Boston Globe Garden Writer Carol Stocker will give a free illustrated lecture Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Lake Street Garden Center in Salem, N.H. on the best native plants that grow well in New England gardens without irrigation, pesticides or fertilizer. The natural garden aims for self sufficiency. Though you'll never achieve this goal - there are always weeds that need pulling - still you can minimize maintenance by choosing the right plants. Once a year renew the mulch throughout the garden in the fall after cutting down dead stems and adding garden litter to the compost pile.
Adaptation to our local conditions is only one attraction of native plants. They also offer a relatively restrained and subtle beauty that can be a welcome alternative to the showy brightness of highly bred garden staples.
The natural landscape invites wildlife. Instead of a tidy clipped yew hedge that offers little to bees, butterflies and birds, plant a mixed hedge of unsheared, fruit producing shrubs such as viburnum, blueberries, hollies and service berries. Set out a birdbath and bird feeder.
Best wildflowers for shade include Jack-in-the-pulpit. The tubers are well suited for planting amon low ground covers like Chrysogonum virginianum or partridgeberry. Celedine poppu (not to be confused with invasive Chelidonium majus) grows well with Virginia bluebells, columbine, foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) and creeping phlox. Iris cristata and Phlox divaricata are also spring shade natives but a little harder to grow successfully.
Shade plants for later in the year include Cimicafuga racemosa, or black cohosh, Astilbe biternata and Aruncus dioicus. Among the last plants to bloom under shade are white wood aster, buff goldenrood and white snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum).
For sun try white wild indigo, penstemons, which combine well is sundrops (Oenothera), purple coneflower and butterfly weed.