Missouri Native Garden
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The Native Garden includes a rich array of native plants you can use to create beautiful landscapes on your property. Natives reduce maintenance and offer four season interest. They provide a natural habitat for butterflies, birds and beneficial insects. Natives require less water, little to no fertilizer or chemical pesticides, and tend to be tolerant of our extreme weather variations.
The Missouri Native Plants demonstration garden (beds 15-19) can be found on the north side of the Botanical Center just beyond the rail fence. Only authentic Missouri native plant species are allowed. Unlike some cultivars of natives, authentic plant species attract a variety of pollinators. Native species reproduce and spread through seed production and can survive the well- known climate extremes of Southwest Missouri.
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Tips on Planting Natives in Your Garden
Native plants are grouped into a variety of diverse categories: plants that attract birds, hummingbirds, pollinators, or butterflies; plants to grow in rain gardens, on prairies, in glades or forests; plants for shady to full sun areas; and plants to grow in dry, average or even wet soils.
If you decide to grow native, determine the right plant for the right space. This is a critical first step towards success. Simply sprinkling around a package of wildflower seeds usually results in a disappointing failure. Find a reputable nursery or greenhouse from which to purchase authentic native plants or seeds.
It is really important when planting seeds to first prepare a seed bed that contains no living vegetation. Kill all of the existing non-native vegetation. To accomplish this, cover the desired area with heavy black plastic for a couple of months and keep that area covered until you are ready to plant. (Or you could use a couple of applications of herbicide correctly timed to accomplish the same thing.) When the time is right, the seeds must make direct contact with the soil… so it might be necessary to burn off a thick thatch if dried vegetation remains. Testing the soil will also determine if it needs to be amended. The recommended soil pH for growing wildflowers is between 5.5 and 7.5. Fertilizing is not required. Although some care to prevent and control weeds may be required during the first and second growing seasons, from the third year on an annual or biennial mowing or burning is all that should be needed.
With proper plant selection, timing, planning and planting, it just might be possible to have color in your native garden from early May through October. And by planting native Missouri plant species, you will no longer be trying to fool Mother Nature. Grow more natives… the wildlife will thank you.
* Photos and writings by Debra Rainey, 2015 Master Gardener trainee