Digginí In: Native beauties provide food, shelter for wildlife

October 3, 2016

For years, I fought the urge to plant shrubs, trees and perennials in late spring to early summer.

Even though garden centers lush with new varieties tempted me, I decided planting anything after March was doomed to die, given our increasingly hot and dry summers.

This summerís record temperatures and dry conditions reinforce that feeling.

Trees, shrubs and perennials planted now through late October still have warm soil and good growing conditions for root establishment. Winterís rains and springís mild temperatures give them even more chance of surviving next summerís heat.

Iíve also turned my attention to mostly native species in my garden. Gardeners at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, Va., agree that native plants are the best choices because they have weathered the good, the bad and the ugly. They also provide food and shelter for local wildlife, especially bees, butterflies and birds.


Here are three native plants with fall interest that living museumís gardeners recommend; you can plant them now:

óBeautyberry, Callicarpa americana

Bloom time: June-July, August-October.

Description: Pale lavender flowers, and hot-raspberry-pink fruit clusters that persist after the leaves fall; grows five feet tall.

Needs: Sun to part shade, and average to poor, well-drained, medium-wet soil. Cold hardy Zones 5-8.

Care: Flowers and fruit form on new growth, so cut back every few years after the fruit is gone to maintain size and good fruit set.

Wildlife benefits: Birds, catbirds and mockingbirds especially

óLate-blooming boneset Eupatorium serotinum

Bloom time: August-November

Description: Tiny white flowers in fuzzy clusters; grows one to three feet tall. Deer resistant.

Needs: Part shade, and moist sandy or clay soil. Cold hardy Zones 5-8.

Wildlife benefit: Butterflies and birds.

óGreen coneflower Rudbeckia laciniata

Bloom time: July-September

Description: Large yellow daisy with domed green center; grows two to six feet tall.

Needs: Sun-shade, and average, well-drained/medium soil. Grows tall in sun, shorter in shade. Cut back halfway before buds form to get shorter, bushier plants. Spreads by seed. Cold hardy Zones 3-8.

Wildlife benefits: Butterflies and goldfinches.



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