I’m always on the look out for “new-to-me” plants that I think would work well for gardeners on Nantucket. From time to time, we have big successes with those plants, but more often, landscapers just don’t know what to do with them. When I came across Sweet Gale, Myrica gale, I thought it would be the perfect addition to our line up of native plants with some deer-resistance, so we brought some in. They look great, but they don’t seem to be selling at all. Sometimes we can encourage sales of lesser-known plants by putting them in a prominent spot so that customers will notice them. I decided to make a display in front of the armillary in the courtyard, to see if that would drum up some interest, but to no avail.
You guys! I really think these are great plants for us. You gotta give them a shot! The cultivar we’ve stocked is called ‘Low Boy’. These are compact (2-3′), rounded shrubs in the bayberry family. They have semi-evergreen blue/green waxy leaves that are similar to common bayberry, but prettier. ‘Low Boy’ is a male selection, so it won’t get fruit, but these plants are all about the aromatic leaves. Sweet gale naturally grows in wet or moist soils in salt marshes and wetlands, so it would be perfect on Brandt Point or any low-lying area of town. That being said, these plants will do well anywhere they are properly irrigated in full to part sun. Although I haven’t seen them planted yet, I think they should have good deer resistance, to boot.
The texture, shape and size of these plants is so pleasant that they would work well in a number of design styles and a wide rage of applications. Sweet gale is the perfect plant for use in loose, coastal gardens paired with summer sweet, switch grass, native sedges, and rose mallow. But they would also make a great component in a naturalistic matrix planting or used as a vast drift in the New American Landscape style. I could even see them used to create a super cool minimalistic, planting with purple smoke bush as a back drop.
Try a few! You’ll like them.