With author/native plant expert Rick Darke's talk coming up this Saturday at Key School in Annapolis on the topic of "Balancing Natives and Exotics in the Garden", I got to thinking.  What's the balance I've used in my own garden?  Here are some of my favorites in each category, and I'll find out Saturday if Rick Darke's favorites are remotely similar.  There are so many great choices in each category, ya never know.

Above, one of my favorite front-yard gardens, a glorious mix of natives and nonnatives.  (What's the difference between the term "nonnative" and "exotic," which  Rick Darke uses?  Nothing.) 

Some Favorite Native Shrubs and Trees

Clockwise from upper left:  Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata), 'Little Henry' Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) Native Azalea, name unknown, and Dogwood (Cornus florida).

Some Favorite, "Sustainable" Nonnative Shrubs

Clockwise from upper left:  Doublefile Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Mariesii') is about the size of a native dogwood, but more horizontal.  Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia) are far easier than most people think - because they need very little pruning.  In fact, are healthier and (to many) far prettier when left natural. Acuba japonica is evergreen, can take lots of shade, and is super-drought-tolerant.  Knockout and similar landscape roses give the most bloom for the least work and resources of just about any plant.

Some Favorite Native Perennials


Clockwise from upper left:  Spiderwort (Tradescantia ), Baptisia australis, Goldenrod (Solidago), and Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica).

Some Favorite "Sustainable" Nonnative Perennials

Clockwise from upper left, Salvias are from dry climates, so are very drought-tolerant.  The same can be said for Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina) native to the Middle East.  For shade, nothing's tougher than Hostas.  And 'Morning Light' Miscanthus sinensis, like most ornamental grasses, has a large impact on the garden while being trouble-free.  This one blooms late, so there's no danger of it spreading where you don't want it to go.

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