Here are the best Pa. Natives for your garden

Here are the best Pa. Natives for your garden
Here are the best Pa. Natives for your garden

Last week’s gardening column named a dream team of top-performing non-native plants for each “position” in the garden in honor of the upcoming Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 16 at Texas Rangers Stadium in Arlington.

Today it’s time to name the other team – the collection of my top picks of U.S. native plants for every position in the garden.

Here is a Link to last week’s list In case you missed it.

And now the best garden-worthy native plants…

The American fringe tree owes its name to its white, confetti-like flowers in spring.

Best small flowering native tree: American fringe tree (Chionanthus virginicus)

Shape this little-known tree when it is young and you will have a striking specimen that produces masses of shaggy, white, confetti-like flowers in April, earning the fringe tree its nickname “old age’s beard.” The fall foliage is yellow.

Grows about 18 feet tall and wide in 25 years in full sun to partial shade.

‘Wildfire’ is a black gum tree that produces new red leaves in the first half of the growing season and turns fiery red all over in the fall.

Best native shade tree: Black gum tree ‘Wildfire’ (Nyssa sylvatica)

While the bright glossy red fall foliage is the most striking feature of this reliable shade plant, ‘Wildfire’ adds a bonus of new red foliage that forms at the branch tips during the first half of the growing season.

Grows to about 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide in 25 years at moderate rate, ideally in full sunshine.

This is Tiny Wine, a dwarf shrub with dark leaves that looks interesting all year round.

Best flowering native shrub for sun: Dwarf Spiraea (Physocarpus sylvestris)

The shrubby spirea produces clusters of small, umbrella-like white or pink flowers in spring, followed by red seed heads, and then showy red to red-gold fall foliage on heat- and drought-resistant, arching plants. Dwarf types remain a good landscape size of 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 meters), and dark-leaved cultivars Summer Wine, Little Devil, Sweet Cherry Tea and Tiny Wine add colorful foliage to the family all season long. Powdery mildew is an occasional and usually cosmetic problem.

The shrub spirea plant grows best in full sun.

“Haas’ Halo” is a richly flowering new variety of our native smooth hydrangea.

Best flowering native shrub for shade: Smooth Hydrangea (Tree hydrangea)

The old-fashioned ‘Annabelle’ is the best known of these summer-blooming hydrangeas, with numerous white, baseball-sized calyxes. ‘Haas’ Halo’ is a new, more luxuriant variety with sturdier stems, while ‘Invincible Spirit’ and ‘Bella Anna’ have pink flowers.

Grows to 1.5 to 1.8 meters tall and wide in shade to partial shade.

“American Gold Rush” is probably the best and most strongly flowering variety of Black-Eyed Susan to date.

Best sun-loving native perennial: Black-eyed Susan ‘American Gold Rush’ (Rudbeckia)

This award-winning variety is probably the best Black-Eyed Susan ever bred. It grows vigorously and produces masses of golden flowers with black centers over a period of about two months in mid-summer. It is highly resistant to pests and diseases and tolerates heat and drought.

Grows about two feet tall and wide in full sun to light shade.

“Hot Lips” is a pink flowering version of our native tortoiseshell.

Best shade-loving native perennial: Turtle Head ‘Hot Lips’ (Chelone lyonii)

The dark pink flowers set ‘Hot Lips’ apart from the rest of the plant…and like the species, they bloom later in the season, when most perennials have finished flowering for the year. Plants are full, resistant to insects and diseases, and tolerate moist soil.

Grows in shade to partial shade about 75 cm with a width of 60 cm.

The American holly is a tree-like holly with red berries that are not usually eaten by deer.

Best native evergreen tree: American holly (Ilex sylvestris)

This native holly is smooth and glossy green, has a pyramidal habit and flowers best from late summer into winter when the tree is covered with pea-sized red berries. Deer may eat many holly trees, but they usually leave them alone. Does not require a pollinator.

Grows in sun or partial shade to about 9 meters high and half as wide in 25 years.

The juniper ‘Grey Owl’ is a good choice for a plant that can cover a hot, sunny shore.

Best native evergreen shrub: Juniper ‘Gray Owl’ (Juniperus sylvestris)

If you want an evergreen that is drought and heat tolerant and deer resistant to cover a sunny bank or other large area, ‘Grey Owl’ is for you. It is fast growing, has gray-green, stiff, lacy needles and a spray-like habit. It bears a few blue, berry-like fruits in the fall and winter.

In full sun it grows three to four feet tall and six to eight feet wide.

The Coreopsis is well suited as a sunny ground cover and flowers for a month in early summer. This is the variety ‘Zagreb’.

Best native ground cover for sun: Threadleaf tooth seed (Coreopsis)

This perennial, with fine, lacy foliage and button-like, yellow flowers like miniature daisies, forms a colorful, textured canopy about 45cm tall. The plants are heat and drought tolerant, rarely bothered by animals, and bloom for weeks from early to mid-summer. ‘Zagreb’ and ‘Golden Gain’ are two of the best varieties.

Grows best in full sun.

Foamflowers cover the ground beautifully in shade with attractive foliage and bottlebrush-like spring flowers. This one is Sugar and Spice.

Best native ground cover for shade: Foam flowers (Tiarella cordifolia)

The variegated leaves in burgundy, cream and green provide colorful cover all season long, but foam flowers complete the show in April with bottlebrush-like inflorescences in white or pink. Tolerates moist soil but can hold its own in competition with tree roots.

In shade to partial shade it grows to 20 to 30 cm tall and has a width of 45 cm.

The scarlet clematis is a native American version of this popular climber. This is ‘Gravetye Beauty’.

Best local grape: scarlet clematis (Clematis texensis)

Clematis are among the most beautiful flowering plants of all and bloom in abundance in spring and summer. The scarlet clematis is one of the few members of the family native to the USA and blooms in red (‘Gravetye Beauty’), pink (‘Princess Diana’) or rose-pink (‘Duchess of Albany’).

Climbs in full sun to partial shade on supports 1.8 to 3 meters high.

Little Bluestem is an upright native grass with blue-green blades in summer and burgundy fall color. This grass is called Blue Heaven.

Best native ornamental grass: Small Prairie Beardgrass (Schizachyrium scrofa)

Prairie grass is resistant to heat, drought and less than ideal soils. It is an upright, compact, tufted grass with blue-green foliage that turns burgundy in the fall. It also produces light brown seed heads in the fall. No fear of deer.

In full sun it grows to about one meter tall and almost as wide.

This is a variety of the new, free-flowering “thousand-flower sunflower” called SunCredible Yellow.

Best native annual flower: Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

The most well-known are the classic sunflowers, which grow 5 to 6 feet tall and produce those huge “faces” with gold, yellow, red, or reddish-orange petals. However, some varieties are much smaller and come in a variety of bright flower mixes. The best are the new “thousand-bloom” sunflowers, which produce masses of half-dollar-sized golden flowers all season long on two-foot-tall bushes (e.g. SunBelievable, SunCredible, and Sunfinity).

Camassia is a spring-flowering bulb that produces spikes of purple-blue flowers.

Best local spring onion: Kamassie (Camassia quamash, leichtlinii, cusickii)

Although Camassia produces flower spikes in attractive shades of blue to blue-lavender and returns every year, they are little known and rarely planted. They put on a good show for about two weeks in early May, then die back and rest in the summer, only to make another appearance, much better than the better-known tulips.

Grows about two feet tall in full sun (space bulbs 6 inches apart).

Gardening with George Weigel