With sunny days and lots of rain, it’s no wonder the gardens of the Sea to Sky are so beautiful this year! Their array of vibrant colours and bold foliage really brings the spirit of summer into our corner of the world. As is the norm in the horticultural world, most garden plants aren’t native to this area – some are even invasive species! Not to worry, though – our Plantwise program can give you the low-down on all different kinds of invasive ornamentals, and help you find some native species to replace them.
But today, rather than featuring invasive species, we’d like to give local plant life the spotlight. Although foreign ornamentals don’t cause the damage invasive species do, our ecosystem can always benefit from having more native flora around. They can play a role in soil stability, bee, moth and butterfly life cycles, bird habitats and put on a dazzling show with their unique blooms! With so much to gain and so little to lose, allow us to introduce you and your gardens to some of our favourite native species in the Sea to Sky.
First up is the elegant Lewis Flax (Linum lewisii)! This low-growing perennial boasts beautifully small, sky-blue flowers throughout late spring and mid-summer. These blooms reach much higher than the rest of the plant, anchored by tall stems and slender, silvery-green foliage near the ground. Following the height of the full flowers, heavy headed, tear-drop buds sleepily billow to the sides with weaker, spindly stems.
Not just a pretty plant, Lewis Flax holds a practical history as well. Indigenous peoples would use Lewis Flax fibres to weave fabrics, nets and baskets, and grind the fibres into a paste to clean their hair. Its leaves were also ground into a paste to act as an eyewash for irritated eyes and sensitive surrounding tissue.
Native to Canada and the northern United States, you might’ve spotted this charming little plant among sunny hiking trails, prairie ridges, ponderosa pine forests or even disturbed roadsides! Although relatively easy-going, Lewis Flax prefers dry, loamy soils, and full sun. This hardy species can be planted in traditional garden beds, rock gardens and even large potting containers, and makes a graceful accent piece to broader gardens. Seeds can be found in most wildflower mixes but be careful – lots of sneaky invasive species can make their way into seed mixes as well. Be sure to buy from a trusted native plant source, and always do your research!
We recommend planting all types of native plants in your garden, and consider what species would grow best under your yard’s unique growing conditions. If you’re curious or wanting more guidance along the way, check out the “Grow Me Instead” booklet! It can teach you about invasive species hiding in gardens, and which plants to replace them with. So what are you waiting for? There’s a whole world of native alternatives out there, just waiting to be your next best plant-friend.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Leander, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center