Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Native Plants

Many, many heartfelt thanks to all who responded in comments to my question about Wiccan landscaping. I've really enjoyed following links to altars and articles, and I've jotted down a lot of good ideas and book titles.

One point that several commenters raise, and that I've spent a significant amount of time thinking about, is the notion of using only native species plants. The idea has an almost obvious appeal and it certainly makes sense not to try and grow plants that require unnatural (for the area) amounts of water or that will need pesticides in order to thrive. Similarly, one doesn't want to grow plants that can become dangerously invasive (around here, bamboo can quickly go wild and become impossible to eradicate completely; we will not speak of the weed that must not be named (k-u-d-z-u)).

But, I am going to grow a number of non-native plants. Angelica, for example, a native of continental Europe. Dill, which, although it has now naturalized in, inter alia, North America, originated in the Middle East. Wormwood, a native of Asia and Europe. Artemisia, both vulgaris and dracunculus (mugwort and tarragon), a native of southern Europe. (Plant origins found in New Book of Herbs by Jekka McVicar, a practical guide that my DiL gave to me and that I highly recommend). I could go on and on listing the herbs that I want to grow, none of which originated in North America. Many of the arisaemas that I love were originally collected in Japan. How long does a plant need to grow in an area before it's native? Did it have to be here in North America before the Europeans came, both bringing new plants here and exporting North American plants back to Europe? What about plants that are spread by birds or animals; are they ok because their method of migration was more natural than that of my arisimeas? Is it "ok" to grow a plant once it has naturalized, as dill has done?

I've done two things to help me decide which non-native plants are ok to grow here. First, I try v. hard to listen to the land, both by observing what works here and by trancing and talking to the spirit of the land. Second, I'm consulting with my landscape designer, who grew up and went to school in this part of Virginia and who understands my concerns about working with the land, its genius locii, its spirit. He's been a good source for information about what will grow well here, what trees this land appears to willingly receive, and what to avoid.

Lately, too, I've been wondering what the carbon footprint is for a project like landscaping my little yard. I'll be adding a number of trees to the ones already here and I'm looking speculatively at the roof of my garden shed and thinking about green roofs.


Kathleen said...

I do hope you'll put in a green roof, you know how much I adore them. K.

Anonymous said...

Heya Hecate,

You probably already know about it being a witch and all ;) but Yarrow is a good non-native herb. It helps soil quality, helps prevent erosion, and is beneficial to surrounding herbs. Not to mention all the medicinal uses for us humans!

War On War Off

Anne Johnson said...

If you plant mugwort, that's all you'll have in ten years. Please trust me on that. It has so overrun my yard that I've given up gardening almost completely.

nanoboy said...

My mom runs a little greenhouse operation that sells native and beneficial plants of Oklahoma. Check her out at