Gardening with Native Plants A History Linda R McMahan OSU Extension, Yamhill County
Ask Yourself: What are the Origins of Gardening Traditions in America? A Pacific Northwest Public Garden
Where do we experience gardening traditions? The Berry Botanic Garden, Portland, OR
In CaseYou Had Any Doubts! Our gardening traditions in the United States come primarily from England
Gardens We See Often Reflect The British Influence
There’s More Gardening traditions of many other countries are filtered through English traditions. Our “loves and hates” in gardening relate to gardening history in the British Isles. We are just now beginning to relate to gardening in an American style. The rest is History . . . . Native plant garden display at Portland’s Home and Garden Show featuring native plants.
Origins of Gardening World gardening traditions go back 4000 or more years. In England, we begin to trace gardening from the 16th and 17 centuries where it focused primarily on fruits in enclosed or “cloistered” gardens. A Red “Plume” Photo: Wikipedia
Plant explorers brought tropical plants to Europe. These were were typically grown in glass houses. Many were planted out as “bedding plants” in the spring. This was high formal, structured gardening, requiring high resource use. London’s Crystal palace and bedding plants. Photos: Wikipedia Exploration and Victorian Traditions (1837-1901-reign of Queen Victoria)
Scottish gardener William Robinson reacted to Victorian “excess” by promoting “Wild Gardening” Drawings of Robinson’s house and garden: Wikipedia William Robinson: Wild Gardening and the English Garden (1838-1925)
Wild Gardening Defined “Wild Gardening” says William Robinson, is not native plant gardening. Instead, it is “placing perfectly hardy plants in places they will take care of themselves. It has nothing to do with wilderness.” From English Flower Garden Stowe Garden (1730-38) designed by Robinson - Wikipedia
Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932), the founder of the modern border garden, was a colleague of William Robinson. She popularized the idea of the informal border in many publications and garden designs. Restored Gertrude Jekyll border at Manor House, Upton Grey, Hampshire: Photo: Wikipedia The Emergence of the Border Garden and Gertrude Jekyll
Meanwhile, in America . . . Early settlers, including the Pilgrims and other settlers, were mostly interested in food. Native Indians were known to grow some food and one report notes cultivation of wild roses along the James River. 1605 map noting native settlements. The star is the approximate location of the 1620 English settlement Source: Wikipedia
Very Early America Later, especially in the 1800’s, settlers grew ornamentals from “home” like primroses, oxeye daisy, and hollyhock. This tendency to reflect homeland is verified by recent studies of recent settlers in Australia. Leucanthemumvulgareoxeye daisy, perhaps the first reported invasive plant in America, Photo: Wikipedia
Very Early America Beginning in the 1700’s, a growing interest in fruit trees arose. This interest following settlers across the continent to the American west. Apples for food and cider, plums, and pears were particularly popular. Winslow Homer painting of grafting of fruit trees in 1870, Photo: Wikipedia
William Bartram With his father John, William studied and promoted certain native plants, including Frankliniaalatamaha. The Bartram’s were prominent exporters of native plants for European markets. (1739-1823) Photos: Wikipedia
Gradually, people began to incorporate native plants into their gardens First, native trees were substituted for European ones, then shrubs. Notable was the use of plants of Southeastern US origin such as magnolias and azaleas. Other early plants noted in the literature are native lilies and ferns, then Western conifers. Magnolia virginiana, Photo: Wikipedia
Thomas Jefferson Experimented widely with southeast native plants, including osage orange as a hedge Sponsored Lewis and Clark Expedition (1743-1826) Photos: Wikipedia
David Douglas Visited the Pacific Northwest on behalf of the British Horticultural Society to look for new plants for European gardens. Collected Ribessanguineum which was, according to Penelope Hobhouse, “so important a find as to be itself worth the cost of the whole expedition” (1799-1834) Photo: Wikipedia
Liberty Hyde Bailey “Father of American Horticulture” Michigan Agricultural College, then Cornell University Creator of the first US horticultural dictionaries Botanist, plantsman, nature promoter Began tradition of nature study in NY schools, which were probably forerunners of native plant societies (1858-1954) Photo: Wikipedia
For many years, we have continued to follow European tradition—we merely planted native plants in place of standard plants in the European style. This is still reflected in most gardens incorporating native plants. A magnolia and Ribessanguineum
In this private garden established in the 1940s and 1950s, the traditional use of sweeping lawns intermingle with exotic plants under native Douglas Fir—this continues the “wild gardening” tradition.
