Garden Photo of the Day

A Native-Focused Garden

Using natives in beautiful and creative ways

Butterfly weed

My name is James, and I garden in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. My focus tends to be on using coastal natives in creative (hopefully) ways. Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica, Zones 3–7), beach plum (Prunus maritima, Zones 3–8), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), cedar (Juniperus virginiana, Zones 2–9), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium, Zones 3–9), and blueberry (both high and low, Vaccinium corymbosum and Vaccinium angustifolium, Zones 3–8) make up the backbone of my garden. That said, I’m not opposed to using some exotics here and there.

I’ve enjoyed using some natives that don’t always find homes in our landscapes, such as Nantucket serviceberry (Amelanchier nantucketensis, Zones 3–6), swamp rose (Rosa palustris, Zones 4–9), groundsel bush (Baccharis halimifolia, Zones 5–10), and sweetfern (Comptonia peregrina, Zones 2–6). The birds love ’em! I’ve also enjoyed incorporating herbs into the landscape, as they’re low maintenance and lend a beachy vibe.

Included in my photos are my custom shou sugi ban wave-themed garden gate and fish-themed garden bench (complete with beer holder). Somehow I managed to make both without accidentally burning down the garage!

In terms of failures, there have been plenty, but I try not to focus on them too much—another way in which gardening is a metaphor for life, I suppose.

butterfly on a purple flowerBeautiful visitors such as butterflies are one of the rewards for having a native-focused garden.

Beach plum in bloom under Japanese mapleBeach plum has a beautiful spring display of white flowers followed by tasty fruits.

Butterfly weedButterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa, Zones 4–9) blooms in front of a cloud of ‘Moonbeam’ coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’, Zones 3–9).

fern growing in front of uniquely shaped garden gateThe wave-themed gate was created with the traditional Japanese technique of shou sugi ban, which involves charring the surface of the wood to preserve it.

garden bed with yellow and pink flowers in front of a fenceWide view of the garden, feeling wild and full of flowers.

BayberryThis bayberry is showing its namesake berries, whose silvery-blue color is created by a layer of fragrant wax.

Blooming thymeBlooming thyme (Thymus vulgaris, Zones 5–9) is one of the herbs in this landscape.

fish-shaped garden benchAnd the fish bench—complete with a beer holder!


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View Comments


  1. Begonia155 06/14/2021

    Love the gate and the bench! You did good!!!!!

    1. runfortheroses 06/14/2021

      Thanks so much for the kind words

  2. Rebeccazone7 06/14/2021

    It's been awhile since I've thought of beach plums, but beach plum jam is awesome. I used to pick them at Island Beach State Park in Jersey. It's nice to see a garden with that looks so wild and uncontained...also with plants that are native to the area. Kudos on your creativity.

    1. runfortheroses 06/14/2021

      Thanks, I appreciate it. The birds tend to grab most of the beach plums before I’m able to get to them, but that’s really why I plant them

  3. User avater
    treasuresmom 06/14/2021

    Love that bench but also there looks to be 2 raised beds/planters with trees planted in them? Can you tell us about those?

    1. runfortheroses 06/14/2021

      Thanks. I’ve got a bunch of raised beds in the garden, I just love their look. I’ve got some little bluestem, thyme, bee balm, and a small serviceberry tree in one. The two you can barely make out in the back of that one photo are actually small satellite Bosnian pines, mulched with oyster shells. There’s a third off camera. Not native, but I like their habit

  4. sagebird52 06/14/2021

    Beautiful. wild, individualistic and has loads of character.

    1. runfortheroses 06/14/2021

      Thanks, I appreciate it

  5. User avater
    simplesue 06/14/2021

    I enjoy seeing how everyone's garden is an expression of their personality and their favorite plants & flowers creating compositions, each unique to each gardener.
    Not only are you a talented gardener- you're a talented craftsman- great job!

    1. runfortheroses 06/14/2021

      Thanks for kind words, this was a lot of fun for me

  6. jtaert 06/14/2021

    One of the best articles so far!

    1. runfortheroses 06/14/2021

      I appreciate it, that’s very kind

  7. dankoellen 06/14/2021

    Like the wood knot fish eye!

    1. runfortheroses 06/14/2021

      Thanks, the bench was fun to make. I used cedar so hopefully it lasts!

  8. btucker9675 06/14/2021

    Fabulous!!! Your garden gave me a big Monday morning smile!!

    1. runfortheroses 06/14/2021

      That’s great, glad you enjoyed it

  9. user-7037040 06/14/2021

    James, your photos made my day! Wonderful selection of native plants, that I am sure entice pollinators and birds of all sorts. The combo of butterfly weed with Moonbeam coreopsis is striking, I will have to copy that in my mostly native garden in Mass. And your gate and bench are fab!

    A question- does having the Juniper and Serviceberry together create cedar-hawthorne rust? I had this problem with my serviceberries and it was so bad, I sadly had to get rid of them.

    1. runfortheroses 06/15/2021

      Thanks so much for the positive comments! I lucked out with the moonbeam / butterfly weed combo. I use both the species and a cultivar “hello yellow” which is what you see in the photo.

      As for the rust - I grow my serviceberries in containers in a small garden on the side of the house, away from my cedars. Not sure if it’s helping much as I still get a little rust, but not to the point where it’s become a major issue. They look healthy overall and fruit well, particularly the Nantucket. I’ve had them there for about 5 years or so. Fingers crossed. Any Mass natives that are working particularly well for you?

  10. user-7037040 06/16/2021

    I have some of the same plants that you have in the "pretend" beach sections of my urban garden: beach plum, bayberry, little bluestem, seaside and other goldenrod. For the monarchs: common and swamp milkweek, butterfly weed, and finally 3 purple milkweeds the rabbits didn't destroy.
    Other butterfly hosts and bird treats we have are wild cherry, native mulberry hackberry, dogwoods, spicebush and sassafras, also plenty of pellitory weed we didn't plant but keep for the red admirals. American hollies are doing surprisingly well (they are more of a coastal plant.) I have WAY too many plants and trees so good or bad, it's quite a jungle...

    I highly recommend "Jeana" phlox for butterflies-it's their favorite, in addition to Liatris Ligulistylus (which is a mid-west native). Mountain mint is also problem free and a pollinator magnet. I could go on ... :)

  11. runfortheroses 06/17/2021

    Great list. A lot of crossover with what I’m doing here. I’ll keep an eye out for “jeana”. I’m impressed that you’re using American Hollies, as they tend to be an exercise in patience, but a great choice for sure. Thanks so much for sharing!

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