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Smart Gardening in 2020: Choose plants with more than one purpose

Quick Fire® hydrangea. Photo:
Winter came early this year with lots of snow and cold temps, but it's never too early to start thinking about new plants for your garden and yard. Maybe you've had a shrub that has not lived up to expectations and you are ready to replace it.

Or you have lost a tree lately and suddenly have a large sunny spot for planting. Got a fence that needs screening? A vine is a good option.

Some favorites

Regent serviceberry
Whatever your reason, a smart gardening good goal for 2020 is to choose plants that serve more than one purpose. Here are some favorite multi-purpose plants in my yard:

The Regent serviceberry shrub (Amelanchier alnifolia 'Regent') has lovely white flowers, edible fruit and provides pollen and nectar for bees.

Multi-purpose Grasses

Grasses can create waves of texture and show off other plants. Some, like our native prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) and blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), also provide food for butterfly larvae.

Sedges (Carex spp.) can be planted under taller plants to reduce weeds and serve as a growing mulch.
Beatlemania sedge

The flowers of one of my favorite plants, Quick Fire hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Bulk'), turn a deep mauve in late fall, and can be cut and added dried to floral or container arrangements in the winter.

Flowers good enough to eat!

Edible pot marigold flowers (Calendula spp.) provide pollinator food, bloom well into fall and the petals can be sprinkled on salads for a citrusy bite.

Bee-friendly vines

Vines like the new self-fertile bittersweet Autumn Revolution (Celastrus scandens 'Bailumn' PP19811) serves as food
Calendula flowers
for birds and pollinators and can be cut and twisted into decorative vines. Unlike Oriental bittersweet, it is not invasive.

In 2020, resolve to choose plants for more than just their good looks as they can serve multiple purposes in your yard and garden!

Author: Julie Weisenhorn, Horticulture Extension educator
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