So. . . What is happening now and how did we get there? “Fifteen years later [after 1st edition] a minor garden cult has become a major focus of American gardening.” Botanist and author Arthur Kruckeberg in the 2ndEdition of Gardening with Native Plants, 1996
Today, public places are more reflective of a natural style Oregon State University campus
Today's gardens more often reflect nature Native wildlife including the banana slug Natural plant forms such as that of goldenrod
Many of Us Take Inspiration from Nature Lomatium (desert parsley) on an outcrop at Catherine Creek Preserve in the Columbia River Gorge
Many Public Gardens Feature Plants Native to their Area Scene from main lawn of the San Francisco Botanic Garden
Gardens Can Reflect Whimsy even if they feature native plants Pots feature native Sedum
Gardeners focus on the natural form of natives more often, paired with natural materials for paths and other features. The Berry Botanic Garden, Portland, OR
More and more, gardens such as the one at the McMinnville OR Public Library, feature only native plants
Native groundcovers are increasingly used to replace those of non-native origin Vancouveriahexandra
Plants formerly considered to be weeds are used for their garden or wildlife value Cow parsnip, Heracleumlanatum, featured in a butterfly garden at The Berry Botanic Garden, Portland, OR
To get conservation certification, many new buildings are using native plants in the landscape Engineering Building, Oregon State University, featuring native plants in a designed and somewhat formal landscape
Garden historian Penelope Hobhouse characterizes 20th Century gardening as the “Era of Conservation,” citing concern for rare species and cultivars, and for water and wildlife habitat. Gardeners want to “do the right thing.” California fuchsia, Epilobium canum
Observing restoration projects near home Increasing availability of plants and books Concerns about water, resources, invasive species, wildlife Watching what public gardens and our neighbors are doing Native ferns used for erosion control What motivates us today?
1900: The New England Wildflower Society was formed in Massachusetts, perhaps as a result of earlier promotion of nature by Liberty Hyde Bailey. This group, the oldest native plant society, now lists 88 native plant societies in all states of the US and in many Canadian provinces. How did we get here?
Books 1900-1950 – Floras of most regions of North America 1950 – present – Hundreds of books featuring native plants of various regions and how to grow them. The first were for the eastern regions and the Midwest. How did we get here?
Magazines In the 1970s, a series of articles appeared in Organic Gardening featuring native American plants for lawn substitutes, for wildlife, and groundcovers Other magazines and publications soon followed How did we get here?
Gardening Styles In the late 20th century and even today, twin styles of gardening with natives continue to evolve side by side Substituting natives for more traditional plants and the development of “garden-worthy” cultivars Gardening with native plants for their own sake in natural looking landscapes VS How did we get here?
Rapid proliferation of Native Plant Nurseries in the 1990’s These were followed by the formation of regional associations An important factor was the increase in restoration activities of government agencies who needed plants How did we get here?
Establishment of organizations dedicated to native plants. 1982: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Society in Austin, TX. It is now the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin National societies formed in both Canada and the US How did we get here?
1990s – A new controversy about whether using native plants is nationalistic Proponents say this is a reflection of attitudes of Nazi Germany and is misplaced nationalism, even harmful to plant diversity Native plant enthusiasts point out ecological values of gardening with native plants Photo: Wikipedia Some Recent Controversies
Should we use native plants in their wild forms or are cultivars OK? Will cultivars “pollute” the wild gene pool? Should gardeners plant native plants from other localities, outside of, say a 50 mile radius of their homes? Should gardeners plant native plants at all in cultivated settings to avoid altering the wild gene pool? For example, Douglas iris, Iris douglasiana, is only known from certain areas of the American West but planted more widely. Some Recent Controversies
Conclusion Controversies aside, native plant gardening appears to be here to stay. Variegated leaf form of a Pacific Northwest strawberry species.
Conclusion Native plant gardening is very old, dating back to early in the European settlement of America, if not before. Varied color forms of a popular American native plant, Ribessanguineum
Conclusion What is new, is that native plant gardening is beginning to reflect new national and regional styles favoring native plants and natural forms. Vine maple, Acer circinnatum
Thank You! Linda R McMahan Botanist and Horticulturist Oregon State University Extension Service Yamhill County firstname.lastname@example.org Note: This presentation may be used for educational purposes without express permission. All plant and garden photographs, except as noted, by Linda R McMahan at Oregon State University. Please contact author for all non-educational uses of photographs. Oregon grape, Berberis aquifolium