As I have been through my career studying, growing and using trees, shrubs and perennials native to the Gulf South, it has been the people, as well as the plants along the way, that have taught me.
When we attend trade shows, research field days, conferences or field trips, the people who attend us give lessons, share experiences and make us stop, look and listen.
It is that immersion with, not standing on the shoulders of, the leaders that guides the growth of (r)evolution.
One of those in the native plant initiative here in Louisiana is William “Bill” Fontenot of Acadiana. A writer, a naturalist, a gardener, a thinker, a musician, a friend: he is one cool guy. Everyone who needs a good guide to native gardening should have his book “Native Gardening in the South” and follow his Facebook ‘The Nature Dude’.
Bill gave a presentation I attended up at State a couple of years ago which helped me firm up the notion of a mixed native woody border.
In creating natural habitat for wildlife, including human gardeners, giving space in the landscape for borders, niches in corners or central islands for the establishment of diverse selections of thicket-forming native woody shrubs and small trees is a good thing. Mix in irregular patterns, use odd numbers in clusters and in specimen openings, including evergreens. Adding fall-stunning deciduous species, fruit-bearing small trees, and spring/summer flowering selections from dwarf-shrub-height through sub-canopy trees builds landscape elements to serve this goal.
Ilex vomitoria Yaupon Holly, Ilex cassine Dahoon Holly, Juniperus virginiana Eastern Redcedar, Morella cerifera Southern Waxmyrtle, Sabal minor Palmetto are all good candidates for evergreens.
Autumn colors are demonstrated with Viburnum dentatum Arrow-wood Viburnum, Viburnum nudum Possumhaw Viburnum, Itea virginica Virginia-willow and Cyrilla racemiflora Titi.
Crataegus species Mayhaw and Parsleyhaw, Ilex decidua Possumhaw Holly, Prunus mexicana Mexican Plum, and Vaccinium elliottii Elliot’s Blueberry are among the shrubs and small trees that flower and fruit to work for our purposes here.
Involve flowering plants with use of Aesculus pavia Red Buckeye, Cephalanthus occidentalis Buttonbush, Rhododendron species of our native pink-flowered Piedmont Azalea and the white-flowered, summer-blooming Swamp Azalea, Lyonia lucida Fetterbush or Clethra alnifolia Summersweet.
And as always with the functional native species, many of the above mentioned characters would be listed in several categories of service.
So when meeting your clients at the nursery or in their landscapes, ask them if they want a low-maintenance, showy, wildlife-beneficent border using all Louisiana plants and be prepared with the info above or from the same advice from guys like Bill Fontenot.
And as I will always close: