This commentary is by Ron Krupp, author of “The Woodchuck’s Guide to Gardening,” “The Woodchuck Returns to Gardening” and his forthcoming book, “The Woodchuck’s Guide to Ornamentals & Landscape Plants.”
Native pollinator plants have long been ignored in our landscapes, but that’s changing. They are, by nature, hardier, better adapted to climate change and provide critical habitat for wildlife. Plus, they have attractive flowers, colorful berries and fall foliage.
Over winter, I love to observe the red stems of the native Red Osier dogwood in my community garden.
Douglas Tallamy’s book “Bringing Nature Home” describes how nonnative plants have low resource value for our native animals and insects and, as well, displace our valuable native flora. He says that we don’t have enough wild places left to allow nonnative plants to thrive.
The growing demand for native plants in ecological landscaping, including pollinator habitat gardens, has led to the selection and breeding of native cultivars. A native cultivar or “nativar” is a cultivated variety of a native plant that has been selected by humans (in nature or through repeated selections in a breeding program), cross-bred, and/or hybridized by botanists and plant breeders seeking desirable characteristics that can be maintained through propagation.
The flowers of Native Cultivars may vary from the native species in size, shape, abundance, color, and bloom time — all attributes known to influence pollinator visitation. In addition to floral traits, native cultivars are sometimes selected for disease resistance, and more predictable sizes and shapes than their wild relatives, making