What’s New?

By Cindy Gilberg

When asked “what’s new” in gardening, most horticulturists will rattle off the names of new plant cultivars. When it comes to native plant landscaping, it’s not about new cultivars, but about new concepts, resources and approaches to gardening. Yes, fortunately, some Missouri native plant growers have introduced plants that are now more available for purchase. What is truly new is a paradigm shift from planting what is pretty and pest-free to planting for problem-solving in the landscape. This includes focusing on the function of the landscape. The use of native plants, for example, to increase biodiversity, manage storm water issues and to teach our children to become good stewards of the environment.


Visit Shaw Nature Reserve (of Missouri Botanical Garden) to see native plant landscaping in action at the SNR-Whitmire Wildflower Garden. It hosts the Native Plant School, providing in-depth classes on many subjects. It also provides a monthly e-newsletter, News From Native Plant School and a Native Landscaping Manual that provides detailed information on many subjects. (www.shawnature.org).

Grow Native! (www.grownative.org) of the Missouri Prairie Foundation, offers an abundance of information on the why, how and what of native landscaping, from sample landscape designs to articles and an online Missouri native plant encyclopedia for reference. For those ready to plant, go to the online Grow Native! Resource Guide to see where to buy plants, seeds, or to get help with design and installation.

The Missouri Department of Conservation (www.mdc.mo.gov) has a lot to offer in the form of information and assistance for landowners. Tried and True Missouri Native Plants for Your Yard and Landscaping for Wildlife and People, are two excellent books to have in your library, available at their online bookstore or at Powder Valley Nature Center.

The St. Louis Audubon Society (www.stlouisaudubon.org) provides information on birds as well as a look at how to attract them naturally with Missouri native plants. They have a new urban habitat restoration program called “Bring Conservation Home” that provides on-site assistance and advice to small, private landowners in St. Louis. This program focuses how to promote healthy habitat for our region’s birds, other wildlife and people.

BiodiverCity St Louis, a program of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Sustainability department, is a community initiative to promote, protect and plan for biodiversity throughout the Greater St. Louis region. It provides an e-newsletter with information on projects, resources and upcoming events.

St. Louis-Wild Ones (www.stlwildones.org) is a chapter of the national non-profit Wild Ones organization whose mission is to promote environmentally sound landscaping practices to preserve biodiversity through native landscaping in our communities. The local chapter invites visitors to any of its meetings to meet like-minded gardeners, and to learn the possibilities of native plant landscaping. Refer to their website to get updates on this year’s native plant garden tour in June and read comments on their native landscaping blog.


More people are adding native plants into their existing landscapes, using design styles from natural to traditional and even formal. So many native plants make attractive additions that aesthetics and function can and should be combined in one landscape.

Themes are popular, such as habitat gardens, bird or butterfly gardens, woodland gardens etc. Native plants can serve more than one purpose—beauty, habitat value and function. Note that using straight genus/species of native plants (rather than a cultivar) will ensure its habitat value and contribution to the genetic diversity of that plant.


When adding native plants to the landscape, especially for habitat value, NO pesticide use is recommended—pesticides only detract from the environment and its health. How can one attract insects and birds if there are pesticides in the landscape?

Mervin Wallace of Missouri Wildflower Nursery recommends some plants that he is growing. Lonicera sempiverens and Lonicera flava are native honeysuckle vines that are welcome in contrast to the invasive plant species, Japanese vining honeysuckle. Another one that is featured in the Whitmire Wildflower Garden is prairie pussytoes, (Antennaria neglecta), an attractive, low-growing plant with silvery foliage for full sun and dry soil.

Ask at local independent garden centers for specific, locally grown native plants since demand drives supply. Inquire whether they can obtain them for you if the plants are not in stock. General supplies and numbers of native plants offered has increased—be sure to check them out this year!

For a one-stop plant shopping experience and to see what other plants are new, attend the Shaw Nature Reserve Spring Wildflower Sale and Market on May 10, 2014 from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. Many regional growers and other vendors will be there to help you and answer questions.

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, the Shaw Professional Landscape Series and the Deer Creek Watershed Alliance. You can ontact Cindy at 314-630-1004 or cindy.gilberg@gmail.com.