tried of 3 days of reading the debates between them all…My head was spinning + did not want to have people send me angry comments since I support both views. I will continue to sit in the middle and weigh my options:-) Because, I can:-)

  2. Our native plants don’t live for very long as a rule. They become woody, tough and unattractive (most probably what makes them valuable to native animals but not valuable to gardeners). We have mock orange growing in our garden. Here it is a carpet of craziness that takes up a large area of our first garden. We hack it back, it comes back smiling. I forgive it because it has a gorgeous scent but some days, what I wouldn’t do for a great big chipper to chip the lot! ;). People who can take what life hands them, especially when it is more than difficult, and survive and pick up and grow are my heroes as well. Thank you for sharing your friend Mandy’s blog 🙂

    • I was just heading over to your blog since I know you post on Wednesday…you beat me this time-lol
      It is HUGE in my yard next to the Ninebark which is another native. I have a NON NATIVE squeezed in between them ( limelight hydrangea) which gives us privacy around our porch.
      I love the scent,too! You can hack it off and it comes back. I use it for privacy, so don’t hack it down to the ground because when I sit out don’t want to have neighbors watching everything we do-lol You can grow a bit more plants in your space, so I have be a plant snob and pick the best for my space….I Love this beauty:-)
      Mandy is special:-) glad you know her now!

  3. Thank you so much for the lovely things you said about my blog, Robbie.
    Another thoughtful post. I love your beautiful Philadelphus. Is it really native to your part of the world?
    I am off to read Mandy’ s blog. She sounds a very special lady.

    • Yes, it is native here so they say, but you know it might of been brought here-hmm-it does belong to a family with 60 spices-you never know!
      sent some more info, I found…thought you would like it…the scent is amazing!!!! It is right up there with lilacs:-)

      Philadelphus,] (mock-orange) is a genus of about 60 species of shrubs from 1 to 6 m tall, native to North America, Central America, Asia and (locally) in southeast Europe.

      They are named “mock-orange” in reference to their flowers, which in wild species look somewhat similar to those of oranges and lemons (Citrus) at first glance, and smell of orange flowers and jasmine (Jasminum). But Philadelphus is a basal asterid, not closely related to Jasminum (advanced asterids), and among the eudicots quite distant indeed from Citrus (advanced rosids). An entirely misleading name for Philadelphus that is sometimes encountered is syringa;[2] this properly refers to the lilacs, which are fairly close relatives of jasmine. The connection of the two shrubs lies in their introduction from Ottoman gardens to European ones, effected at the same time by the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador to the Sublime Porte, Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq, who returned to Vienna in 1562. The two shrubs appear together in John Gerard’s Herball, as “Blew Pipe” (the lilac) and “White Pipe Tree”, for the wood of both is pithy and easily hollowed out.[3]

      Philadelphus is named after an ancient Greek king of Egypt, Ptolemy II Philadelphus.[citation needed]

      • Thank you Robbie. You know this is just the kind of information I love to read about.. I have often wondered how it got confused with Syringa.

      • 🙂 I knew you would…You always tell your readers you need to know the “scientific” name for “common” name can be misleading:-) Must be their lovely fragrance in late spring:-)
        Found this 2 about it-interesting-Happy Gardening-Chloris! I have no doubt you will find one in their family close to where you live, for they are not too far from you:-)

      • Thanks for the link Robbie. A member of my Suffolk branch of Plant Heritage has the National Collection of Syringas. It is amazing just how many there are.

      • wow..that is interesting:-) I moved one of mine last year + the two new ones (syringas), I put in a few years ago are starting to get large + hoping for more lilacs in my spring vases this spring!

  4. Oh Robbie. This touches me so much. I know that what I write about doesn’t seem to mix in with the beauty of gardening, yet somehow, the two of us have made it work!
    When I began blogging I didn’t know where I belonged. I knew in my heart I was more than a broken soul searching for others who had been abused as children. I wanted that, but I needed to find balance, too, and I was (by serendipity?) led to your beautiful blog.
    All of your commenters appeared to be passionate gardeners, too, and I was afraid to comment in case someone clicked on my gravatar and went to my blog. My shame of having been abused as a child was so great, I thought surely it would spoil their experience when they visited your blog and I was there. Child abuse messes with a head for life! But that first visit to your blog, I made some goofy comment that made you laugh and then you replied back and made me laugh. Right then I knew we would be good friends.
    You’ve taught me so much about caring for others in spite of our differences. Your blog is the place I go for respite. It nurtures my soul –heck, I don’t even need to have my own garden and get my hands dirty, lol!
    So, thank you my dear dear, friend. Thank you for sticking in there with me, even when you couldn’t read my posts. Thanks for not Un-following me because it made you feel uncomfortable.
    And thank you for your beautiful post today. ♥

