Watering is one of my least favourite garden chores. In the heat of summer, it is an interminable task, requiring hours of dedication and returning nothing but a day\’s reprieve from the constant threat of desertification.
Watering is one of my least favourite garden chores. In the heat of summer, it is an interminable task, requiring hours of dedication and returning nothing but a day’s reprieve from the constant threat of desertification.
When tending a vegetable garden, watering is a necessary evil. When planning an ornamental garden, however, selecting the right plants can save you hours of watering.
For the gardener who appreciates simplicity, beauty, and free time, native plants are an obvious choice. As a part of the natural ecosystem, they are more resistant to local pests than imported species, and are attractive to beneficial visitors such as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Natives–favourites among water-conscious gardeners–content themselves with the amount of water that Mother Nature delivers, unlike those exotic prima donnas that require constant irrigation. These seasoned locals practically take care of themselves once they have taken root in your garden.
As you enrich the community of plants around your home this year, consider what your climate can provide naturally–and go with the flow. Choosing plants that are already a part of your local ecosystem will let you put down the hose a little sooner so that you can get out there and enjoy your garden.
Water-wise native plants will be star performers in your garden.
- Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) attracts hummingbirds and butterflies with its clusters of brilliant orange flowers. This species is an important nectar source for monarch butterflies in particular, and acts as a sheltered nursery for their larvae. Historically used to treat pleurisy and other respiratory conditions, this drought-tolerant plant is a popular choice for many Canadian gardeners.
- Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) add a blaze of colour to your garden, blooming straight through the drought of summer right up until the first frost.
- Columbines (Aquilegia canadensis) are equally forgiving of stingy rain fall in July, and tempt humming birds with their upturned, nectar-filled tubes. Once established, columbines self-seed easily, producing masses of intricate, delicate flowers for years to come.
Native grasses provide the water-saving gardener with some eye-catching options. Revitalize the sun-baked hot spots in your garden with undulating wisps of ornamental grasses.
- Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) is a perennial favourite, growing to over two metres, creating an impressive backdrop for other flowering species. In the late summer, the seed heads turn golden and produce sprays of tiny yellow flowers.
- Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) has unusual “turkey foot” flowers with attractive bronze fall foliage.
- Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) provides drama with its autumn reds and purples.
If you need help incorporating native plants into your landscape, check out the Evergreen Native Plant Database (evergreen.ca). This valuable resource contains pictures, descriptions, and growing conditions for over 5,000 native plants found across the country.