Green spaces—gardens, parks, nature trails, urban forests—are a lifeline at any time but especially, as many of us have discovered, during a pandemic.
Native plants have virtue. They’re good for the environment. Planting them is the right thing to do. Planting them may even save the planet. How could any gardener or landscape designer not choose native plants? I confess to reacting with a bit of resistance when I first heard statements such as these.
Chamaecyparis obtusa, the Hinoki Cypress (or Falsecypress), stands quietly in the garden, commanding attention but requiring minimal care.
At a lecture earlier this year hosted by Montgomery County’s Brookside Gardens, David Culp, author of The Layered Garden, explained the garden design process at Brandywine Cottage, his home in southeastern Pennsylvania. Plants spoke first, Culp listened and responded, and a garden evolved, built on plants selected for sustainability and designed (or layered, as Culp describes it) for visual appeal in every season.
A native of the eastern U.S., the Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) grows as a small tree or multi-stemmed shrub with an airy feel, more delicate than the better-known Southern Magnolia. It lightens the garden with leaves that open chartreuse in spring, grow longer than wide, and show silver when turned by the wind. The clustered leaves provide a clear view of the plant’s graceful stems, and in a breeze, the leaf clusters seem to float.