    • awww….I am so glad you made that first comment! I remember making one on yours not knowing if I said the right thing, but I had to let you know-you were healing! You are an amazing person:-)

  5. Very thoughtful piece about a very complex issue, Robbie! I encountered some of this last year when the controversy over non-native animals came up in the (in)famous Mute Swan vs. the State of New York story. Some living things are invasive and native, some are non-native and not invasive, some are native but won’t work in your area– everything has to be weighed and appreciated in its larger context. Thanks for raising important points–esp. the lawn stuff. Could there be anything less natural than a chemically-treated lawn?!

    • :-)”everything has to be weighed and appreciated in its larger context” Lori, I could not of said it any better-perfect way of looking at the situation!

  6. This native vs non-native is a debate that surfaces in our city all the time. As you say it is not vs that is important but working together to see what suits the space. There is room for diversity. 🙂

  7. I have to come back and finish reading this Robbie. Thank you for introducing two new blogs. I just want to point out that even native plants are sometimes listed as invasive – I think because they will outperform the natural native plantings in an area thus altering the ecology. Just as deer, although native, alter the understory because of their unnatural numbers. I have cup plant – a beautiful native that the birds and bees love – but it is listed on an invasive list relevant to my area. I was surprised! I also have Perilla and it has taken over my garden even though it is an annual. I didn’t realize it was on any invasive list but I can certainly understand why. Though, I did notice the humming birds taking advantage of it in the Fall. Nature’s nature is to expand and prevail and although we can plant native all we want, there are going to be invasions. If we can be smart about those invasions, so much the better. How about letting weeds grow in our lawns??? Clover is an awesome plant but many weed and feed mixes kill it – stop using the herbicides and pesticides please and let that dandelion bloom at least! Ha, I have no idea if clover and dandelions are native!

    • lol…Kathy-my head is spinning with all this stuff!I know you are like me + try to take care of nature and do what is best for our wildlife, but we also have to enjoy our gardens:-) + you know a girl has to have a little fun-LOL:-) Had to say that- If I go by some of their lists as “invasive”, I won’t have anything to eat or enjoy in my garden:-) It is such a balancing act. Did you read Mark Davis and his invasive biology book( I can’t read the book for it costs too much, but I found an article you might enjoy raeading-check this out)

      I read through the article and it was very interesting-if you have time-let me know what you think?
      I do agree with the last quote from Mark Davis-
      “It’s very important,” he says, “to distinguish harm from change.”
      I do feel there are changes happening and just like you said- some of the natives end up on the invasive list-so it is really just watching and being careful. Perilla is a lovely plant, but it is spreading too fast in my space which makes me worried. There are other choices, but I do mix some of my “fun” plants in my garden! I put a lot of spring bulbs( crocus) for early emerging bees. I do what I can in my yard ,but with limited growing space, I have to use some annuals for pollinators in my mixed beds with food growing ( companion planting). I rotate, so can’t have beds filled with aggressive natives, so I am still learning and exploring. The one I find difficult to give up in my garden is cosmos for the bees LOVE it and I have it mixed with native asters, golden rod, liatris, and others. My bee + bird population is increasing and more butterflies, so I must be doing something right:-) The creatures can’t be that stupid-lol

  8. Thanks for the introduction to Mandy’s blog, it’s a subject that I can relate to myself and read alot about.
    We don’t grow alot of natives in our garden Robbie, the reason being we are surrounded by them in our countryside but we do have some boundary fence natives such as our Kowhai with the Tui (our most beautiful bird) love. I have a friend with 10 acres, 1/4 is a beautiful garden full of natives and the bird song there amazing to hear 🙂 I see weeds mentioned in the comments, we have a new interest in these, especially the clover for the bees and have let our garden grow a bit more wild this year….I am slowly learning more about each and their uses.

