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Growing Native Plants in Your Own Backyard

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Ah, April showers. I am lovin’ this rain today! Each rain encourages more of the plants in my yard to peek out. Every few days, I notice something new in the yard.

Last year, I expanded the woodland garden in my backyard. I anxiously seek signs that this latest experiment survived a year. The biggest plant killer in my yard has been a real challenge for me to address: dog trampling. Harley takes off with such spring loaded force when chasing squirrels that she sometimes uproots plants in her wake. Still, I persist in trying to have both an interesting garden and high energy dogs.

So, I’ve been scanning my contrived woodland for signs of life. I realized I didn’t recognize all the new plants in their earliest stages, so I’ve been following the changes and learning. Ah, that odd looking shoot was a Mayapple! I think my favorite new plant in my yard is the bloodroot. This is an adorable native plant, with bluish leaves, and a daisy like flower that has already bloomed. There is a set of leaves that remain slightly curled around the stem of the flower, as if they hold it in an embrace. I thought all the bloodroot had been killed by trampling, so I was especially thrilled to see a sparse little patch come up this year.

In considering a woodland in my urban yard, I wanted to get my inspiration from plants that are found in the woods in Ohio. This first meant narrowing my selection to plants that like shade. Many folks, when thinking of shade plants, think mostly of non-native hosta, impatiens, and maybe some ferns. I grow these plants, but in my backyard woodland, I wanted some of the exotic appearing natives that everyone gets so excited to see on treks to the woods. Consider these amazing photos posted by Manatee. So, I plugged test areas with natives including Trillium, Jack-In-The-Pulpit, and Doll’s Eyes. That last one is a plant with foliage similar to a large Astilbe, but that has stems tipped with fruit that is white with a black spot, like it’s ready to be placed in the head of a small doll (botanically, it is Actaea pachypoda, and is also commonly known as baneberry).

Natives should never be dug from the wilds to be planted in our yards. They often don’t survive the move or don’t like the new site, and this decimates wild populations. Luckily, increased interest in native plants has made them easier to find at nurseries and even garden centers, more recently. Last year, OSU’s Chadwick Arboretum’s spring plant sale and Oakland Park nursery both carried a large selection of native woodland plants. A particularly good source for less commonly available natives is Baker’s Acres. I live about a block from their new Victorian Village store, Concrete Jungle. I asked about the plants they would be carrying there this spring, and they said they would love to hear from the neighborhood on what they would like to buy. I’m scanning their website when I have time, very much like I scanned the Sears Christmas catalog as a kid, making my wish list. Definitely, I’ll be getting more bloodroot. I’ll try harder to encourage Harley to run in other spots, and leave that one to the flowers. Ever the optimist, I really believe Harley will learn to stay out of that small patch this year…

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