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Texas Natives That Are Ideal for Cottage Gardens or English Style Gardens

Updated: Jul 18, 2021

Let’s be honest, when most people think “Texas native plants” you think desert/xeriscape and cacti. It’s ok, we all do at first. Not all Texas native plants are agaves and yuccas though. We are blessed with a very long, albeit hot, growing season, and we have so many native plants that have really long bloom periods, with big showy flowers or great bloom strength. This makes them ideal for both cottage-style gardens and English gardens. You could also find plenty that are ideal for modern or more minimalist landscaping, but I think if you’re here on our page you’re probably looking for some flower power!


Salvia:

Salvia remains my favorite perennial genus, period. It’s one of the largest plant genera that exists, with around 1,000 different species. This gives salvias great versatility, coming in every color, shape, and size under the moon. I’m going to touch on two specific species: salvia greggii (Autumn Sage) and salvia farinacea (blue mealycup sage). Salvias blend really well in the garden, especially in a cottage or English type garden style. They have relatively small blooms but in clustered spikes, giving a neat, wispy appearance and an explosion of color. Salvias have fragrant foliage, due to several compounds in the leaves, so they’re generally left alone by deer, rabbits, and even most insects. Salvias are generally drought tolerant and love sun.


~Pink Preference, Plant Delights


Salvia greggii is a great plant for our area, with an extremely long bloom period. In mild years, if temperatures don’t drop below 15°F, they stay nice and evergreen, usually blooming sporadically even throughout the winter months. Water while it’s cold, or waterlogged soil is their nemesis, as they can be susceptible to root rot if given too much moisture. It’s best to let these plants do their thing, supplementing water once weekly during the summer months if we get no rain to keep them in tip top blooming shape.

~Henry Duelberg, One Love Farms


Salvia farinacea, frequently called blue mealycup sage, comes in blue, purple, and white. This is another extremely long blooming native, usually starting in April and lasting until first frost. They are not evergreen, usually dying to the soil and coming back with warmer temperatures. In my opinion, these salvia are one of the biggest bang for your buck plants in terms of flower power. They’re frequently used as annuals in colder climates due to how much they bloom. They also come in many different sizes, ranging from about 1’ x 1’ (Victoria Blue) to 3-4’ (Mystic Spires Hybrid), and several sizes in between. These are favored by our large, native bees, and butterflies.




~Rudbeckia hirta, One Love Farms


Rudbeckia:

Rudbeckia are a North America native wildflower, extending across all of the USA and into some parts of Canada, Mexico, and beyond. It is frequently used in English and cottage gardens, especially in England, where it was imported long ago and has become a favorite perennial. Please note, there are quite a few varieties of rudbeckia, some are annuals that reseed, and some are long lived perennials. In both cases they will come back yearly for you, but the self seeding annuals may not appear in the same spot you put them! These are ideal for cottage gardens and meadow areas. The large yellow flowers are enjoyed by all sorts of pollinators, and have a very long bloom season. The seedheads are great winter forage for birds (who eat beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars, and many other garden pests) and the stems and leaves help provide winter habitat for beneficial insects.





~PowWow White, One Love Farms


Echinacea:

Echinacea (coneflowers) are a quintessential flower to grow. These are staples in English and cottage gardens. These North American native wildflowers are incredibly important to all sorts of animals, including bees, butterflies, and birds. Non-cultivated varieties like echinacea purpea can be aggressive self seeders, prolifically spreading all through the garden and even in your lawn. If this isn’t your taste, try a cultivated variety. Some of my favorites are the PowWow Wildberry, PowWow White, Cheyenne Spirit, Sombrero Hot Salsa, Lakota Fire, and Yellow My Darling. There are so many types of coneflowers out there! Try to stay away from the double coneflowers, as they provide almost no nectar and no seeds for wildlife. These natives are drought tolerant, long blooming, and provide a huge pop of color and boldness in the garden. They have some of the showiest flowers of most natives.




~Firefly Diamond, Walter’s Garden Inc.

Yarrow:

Yarrow is another widespread North American native wildflower, that has crossed the ocean and made its home as a staple of cottage and English gardens. Large disks of tiny flowers, with beautiful, ferny foliage are widely avoided by deer and rabbits. Yarrow was also commonly used in Native American medicine. This herb provides tons of early summer color, and is adored by all sorts of pollinators. Newer varieties come in all sizes and shapes, with different foliage colors, flower colors, as well as some that are even sterile!



