Native Spotlight: Spring Dreaming

Guest Blog by Rachel Shaw 

February is the time for making plans for the coming gardening year. There are limited and not very enticing tasks that can be done in the yard now, weather permitting: picking up downed branches and pulling winter-hardy weeds come to mind. Pruning can be pleasant on a nice day. Otherwise, not much else to do besides dream of spring and make plans. So instead of focusing on a particular native that I have taken pleasure in growing, I’m going to write about a few plants that I’d like to grow or that I’ve grown in the past and would like to grow more of.

One in the latter category is Spiderwort, Tradescantia virginiana. I started a few of these 5-6 years ago, and they did well enough for a while. But I think they have been crowded out as I’ve added to the bed; the Red Osier Dogwood has probably encroached pretty hard on their territory. Likewise, I’m afraid the delicate Rue Anemone, Thalictrum thalictroides is being crowded out by the Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) which has both the advantage and disadvantage of being a very successful groundcover.

Rue Anemone
I’d like to acquire more of the Spiderwort and the Rue Anemone this spring, and give them conditions in which to thrive. This means being careful about the plants’ requirements, of course. And it also means reminding myself that just because I love a plant and it is wildly successful doesn’t mean I have to let it crowd out other plants that I love. 

Other natives that are a sparse a presence in my yard are Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), Wild Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia), and Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), although the two Twinleaf plants bloomed thrillingly last spring and I’m hoping for their return. This year I’ll also be looking to find some things I haven’t tried to grow. Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) is one I have in mind. 

There’s a formerly overgrown area of the yard that I had help getting thoroughly weeded this fall. I then threw down a bunch of seeds from existing plants. Even if many germinate, there will be a shady strip where I can introduce some newcomers.

What new things end up in the yard depends in part on what shows up at the native plants sales I manage to get to. And once in a while something will emerge from the ground that I never planted but that found its way from elsewhere, proved to be native, and made itself at home. Such adventures to look forward to with the advent of spring!

What new plans or new native plants do you have in mind for your yard this year?

About the author:
Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, MD. She blogs at
This guest blog post is part of a monthly Native Plants series that Rachel will be posting here around the 10th of each month.


Kit Gage said…
Spigelia marylandica! Likes some sun but half sun is fine.
Rachel Shaw said…
Hi Kit, I planted some Spigelia marylandica last year and love it!
eileen said…
I have spiderwort aplenty which I would be more than happy to give you. It tries to take over in my garden….
Rachel Shaw said…
Eileen, thanks, I would love to have some spiderwort! Email me at and we can figure out the when and where.

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