Native Plants in Your Garden

Out in front of our Visitor Center we have beautiful gardens maintained by the Jackson County Master Gardeners.  They are full of many wonderful and delightful plants, including this beauty, called crocosmia, which has simply captured my imagination.  I just love it.

I was out admiring it last week when Gary asked me if I had looked at the beautiful red flower in the native flower garden.  I admitted that I hadn’t, so out we went to take a look.

The flower in question is royal catchfly, which is a lovely red-orange color to which my camera does not do justice.  The plant stands about a foot and a half tall and has several of these blossoms open at once.  It reminded me immediately of the Maltese cross plants I had in my gardens back home.  If you like the Maltese cross, you will love this plant, and the native wildlife will love you for planting it in your garden!

Next Gary pointed out the wild senna.  I had thought this tall plant with the pinnately compound leaves was a black locust sapling that no one had pulled out (black locust is a rather invasive non-native tree).  Nope – it is wild senna, a lovely native that gets VERY tall for a non-woody plant, and right now ours is starting to burst out with clusters of these delightfully odd-looking yellow flowers.  The bees really like this plant.  According to Gary, it makes a great summertime hedge, for in the winter it dies back completely, saving its energy for new growth the following year.  It does well in marginal soils, so it is definitely one for the gardens and yards of our area!

Cardinal flowers are in full bloom in our wildflower garden and along the Special Needs Trail, but since cardinal flowers are something with which I am quite familiar, having seen tons of them back  in the Adirondacks, I’ve opted not to post them here.  Instead, I wanted to share this beauty:  wild hairy petunia.  This is the petunia from which all garden center petunias are descended.  It forms a great mound of a plant that is simply loaded  daily with purple blossoms.  And, apparently, it is enjoyed by the bees, for there, foraging deep within the flower, was a green metallic bee.

Of course, as soon as I saw the bee, I was diverted from the flowers.  I really enjoy trying to photograph insects, and bees that are busy foraging for pollen and nectar are great subjects.  This is one of the Agapostemons, which are lovely metallic green bees.  Great for your garden, native, and willing to leave humans alone while they go about their little bee lives.

Don’t worry – bee happy!

If you are planning a flower garden, or are thinking of updating your landscaping, come take a look at what’s in our native flower garden – you might just find something there that you like and would be the perfect addition to your space.  Planting with natives encourages visitation by native insects and birds; create an oasis in your yard.


About Dahlem Center

The Dahlem Center is a non-profit nature center/environmental education center located on almost 300 acres just south of the city of Jackson, Michigan. The Center is one arm of the Dahlem Conservancy, which includes land conservancy and stewardship in its mission.
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2 Responses to Native Plants in Your Garden

  1. Jane C says:

    I love your blog! I always inspires me to go out looking around our own place. We have spicebush and tuliptrees; I need to check them for caterpillars like the ones you found.
    I have some Ruellia, (wild petunia), in one of my gardens. It is covered with flowers. But I thought it was a different family from the garden petunias – I know those are solanaceous, like tobacco and tomatoes.
    Are the first two pics on this post both the catchfly? That’s an interesting bud arrangement. Right now I’m most enjoying the tall American bellflowerer in our woods. Lots of that blooming this year.
    I envy you your fen. What a fascinating environment!
    Jane C

  2. dahlemcenter says:

    Jane – the first flower is not the royal catchfly – it is crocosmia, a non-native. Its flowers just fascinate me, though. We have both this red one (most of the flowers are gone as of this morning), and a yellow one.

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