One of the advantages of growing native plants in the cool, dry climate of the Canadian province of Alberta means fewer resources such as water and energy are consumed. Plus, native plants create a great habitat for a wide variety of birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife. In fact, many native plants offer great sources of nutrition for humans. Since most of the province lies in Zone 3 or higher, make sure you protect any perennials you plant so they survive winter and start growing again in the spring.
Perennials for Sunny Areas
For sunny areas, perennials such as prairie crocus mark the beginning of spring while red or yellow monkeyflowers make great early-summer blooms. Also consider prairie cornflower, featuring tall stalks displaying bright blue flowers on top; or showy aster, with its daisy-like blooms. Another show-stopper is Western clematis, with its vine-like growth displaying beautiful white flowers.
Perennials for Shaded Areas
Perennials that prefer shade such as that found in woodlands include bog cranberry, with its edible red berries. Also consider Bunchberry, a low-lying plant with small white flowers in early summer. Paintbrush, with its showy red flowers, or yellow evening primroses also make nice additions to the landscape.
Plants to Attract Birds, Bees and Other Wildlife
To attract bees to help pollinate your garden, consider planting fireweed, hyssop or beebalm. Attract birds with dwarf raspberry featuring small edible fruits that stay close to the ground. Also consider planting Nutall's sunflower or Beautiful sunflower--these plants attract birds in late summer to early fall when the heads go to seed.
Bushes such as black or gold currant offer blooms that attract hummingbirds. Choke cherry, red elderberry, and silver buffalo berry provide berries that a wide variety of wildlife and birds favor. Prairie roses, prickly roses and wild rose also provide rose hips, valuable sources of Vitamin C that birds and wildlife are attracted to; they also offer a beautiful fragrance when in bloom.
A variety of native plants may be used in the kitchen. Try Anise Hyssop, a tall plant with spikes of purple flower--fresh leaves can be dried and made into tea. The rose hips mentioned above may also be used to make tea since they provide a valuable source of Vitamin C for humans. Bushes such as Beaked Hazelnut attract squirrels, so you may need to put netting over the tree to prevent all the nuts from disappearing.
Wild strawberries not only make a great spreading groundcover, but the small fruits pack great flavor. You can also plant dandelions and use the nutritious greens in salads--the seed heads offer great food for birds, but if you don't want them to spread across the yard, mow before the flowers go to seed.