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...

February 11, 2016

Succulents: A Mainstay Of The Green Revolution

Succulents offer many options for growers to provide waterwise, low-maintenance plants that work well for green infrastructure and other environmentally focused projects.

Read More

February 10, 2016

Poinsettia Production On The Decline

Poinsettia production is on the decline in several of the top 15 poinsettia-producing states.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Market

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More
Latest Stories

February 11, 2016

Succulents: A Mainstay Of The Green Revolution

Succulents offer many options for growers to provide waterwise, low-maintenance plants that work well for green infrastructure and other environmentally focused projects.

Read More

February 10, 2016

Poinsettia Production On The Decline

Poinsettia production is on the decline in several of the top 15 poinsettia-producing states.

Read More
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Ma…

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triu…

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Eu…

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More

February 1, 2016

12 New Poinsettias For Holiday Growing

Poinsettias are still a consumer favorite during the holidays for home décor and gift giving. For greenhouse growers looking to get a jumpstart on purchasing young plants for the 2016 poinsettia growing season, there is no shortage of great varieties to choose from. Here are 12 new varieties to keep in mind for holiday product offerings.

Read More

January 27, 2016

Costa Farms’ Season Premier Provides Sneak Peek A…

Costa Farms presented the 2016 Season Premier at its 2-acre Trial Gardens in Miami, FL, in the third week of January. The event showcases varieties from breeders of all sizes to growers and major retail buyers, providing a look at what genetics are coming to the market and how they’ll perform in retail settings and in the landscape, when consumers bring them home. The mild winter climate in South Florida allows Costa Farms’ Research and Development Department to simulate the spring growing conditions of various regions in the country. Because each group of visitors to Costa Farms’ Trial Gardens wants to see what the new plants look like in the environments that matter to them, Season Premier offers several areas within the Trial Gardens that highlight different ways to look at the wealth of new varieties. The New Product Showcase offers a way for retailers to see how plants will […]

Read More

January 26, 2016

Beekenkamp And Danziger Partner To Distribute Poinsetti…

Danziger is continuing to expand its portfolio of products to the U.S. market with the addition of poinsettia cuttings of Beekenkamp’s varieties.

Read More

January 24, 2016

Positive Consumer Experiences Help Advance The Orchid C…

HGTV HOME Plant Collection plans to expand its Fresh Style product line through a partnership with Green Circle Growers (Oberlin, Ohio), which will supply decorative orchids, tropical plants, and indoor garden combinations. Greenhouse Grower asked Maxwell Sherer about Green Circle's orchid program, the latest trends he’s seeing, and where he thinks orchid growing is headed in the future.

Read More
Sansevieria in Corner of home

January 21, 2016

Tropical And Indoor Foliage Plants Emerge As A Lifestyl…

Consumers are incorporating houseplants into their everyday lives, which is driving the trends toward smaller-size plants and unique products that appeal to a younger demographic.

Read More
Pollinator-Conference-NC State

January 20, 2016

How To Promote Pollinator-Friendly Plants This Spring

Following last year’s launch of the National Pollinator Garden Network, groups like the National Garden Bureau and others remind growers that offering pollinator-friendly plants is a great way to keep up with consumer demand.

Read More
Caladium Painted Frog Series (Plants Nouveau)

January 17, 2016

16 New Foliage Plants To Round Out The Garden

Every garden needs a good mix of flowering and foliage plants for an attention-grabbing show of thrillers, fillers, and spillers. These new foliage varieties will not only act as a lush backdrop for colorful blooms, they can also stand on their own with their noteworthy textures and colors.

Read More
California Coast

January 13, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For The 2016 California Spring Tri…

It’s time to think about registering for the 2016 California Spring Trials. You won’t want to miss any stops along the way, so use this quick reference to help with planning for your trip.

Read More
David Roberts Bailey Nuseries Feature Image

January 12, 2016

Bailey Nurseries’ David Roberts Says New, Novel Varieti…

Roberts was recently hired by Bailey Nurseries to be the General Manager and Breeder for Plant Introductions, Inc., which Bailey acquired last year.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

January 11, 2016

Kelly Norris: Questioning The Purpose Of New Plants

Norris asks if the time has come to rethink new plant introductions, or how we market them to consumers.

Read More
Weeks Roses Miss Congeniality

January 11, 2016

Weeks Roses Introduces New Lineup Of Roses For 2016

Weeks breeds and grows a wide range of rose bushes, all of which are field tested for many factors.

Read More
CAST2015_Floranova_Vegetalis_Ageratum Cloud Nine Blue

January 8, 2016

Floranova Opening New Chile-Based Research Station, For…

Floranova has announced it is building a new research station in Chile that will open in mid-2016. As a result, the company will not participate in the 2016 California Spring Trials, but says it will be back in 2017.

Read More
Streptocarpus 'Yellow Blue Eye' (Green Fuse Botanicals)

January 5, 2016

15 Flowering Foliage And Tropical Plants For The Home A…

Tropical and foliage plants are the ultimate lifestyle plants because they enrich the environment and provide mood-boosting benefits. Take into account some of these new introductions for a crop mix that helps your customers realize the true benefits of plants.

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