Sunday, November 20, 2022

A Passion for Native Plant Gardening

Once in a great while,
 I'll see a peachy glow as I look out the living room window.
It's the signal of the beginning of a fantastic sunset 
at the backside of the yard.

     ~Albert Laighton

I walked alone in depths of autumn woods;
The ruthless winds had left the maple bare
The fern was withered, and the sweetbrier's breath
No longer gave its fragrance to the air.

The barberry strung its coral beads no more;
The thistle-down on gauzy wings had flown;
And myriad leaves, on which the Summer wrote
Her blushing farewells, at my feet were strown.

A loneliness pervaded every spot;
A gloom of which my musing soul partook;
All Nature mourns, I said; November wild
Hath torn the fairest pages from her book.

But suddenly a wild bird overhead
Poured forth a note so strangely clear and sweet,
It seemed to bring me back the skies of May,
And wake the sleeping violets at my feet.

Then long I pondered o'er the poet's words,
' The loss of beauty is not always loss,'
Till like the voice of love they soothed my pain,
And gave me strength to bear again my cross.

O murmuring heart! thy pleasures may decay,
Thy faith grow cold, thy golden dreams take wing;
Still in the realm of faded youth and joy,
Heaven kindly leaves some bird of hope to sing.

Poison Ivy beginning its fall glory

American Wild Senna, Senna hebecarpa
The seed pods haven't opened yet.

Low bird bath in back yard before it was drained 
and turned upside down for winter.

Juniper Branches

Telling someone I garden with native plants to attract wildlife, well… it brings up images of coyotes, raccoons, groundhogs, rabbits and mice; all those things’ people seem to hate in a garden.  For thirty years my back yard neighbor lined his side of our chain link fence with whirligigs and mothballs to repel groundhogs from entering his yard, even though I have yet to spy any groundhogs in residence.

My yard with house and gardens is a one fourth acre plot in the suburbs south of Nashville, Tennessee.  Wilderness originally existed next to us, but over time the suburbs expanded leaving us isolated from that wilderness.  We garden to attract all insects and birds, so no pesticides are used.  Other wildlife is welcomed, although the selection has dwindled over the years.

I garden with native plants of Tennessee, or more specifically, the Outer Nashville Basin, and less specific, the Southeast Region.  The Southeast Region varies according to which map one looks at, as to which states are included.  The up-to-date flora map of the southeast region is more accurate climate wise.

It’s best for me to use natives that evolved in this region and are adapted to living here, in terms of climate, soil, water needs, and interaction with other plants and animal species.  Natives that have not been altered by human desires, and remain in their natural state regarding characteristics such as bloom size and growth habit, etc.  That means they have been molded only by natural selection and are expertly equipped to live in this area.

To acquire these native plants, I must either dig them out of the wild, which is unethical, or grow new ones from seeds collected in this area, state or region. 

One striking Red Oak leaf left among the brown ones.

A Female Midge, Chironomus plumosus
The male has antennae that are feathered.
Seen before freezing weather.

A cat ID Tag dug up by the ash tree when I began gardening.
I've always wondered if Iggy lived a good life.

Winterberry leaves late to fall to the ground, 
while berries will laste until eaten by birds.

With plant eating cats in our home and no room for a greenhouse in our yard, it’s been difficult finding local nurseries that grow area native plants from seed.  This garden contains plants grown mostly by seed, from nurseries in middle and east Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, and Louisiana.

Nativars and cultivars… things keep getting more complicated, don’t they?  A cultivar is a native plant that has been bred by humans to have a dozen different colors, be more extravagant looking than the original, changed in size or shape, or… you get the idea.  It sometimes feels like a marketing strategy to sell more plants.  What attracted pollinators to the original plants, like pollen, nectar or fragrance, doesn’t always exist in the new cultivars.

SAMPLE:  Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ - Lonicera sempervirens = name of species, ‘Major Wheeler’ = name of cultivar, which is unitalicized and set off in single quotation marks.  If the plant species has a name attached to it then you know it is a cultivar or nativar.

The Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural Landscape organization considers nativars the same as cultivars, because the natural cross formed in the wild is cloned into thousands of identical plants creating a loss of genetic diversity.  Whether the seeds will be true to the original is not guaranteed; therefore, it is cloned instead for resale.

By cloned, we mean cuttings were taken from the original cultivar or nativar and rooted in pots to plant or sell; creating identical plants to the original, down to its genetic makeup; therefore, no genetic diversity.  If we plant the seeds, then we have genetic diversity; but, of course, no guarantee the seedlings will be true to the same characteristics that nature breed or that humans breed.

Being a purist native plant gardener has been difficult, as the rules have changed multiple times over the years.  To replant a garden more than once, well… let’s just say, I only do it in patches now, if at all.

Allegheny Spurge
Pachysandra procumbens
Evergreen in the winter, shedding old growth when new growth begins.

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus Moench
The author name for the plant classification, 'Moench'
is for Conrad Moench, (1744-1805),
German botanist and author who also named the genus Echinacea.

Clematis Seed Cluster

Butterfly Weed seedpods are still popping open
to let the wind take the fluff crowned seeds away.

Aromatic Aster still blooming smaller flowers

I seldom talk about my passion for how I have chosen to garden, and the above is who I am while gardening; but, of course, I fall in love and stray a bit here and there, after all… it is a garden.  Overwhelmed these past few months with peripheral neuropathy pain, this post isn’t quite what I wish it to be, but that’s life, isn’t it?

