Finding the beauty - Native plants in the ornamental garden

Kinnikkinnick

Native plants conjure up a diverse array of emotions, depending on who you ask. Unruly or unkempt spaces to some, pollinator heaven to others. But most don’t usually associate native plants with a sleek, modern space, or a cheery, seasonal bounty of lush blooming gardens, regrettably. Native plants are adaptable to countless types of gardens, adding beauty to a space and benefitting the wildlife all around us.

 In the Northwest, asking about native plants usually invokes images of our majestic evergreens, however 100’ tall trees aren’t the best option for a small, city garden. And our prairies in the Pacific Northwest come alive in the spring. While they do hold a host of beautiful ephemerals to grace an urban landscape, these plants are typically dormant by the height of summer when locals are spending evenings outside in the garden.  When looking beyond these springtime ephemerals, I look to Pacific Northwest native evergreens.

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, or kinnikinnick, is a favorite that holds its own with the best of the ornamentals on the market. This trailing, evergreen groundcover flowers in the spring and fruits later in the season. It loves a hot, dry sunny spot, and looks beautiful trailing over a wall, or inching down a slope. The less irrigation the better for this one, increasing its street cred in Western Washington’s summer-dry climate.

Kinnikinnick works equally well in modern gardens and those that are more relaxed. The birds love the berries and the flowers are an early pollinator source of nectar. It has a great use for stabilizing steep hillsides too, making it an excellent choice for restoration projects. Give this native beauty a try in your next project. 

Naomi Goodman

Seattle, WA 98107