Be a Better Gardener for Oct. 19, 2022 | Columnists

It was motherhood that encouraged Alicia Houk’s switch to gardening with native plants. She had trained as a scientist, completing a master’s degree in pollinator ecology while pursuing a passion for growing her own food in the vegetable garden. When her first child was born eight years ago, though, she couldn’t devote as much time to gardening, and she found native plants, species adapted to her landscape and climate, less demanding than food crops. That was especially true once she began introducing native annual flowers to her Iowa garden. She wrote about this experience in her blog, A Wild Garden (, in a December 2020 post titled “Letting the Garden Garden: Native Self-Seeding Annuals.” I found this so informative, and original, that I contacted her for a conversation on the subject.

Since that post, Alicia told me, she and her family had moved from Iowa to Vermont, which made her experience even more directly relevant to my New England gardening. Still, the advantages Alicia has found in native annuals would apply, with a little translation, to virtually any region.

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