Native plants

They're everywhere and we could do worse! Here's another tiarella or foam flower - 'Brandywine,' which was one of the plants featured at a native plant talk last night in my East Falls neighborhood. Garden designer and writer Charlotte Kidd spoke to about 20 folks who came out in the rain to learn more. Her talk began, as native plant talks do, with a discussion of exactly what constitutes a "native." Basically, it's a plant that, over time, has become acclimated to a region's soil, weather and moisture. It's a plant with high value to wildlife, that produces seeds and fruits in sync with that area's birds, insects and animals. So far, so good. Why, then, do natives have a reputation for being blah? I guess when you put them up against the rock 'em-sock 'em newbies that appear on the marketplace stage every year, that's true. But really, many natives are more subtle, easier on the eyes and, with some exceptions, the knees and back, as well having value added for critters. Charlotte showed pictures and passed around potted natives with lovely flowers and foliage. We learned about tiarella, of course, but also columbine, baptisia, phlox, hardy geranium, winterberry, penstemon, coreopsis, Solomon's seal, elderberry, carex, heuchera, nepeta, amsonia, monarda and more. All of them are terrific plants - in the right place, of course, which is a lesson I still struggle with. Charlotte's talk, and a companion presentation by Antonio Federici, a master gardener, Audubon adviser and manager of the city Water Department's backyard buffer program, were part of a "green" series hosted by the East Falls Development Corporation. It was a smart, high-caliber experience. Let's have more.