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GROWING GREEN: Native plants tackle tough conditions

When the gardening gets tough, gardeners should consider native plants. They are bred to tolerate local conditions, provide food and habitat for local species and don’t invade our natural areas.
If this past winter withered your English ivy, maybe it’s time to ditch it. It terrorizes natural areas and no animal uses it for food. Same goes for that other groundcover stalwart, periwinkle. Try these native alternatives instead.
Wild strawberry will grow in any type of soil and as a bonus has white flowers and edible berries. Wild ginger loves semi-shaded, humus-rich soil and is drought-tolerant when established. Wintergreen (Gaultheria Procumbens) likes dry to moist shade and also has flowers and berries. Bearberry (arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is another tough customer that has flowers and brilliant fall colour.
Other flowering groundcovers include Tiarella Cordifolia (foamflower) and Geranium Maculatum (wild geranium). I grow it under trees on the south side of my house. It rarely gets watered, has gorgeous magenta blooms and is a nectar source for hummingbirds.
Miscanthus, an attractive ornamental grass, is another invasive non-native. Instead, plant Big Bluestem (Andropogon Gerardii). It gets one to two metres tall, turns bronze in the fall and attracts birds and butterflies.
Native vines include Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala ssp. Petiolaris), American Wisteria, Goldflame Honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrotti), Dutchman’s Pipe, Jackmanii Clematis and Clematis Virginiana.
Recommended native shrubs include Ninebark (Physocarpus), Dogwood, Sumac, Witch-hazel, Chokecherry and Cornus Alternifolia, also known as Pagoda Dogwood.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has an excellent website on native species — well worth a look.
Growing Green is a regular feature written by the Mount Hamilton Horticultural Society (gardenontario.org/site.php/mhhs). Rita Bailey, the author of this report, is a member who gardens in downtown Hamilton, where she mixes vegetables, herbs, and flowers in her kitchen garden.

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