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Super Green Thumb
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Location: Central Sand Hills South Carolina

One problem with Carolina Wild is that they specialize in upstate plants. SC is a very diverse state with very different pretty well defined regions. Upstate is hilly clay, with somewhat cooler weather probably zone 7. Midlands are dominated with very sandy soil and very hot summer time highs, mostly zone 8. And then we have the much milder and wetter coastal plain area. Depending on how specialized Carolina Wild is, they may not have much to offer in the way of plants for us sandhills folks. I am going to contact them however and chat and see about availablilty of suitable plants.

Charlie MV
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Alex, let me know what you find out. I think our soil and climate are similar. We get no rain and are dominated by white sand and scruffy little pines.

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: Central Sand Hills South Carolina

Native/non-native are often treated like opposites and probably far too often good is used in relation to native and bad is used in relation to non-native. There is nothing inherently evil in planting non native species. There is not even anything wrong with invasive species in a natural context. Invasive species are great. When there is a fire, invasive species are the first on the scene, they sprout and stablize the soil. Now when an invasive species moves into a grasslands climax community or other sensitive area that is a different matter. I guess that it is still a natural phenomenon that would occur with or without human help, but in our efforts to control nature we certainly have exacerbated the problem (Charlie, that means made worse <grin>).

Anyway this thread has me thinking, and regardless will result in some positive adjustments. But while working in the yard this afternoon I was thinking this, "What were the native species on this hill before my wife's ancestors, even before the native Americans?" I can look around and make a guess at some. Could probably go to some original sources from the 1800's of naturalists sketch books. But who really knows what was growing here and what should be growing here. IMO native plant lists are quite suspect at best. Also, I'm thinking "some of the non-native plants are an improvement or at least are desireable, especially those that are relatively non invasive. Before the 1600's there were no honey bees in this country, or none of the kind we have come to know and love. I guess some would say that the disease killing off the European honey bee is a good thing. And then there is the question of the natural migration of certain plants and animals to this country. Are they native or non-native? They came here naturally! How many of the so called native plants in an area migrated from somewhere else a long time ago?

It seems to me that a person may as well take this "native species" thing with a big dose of moderation. Select plants that fit with the gardening purpose, chose those that tend to stay relatively contained to your area, don't put too much faith in that which is labeled native or non-native unless that happens to be your primary theme or purpose. I'm confident that before the Native Americans, my little hill was a climax forest dominated by oak and hickoy. The only wildflowers were those that expand rapidly following a fire or those that could live under a canapy of trees. I live on two acreas about 60% cleared and the surrounding area is all mixed hardwoods or farmed pine trees. Probably 90% or more of any wildflowers that I plant will be un-natural to this area. The 140 acres surrounding, plus even more wooded from my neighbors offers a pretty decent barrier to an explosion of some invasive plant. Nevertheless will try to stay away from those considered invasive, but not such as bachelor button and baby's breath, which will likely stay quite contained to the yard area.

I'm looking for a wildlife friendly yard and garden. Will continue to provide additional host plants for many critters of the garden. Later will expand my efforts to the transition zones between cleared and forest and will plants as much as possible native shrubs that will provide food and shelter for mainly non game species. That setting will still have room for the right non native shrub, provided it is non invasive and meets some purpose not met by other native selections.

That is pretty much where I am now, based upon very limited knowledge. I'm sure some on this board will help debunk some of my misconceptions and will offer suggestions. I'm certainly open to suggestions and will modify where that seems to be a reasonable, moderate thing to do.


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This thread may help answer some of the invasive species questions:

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Can I ask, is there anything I can do if I just planted a can of that wildflower mix -- can I keep it from coming up? I feel silly for not having done some research on what I was doing before I did it, but I didn't know there was so much to know! I found some other, native flowers that I'd like to plant there, but is it too late to do that this year since I've already put the wildflowers there?

The Helpful Gardener
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Location: Colchester, CT

It sure is hard to define "widlflower"...

Wild where? If it has only been imported here three hundred years but it is everywhere now, is it a wildflower, or an invasive? Alex raises a good point about all natives being good and vice versa; many non-natives are less intrusive or damaging to local environment than "native" plants moving in in monocultural fashion. But how can Robinia be invasive to Connecticut when it is in our fossil seed record? Sure it got knocked out by glaciers a couple of thousand years back, but it's returning, right? Return of the prodigal tree... And how is Phragmites invasive if it is circumboreal (found all around the world); isn't it just a vigourous native?

But the reality of exotic genotypic variance and anthropogenic dispersal having some calamitous ecological effects is pretty evident in America's Eastern forests, and entirely at the hands of the horticultural trades. From elms (Dutch Elm disease) to chesnut (Chesnut blight), to hemlock (wooly adelgid), we have imported devastating blows to local ecology in the interest of new gardening plants. How can we envision the local ecology of three hundred years ago with these gaps we have created? We cannot; they are tragic losses that we should work diligently to ensure are not repeated. Only the hand of Man can temper the hand of Man...

Now I am a gardener, one fond of Japanese gardening and many of the plants used in Japan. I love these plants as much as my native horde, but I have selected them carefully for their ability to play nicely as much as any aesthetic attribute. I do not use invasive plants and do not recommend them for any reason. Mixes in a can don't show that kind of control, so I'm not a fan. Alex's points aside, I think we can do better, and if you are going to do wilflowers, a quick assessment of the rest of the biota seems a good idea. Are you trying to attract a certain species and should you? Cardinals were rare when in Connecticut when I was a child, but supplied feeding has helped them move north. Is that good? Bad? Maybe generally supportive plants are best for the environment? How do we pick those?

Work by some smart fellers suggests that natives are the most ecologically supportive plants; Doug Tallamy's work is very interesting...


Doug's a friend of a friend who just wrote this wonderful book (Rick Darke who wrote the forward is another wonderful touchstone on this topic)


Doug's not just some hack...
Tallamy is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, where he has written more than 65 research articles and has taught insect taxonomy, behavioral ecology, and other subjects. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities.
So do some homework on what is actually around in your neighborhood, both flora and fauna. Be aware of whether the plant you are purchasing is invasive or not, and every once and a while, think about REAL wildflowers as a choice...

Michelle, solarize the area (black plastic for like two sunnier weeks) which will kill the seed. Better off doing starts than scattering seed anyway (get your design on, girl... :) ). Check your state or local watershed resources; you can sometimes get local seedsourced Echinacea native around me? Not really, but it's close, I have one...find natives you like as well, it's a garden. Want to put a non-native in? Fine by me as long as I'm not picking it out of my yard in a couple of years...


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Rose White
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pretty weeds

Charlie MV wrote:I fee like I'm the great unwashed. I planted a few handfulls of wildflower seeds we picked up at Lowes. They grew into what we believed were beautiful flowers until I read this.. We have them in vases throughout the house. Should I bush hog 'em?
If you believe they are beautiful flowers, then enjoy them. One gardener's weed is another gardener's flower. I even plant dandelions and only dig them up when they get thorny.

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