Thursday, October 10, 2013

New Gardens for Fall

Autumn is a great time to do planting of trees, shrubs and perennials.  The weather is cooling down but the soil is still warm.  This allows new plantings to get established with less stress.  The roots do not need to pump as much water and nutrients to support leaf growth, rather they can focus on growing out and adapting to their new home.  Although we have had a nearly rainless September in Maryland, fall is usually a moister time than late summer.

Another factor that makes fall a good planting time is that many plants are on sale.  While somewhat picked over and tired looking there are many good deals especially for perennials at the nurseries.  There are also a number of native plant sales that occur in the Fall.

I visited a native plant sale in Virginia that featured locally native plants for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  I found some plants that I had been searching for for a long time (Aromatic Sumac and Yellowroot) and some that I had never heard of (Astilbe biternata - a North American species of Astilbe).

While not the actual location, this is similar to what we started with.
First my wife cut off the runners, then I dug out the roots.
One of the long term projects for the new property is the elimination of English Ivy.  Our local deer like to eat it; that is one of the few positive things I can say for them.  In the fenced areas, however, the ivy is taking over.  I have been holding off removing the English Ivy from an area until I have something on hand to replace it.  At this fall's Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy native plant sale I found an American Strawberry Bush, Euonymus americanus.  The Strawberry Bush was just the plant I needed for this shady moist corner where the ivy was dominating.

This shrub can grow 6-12' tall.  You can see a little of it's fall color.

The American Strawberry Bush is one of two native Euonymus species that I know of.  The other is Eastern Wahoo, E atropurpureus.  I'm not sure why these plants are not more available in the trade.  While not as showy as the invasive Burning Bush, E. alatus, they each have decent reddish fall foliage and the color of their fruits are outstanding, a red exocarp with fluorescent orange seeds inside.  I did read that deer really like to eat the Strawberry Bush, so finding it the wild can be difficult if there is any amount of deer pressure.

'Hearts-a-burstin' is one of the common names for E. americanus.
The orange seeds are not as bright as when the fruit first opened up.

With the Strawberry Bush as the focal point in this renovated corner I picked up a pair of Goat's Beard, Aruncus diocus to fill the back corner.  The white plume-like flowers should brighten this area in the early summer.  Since this plant comes as separate male and female plants I bought two to increase my chances of producing some viable seed.  (Usually it is recommended to get 3 plants when you want both male and female, but I don't have the space here.)

Goat's Beard should grow to about 5' tall and wide.
These are starting at about 1 foot.
This seed-grown selection of Jumpseed has the pronounced red markings
like those on the cultivar 'Lance Corporal'.

To fill in the ground plane I was imagining buying all sorts of natives like Heuchera, Tiarella and Labrador Violets.  On my trip to a local nursery I noticed that they had a bunch of escaped Jumpseed, Polygonum virginianum, with well defined red markings on the leaves  Since I already have these growing in the woods nearby, I thought it would be great to integrate this species into the plantings around the house.  It worked out that the nursery owner would give me the plants if I provided the labor of digging them out.  What a deal!!!  So I loaded up 9 pots full of this native ground cover, indigenous to my site.

At a distance the long racemes of red flowers look similar to those of Coral Bells.
(The name for this plant has been changed to Persicaria virginiana.)

To complete this design I need to remove the Japanese Honeysuckle on the back fence, then I would like to bring in some wild ginger (also growing nearby) and maybe some Solomon's Seal in the back to add a different texture.

Here's the corner without the ivy and just after planting.  The Aruncus is in the back,
the Euonymus is in front and the Jumpseed is in between.