Here are the basics
on five popular varieties
Imagine your yard or favorite walking trail laid out with a variety of colorful plants. These aren’t just any plants, but plants requiring low maintenance, yet at the same time offering huge dividends in diversity, form, foliage, flower, fruit…valued by both wildlife and man. Now imagine this same portrait knowing "it’s all native."
At Mossy Oak, we’re firm believers in enhancing the scenic beauty of your property by encouraging the use of native plant and tree species. Native plants can not only place you in the top running for yard of the month, but also allow the opportunity to give Mother Nature a little something back. By adding suitable native plants and trees to your landscape, you can increase the aesthetic value and quality of your favorite piece of ground. Many species are available and most are easy to establish and maintain. There are endless species to choose from, but for now we’ll cover five favorites. These five will go in many different sites and can be oriented to show their various colors, fruits and sizes.
1. Strawberry bush (Euonymus americanus) is a deciduous understory plant found hiding in the understory of hardwoods. It has straight, bright-green shoots holding on to its green and red foliage. This beautiful foliage contrasts perfectly with its showy strawberry-colored seed pods. The seeds are eaten by song birds and wild turkey. Due to its high preference by whitetail deer, biologists have nicknamed this native "ice-cream plant." Strawberry bush isn’t too picky about where it grows, but we’ve had luck establishing clumps underneath the canopy edge of dogwoods or intermixed with oakleaf hydrangeas. Every time we set up a Nativ Nursery booth at a trade-show, the strawberry bush specimens are the first to go!
2. American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is definitely one to add to your native landscape. This plant doesn’t carry the name beautyberry for nothing. It’s amazing how the long slender stems can support so many clusters of these beautiful berries. They begin with loads of mid-summer pinkish to bluish flowers. It doesn’t take long until the flower transforms into a neon green-colored drupe (berry) followed by a change into a bright shiny purple. Now throw some fuzzy green leaves in there that turn yellow prior to leaf fall and you have American beautyberry. I hope you don’t enjoy mosquitoes; according to the USDA, extractives from beautyberry named "callicarpenol" and "intermedeol" repel many undesirable pests. American beautyberry can really take off and turn into a huge bush, but is simple to prune back if necessary. Both leaves and fruits are sought after by wildlife, but the plant’s rapid growth and sprouting usually overcomes all but the heaviest browse pressure.
3. Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) can offer a variety of unique characteristics to your property. This exhilarating plant carries bronze to green foliage with a touch of red and purple prior to leaf fall. The brown, exfoliating bark sets as an excellent background for the groups of showy flowers this plant produces. If you enjoy the domesticated hydrangea varieties, but want a more open form and natural look, then this plant is worth considering as an addition to your collection. Oakleaf hydrangea prefers moist, deep, well-drained, acidic to neutral soils in its native habitat, but does great in prepared beds. Good drainage is most important, so be careful not to overwater, especially in clay soils. Too much direct sun can stress hydrangeas, so establish them underneath small trees or along the side of a house or fence as protection from the afternoon sun.
4. Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) is a soft-mast producing native t edible by both wildlife and anyone who enjoys a sweet snack. The yellow or red, quarter-sized fruit also makes delicious jelly…native jelly; that’s a thought! The smooth, burgundy bark and cream-colored lenticels lining the stem provide a striking contrast, even in the winter months. The slender twigs take on a slight zigzag form and are covered with showy white flowers before leaves emerge in the spring. Thanks to its suckering habit, Chickasaw plums take on a clumping form, which provides excellent escape cover for rabbits and bobwhite quail. Consider adding clumps of Chickasaw plum near the gate and leading to the cabin for that "old school," plantation-style look you’ve been wanting. On the remainder of your property, these plums can tolerate poorer, upland sites like old logging deck, where they receive less competition from other plants and adequate sunlight. Don’t forget to spray for chiggers before pickin’ the fruit!
5. Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) adds a tropical look to your landscape with its large, drooping leaves. It’s long-standing, regional popularity has provided it with names like "hoosier banana," "false banana" and "custard apple." The kidney-shaped fruits of pawpaws have a dominant taste and texture of ripened banana with accents of mango or pineapple. This is also the largest edible fruit native to North America and has been proven to contain anti-cancer and insecticidal qualities. The late-summer soft-mast is loved by many species of wildlife and offers a very unique and appetizing treat you’ll surely enjoy. Pawpaws naturally inhabit the understory of hardwoods along creeks and in coves; sites similar to those favored by oakleaf hydrangea, but require a little more care to establish in openings. Providing supplemental shade for the first couple of seasons is important. If you are interested in optimal fruit production, gradually increase the amount of sunlight to enhance its growth. Save pawpaw for your best soils or take the time to dig and prepare a nice bed prior to planting.
You can arrange these natives by fall/spring color, sizes and fruiting habits; the window of opportunity for diversity in the layout is endless. Include these natives in your landscape and be prepared to greet curious neighbors and wildlife.
Mossy Oak Nativ Nurseries offer many more species to transform your little piece of heaven into an instant habitat for many pollinators and wildlife species. You can browse their vast selection to learn more information on these featured species and many others at www.nativnurseries.com. Native landscaping is increasing in popularity. Whether it’s around your home, a weekend retreat, or along a creek bank at your favorite fishing hole, native species give off a sense of peace and relaxation. Planting your own piece of ground can be enjoyed and appreciated by family and friends for years to come. We know "it’s all good" and keep in mind — "it’s all native."
Blake Hamilton and Dudley Phelps are both employees of Mossy Oak’s Nativ Nurseries in West Point, MS. For information about this article or Nativ Nurseries, check out their website at www.nativnurseries.com or call (662) 494-4326.