Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Planting Plans for spring 2015

Every year brings another opportunity to grow my native plant collection.  This year I'm focusing on 4 areas:  Clean up and replanting around the swimming pool, clean up and expansion of the meadow, replacing the vinca along the driveway and build up a privacy hedge with the neighbor.  After learning a bit about the current conditions, what is already here and what might be expected to grow here naturally, I've put together a shopping list of natives to get this year.

This moss phlox is pretty happy growing along the pool deck,
A good portion of it is on the concrete slab.
The colors can be intense, so I use mostly one color at a time.
The area around the swimming pool is infested with common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis).  While native, there is just too much of it and it is not that attractive close up.  The soil is mostly a fast draining fill with a moderately high pH (ca. 7.5).  Since this is far from native soil I put a greater focus on what would look good growing in this setting.  Since I had already started using this area for plants native to Texas (my wife's home state) I will be adding two of my favorites, Wine Cups (Callirhoe involucrata) and Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella).   I got some seed on a recent visit to the Wildflower Center.  These will be great for the full sun areas and they tolerate alkaline soils.  The moss phlox could use some bolstering up as well.  I am attempting to remove the English ivy from the enclosure and this phlox seems to be a good candidate to fill back in.

This species of wine cups grows close to the ground, filling gaps around taller plants.
Seed requires a hot water treatment and  30  days cold stratification for germination. 

This is the annual species of Indian blanket, Gaillardia pulchella.

Small's Penstemon is long blooming in shady locations.
The contrasting lavender and white blossoms show up at a distance.

In the shadier areas I will be trying out Greek Valerain (Polemonium reptans aka Jacob's Ladder) and Small's Penstemon (Penstemon smallii).  Despite its common name the valerain is actually a native to the of the US.  This had confused me for a while.  Looks like the name Greek valerain is used for a number of species in the Polemonium genus.  One of them with particularly showy flowers, P. caeruleum, is a European native.  P. reptans grows more like a ground cover

I've ordered some more Indian Pink (Spigelia marilandica) for an area in the pool enclosure with more moisture and organic soils.

This cottonwood seedling appeared in the vegetable garden.
I'll transplant it this spring to a moist part of the new meadow.

I have an area that has been overrun with invasives that I am trying to convert to a meadow.  I cleared half of it last year and hope to finish this spring.  After removing the bad guys I am backfilling with native species.  I realize that I'm making more work for myself by trying to kill off invasivies at the same time as introducing new plantings.  By planting mostly shrubs I think I can more easily manage the area with an annual mowing/whacking of the undesirable plants.  For the right way to convert a weedy area to a meadow or prairie check out this link.

Last year I planted an American plum (Prunus americana) and several elderberries (Sambucus canadensis).  This year I will add some chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) and smooth sumac (Rhus glabra).  I also have a Cottonwood (Populus deltoides) seedling to put on the edge.

The pawpaw blooms in early May,
just before the leaves open up.  

Way in the back I have a large grove of Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) trees.  I've been watching them for 2 years and I have yet to see any fruit.  Since pawpaws produce better with cross-pollination, I will be adding a couple of new individuals to the area,  It is possible that my entire grove is really just one clone.  We'll see if this helps, in a couple of years.

These goldenstar have more than doubled in size after a year in the ground.
I'll get some more to speed up coverage.

In the shady area around the driveway I have been ripping out the vinca and replacing it with shade tolerant natives.  I started with foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) and Heucheras and these are taking hold.  In addition to these I've seen some really good results with Goldenstar (Chrysogonum virginianum, aka Green and Gold) in open shade areas.  These are relatively easy to find in a regular nursery, sometimes marketed with the plants that you can walk on.  Another plant that I've used in dry shade is big-leaf aster (Eurybia macrophylla), It has dense foliage and spreads by rhizomes so it should do a good job competing with the vinca.

This shiny summer foliage pf aromatic sumac turns red and orange in the fall.
We'll see how it performs in a shadier location.

The boundary between our nearest neighbor is defined with a double row of white pines.  At 40+ years old they are now limbed up fairly high and not providing much screening.  We have already put in a juneberry (Amelanchier canadensis), hazelnut (Corylus americana) and Hoptree (Ptelea trilfoliata).  There was also a pawpaw already there, doing a pretty good job despite the drier conditions.  We are looking to add some additional shrubs to fill in this gap and obscure the view.  A local native plant nursery has listed maple-leaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium) for sale this year.  I've been told that this is a very difficult shrub to propagate.  It does well in shady woods so I'm looking forward to trying it here.  I should get two since they don't self pollinate.  I am also looking to get some aromatic sumac (Rhus aromatica).  The wild form grows 5-12 feet, just the right size for our area.  I already have some of the 'Gro-low' cultivar.  At about 3 feet it is a great ground cover shrub for many difficult locations.

Now with may list in hand, I can hardly wait until spring!