As a newcomer to the Pacific Northwest, I came to find a wide variety of plants with which I was unfamiliar. The longer I have lived here, the more I have learned and come to love the beauty of our Northwest natives.
Some of the reasons to use natives in the landscape are that you may have fewer disease and cultural problems because they are used to the environment, they provide habitat and food for birds and other animals that are also native to the area, and did I say that many of them are beautiful.
I already have a number of natives in my new yard. In choosing natives, I scoured the WSU website's discussion of natives to see which may be suitable for my location, as well as a couple of books I purchased. I'll talk about the ones I have and maybe even put up a few pics when I shoot them.
One of the first natives I got was a red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea ssp. occidentalis). It is one of my favorites. It is a multiple branched shrub which grows to 15 feet. The branches become quite red in winter and provide winter interest in the landscape. It likes sun to partial shade and moist soil but can stand dry. We have two of them, one of which a pair of neighborhood deer keep well pruned. You will often see them in freeway plantings set right next to the yellow twig dogwood which has yellow twigs (obviously) -- the contrast is striking.
Another favorite of mine is the snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus var. laevigatus . I had spotted some very early leafing shrubs in the understory of some woods when I first moved here and wondered what they were. Later in the season, I saw a shrub which had white berries and again wondered what they were. Well, I found that they were the same plant. These can get to be 2-6 feet and tolerate sun to partial shade and moist to dry soils. The birds in my yard don't eat the berries much, but other birds may. I really like this plant and couldn't wait to get two of them.
I bought two of what I consider to be one of the signature trees of the Pacific Northwest -- the vine maple (Acer circinatum). This is a delicate understory tree with fanlike serrated leaves which shines out in autumn with vibrant reds. It is often used in the landscape and is quite a beautiful tree.
I also have two red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum ) (yes they are edible) with gorgeous drooping, red flowers in the spring; and two evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum )(also edible) which have pretty white flowers; as well as three salal (Gaultheria shallon which are low growing evergreen shrubs with white flowers and edible purple berries and both kinds of Oregon grape (Berberis nervosa & Berberis aquifolium ) which has hollylike leaves, yellow flowers and edible purple fruit. (It seems like a lot of Northwest natives have edible fruit.) Another couple of other shrubs (or small tree) I have are the mountain ash and the Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana (These things have the nastiest thorns I have ever seen, but pretty purplish-pink flowers).
I have also accumulated an assortment of herbaceous natives three salvaged sword ferns Polystichum munitum ) (which grow everywhere), Pacific bleeding heart - a pretty delicate native bleeding heart (Dicentra formosa ssp. formosa ) and some salvaged foxglove.
I have my sights on a few others as well as some exotic shrubs. We'll see how much I have room for.
(All descriptive links on this page are to the Washington State University website.)