Resources For Native Plant Gardeners

by Cindy Gilberg

In a world that is quickly losing its biodiversity, many wonder “what can I do to make a difference?” The best place to begin is to plant some of Missouri’s native plants. In a garden full of native grasses, flowering perennials, shrubs and trees one can see an abundance of birds foraging for seeds and berries, butterflies fluttering, dragonflies darting and hummingbirds sipping nectar.
Native plant landscapes are becoming the norm instead of the exception and wildlife that depends on these habitats are making a comeback in our urban environments. Missouri is an incredibly diverse state and because of this, has a wonderful list of beautiful, garden-worthy plants to choose from. Native plants thrive with a light touch of the gardener’s hand.

How does one integrate native plants into existing landscapes? Which plants where? What flowers are favored by birds? Which shrubs flower when? All these questions and more can be answered by delving into the many available resources and discovering what will work for you by doing a little research.

One of the finest and largest native plant gardens in the region is just west of St Louis – the Whitmire Wildflower Garden at Shaw Nature Reserve. It is a demonstration garden as well as a teaching garden for SNR’s Native Plant School, another wonderful resource. (www.shawnature.org). Take a walk with camera and notebook in hand and discover the possibilities along meandering pathways that lead visitors through various examples of natural landscaping. Be sure to visit in each season to see what’s in bloom and how the seasons change in the garden.

Another stop in your quest for inspiration should be a walk through one of the St. Louis region’s natural areas. As you walk, note what plants are found in different conditions – sun, shade, wet or dry. This will give you clues as to where these plants will flourish in your landscape. There are numerous destinations within an hour’s drive of St. Louis. Two books that I have used are “Missouri’s Natural Wonders Guidebook” by Don Kurz and “Conservation Trails – a Guide to Missouri Department of Conservation Trails”. Take along a field guide identify plants you are interested in. “Missouri Wildflowers” by Edgar Denison is a classic and Ozark Wildflowers” by Don Kurz offers additional information including some of the Native American uses of plants. These books and much more are available at the Visitor’s Center of Shaw Nature Reserve and through Missouri Department of Conservation (www.mdc.mo.gov).

Wild Ones (www.for-wild.org) is a national organization with a St. Louis chapter that promotes the use of native plants in the landscape, provides education and focuses on preserving the biodiversity of our natural habitats. They host an annual tour in addition to monthly visits of local native plant landscapes. Their newsletter provides excellent information and ideas on native gardening.
No list of resources is complete without a couple of good how-to books. “Native Landscaping for Wildlife and People” by Dave Tylka provides insight into which plants offer habitat requirements for wildlife. “Tried and True Native Plants” (MO. Department of Conservation) gives gardeners a reliable ‘short’ list of plants to include in the garden.

So begin your adventure – you will be rewarded with a whole new outlook on landscaping and the natural world around us.

Cindy Gilberg is a Missouri native and horticulturist whose work includes design and consulting, teaching and writing. Much of her work focuses on native plants, habitat gardens and rain gardens. Cindy’s projects include work at Shaw Nature Reserve and its Native Plant School, and Deer Creek Watershed Alliance (Missouri Botanical Garden). She can be contacted at 314-630-1004 or visit www.cindygilberg.com.

The Healthy Planet does not endorse any information contained in articles, advertisements or directory listings and we suggest consulting a health care professional before beginning any therapy or medical treatment.