    • She is an amazing person, I hope you stop by and say hello.I am sorry it is a subject you can relate to but I am glad you found her blog. She is a dear person + I know she would love ALL your soap making, garden, cooking,art, reusing, upcycling etc. She has a nice garden herself:-)
      Wendy, that is a very interesting comment, for those of us in the city don’t have a lot of space, so what we do have we need to use wisely.I can grow some natives, but where would I put my food, if my entire yard was devoted to natives! They have chicory on there as invasive which is the endive, radicchio, + I have a dandelion one. I don’t save seed from those plants, but I was thinking about it this year.. hmmm, don’t know yet:-) I figure if I don’t let them go to seed then they won’t spread…it is such a balancing act. Your situation is good- for you have all that countryside( surrounding your village) + you respect nature when you enjoy it. Many of us don’t have acreages, but if I did, I would devote an acre to native plants + plants just for birds, bees and butterflies. Just like your friend-I admire people that do that:-) I feel you + I, are doing a lot of the right things + I feel most of the people that stop by our blogs do, but is the other people that don’t care- that worries me:-) So, I have to do what I can + hope it all works out nature and change:-)

      • Yes, our food thing is the most important, our planting of flowers etc have suffered for it but that has been our priority. When we first came here I planted lots of flowers, shrubs etc everywhere and just a small vege garden but when I first got sick I couldn’t do it and the flower gardens held no appeal for Roger, they all slowly came out. We would love 10 acres and yep, there would a natural habitat area there for sure 🙂 🙂 We are fortunate to live in such an area, though we are surrounded in farmland here we don’t need to go far for the bush, rivers and beaches.
        Yes, she does look to have a good blog, I can’t relate to all but certainly some aspects and in my job I come across abuse and it’s long term impact alot. Healing on every level is a long, hard journey, some never do find that safe place they can call “healed”.

  9. Robbie, when I started this garden I only wanted to use native plants, but it was my husband who made me see things differently. If I wanted to grow vegetables then most of them were not native. He’s brought in lots of different fruits trees and shrubs that are not native. The important thing, like you say, is for people to decide what they want from a garden. We wanted a garden to provide us with a large variety of food but also one that works together with nature. So we mix native and non-native. But as responsible gardeners we take care that the non natives are not allowed to ‘escape’ into the world beyond our garden. Once again a great post and thank you for sharing your favourite blogs. I look forward to catching up with them.

    • Karina-you have a very smart husband! I have been thinking about all the food our farms grow in the USA, they are not native. I feel a good mix that works with nature and does not hurt it is the way we should go. We can’t be so obsessive about “only” native plants on our lots or land. You have a lot more space to take care of than me:-) I do have to admit now, I check where a plant is from and then double check if it has been put on the “watch” list or become too invasive throughout the country. I then may look for a native plant that is similar, but if I can’t find one, I select a non-native that does not have the potential to become invasive. I watch what I put on my lot. I would say all the reading on both sides has made me more aware of what I do now than what I did when I first starting planting…I am a bit more educated, cautious and observant now with plants than I was before. You said it best with your comment- “But as responsible gardeners we take care that the non natives are not allowed to ‘escape’ into the world beyond our garden” simply that is all we need to do:-) I could not agree more:-)
      Happy Gardening!

  10. The discussion surrounding native and non-native plants, and invasive or not, is attempted to be drawn in big thick black marker. Native may not have terribly much grey area (or maybe it does if you really want to get into it. Where I live was under the ocean ages ago, so then I’d wager nothing is native here. How far back does a plant have to trace its residency to be considered native? Anyway…) but climate does so much for making something invasive or not.
    Cosmos? Invasive? Not where I am.

    • good point about how far back you go:-) This debate is something we all have to decide where we live. I love my cosmos + I feel the bees love it,too. It is a balance and you are right for some of the native plants may not be truly ” native”…. I was thinking the other day, they may of been brought here on the ships from explores before the Mayflower came-tee hee- and spread by animals for all we know! It is how far back you wanna go—so I am going to be responsible and watch plants to see how they treat nature on my city lot-native + non-native-for they all have the potential to be an issue if in the wrong spot:-)

      • I try and plant responsibly. Native or low water (we’ve been in a drought for ages) and feeds either people, bees, or birds. After that I find I don’t have the time to spend tallying up who says what about which 😉

  11. Great post as per usual Robbie … I will check out the blogs you suggest …
    Sending you all my best wishes for the weekend ahead, Aquileana 😀

  12. Great mixed post (the best kind!). You offer a wider window on the native vs. non-native debate. With breeders noting the desire for more native plants, they are selecting and crossing for desirable traits such as hardiness, disease resistance, etc. so more offerings are available each year. I think your point about knowing what you are planting is a good one. Since gardening is like art, one must make allowances for all sorts without egoic right/wrongness. Acceptance and education, along with being an example (like you are) are our best tools.

    On Wed, Jan 7, 2015 at 3:55 PM, Palm Rae Urban Potager…… Modern Day

    • 🙂 + like you are too-a good keeper of the land:-) Good point, I love Arizona Sun which is a shorter blanket flower, I use for an edging in my borders. It may not come true to seed ( not saving seed from it) but it is a cultivar of a native that works in my small garden, so the native pollinators are happy:-)

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