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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Native Plants Versus Invasive Plants

I read in an article not so long ago that a good way to tell what sort of plants would be likely to grow well in your garden was to head out to a natural area and see what was growing there.

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?  Well, yes, as long as the natural area you choose to view hasn't been overrun by invasive plants.

We happen to live in a new neighborhood, most of which is still undeveloped, including the lots on either side of us. One one side of us stands a grand liquidambar, or sweet gum, tree and some smaller oaks. It's a natural thicket, with its own understory of large shrubs and vines and it's home to all sorts of birds and other wildlife.

I love it and it will break my heart when they finally get around to building on the lot, but I digress.

You'd think it would make sense that, since I want the kind of garden that attracts wildlife of all sorts, all I would need to do would be to look and see what is growing over there and either dig some up to plant in my yard, or purchase it somewhere...


I had already smelled the delicious aroma of the japanese honeysuckle Lonicera japonica, which is on the top ten list of Invasives to Avoid  at Houston Grows, and I'm already well aware of how invasive that is, no matter how lovely it smells.

Recently there's been a large shrub blooming that I couldn't identify. I've been seeing it literally everywhere for the past week or two and I had done all kinds of Google searches trying to find it, but couldn't nail it down.

Well, I finally found out what it was.... on that same top ten list of Invasives to Avoid :-(

The photo in that article wasn't very clear, but something made me Google on that particular plant to see if I could find any closer, clearer photos. I found this photo at Dave's Garden.

Am I correct in thinking it's a Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense)? Such a pity, because it's rather attractive.

So where does a novice gardener like myself find the information she needs to keep from making big mistakes?  

First, I have to say that garden bloggers are a great source of information!  Many are Master Gardeners and everyone is so helpful and willing to share their knowledge with newbies like me, I have learned so much (and I know I still have a lot to learn!)

Local nurseries are a great resource too.  I happen to live close to The Arbor Gate in Tomball, which has a great native plants section, and some very knowledgeable employees, Master Gardeners among them.

In addition, there is some great information online.  As I mentioned earlier, there's a list on Houston Grows of Invasives to Avoid.
Also on Houston Grows - Kathy Huber has a list of Texas Superstars, plants that tolerate our extremes with minimal soil preparation and watering and no pesticides.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has a native plant database and lists of recommended species by location.

Texas A&M has a listing of Texas native trees with details and photos of each tree listed.

And that's just a couple of the online resources I saw.

So, using a combination of these resources, I hope that I'll be able to create a beautiful garden and avoid the invasive species.

Having said that, I probably shouldn't mention my St. Augustine lawn, should I?

Nah.... thought not....

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.


Kyna said...

Great post!

I think a lot of your invasives in Texas are the same for me in NC. I also am living in a developing subdivision. My part of the subdivision is older, and there is forest near most sides of the house. There's rampant japanese honeysuckle. Rampant wisteria. Rampant trumpet vine. Rampant Carolina jessamine. And rampant blackberry bushes. And in places, rampant passion vine.

Luckily I do live far enough away from the edges of the woods, so that I don't worry too much about my yard becoming invaded. I wouldn't want a stray wisteria vine to strangle me in the middle of the night! O_O

Jayne said...

Hi Kyna, Yes, I think we have many of the same invasives. Now blackberries, I can live with. When I lived in England, I used to love going out blackberry picking with my parents. They're in their 80's now and they still go picking blackberries when they're in season :-)

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

The garden centers do make it difficult when they sell invasives there for unknowing customers to buy. Every time I see something that I know will take over someone's yard I feel like putting a warning sign up.
I'm sure you'll be able to find lots of beautiful non invasive plants for your garden, sounds like you've found some good resources.

Jayne said...

You're so right Catherine. If you go by what's available in the garden centers, you can really end up with some troubles down the road.

Kathleen Scott said...

Hi Jayne, great list of resources, you're on the right path. The Native Plant Society (NPSOT) also has good information for Texas:

We've been in the Smokies, away from the web for a while, look forward to catching up. I appreciate your thoughtful comment on my foot-hill post.

Jayne said...

Thanks for the link Kathleen. That looks like a great website.

Kimberly said...

Hi, Jayne. I'm embarrassed, but I have the honeysuckle in my yard, and I put it there. I'm not a good example of native gardening, although I try to use them among my non-natives. Most of my tropicals are not native to my area, although most are not invasive.
As a resource, I use me local extension office. They have a plethora of area specific information!
Great post!