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Into the Garden: Tough native shrubs have multiple benefits

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Horticulture Magazine's William Cullina suggests several native shrubs that are hearty and hardy. The black chokeberry is an Eastern native able to grow in "soil-filled clefts on mountaintops, dim swampy woods and just about everywhere in between." Known for the berries and sweetly fragrant white flowers, typical shrubs grow 8 to 10 feet high and half as wide and smaller in dry situations.

Cullina said two compact forms are available commercially: Aronia 'Autumn Magic' that grows to 3 to 5 feet high, while A. Iroquois Beauty ('Morton') tops out at 3 feet.

The red chokeberry is similar, but has red fall leaf color and red berries.

Northern bayberry, a fragrant shrub that grows in zones 4-7, is native to different parts of the United States and Canada. Female plants produce fragrant gray berries. Leathery, dull green leaves last late into the fall. The southern waxmyrtle (M. cerifera; zones 7-9) is a popular screening shrub in the Southeast.

According to nutrition expert Kate Schlag's blog, "threeapplesaday," the aronia berry (chokeberry) is North America's answer to the Central and South American rainforest's acai berry or the Himalayas' goji berry.

"Aronia berries may rank as the highest fruit on the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) scale, giving them incredibly potent antioxidant powers. Aronia berries get their dark purple (almost black) hues from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that protect against inflammation, age-related neurological deficits and cardiovascular disease.

"Scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have also indicated that aronia berries are effective aids to weight maintenance by preventing the storage of dangerous fat around the abdomen. Aronia berries are known for their tart taste (hence the name chokeberry), but you can still enjoy them sprinkled on yogurt, cereal or in pancakes for a zesty kick. To tone down their tartness, mix them up into smoothies, mixed berry jams and compotes, or sip on some chokeberry-spiked green tea."

So, this lovely native shrub has benefits beyond the landscape!

Wildflower seed sources

I received an email asking for a list of companies that sell wildflower seed. You may call or write to them to request a seed catalog.

Adams Brisco Seed Co., P.O. Box 19, Jackson, GA 30233-0019; 770-775-7826, www.abseedjuno.com

American Meadows Inc. (formerly Vermont Wildflower Farm), 223 Ave. D, Suite 30, Williston, VT 05495; 802-951-5812, mike@americanmeadows.com; www.americanmeadows.com

Ernst Conservation Seeds, 9006 Mercer Pike, Meadville, PA 16335; 814-336-2404, Ernst@ernstseed.com, www.ernstseed.com

Lofts Seed, 4764 Hollins Ferry Road, Baltimore, MD 21227; 800-732-3332, www.turf.com

Shooting Star Nursery, 444 Bates Road, Frankfort, KY 40601, 502-223-1679, www.shootingstarnursery.com

Wildseed Farms Inc., P.O. Box 308, Eagle, TX 77434; 800-848-0078, orders1@wildseedfarms.com, www.wildseedfarms.com

On a personal note

I am "semi-retiring"! While I will continue to write this gardening column, I will no longer be doing other, day-to-day duties here at the newspaper. I will fill my days with my family, and I will be more involved in our church's feeding ministry, Trinity's Table.

Thanks for your support!

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com.


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