It is great to have these lower temperatures and be able to get back to writing some blog articles! I planned out this article before I realized Mary had also written about natives, so you get another helping of information on native plants to use in your gardens. This article features all plants we are currently growing in at least one of our gardens and will be focused on trees and shrubs.
Elderberry (Sambucus candensis)
Some may see Elderberry as a weedy plant (because it is), but the massive compound flower smells amazing during spring and also looks quite beautiful. The ornamental value extends into fruiting with dark purple, almost black, fruit. Native flowers are great for pollinators and the birds love the berries, which is why this plant is so common. We have two species of Elderberry here, the American species and a close relative, the European elder (Sambucus nigra). In the garden here at Wellfield, we have a cultivar of European elder which features black lacy leaves with the same flowers and berries as the native, but with more attractive foliage.
Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)
Arrowwood Viburnum gained its name from the straight stems it produces being used for making arrows. Ornamentally, it creates a nice screen to border a yard or garden while producing white flowers and colorful fruit. It can also be pruned into many different shapes; you will find our viburnum in the Island Garden is heavily pruned to give it more shape. There are many different cultivars, which produce different colored berries or fall colors. The most common cultivar here at Wellfield is “Blue Muffin”, and it produces clusters of blue berries the birds love. Birds will also often nest in the top branches.
Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Another plant that can be annoyingly weedy is Redbud – plant one and you have fifty. BUT they are amazing to witness in the spring. There are a lot of cultivars with different characteristics for this species; different flower colors, leaf colors, and growing habits. I can count at least four different redbud cultivars here at Wellfield, and there are many more to be found in our area. The weeping cultivar “Lavender twist” has the normal flower color, but stays only about six feet tall and has long weeping branches. Another notable redbud is the “Forest Pansy”, which is so named because it has red leaves all season long.
Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica)
Since we are getting into Fall, this is a great tree to mention here. It does get quite large, so it is not a tree to plant in a small yard or up next to the house. The most noteworthy aspect of this tree is the deep red fall color it produces when temperatures start dropping. Tupelo is not a very fast growing tree so it will not fill in its area quickly, but it does have quite a brilliant fall display when it gets larger.
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Most people in the gardening community are already fully aware of the flowering dogwood. The spring flowers are spectacular and last longer than most. There are a lot of different varieties in cultivation. Just like with Redbuds, there are varieties with different colors of leaves and flowers and even different growth habits. This species of dogwood can be found in at least 5 of the gardens at Wellfield. It is native, beautiful, and it grows to a reasonable size for most gardens. It prefers part shade, but it can handle quite a bit of light.
There are so many more trees I want to list, but I think I’ll save those for another article. Most of these are fairly common and are easy to obtain, and some of you may already have them in your landscape. But, hopefully now you have some other plants or cultivars to consider that are more environmentally friendly. And you definitely have some new things to look for during your next visit to Wellfield! We’re open daily, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Cody Hoff, Lead Horticulturist