Ecological RestorationPollinatorsWildflowers

More than milkweed: try these native plants in your garden

July 7, 2024 0 comments
Alexzander Smith, co-founder of Origin Native Plants

We love milkweed (of course!) and we love that it’s becoming more commonly used in gardens across suburbia and repopulating hedgerows in the countryside. And if milkweed serves as a kind of gateway drug to the many other beneficial and beautiful native plants for your garden, so much the better! Once you fall under the spell of native plants, you won’t want to turn back.

Off the beaten path with Origin Native Plants

Recently we explored some of these options with Alexzander Smith, a restoration ecologist and co-founder of Origin Native Plants, a native plant nursery on the outskirts of Guelph, Ontario.

The nursery is home to approximately 250 species of native plants for Ontario’s prairie, meadow and wetland ecoregions, including many rare and unusual species.

While you’ll find all the commonly known native plants like milkweeds, goldenrods and asters there, Alex and co-founder Zack Harris are also focused on bringing many lesser known native plants into the spotlight. 

All are grown from seed ethically collected from sites across southern Ontario and Manitoulin Island. They go to new homes in gardens across Ontario and into Quebec, and are also used in landscape restoration projects across Ontario.

Here are a few native plant picks from Alex for your radar:

Virginia mountain mint

Virginia mountain mint (with black eyed Susan in background)

Virginia mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum) is a tall perennial with tiny white flowers and a lovely scent that’s reputed to ward off mosquitos. 

This pollinator powerhouse attracts butterflies, including monarchs and the pearl crescent butterfly; bumble bees and many other native bees; as well as other beneficial insects that consume pest insects.

Tall meadow rue

Meadow rue in bloom in early June.

Tall meadow rue (Thalictrum pubescens) attracts bees and butterflies, blooming in June-July. Its delicate texture mixes nicely with ferns and other woodland plants.

Lakeside Daisy

Lakeside daisy (image courtesy Origin Native Plants)

This was a completely new one for us! Lakeside daisy (Hymenoxys acaulis) is a rare and endangered species with bright yellow flowers in spring. It tolerates dry conditions and naturally occurs on the alvars of Manitoulin Island. (Nursery propagated only.) 


Origin Native Plants also sells a wide variety of sedges that are lovely alternatives to Pennsylvania sedge if you want something different. All add distinctive textures and movement to the garden.

We took home some Virginia mountain mint, plus bright green common woodland sedge (Carex blanda) and self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) to try as a groundcover border along the sidewalk in our front garden. 

Self-heal is a nectar source for bumble bees and attracts butterflies. It’s a larval host of the clouded sulphur butterfly.

The 3 images above are courtesy Origin Native Plants.

Origin Native Plants is located at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre on Highway 6 north of Guelph. You can shop online here (they are also planning to open a store at the nursery later this month.)

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