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WHAT'S BLOOMIN'

Gardening column: Native plants are fine fit for garden

For burst of color, consider red maple or redbud trees.

Friday, April 19, 2013 - 12:01 am

This is the time of year we look around our gardens and make decisions about what new plants to purchase to fill in where older trees, shrubs or perennials have aged out and need to be replaced, or perhaps redo our landscape altogether.

Instead of heading for the hybrids, why not look for native plants that will thrive in our area of Indiana, whose blooms will attract bees, birds and butterflies, and which will be less prone to infection from disease and pests because this is where they were meant to be?

Here are some suggestions of native plants that are almost guaranteed to do well in your garden. And if you lost an ash tree to the emerald ash borer, think about replacing it with my first suggestion — the red maple Acer rubrum:

•The red maple is native to Indiana and in the fall will cause quite a stir in your neighborhood when the leaves turn to a beautiful crimson color. The red maple is a hardwood tree that will grow slowly, but will not shatter and drop limbs when there is a strong wind or an ice storm.

•The spring blooming redbud Cercis canadensis is a native shrub or small tree that, when in bloom, will cause you to run for the camera as purple-lavender buds swell and open into pink-lavender blooms that totally cover the tree limbs. When this happens, you will see (and hear) pollinators buzzing from bloom to bloom and competing for the nectar. The bloom season is usually in April.

•If you are looking for evergreens, why not choose from these native plants: Eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana; hemlock, Tsuga canadensis; and white pine, Pinus strobes.

•Gardeners, farmers and interested parties are worried about the honeybee population because of the death and disappearance of many of our bees these past few years. Research is ongoing to find the cause, and several ideas have come from this research. At this point, none is conclusive, nor has an overall solution been reached.

We do know certain pesticides used in the landscape and on seeds sown in the fields have been responsible for some of the loss of these and other beneficial insects. Use of these chemicals has caused soil contamination that continues year after year and infects whatever plants are raised in the soil and is then passed on to our pollinator population.

At this time, we can do our part on a small scale by providing a safe environment where pesticides are not used and where there is a food source for honeybees. One important way we can help with this problem is to plant natives that are a favorite of bees because they supply more nectar than some other plants.

Here is a partial list of favorites of our bee population: lilac, Syringa vulgaris; dogwood, Cornus spp; bee balm, Monarda spp; phlox, Phlox spp; butterfly bush, Buddleia spp; purple coneflower, Echinacea; summer sweet, Clethra; liatris, Liatris spp; goldenrod, Solidago spp; and aster, Aster spp.

•Riverview Nursery in Spencerville is presently offering a wide selection of native plants. For more information, location and a list of plants, go to www.inpaws.org/wp-content/uploads/2013-Riverview-Nursery-Native-Plant-List.pdf.

•Remember, before you dig to plant trees and shrubs, or to add landscape features such as decks, pergolas and fences, call 811 and arrange to find out where your utilities lines are buried.

Jane Ford is an Advanced Master Gardener. Email questions to jaf701@frontier.com. You also can read her What's Bloomin' blog at www.news-sentinel.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.