Garden Q&A: This Fourth of July, think about choosing a native plant

For The Baltimore Sun

I’d like a native plant as a focal point to give my front porch privacy. Preference is a flowering deciduous bush that takes shade and is low-maintenance. No higher than six feet tall. Is it silly to fool with a native plant?

With the Fourth of July coming up, all Americans should think to plant native. Planting at least half our landscape with natives would help compensate for our natural areas lost to development and invasive plants. There are many fabulous choices, like the swamp azalea “Delaware Blue” that blooms when you’ll be using your porch and perfumes the air with a spicy sweet scent. Other native azaleas bloom later over the summer and are just as fragrant. You also might like the big white flowerheads of “Annabelle,” a cultivar of Hydrangea arborescens. Virginia sweetspire (Itea) has drooping white panicles of blooms and good fall color. For summersweet (Clethra), a dwarf variety should suit your requirements and provide white or pink flower spires, heavenly scent, plus butterflies.

We found a small frog near our local pool with such sticky pads on its toes. Its back was gray, but underneath it was yellow. Also, the texture of the skin seemed like a cross of toad and frog, rather than smooth like the frogs I know. What is it?

It is a gray tree frog, a Maryland native, whose mottled skin looks almost like bark. Along with our green tree frogs, they make summer fun and are very loud!

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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