6.02.2008

Some beautiful native plants for the garden

These four plants grow wild in the woods around Seattle. But they're showy enough to merit a place in the Northwest garden.

Twinberry: Twinberry is a honeysuckle relative. Cute yellow babydoll-dress flowers ripen into a conjoined pair of dark black berries in a peacock colored serving tray.


Lupine: You probably have a native lupine (pronounced "lupen") too. Ours has adjusted to our summer drought. But as a legume, these beautiful flowers are nitrogen fixers too. Note the bee!

Vine Maple: Whenever I see a hybrid azalea, covered in pink like a big ball of cotton candy, I feel a little sad. To ask so much of this plant, that it may be admired, then forgotten the rest of the year. In contrast, a vine maple's flowers are tiny treasures in an oasis of green. When planted in shade, they become beautifully leggy, their leaves like chartreuse clouds supported on storks' legs.

Foxglove: OK, so they aren't native (they're European), but foxgloves been polite guests on our shores long enough to have earned citizenship. Once invited, they'll spring up in new locations every year, remodeling the structure of your garden every year. But it's easy to pull them up if they come up where you don't want them. They transplant well too.

3 comments:

MissoulaChick said...

While it is pronounced Lupen, it is spelled Lupine. Which is cool, because that is from the latin for wolf... which is because of the very fuzzy "wolf-like" leaves.

I grow a lot of lupine here in Missoula- they are fantastic natives that become lovely ornamentals!

Mox said...

I gathered a lot of lupine seed from the roadside last year in anticipation of a nice addition to the garden this year. Then I learned that it's pretty poisonous, especially the seeds. So if you have small children around, it's good to be cautious with this beauty.

Joshua McNichols said...

I've carefully cultivated an awareness of poisonous plants with my 3 year old (foxglove for example). Sometimes this can result in some pretty dire stories coming out of his mouth about what will happen to people if they eat poisonous plants - but that's the price of safety. I'd rather teach him in the controlled environment of my yard.

We recently went on a hike and I stung myself with stinging nettles so he could see what happens. I pretended to be in mild pain (while describing the feeling in a calm, non-scary way of course), whereas really it's just irritating. Later I realized that he'd been stung too. "Did it hurt?" I asked. "Not really," he said. I felt like a wimp.

Whoops on the lupine spelling. On ours, it is the pods that are very hairy. Hard to imagine a kid mistaking these for something edible, though I will certainly warn him now that I know.