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  • Valerie Just

Maintaining color and creating texture in your native landscape.

As you know, my landscapes were converted to mostly native plants a couple of years ago. I have discovered that I can cut-back some of my native perennials once the initial bloom is done, and they will bloom again - it helps keep color in the garden for a longer period of time. In addition, I just couldn't disconnect with some of my favorite annuals, hybrids and native cultivars or nativars plants. I intermingle all of these plants with native plantings to ensure that I have color available throughout the landscape over a longer period of time. As you choose plants, especially native plants, you should read the associated tags that are on the plant - they will tell you the bloom period. Make sure to buy varying bloom-periods so you have color in your garden, and provide nourishment of the pollinators for the spring, summer and fall. I also incorporate grasses and painted, cement sculptures, cedar trellises, and birdbaths in my landscape to add texture and interest.

My gardens are far from perfect; they continue to be a work-in-progress, but each year they get a little bit better as I become a more skilled, creative and experienced gardener! I am hoping that 'many more years to come' is in God's plan for me, as I have so much that I want to accomplish yet, and grandchildren that are my pride and joy.


I believe it is important to add height to your garden, to bring the eye up from the ground level. As the human eye scans the landscape, there is visual interest at various heights. With the help of an amazingly skilled carpenter, Wes, together we have built a couple of cedar and copper trellises, as well as a cedar gate. My trellises stand about seven feet, and people that walk by my home always comment on the trellis - I've even had people ask me to make them one! Most recently, I gave a lady the plans for the trellis - she lives about eight blocks away, so my trellis will still be unique to my immediate neighborhood! I also have an arbor that I bought many years ago from an Amish furniture store - this year I am trying a Passion plant on the trellis - it is supposed to get over ten feet tall.

In addition to the structures, I have planted pines and spruces that have been grafted onto a stem, as well as a blue spruce that anchors the back corner of my largest garden. The grafted trees probably stand about five feet tall, and bring me a lot of joy as I look at my plantings. Dan, my son in Washington, D.C., had bought me a Pee Gee Hydrangea tree for Mother's Day many years ago, and when it wasn't doing well in my front-of-the-house landscape because of too much shade, I moved it to the back garden, where it gets six hours of full sun - and it looks fantastic this year. My Mom loves the blooms on this tree, and takes them home and dries them. Lastly, in the right corner of my back garden, I have my beloved eight-foot Rose-of-Sharon. This shrub blooms for at least a month during the summer, and the bees love the bloom - I have pictures of bumble bees literally covered in pollen that I will share. This plant will grow up to twelve feet tall, so you need to allow plenty of room for growth.

When adding height, distribute the height evenly throughout your landscape. Use height to anchor a corner or the end of your landscape; plant a spruce that doesn't get really wide (if you have a smaller landscape area); if you have a cedar structure, repeat cedar a couple of times through the landscape. Be creative and have fun - one of my brothers had an old window - he is a woodworker, so figured out a way to support the window. I've also seen old chairs with the seat removed, and plants planted in the seating area. So many ideas; so little time!

I believe that all of these additions to my native plants bring interest and texture. As you look at the pictures, you be the judge...


When you work with native perennial plants, some of the plants only bloom one time during the year, while others, if you cut them back after the initial bloom, will bloom multiple times during the growing period in your region. Typically, the second and if you are lucky, the third bloom are smaller in volume than the initial bloom. For the plants in which you only get one bloom, that area in your garden would be void of color or interest for the rest of the season once they are done blooming. Thus, I try to plant annuals in close proximity so that the landscape is eye-appealing and balanced.

I tried a new plant this year - Bougainvillea - and just love it. It handled a cutting-back very well, and produced nice new stems. It is certainly a keeper - double-click on the slideshow, which will enlarge the pictures. You will see some delightful stamens in the Bougainvillea pictures.

I love Lantana, and the grower advertises the plant as a butterfly magnet. I would disagree - I've never had luck with butterflies on this plant; but, I just love it - the colors are stunning.

I bought a tall black planter this year, and filled it with hot pink, orange and lime green flowers/vines. This year was an experiment; next year, I will put in much longer vines to balance the height of the planter - it looks like I have flowers perched on top this year - it needs to look more integrated with the ground.

Gerber daisies are one of my favorites - I am drawn to them in the greenhouse every year, but they are tricky to get a continual bloom. The grower states they can take a full six hours of sun, but I disagree - they wilt when exposed to that much sun. I put them in more shade than sun, but I think it impacts the flowering. I feel blessed when they decide to bloom!

I love the double impatience - they look like little roses. I also have New Guinea Impatience in the pictures as well - they love shade, and come in brilliant colors. I put them in the front of my garden in the front yard - as my perennials stop blooming in July, the annuals become the stars!

This year, in my front yard, I focused on a hot pink, orange and lime green annual plant color-scheme. I will probably do the same next year, but I will buy more of a lime-green vine that I love. I cannot remember the name of this vine, but I do have a picture.


Ornamental grasses bring texture, grace and beauty to your garden. I love to use them in the back of my garden, as they provide a back-drop, similar to the back-drop used in a professional picture. They provide grace and beauty to the stars of my garden, my flowers, just as the stars of your professional pictures are typically your family. Maiden grass is my favorite - I tried to use native grasses, such as Big Bluestem Prairie grass, but those grasses just didn't provide the same punch as Maiden grass.

Another favorite ornamental grass is Karl Foerster - in the front gardens, I use it as a back-drop against my house; in the back gardens, I use it in the middle of the garden, because my back-of-the-garden plants tend to be taller - some as tall as six to seven feet. Karl Foerster does not sway in the wind as gracefully as Maiden grass, but it is truly a winner!

In the winter, if you don't cut back your grasses in the fall, the seed plumes provide nourishment for the over-wintering birds, although the Forester grass is a sterile seed.

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