Native Plants in the Coastal Garden
Fifteen years ago I decided to devote half of my property to gardening with natives, which I defined as anything that grew in North America. After all, I figured, why limit my palette? I soon found out! Our cool, wet summers didn't suit alpine or meadow species, and I lost practically every plant within a year. I might have done better, or at least realized what I was up against had I read Native Plants in the Coastal Garden, by April Pettinger and Brenda Costanzo (Timber Press, 2003; $19.95).
Gardeners beginning their own native plant adventures now have the benefit of a nicely illustrated package that provides all the basics for transforming any garden into a naturalistic paradise.
In this newly revised and updated edition, Pettinger and Costanzo begin with an introduction to our region's climatic and floristic diversity, go on to stress the importance of site analysis, and then carefully explain the interaction plants have with one another to achieve a successful balance in plant communities.
The bulk of the book is devoted to detailed descriptions of hundreds of native plants, including perennials and annuals, trees and shrubs, grasses and sedges.
Sample site plans, along with a regional resource guide, make this book a valuable addition to any reference shelf.
Favorite or New Plant
Snapdragons: An Easy-to-Grow Annual
Snapdragons, like many garden flowers, have a long history of enjoyment. Children love opening the jaw of the flower and watching it snap shut. Opening the dragon's jaw in just the right place is a skill passed down from parent to child, just like the love of gardening. The Latin name for snapdragon is Antirrhinum majus. "Anti" in Greek means "like," and "rhinos" means "snout."
Snapdragon flowers are available in every color except blue. The erect spikes are covered with buds that open from the bottom to the top. The gradual opening of the buds provides color for an extended period of time.
Snapdragons flower best in full sun or light shade and should be planted in rich, well-drained soil. Prepare the soil by breaking up large clumps and amending heavy soils with compost or peat moss. The root system is quite fine and can easily be damaged by deep cultivation. A layer of organic mulch around the plants will conserve moisture as well as prevent weed growth. Tall varieties of snaps need to be staked to prevent breakage. Staking should be done early in the season. Tie the stem to the stake with soft cloth.