The Issue of Nativars

The Issue of Nativars

Just a few columns ago, I suggested we all need to seriously consider the issue of native plants. I said we should be telling people many of the plants we already grow are American natives, or at least make a Native Plant heading on your availability list. The desire to use natives is no longer a fad.

The movements to ecological awareness, to gardening as a lifestyle — not an activity — and the need to make gardening more of a feel-good experience are washing over us. A subset of the feel-good experiences is the desire to include more native plants in American landscapes and gardens. Great performing plants and native plants are not at all exclusive.

Why would I suggest that you can get into trouble if you grow natives? It comes down to peoples’ very different definitions of a native plant. There are often two big questions when a fight breaks out about native plants.

The first that always rears its head is, “What do you mean by native?” Native to your county, your state, your region or your country? Native when Columbus sailed the ocean blue or when Erik the Red discovered Greenland in 986? For many people, this falls into the realm of politics and religion. For me, when I talk about natives, I define them as those plants that were on the North American mainland before the Europeans arrived. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. As for you, find a definition you are comfortable with and do the same.

The second is far more inflammatory. “Is a cultivar between two native species still a native?” Certainly, the answer is no to those who work in woodland or coastline reclamation or to those who want to plant native meadows or maintain purity of species. That is fine. There are many plants to choose from. However, what about my daughters, my design students, people in my audiences and my friends who want to use natives but need better garden performance than a species can provide? If we, as an industry, are ever going to get native plants into the mainstream, we have take advantage of the new breeding and selection in foam flowers, cone flowers and tickseeds. The promotion of cultivars is the only way we can help fill the desire to include native plants.

As a compromise between these two lines of thought, I suggest we call native cultivars and hybrids “nativars.” If we use this term, purists may not get as upset with us for stealing their plants and diluting the meaning of “native.” We will also reduce confusion and in fact provide additional value to the native moniker. Using nativars will in the long run enhance the native plant movement, regardless of how it is defined. They will also increase our ability to get good plants into the hands of those who want that feel-good reaction and not feel guilty in doing so.

According to native plant purists, cultivars just sully up the game plan. According to breeders of baptisias, monarda and phlox, purists are nothing but collectors. Don’t get into arguments, find your comfort level. Use or don’t use nativars. But understand one thing — the lifestyle movement is here to stay.

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
SunPatiens Sakata Medal of Excellence Feature

June 29, 2016

SunPatiens Earns The 2016 Medal Of Excellence In Marketing Award

With its reputation for excellent garden performance from spring to frost, and as a problem-solver for Impatiens Downy Mildew, SunPatiens has become a “hero plant” that helps gardeners succeed.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

June 28, 2016

Kelly Norris: Three Variety Trends That Caught My Eye This Spring

My reflections on promising new plants, the realities of market penetration, and adding value along the supply chain.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

June 25, 2016

Three Types Of Plant Consumers To Watch

There are three emerging groups of plant consumers that you should be targeting for plant sales in the future, according to Allan Armitage.

Read More
Latest Stories
SunPatiens Sakata Medal of Excellence Feature

June 29, 2016

SunPatiens Earns The 2016 Medal Of Excellence In Market…

With its reputation for excellent garden performance from spring to frost, and as a problem-solver for Impatiens Downy Mildew, SunPatiens has become a “hero plant” that helps gardeners succeed.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

June 28, 2016

Kelly Norris: Three Variety Trends That Caught My Eye T…

My reflections on promising new plants, the realities of market penetration, and adding value along the supply chain.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

June 25, 2016

Three Types Of Plant Consumers To Watch

There are three emerging groups of plant consumers that you should be targeting for plant sales in the future, according to Allan Armitage.

Read More
FleuroStar Award Ceremony

June 20, 2016

Begonia Hybrid ‘Miss Malibu’ Takes Home FleuroStar Awar…

The award from Fleuroselect was announced at the Green Inspiration Event in Amsterdam.

Read More
Caryopteris 'Beyond Midnight Bluebeard'

June 20, 2016

Keep The Sales Coming With 16 New Blooming Varieties Fo…

Plants that put on a show from first frost long into fall and offer the color options consumers want for their gardens go a long way toward extending sales further into the season and can help maintain your sales momentum going strong. Check out these 16 new blooming varieties, both traditional favorites and new alternatives, for your fall crop selection.

