Getting native plants

Gift ©Janet AllenMy entire yard of coneflowers started as just one plant given by a friend

It's not yet as easy to acquire native plants as it is to acquire non-natives. Still, though, we've managed to create quite a collection from a variety of sources.

We've bought plants from local nurseries and the CNY Regional Market, from Prairie Nursery, from the New England Wildflower Society's Garden in the Woods, from vendors at Millersville Native Plants in the Landscape conference, and, of course, from the HGCNY plant sale.

People have also given us plants, we've started some from seed, and we've divided plants as they mature. Learn more about growing your own plants …

The one thing we have NOT done is collect plants from the wild!

Buying new plants

Only a few local nurseries sell or promote native plants, and even fewer sell just the species rather than cultivars. We've bought some locally, but we've had to also look for other sources.

Small plants or plugs

Buying new plants online(Enlarge) ©Janet Allen
Buying new plants online

Here are some of the plants we ordered from Prairie Nursery. They've always arrived in good condition and have generally grown well.

They're labeled with their botanic names, and I always feel confident they are what they say they are. They don't sell cultivars, just plain species, which is what I want.

Of course, the disadvantage is that, as a Midwest company, they emphasize prairie plants. However, the range of some prairie plants extends farther east than I expected, and they seem to be beefing up their woodlands offerings. These are obviously not local ecotypes, but few plants offered for sale here in CNY are—even those sold by local nurseries.

Buying small trees and shrubs

Young pagoda dogwood seedling ©Janet AllenYoung pagoda dogwood seedling

We've been amazed at how quickly young trees and shrubs can grow. It's not only cost-effective to buy these seedling trees, but they can quickly catch up to or even surpass more mature trees that have to recover from being transplanted.

Previously we had a pretty much fully-grown pagoda transplanted into our yard. It's now the mostly-dead tree you see that is nevertheless functioning as a favorite perch for many birds. Then we planted this seedling pagoda shown in the photo. It was just about the height of the tomato cage it was in, but by four or five years later, it was virtually fully-grown and robustly healthy.

Not all trees would grow as fast as this one, I suppose, but it's pretty clear that trees or shrubs that don't have to contend with being transplanted have a big advantage.


Bareroot ©Janet AllenBareroot plants

We experimented planting a bare root plant, in this case a black haw viburnum.

Bare root plants are much less expensive and easier to plant. If we had an acre to plant, we'd plant more bare root plants.

Black haw ©Janet AllenBlack haw viburnum

As unpromising as that bare root stick looked, it sprouted leaves very quickly.

The photo shows the black haw the following year. It's now (about five years later) about 6 feet tall and flourishing.