Question: Native Perennials are supposedly hardier for Western Gardens but what plants are considered native?
Native Perennial species are defined as plants growing naturally in a particular geographic area prior to European settlement. Native plants are considered plants of the future so most Botanic Gardens will have a native garden display. Below is the Sacajawea native garden in Boise Idaho.
Looking closely at the gardens may be a disappointment to many gardeners for native plants often seem unruly and wild. Flowers are insignificant on native plants but what they do have is sustainability, dependability and drought tolerance. They also provide wildlife habitat. Native plants have survived the cold and the heat and are resistant to pests and diseases. Native plants are the toughest of the tough in the plant world.
Nowadays we are fortunate that most of our native perennials have been civilized or have become North American Native Cultivars. Only a few perennials, like the Lily-of-the-Valley pictured below, are the same perennial that early settlers discovered in America.
Many of the best Perennials for Rocky Mountain gardens are derived from these early native perennials and they retain their genetic toughness. Echinacea or coneflower is one of the most popular and so is the Aquilegia or columbine.
Aruncus or Goatsbeard, Coreopsis or Tickseed, Gaillardia or Blanket Flower are also well know North America Native Cultivars. The early Asters and Monardas, pictured below, grew enormously tall and lanky, coated with mildew. Now these perennials have been refined and are must-haves for gardens because of their masses of gorgeous flowers in spectacular colors
North American Native Cultivars have retained their original genetic hardiness, self-sustainability, and tough “carefreeness.” For a more detailed Native Perennial listings go to the new western regional gardening book, Powerful Perennials. Growing native plants in a landscape gives the property a link to the past.