Get It Growing: Using native plants as ornamentals

Editor’s note: See box for online resource web addresses. — MD

There are many reasons for gardening with native plants, not the least of which is preserving and restoring native habitat for interdependent flora and fauna. The incentive for doing the “right thing” is that they are easy to grow. An added bonus is that many are quite lovely and productive.

Native plants are adapted to our cool, wet climate. Yet, once established, they are surprisingly resilient through our dry summer months. Planting in the fall will give the plants several months to establish their root system and allow you to sit back and let nature take its course. If you decide to plant in spring, however, you should be prepared to water regularly throughout the summer the first year. Once the fall rains begin, you should be home free.

Whether you are familiar with native species or a newcomer to these parts, a good place to start planning your landscape is with the online King County Native Plant Guide. Search “landscape plans” to find plants in the groupings that they would be found in nature.

Visit a native plant garden to get a sense of the possibilities. In the Pacific Northwest, there is a year-round display from early spring ephemerals, through mid- and late-summer blooms, into late fall with berries and colorful foliage.

In winter, evergreens such as salal, Oregon grape, and evergreen huckleberry stand out against the starkness of the surrounding bare branches and twigs of deciduous shrubs and trees.

Two gardens on the North Olympic Peninsula that show the potential of natives as ornamentals are Kul Kah Han Native Plant Demonstration Garden at H.J. Carroll Park in Chimacum and Buck Lake Native Plant Garden in Hansville. Kul Kah Han arranges plants in seven different ecosystems, including wet forest, dry forest, montane, subalpine, edgeland, meadow, and wetland. Buck Lake matches plants to the microclimates inherent in the park’s landscape and features a striking display of red twig and yellow twig dogwood in its expansive rain garden. The colors are particularly stunning in the winter months. Both gardens maintain useful, up-to-date websites.

Also, not to be overlooked is the Master Gardeners’ Woodcock Demonstration Garden in Sequim, which showcases a small woodland native plant garden.

Tracking down some plants can be challenging. There is a list of nurseries on the Kul Kah Han website (

One of the nurseries listed, Friendly Natives Plants and Design, is right here in Sequim. Friendly Natives has an impressive inventory of hard-to-find herbaceous perennials.

Regional chapters of the Washington Native Plant Society hold plant sales in the spring and fall. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, sales have moved online. Check the website for details.

In addition, county conservation districts hold annual plant sales of bareroot plants and plugs. Pre-sales are in December or January and distribution takes place in late January or February. Each conservation district offers slightly different selections of plants, which vary each year depending on availability.

Clallam Conservation District primarily offers a range of bareroot trees and shrubs. Kitsap, King, and Snohomish conservation districts add a range of herbaceous perennial plugs, featuring such sought after plants as trillium, nodding onion, bunchberry, red huckleberry, and native bleeding heart. Get on the mailing lists to be informed when plant sales begin. Be sure to order early. The hard-to-find plants go fast.

The Clallam Master Gardener Foundation Plant Sale in May will also have a selection of native plants on sale. Watch the Sequim Gazette for updates on the sale and follow us on Facebook.

Sara Farinelli is a Clallam County Master Gardener volunteer.

Online resources

Buck Lake Native Plant Garden, Hansville —

Friendly Natives Plants and Design, Sequim —

Kul Kah Han Native Plant Demonstration Garden, Chimicum —

Washington Native Plant Society —

The King County Native Plant Guide —

WSU Extension publication, “Grow Your Own Native Landscape” by Michael Leigh (available as a downloadable PDF) —

Get native plants at MG sale

Spring time is planting time! Local Master Gardeners are having a spring plant sale. The sale will feature a nice selection of well established native plants. There is also a huge selection of locally sourced and MG grown vegetable and herb starts, as well as perennials, succulents, houseplants, planters and new/used garden merchandise.

Start by ordering online and then shop the garden during your scheduled pickup time (following pandemic Phase 3 protocols and with all COVID 19 precautions in place).

The online ordering starts at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 1, and closes at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 11.

For safety, pickup will be by appointment only on either Friday or Saturday, May 14-15.

There are too many plants to list them all online. Customers will be welcome to shop at the garden during their pickup time and add to their online purchase. An online purchase is required to schedule a pickup appointment.

The plant sale link — — is under construction but will become active on May 1. Check the Master Gardener Foundation website at for the latest updates.