Louise Schaefer & Sue Tantsits
Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery, Owners
It’s gardening season, and Sue Tantsits and Louise Schaefer, owners of Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery in Orefield, are sharing their picks for great native plants for your garden. These are plants that have evolved and adapted to our local soils and climate, so they can handle whatever nature dishes out. All are also vital sources of food and shelter for birds, butterflies, beneficial insects and other wildlife. These six beauties call the Lehigh Valley home, and they will make themselves at home in your garden, too.
Joe Pye Weed
(Eupatorium maculatum or Eutrochium maculatum)
Tall and stately, with big mauve flowers summer into fall, it’s an amazing butterfly plant, and it attracts other beneficial insects, too. Schaefer and Tantsits have seen one flower with four different species of butterflies on it. Don’t let the name fool you into thinking this is a weed! It’s a perennial, which means it comes back year after year. Plant it at the back of a flower border instead of butterfly bush (Buddleia), which, though lovely, is invasive. Joe Pye Weed likes moist soil, so it’s good for wet areas and grows in clay soil, too. Deer resistant. Give this baby full sun and watch it grow 5 to 7 feet tall.
Everyone loves flowering dogwoods, and no wonder, because it’s a tree that does it all: white or pink spring flowers, vivid red fall foliage, winter berries that feed bluebirds, robins and mourning doves, and it’s an eye-pleasing shape. It’s a good, small tree where space is limited. In the wild, dogwoods are shaded by taller trees, but prefer more sun and good air circulation in a home landscape. Plant one instead of a non-native Kousa dogwood, which has berries the birds don’t eat. It needs moist, rich soil, so don’t plant where soil is dry or compacted. Needs full sun or part shade. Grows 15 to 30 feet tall.
(Photinia pyrifolia, also known as Aronia)
Another plant that packs a multi-season punch is the red chokeberry. White flowers that look a bit like apple blossoms bloom in spring, providing nectar to butterflies. Summer foliage is glossy green, and fall color is a brilliant orange red. In fall, songbirds eat the red berries. (So can humans, but they are extremely tart!) Use it in a mixed shrub border, as a specimen plant, or at the back of a perennial border. It can act as a great substitute for the invasive shrubs burning bush (Euonymus) or barberry (Berberis). It tolerates wet soil, so it’s good for a low spot in the yard and it likes moist, acidic soil. Requires full sun to part shade. Grows 6 to 12 feet tall.
Northern bayberry is an easy-to-grow shrub with lustrous, fragrant leaves. Swallows, woodpeckers and bluebirds eat the waxy berries, which were used to scent candles in Colonial times and are still used today. The tiny, yellow spring flowers attract butterflies. Plant it instead of boxwood or privet in a shrub border. Northern bayberry will grow in clay, loam or sand. It’s wind and salt tolerant, making it a good choice for along a driveway or sidewalk where ice melt is spread. Needs full sun to part shade. Needs a male and female plant for berries. Grows 6 to 10 feet tall.
Not the fragrant—and rampantly invasive—honeysuckle with the gold flowers, but a less fragrant yet better-mannered cousin. Trumpet honeysuckle has bright, tubular coral flowers that bloom in summer. Hummingbirds flock to the flowers, and bees and other beneficial insects do, too. The flowers are followed by red berries that birds, including waxwings and goldfinches, love. It’s a twining vine, so it must be trained around a post or trellis to get started, but once it takes off, it’s fine. It’s a good alternative to Boston or English ivy. Needs full sun. Grows 8 to 15 feet tall.
Clustered Mountain Mint
Grow this herb for the entertainment value: Bees of all kinds, as well as non-stinging wasps and dragonflies adore it. You’ll see a fascinating parade of insects you never knew existed. The flower is an attractive pinkish-white cluster that blooms in July and August. The foliage is aromatic, the mint scent wafting up as you pass by. Clustered mountain mint is edible, but the flavor is not as strong as peppermint or spearmint. It doesn’t spread as aggressively, either. It prefers moist soil, but being a mint, it’s tough and can handle all kinds of conditions. Requires full sun to part shade. Grows 1 to 3 feet tall.
Edge of the Woods Native Plant Nursery | 2415 Route 100, Orefield610.395.2570 | edgeofthewoodsnursery.com