University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
NATIVE PERENNIALS ADD COLOR TO THE FLOWER GARDEN
By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Most perennial gardens rely on introduced species and cultivars that
have been developed by plant breeders. But many native perennials are additions
to the northern New England flower garden.
Here are ten native plants for the moist, shady perennial garden. Nestled
under a planting of native trees and shrubs, these plants add flower and
fruit color to the landscape.
- Red baneberry (Actaea rubra) and White baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)
are two to four foot perennials that produce white flowers in late spring.
Their red or white berries add interest to the fall garden.
- Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), a parent of the popular Columbine
hybrids, produces pink/yellow to red/yellow flowers in spring and is less
susceptible to leaf miners than the hybrids. Its three-foot height makes
it a good candidate for the back of the shade garden.
- Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) can reach three feet
in a rich moist shade garden. The green and purple flowers are a very interesting
addition to the spring garden.
- Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) is an 18-inch plant
that produces small yellow-green flowers in spring, before the leaves mature.
The blue berries in grape-like clusters are a beautiful addition to the
late summer shade garden.
- Turtlehead (Chelone glabra), a white-flowered three-foot plant,
is native to riverbanks and other moist, shady sites. The plant's common
name refers to the shade of its flowers, which are held in small clusters
at the tips of stems.
- Bluebead lily (Clintonia borealis) produces drooping, green-yellow
flowers in the spring, in clusters on its one-inch stems. It is more attractive
later in summer when the shiny blue fruits develop.
- Solomon's seal (Polygonatum pubescens) is a slender, pale yellow-flowered
plant that grows 18 inches tall. It is less aggressive than Great Solomon's
seal, a more common species.
- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) produces shiny white flowers
in very early spring before the leaves fully develop. The unusual-shaped
leaves die back in midsummer.
- Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) is a six-inch plant with a
spreading habit. It produces delicate white flowers in the spring.
- Labrador violet (Viola labradorica) is just a few inches tall
with a spreading habit. A purple-leaved variety it also is native and has
white/mauve flowers in the spring.
The following ten native plants can be combined in a beautiful perennial
garden for a full-sun location. In addition to providing flower interest
throughout the summer, several of these plants add textural interest to
the winter landscape.
- Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) does equally well in the sun
garden as in the shade garden.
- Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is a three-foot plant whose mauve
flowers are both fragrant and attractive to butterflies.
- New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae), 24 inches tall, produces
deep purple daisy-like flowers in late fall.
- New York Aster (Aster novi-belgii) is also 24 inches tall and
produces lighter violet flowers, also in late fall.
- Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) develops a six-inch mound
of rounded leaves with blue-violet bell-shaped flowers on 12-inch stems
- Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) is a magnificent four-foot plant
for the background of the perennial border. Its purple flowers in fall
- Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) produces creamy-white flowers
on two-foot plants in late summer.
- Blue flag (Iris versicolor) produces blue-purple flowers on
two-foot stems. Often overlooked in favor of other irises, this plant performs
very well in northern New England.
- Obedient Plant (Physostegia virginiana) is a rambunctious mint.
Its two-foot stems hold white or pink flowers in mid- to late summer. It
makes a good cut flower.
- Silvery Cinquefoil (Potentilla anserina) is a low-growing plant with
silver-leaved rosettes and yellow flowers in midsummer.
(Adapted from the North Country Garden Calendar)
Return to Perry's Perennial