Native vs Cultivated Plants in Uban Settings

Pollinators are abundant in early fall in our Midwest garden

I joined the National Wild Ones this summer, which started in the 1970s in Wisconsin. They have chapters all over the USA.

“Wild Ones promotes environmentally friendly, sound landscaping to preserve biodiversity through the preservation, restoration, and establishment of native plant communities.” They do this through free educational materials, opportunities, and meetings. A fun group of people that will make you want to be involved! I attended a seed exchange this weekend and found a wide range of people working in their communities to provide for nature. If you have a local chapter near you, I recommend getting involved; you won’t regret it!

Native wildlife area near where I grow peppers, tomato, squash, and beans all summer long This is a mix of straight natives and some cultivars.

I believe in using Native plants on City lots. However, as I attended one of their seed savers, I noticed how we cover a wide range of growing areas. Not everyone in our chapter lives in the city. Some people have acreage of up to 16 acres or more. Wow! I live on less than 1/3 of an acre, including my home, driveway, porch, deck, and walkways. I have to be very selective of my plantings.

I grow a lot of food, so I have had to rethink how to utilize or add more natives to my landscape. I have many native plants in my landscape. I grow many of my food crops annually throughout the spring, summer, and fall. I also have perennial vegetables. I eat from my garden all year long ( Kale and other winter crops keep us supplied), but when we hit the cold months of January to early March, we have to cover or thaw out the kale! For a few months, all we have is kale. You do not need to worry about pollinators for kale-thank goodness!

The bumble bees in the fall are too numerous on native plants

What is a Cultivar

Here is an excellent article from a Master Gardner Website. I feel they explain this better than I could, so here it is:

 “Many plants marketed as “natives” in garden centers have never grown naturally in the wild. The word cultivar means a cultivated variety; to meet the definition of a cultivar, a plant must be bred asexually. Some cultivars originated as “sports” or mutations discovered in the wild. Most cultivars, however, are the result of selective breeding by humans. Hybrids result from a genetic cross between two different species,” by Susan Martin from PIEDMONT MASTER Gardeners’ SITE.

I recommend this Susan Martins article. It is worth exploring if you can read the entire article. She does an excellent job and covers all the research towards the end to support some “cultivars” for pollinators. They are useful.

This summer, I grew from seed this lovely little dwarf version of the native plant Gaillardia aristata. This plant is very efficient at providing for the bees.

A bed of Gaillardia aristata

This gaillardia is perfect for pollinators in my zone 5 garden. They bloom in early summer and, even in late August, still provide for pollinators. Some days, the entire flower bed is a buzz!

We need pollinator-friendly plants that can provide for the insects from spring to fall. If you select your plants carefully, you can use many natives. I have used annuals for pollinators, but over the years, I feel my time is limited to do all of that each season. If I can find those native plants that can provide for pollinators throughout my growing season, I won’t have to plant so many annuals each year.

Ratibida pinnata
Some native plants provide food for our birds. They are essential to the life cycle of a Native Garden.

I also need to explore a variety of natives for spring, summer, and fall. I have many, but after attending Wild One’s seed exchange, I found others I may want to try in my other garden beds. I will share some of my ideas as I research what will best grow in my unique urban area. I love many plants, but I can’t include every native plant. It will be a process, and what better time to do it than winter hibernating inside as the snow flies.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    Great post Robbie.


    1. Robbie says:

      Good to hear from you-yep; it’s been a long time! I am trying to consolidate my two blogs into this one and, in between, get out there in the community to be a voice. I always enjoy stopping by your beautiful place it lifts my spirits all your photos.


      1. Murtagh's Meadow says:

        Thank you Robbie. Looking forward to reading more


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