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Native Plants for Low-Maintenance Gardening

Growing a successful, low-maintenance garden in Connecticut is all about finding the right plant, for the right place, at the right time. At least, that’s what Sandi Manna, the experienced owner of M&M Garden Designs promises.

While the plant tag will have all the information you need, Manna swears by a few tried and true tips for growing a successful, easy-to-care for garden in this difficult environment. “There is an advantage to using native plants. Not only are…many of them deer resistant, they’re laso acclimated to grow in our crazy, fluctuating temperatures,” she says. Whenever possible, avoid invasive plants, such as burning bush, and substitute local plants that can handle temperature swings of thirty or forty degrees in a single day.

Consider some of Manna’s suggestions for using native plants for low-maintenance gardening to grow your best garden yet this summer.

  1. Highbush blueberry

Scientific name: Vaccinium corymbosum

Sunlight: Shade or full sun

Moisture level: Can tolerate any level, but prefers wetter soils

Bloom time: May-June

Height: 6-12 feet

Width: 6-12 feet

Attracts: Birds and mammals

This plant is an excellent substitute for burning bush, a commonly used invasive, and, according to Manna, “even produce(s) blueberries!” While invasives like burning bush can damage the animal and plant populations that live near it, highbush blueberries are native and will not produce the same detrimental changes. This deciduous shrub produces reddish-green spring leaves that turn blue-green in the summer and a deep red in fall.

  1. Serviceberry

Scientific name: Amelanchier arborea

Sunlight: Full sun or shade

Moisture level: Dry

Bloom time: April-May

Height: 12-36 feet

Width:15-20 feet

Attracts: Birds

This versatile shrub produces berries and also draws in birds. This native shrub is deer-resistant and also, Manna promises, an excellent performer in shady conditions. It can be planted as an ornamental, as it produces demonstrative masses of white flowers and deciduous leaves that turn a vibrant red in the fall.

  1. Summersweet

Scientific name: Clethra alnifolia

Sunlight: Full sun or shade

Moisture level: Wet

Bloom time: July to August

Height: 6-12 feet

Width: 3-6 feet

Attracts: Birds, butterflies, hummingbirds

This narrow, deciduous shrub produces multiple stems with oval leaves that turn orange in the fall. It tends to avoid disease and insect problems exceptionally well, and produces white, fragrant flowers that turn brown and persist into the winter. This tenacity makes the plant a wise choice in the difficult, fluctuating coastal Connecticut environment.

  1. Buttonbush

 Scientific name: Cephalanthus occidentalis

Sunlight: Partial to full shade

Moisture level: Wet

Bloom time: June to September

Height: 6 to 12 feet

Width: 6 to 12 feet

Attracts: Butterflies, birds, bees

Buttonbush is a beautiful ornamental plant that is well suited to wet soils. If grown near the water, ducks and other aquatic birds will often come to shore to eat its seeds. It produces long-lasting white or pale-pink globes of blossoms and is especially valuable to pollinators–especially bees.

  1. Witch hazel

Scientific name: Hamamelis virginiana

Sunlight: Partial to full shade

Moisture level: Moderate amounts of moisture required

Bloom time: September to December

Height: 10 to 15 feet

Width: 6 to 12 feet

Attracts: Birds

Witch hazel is a great option “for anyone who hates winter,” Manna assures us. These plants bloom well before any other plants–even crocus–and can be an indicator that a much-desired spring is on the way. Best yet, the fragrant extract of the bark, twigs, and leaves of this plant can be used as an astringent or for other household or medicinal purposes.

  1. Cardinal flower

Scientific name: Lobelia cardinalis

Sunlight: Full sun or partial shade

Moisture level: Wet

Bloom time: May to October

Height: 1-6 feet

Width: 3-6 feet

Attracts: Birds, butterflies, hummingbirds

This show stopping perennial is technically a wildflower, and depends on hummingbirds for pollination. Its flaming red flowers form a tube-like appearance. While this flower grows particularly well as a border species at the edge of a woodland garden, it can grow in just about any setting.

  1. Columbine

Scientific name: Aquilegia canadensis

Sunlight: Partial to full shade

Moisture level: Low moisture requirements

Bloom time: February to July (depending on location)

Height: 20-30 inches

Width: 20-30 inches

Attracts: Birds, butterflies, hummingbirds

Columbine is a favorite choice of Connecticut gardeners because it produces showy flowers of red, yellow, and pinkish hues. This perennial attracts hummingbirds and long-tongued insects by the hordes, containing sweet nectar that also produces a light fragrance.

  1. Coneflower

Scientific name: Echinacea purpurea

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade

Moisture level: Dry

Bloom time: April to September

Height: 2-5 feet

Width: 1-3 feet

Attracts: Butterflies and hummingbirds

This popular perennial spots purple flowers and the flowers can be harvested to brew a powerful herbal tea. This showy garden plant is easy to grow and attractive to a wide variety of pollinators. Coneflower is not deer- resistant, but according to Manna, the birds “love the seed-heads in the fall.”

While no garden can be completely without effort, Manna insists that it is possible to create a garden that requires less maintenance than other. “Shrubs will need to be pruned annually and the beds will need to be weeded, but native plants tend to be more forgiving than some other species.” Plus, she adds, they’re good for the environment.

A low-maintenance garden that’s also eco-friendly? Sounds like a win-win for everybody.

About M&M Garden Designs:

M&M Garden Designs is a landscape firm that was founded out of a love for creating great landscapes and gardens that are unique and crafted to suit each individual. Listening carefully to the needs of each client as an individual and bringing our experience and knowledge to each project, M&M consistently delivers extraordinary landscapes that are beautiful expressions of who each client is.

Katie Marie is a gardening guru, self proclaimed foodie, and regional representative for LawnStarter Hartford–a stress free online platform that connects homeowners with lawn care professionals for care-free and efficient services.

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