Formal gardening with native plants in Wildflower magazine

Native plants have come so far in the past 20 or so years. Once considered weeds, they’re now treasured by those who make gardens that attract pollinators and other wildlife, need less irrigation to thrive, and convey a unique sense of place. Enthusiasts readily fill their cottage and wildscape gardens with native plants. Even traditional suburban landscapes and clean-lined modern gardens that make use of native plants are not uncommon.

But one style of garden has not yet embraced the native plant revolution: formal gardens. I tackle this topic and offer design suggestions for using native plants in a formal setting in my latest article for Wildflower, the magazine for members of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. “Thinking Outside the Box(wood)” can be found in the current issue, Spring 2016.

Want to get your hands on a copy? Become a member of the Wildflower Center! Members are subscribed to this beautiful and informative quarterly magazine, and you also get reciprocal membership at hundreds of public gardens in North America (a perk I take advantage of whenever I travel), a 10% discount at the Wildflower Center’s gift shop, free admission to the garden year-round, discounts at various events and plant sales, and more. Plus you’re supporting the center’s mission of conserving, restoring, and creating healthy landscapes.

The article is illustrated with photos by the inimitable Saxon Holt and Karen Bussolini, and a couple of my own as well. It’ll eventually be online, and I’ll link to it then.

By the way, Wildflower has a temporary new editor-in-chief, Lee Clippard of the Martha Stewart Living-recognized blog The Grackle. He did a terrific job on his first issue as editor!


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Join me for my kick-off garden talk this Saturday, February 27, at 10 am, at The Natural Gardener nursery in southwest Austin. My talk is called “Hold the Hose! How to Make Your Garden Water Thrifty and Beautiful,” and it’s free to the public. Afterward I’ll have signed copies of my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, available for purchase ($20 each, includes tax) and will be glad to autograph one for you! Dress for the weather, as the talk will be held in the big tent outside.

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All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

7 Responses

  1. Love the title, very clever! Interesting subject, too! Glad you’re doing a lot of writing lately, you have a real talent for it.

  2. pauline says:

    Hi there, I’ve been looking for examples of this. My husband loves formal/symmetrical landscaping and I’m pushing natives. This is the solution I’ve been researching … any other resources you can point me to?

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Hi, Pauline. It is surprisingly difficult to find much on this topic. If you’re in the Northeast, you might want to visit Mt. Cuba Center, which focuses on native plants and includes a formal garden. Other than that, I’d just suggest reading up on native plants and formal design techniques, and choosing natives that will fulfill the roles traditionally played by boxwood, roses, and other non-natives. Happy gardening! —Pam

  3. Diana Studer says:

    In fact a formal garden has a refreshing appeal
    if it is planted with indigenous instead of the same old same old.

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