Monarda:

North America is home to quite a number of native mondara, also frequently called Bee Balm and bergamot. This is another that falls into the herb category, attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. For Texas, we have 4 species that are native. One (monarda fruticulosa) is not hardy here in Dallas, but is native to South Texas. The other three are all unique, and have a wide range across the USA.

~Monarda citriodora, One Love Farms

Monarda citriodora: also called lemon bee balm or horse mint. This one is widespread in Dallas area in particular, and is very pretty intermixed with other plants. It has a long bloom season as well.

~Monarda punctata, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


Monarda punctata: Spotted bee balm is a very unique species, with very large bracts surrounding the smaller blooms.


~Monarda fistulosa, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Monarda fistulosa: this monarda is frequently used in hybridizing, and many of the monarda’s you’ll find commercially for sale have this in their parentage. This monarda in particular is frequently used for teas and herbal remedies.





~Gaillardia pulchella, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


Gaillardia:

Gaillardia, also commonly known as blanket flower, are another North American native flower. Our Texas native species is gaillardia pulchella, also called Indian Blanket or Firewheel. This is an annual variety, which reseeds yearly. If you’re looking for an abundance of blooms all summer long, blanket flower is for you! They form nice big mounds of blooms that pollinators cannot get enough of. Drought tolerant, no major pests, and a summer full of blazing hot color is right at your fingertips! They’re super easy to start from seed, or you can try out a cultivated variety, like Mesa Peach or Red, or Heat It Up Scarlet or Yellow.


~Pink Texas Skullcap, Austin Native Landscaping

Skullcap:

Another native perennial that clocks in at the herb category is skullcap. There are several species of skullcap, and Native Americans used them for all sorts of ailments. Scutellaria suffrutescens, also called Pink Texas Skullcap, is a favorite, as is scutellaria wrightii and drummondii. Skullcaps make fantastic groundcovers, are extremely drought tolerant, and are evergreen. They generally have a long bloom period, and come in several colors. Some of the hybrid cultivars combine positive attributes from several natives.




~Midnight Masquerade, Walter’s Garden Inc.


Penstemon:

Penstemon is a large genus, and Texas has multiple native species. The great thing about penstemon, or beardtongues, is that the hybrid varieties available on the market are generally comprised of one or more Texas natives. Foxglove penstemon, also called penstemon cobaea, has large flowers, which is a trait that many hybridizer look for, and they typically cross foxglove penstemon with other varieties to achieve varieties that have the best attributes. Another favorite is the shade tolerant penstemon tenuis, also called Gulf Coast or Brazos penstemon. These spring and summer bloomers bring in tons of pollinators, and have very attractive seed pods later in the season that birds like.


I hope that you were able to gain some inspiration from this post. One of the reasons that here at One Love Farms we put such an emphasis on native plants is what they do for the environment. Native plants that flower, like all flowers, attract a variety of different pollinators, and provide food and nectar for wildlife. Native plants specifically have significant value for our native bee population. Most everyone has heard, “Save the honeybees!” at some point. While honeybees are important, and we definitely care about them too, the native bee population is in jeopardy. Native bees are mostly solitary bees, meaning they don’t live in hives with other bees. Their populations are naturally smaller, because they don’t live in a hive with 30,000 other bees. Through urbanization and the introduction of invasive plants, native plant populations that these insects depend on have been drastically reduced, which means the bee population has been reduced as well, to the point where they have become endangered. The very best thing you can do for native bees is to plant native plants. You don’t have to have everything be native. We love our roses, and those definitely aren’t native. A good rule of thumb is to try to have at least half of your garden be native plants. Plant in small drifts (groupings), and have a variety of different genus’ of plants. Avoid using pesticides entirely, as this is another direct cause of the decline in the bee population. If you let nature do it’s thing, it will take care of itself! Make sure you have a water source somewhere in your garden.

Help us protect our native bee population and give some native plants a try. I guarantee that after a while of having native plants, you’ll start to see a bunch of bees and beneficial insects you never realized existed.

Happy gardening, see you in the next one!

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