New varieties stem from hardy native flowers

Many farm families lead busy lives and have little time to garden and no patience with plants that need to be coddled. They want hardy, dependable plants that can survive without an onerous maintenance regimen. 


Take a walk in a meadow or along roadside ditches and make a list of the native plants that are flowering among the grasses and native plants. These hardy native flowering plants are adapted to our environment.


Observe the different bloom times, which you might note in order to achieve a succession of blooms in your own garden. 


A spring stroll will reveal delicate Solomon seal plants blooming in shady spots as well as anemones and several campanulas (bellflowers). Earlier on, the native crocus blooms atop hillsides.


In early summer, columbines and gaillardia are in full bloom. The latter are often found growing in the gravel shoulders of country roads. 


The flowers of filipendula and achillea (yarrow) make an appearance soon after that and by mid-summer, the iconic tiger lily will show its orange plumage along with the purple liatrus and coneflowers.


As autumn approaches, there are several varieties of goldenrod coming into bloom one by one, while the yellow heliopsis (false sunflower) will add more golden colour to the ditches. 


Plant breeders have developed new varieties of these dependable plants, minimizing their negative characteristics and maximizing positive traits.


For example, the dirty white blooms of the native achillea (yarrow) have given way to red, pink, and bright gold flowers of new varieties. 


The leggy and rather nondescript heliopsis has been bred to produce cultivars such as H. Lorraine Sunshine that forms wonderful clumps of variegated foliage and uniform daisy-like blooms over a period of months.


The small red and yellow native columbines have morphed into plants that produce large flowers that come in colours, including dark purple, bright pink and pure yellow. The spurs are usually a contrasting colour to the petals, creating wonderful displays in the garden.


Hybrid gaillardias and heliopsis are compact plants in contrast to their native cousins, which are rather rangy. 


Perennials that originate from local native plants have the hardiness and versatility of their native parents while other characteristics have been altered to make them suitable for domestic cultivation.


Albert Parsons has a diploma in horticulture from Guelph University. He operates a garden design/landscape consultation business from his home in Minnedosa, Man. Contact: countrygarden@producer.com.