An opossum regularly visited this past summer and into the fall, and always extra sunflower chips were left on the ground for its nightly visits to the bird feeder.  It gave me much joy seeing those wads of sunflower hulls messing up the ground, as I then knew he was still a living part of my garden.

I saw him in the Juniper tree where he fled to when Vic, walking our dog, scared him.  It was late day on the eve of temperatures plummeting into the twenties (F) for all of last week.  Sadly, the seed lies untouched now, so I think the poor little tike is no more.

Opossums don’t have winter coats, others to curl up with to stay warm or store food for winter.  They survive fridged winters only if they find warm shelter and food in a sparse landscape.  My yard is too small to put an opossum house on the ground, as skunks and raccoons might find it inviting also.  It’s a harsh life being wild, and I’m not always able to step in.

Walking the back gardens to find something photogenic this early morning that felt like winter, well… I lasted but twenty minutes while the sharp winds weaved their way through the fabric of my coat chilling me to the bone.  Later, as I looked through my meager array of photos, it’s clear my gardens have enchanted me into thinking they’re still, well… still enchanting. 

What I do find enchanting though are Charlotte, Austin, and Dustin; our two stray cats who found us one cold winter, and our little terrier-mix dumped by the roadside and who, quite literally, jumped into the back seat of my car and into our hearts.



The Twins 💕 


...we can only be said to be alive in those moments
when our hearts are conscious of our treasure... 

~Thornton Wilder, The Woman of Andros, 1930

Happy Thanksgiving



  1. passion is limited when it comes to poison ivy.

    1. You made me laugh! Sometimes it escapes me for another year.

  2. Hello Yvonne,
    Lovely post, it is great your garden is full of native plants and no pesticides are used. We are on well water here so we do not use any pesticides. Beautiful images, love your sweet kitties and Dustin. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. Have a wonderful week!

  3. You're home with the cats and the dog looks very cozy. I could imagine myself sitting in this lovely chair beside the window, reading and enjoying the company of your furry friends. Have a good time, Alex

  4. It would be a huge boost for the environment and a haven for biodiversity if everyone would plant a native garden. There does seem to be a greater acceptance of it now and some garden centres are promoting it, even municipalities.

  5. Have a good Thanksgiving! Enjoy your wonderful pets, flowers and plants!

  6. Awesome sunset pics. Great post Yvonne

  7. Poor Iggy! I guess s/he is fertilizing your garden!

  8. I feel certain with a name such as Iggy that he was a very happy cat.


  9. Beautiful pictures. The sunset shots are brilliant!

  10. Great selection of photos. Lovely sunsets. Always good to settle down and relax with the pets.

  11. Your garden is a paradise for birds, insects and of course cats and dogs. I like these biological diversity and gardening without poison.
    Enjoy all those beautiful sunsets! The pics are great.

  12. Hello Yvonne, My visit to Perfection … More or Less, this morning, finds the needle decidedly in the **More** portion of the scale. Where to start? The sky photos are beauties. The evening glow is gorgeous. I enjoyed your description of gardening with native plants and how you go about accomplishing it. I am curious about Iggy. I wonder if Iggy was put to rest under the Ash tree many years ago? That is definitely a sweet tag and I’ll bet Iggy was as well. Learned a lot from your writing about nativars and cultivars. Love the five images after that segment. And, oh my, closing with sweetness … Charlotte, Austin, and Dustin. A beauty of a post, Yvonne, and thank you for sharing. Also, thank you for your recent kind comments on my blog. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Best regards from Seattle, John

  13. What a wonderful post and amazing sunsets. We also try to plant for the birds, beast and insects. We do though have a bigger garden than you. We have a non heated greenhouse that seems to work in winter for most of my outdoor pot plants. We also grow our own vegetables.
    Thanks for the visit and the comment.
    Happy Thanksgiving, Diane

  14. Happy content pets and beautiful sunsets! Love hearing more about your gardening too. Happy weekend!

  15. The coral berries are such a beautiful color. My gardens are done for the year although I checked on my autumn ferns today and they are still looking gorgeous.

  16. These are fabulous pictures. I so love those sky shots with beautiful silhouettes.

  17. Incredible photography as always, Yvonne!
    Those sunset photos are incredible!

  18. I'm happy about your natural garden, which is a thousand times more beautiful than a well-kept lawn behind the house! Animals also need their habitat, how nice it is that some animals could and still can find it with you and I don't just mean your pets.
    The sunset you photographed is beautiful, just right for my sky gallery?

  19. What beautiful photos of the sunset.
    I think you have a beautiful garden.
    Greetings Irma

  20. Hello,
    Gorgeous sky captures. Your garden looks lovely, beautiful photos. I love all your sweet furbabies. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, enjoy your day and the rest of the week ahead.

  21. I loved reading that post Yvonne. Your passion for the natural world of plants and animals is clear to see. Your detailed knowledge is remarkable.

  22. Magnificent nature shot ~ Divine ~ Xo ~ Awesome fur persons photos too ~

    Wishing you good health, laughter and love in your days,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  23. Such a lovely post Yvonne, so serene and calming in your little corner of the world. Wishing you a blessed and joyous holiday season, a time to nest...


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