Read More
'Osaka' Flowering Cabbage (Sakata Ornamentals)

June 18, 2016

Mark Your Calendar For Sakata Seed Trials In August

Sakata has set two dates for its California-based trials: Aug. 15-17 in Salinas, and Aug. 17-19 in Woodland.

Read More
Tomato Congress Logo

June 15, 2016

International Tomato Congress In Mexico Will Focus On G…

The event, which takes place in San Luis Potosi from July 20-22, will feature discussions on production strategies, cost management in protected structures, and optimizing your greenhouse environment.

Read More
Nir Nursery Wax Flower Pot Plant

June 14, 2016

Danziger Reaches Deal To Distribute Nir Nursery Varieti…

With the agreement, Danziger becomes the exclusive distributor of Nir’s product line, which includes cut flowers, foliage, pot, and garden plants.

Read More

June 14, 2016

Dümmen Orange Expands Its Succulent Offerings Through N…

According to Dümmen Operations Director Kate Santos, succulents are an attractive growth category because of their ease of use, shelf life in stores, drought tolerance, and versatility in application.

Read More
'Osaka' Flowering Cabbage (Sakata Ornamentals)

June 14, 2016

New Cool Season, Vegetable, And Foliage Crops For Fall …

Whether you’re providing pansies and violas to the garden center for fall color or decorative edibles to grace patio containers, consider these 16 varieties for fall crop sales, newly introduced for 2016 and hitting retail in 2017.

Read More
Calibrachoa Chameleon Sunshine Berry (Westflowers) - Feature

June 9, 2016

Fall Crop Alternatives That Can Increase Your Sales

There’s a lot of competition for grabbing your share of fall mum sales. Give your program a boost with new varieties that complement traditional fall crops.

Read More

June 7, 2016

It’s Time To Rethink The Value And Timing Of Cali…

Fourteen years ago, Greenhouse Grower saw an opportunity to bring next-day coverage of California Pack Trials (now California Spring Trials or CAST) to your inbox. The objective was to be your eyes and ears on location, to report the debut of the newest varieties and marketing programs, and report major breeder announcements, especially for those not attending. We continued to develop new story-telling tools with video capabilities, slideshows, and more. And once social media took hold, everyone attending CAST became reporters of their favorite varieties and displays at trials. So we’re left with the question — how should we continue to evolve our coverage, to bring the most value for you? It’s easy to fall into a certain pattern, to stick with what works — or seems to work. And just because you’re working really hard at something that you’ve had success with in the past, it doesn’t mean it’s […]

Read More
Carex 'Eversheen' (Hoffman Nursery)

June 7, 2016

Hoffman Nursery Has A New 30-Year Anniversary Look!

The new redesign of the Hoffman Nursery website packs in more content than ever with updated resources and 30 years of experience growing grasses.

Read More
GG June Cover image

June 6, 2016

The State Of Plant Breeding In 2016

Breeding companies look to strengthen their competitive advantage, easing the way for growers to procure new plant varieties and for consumers to grow with confidence.

Read More
Petunia Queen of Hearts

June 1, 2016

Danziger Introducing New Petunia Amore Series, And More…

Danziger “Dan” Flower Farm is planning to introduce 60 new varieties from its 2016-17 collection at the annual event, including petunias, bidens, and calibrachoa.

Read More
Nathan Lamkey Chuck Pavlich Allan Armitage talk about muckgenia

May 31, 2016

Allan Armitage: Three Trends (Good And Bad) That Caught…

We need to put the same energies we invest into California Spring Trials to get plants into consumers’ hands and encourage young people in the industry to attend.

Read More
National Garden Bureau California Vegetable Summer Trials

May 26, 2016

California Summer Vegetable Trials In August Will Cover…

The National Garden Bureau is once again organizing summer vegetables trials this August in California, giving attendees the opportunity to visit with several breeding companies.

Read More
Eason 2017 Perennials Guide

May 25, 2016

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials G…

The two guides are available in digital and print versions and offer information from several breeders.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]