By Jessi Jablonski
Many people hear the phrase “native plants” and think of a grassy prairie dotted with flowers. While this can be true, many native perennials can be planted in your flower gardens as part of a manicured landscape. Native plants are beneficial because they provide food, water and shelter for birds, bees and other pollinators.
Here are some native plants that I like to sprinkle into landscapes:
•Echinacea pallida – This tall coneflower is often called Pale Purple Coneflower. The showy, large flowers have drooping petals that are reminiscent of little umbrellas. Because these plants can reach heights of up to four feet, it helps to plant it along the back of a garden border, or near a short fence that it can lean on.
•Dalea purpurea – Purple Prairie Clover is an interesting perennial. The first few years that it is growing, it will be a 24-36” tall, single-stemmed perennial with tiny purple flowers. A few seasons into it’s life, the plant will have established a long tap root. The Purple Prairie Clover, now well-established, will grow to a bushy plant with little purple flowers sporting dense cone-shaped heads. Though it may drop seed occasionally, spring weeding will keep this plant from spreading.
•Geranium maculatum – You have probably come across Wild Geranium if you have ever gone for a hike through a wooded area. This dainty shade-loving perennial has small pinkish-blue flowers on airy foliage. Cutting the plant back halfway after blooming has ceased will encourage the plant to form a nice 12-15” mound.
•Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Weed is one of the few plants that Monarch butterflies will use for food and shelter. Slow to emerge in spring, the light-green foliage will quickly grow to about 30” tall and showcase bright orange flowers. While this plant can reseed itself, cutting the flowers off after they have faded will keep this plant from sending volunteers all over your garden.
•Asarum canadensis – Wild Ginger is a short, shade-loving ground cover that thrives in rich soils. Perfect heart-shaped leaves will appear in spring, and mahogany-colored flowers bloom shortly after, however they are hidden under the foliage. While this is not the same ginger that we buy at the grocery store, a soft ginger scent will be present if the roots are damaged.
•Ferns – Many ferns are native to our area. Sensitive, Wood, Lady and Cinnamon ferns are some of my personal favorites. While these are often found in wooded areas, they fit beautifully into a garden on the north side of a house or under the canopy of a large shade tree.
Finding native plants at local garden centers can often be a challenge. Don’t be afraid to ask local growers to order plants for you. It is also fairly easy to grow native plants from seed. Many retailers will carry seed packets, which should have detailed instructions for starting the plants indoors.
The Plant Lady is a regional horticulturalist with the goal is of making Bluff Country more beautiful – one garden at a time. Follow her on Facebook @PlantLadyMn for helpful tips and tricks, or via email at ThePlantLadyMN@gmail.com.
Hearty Smoked Sausage Stew
1 package Kielbasa, or smoked sausage, cut into 1/2” rounds
1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1 medium onion
4 stalks celery
1 green pepper
2 cloves garlic
8 oz tomato sauce
1 tablespoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, if desired
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
Over medium heat, saute onions, celery, carrots, and green pepper in oil for 5-10 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add sausage and garlic, cook 2-3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, stir well. Reduce heat to low and let simmer 45 minutes, remove bay leaves and enjoy. Tastes great over rice!