I love native plants. I began to think of gardening with native plants about ten years ago. I was visiting my great-uncle and he began to tell me how his father and my great-grandfather, Ted, would go into the woods to harvest indigenous plants to treat illnesses and ailments of the local people.
My great-grandfather was a herbalist, who learned to use native plants that heal from his father, Hampton. Hampton was Eastern Cherokee and migrated from the Smoky Mountains to South Carolina as a teenager. Ted had loyal customers who swore by his remedies and came from miles around to be treated by him.
My mother’s brother also told me how he would join his grandfather Ted, on harvesting trips in the South Carolina woods. He showed me some of the plants he grew in his Philadelphia area backyard that Ted used down South. My mother’s family have been gardeners and farmers for hundreds if not thousands of years. I began to realize that a long relationship with native plants was part of my family history. I wanted to know more.
So, I began to garden with the plants indigenous to the Philadelphia area where I currently live. I could choose plants of the Appalachian Mountains where my mother’s family is from, but I wanted to respect the land that I currently live in. So, Philly natives it is.
The North American continent is suffering through an onslaught of land destruction. I don’t know how this will turn out, but I have hope that we can mend our self-destructive ways and repair and heal what we have destroyed.
When I give presentations on gardening, I only speak about planting with native plants. By focusing only on native plants I am sharing my family history and a love of my native land. I also hope to help those we have fallen in love with native plants as I have.
Plants from Europe don’t interest me. Or Asia or the tropics. But when I hold the lovely blue blossom of Baptisia australis in my hand and marvel at it, I wonder if a grandmother of mine who lived thousands of years ago in the Smoky Mountains, didn’t marvel at the delicious purple, too.