As I previously wrote in the posts linked below, the easiest way to create a successful native landscape is to replicate your local plant community. If you’re unfamiliar with the plant communities in your area, plan a visit to a local park or remnant to observe what is growing together and in what conditions. If you are new to the area – find a naturalist or sign up for nature walk at the local nature center.
I have been admiring a local prairie and wetland restoration that was started by our city about 15 years ago. Although there is ongoing invasive plant management (reed canary grass, purple loosestrife and buckthorn in particular), the area showcases a diversity of species for both upland, lowland and wetland plant communities.
The photo above shows the wonderful transition from lowland to upland plants. In the foreground (along with a few cattails), is a huge mass of Swamp Milk Weed (Asclepias incarnata). Pink flowering Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) is at the edge of the moistest part in the middle and behind and uphill of the Joe Pye Weed are a mix of prairie grasses.
A few more species along the edge of the trail in the moist low lying area. Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Swamp Vervain (Verbena hastata) with its purple candelabra type blooms and Brown Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta).
Off the trail in another part of this restoration is a big stand of Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum). A 10 foot tall perennial native that gets very high ratings for wildlife value. Named for the large leaves that clasp the stems and hold water. Birds, squirrels and insects all drink water from the Cup Plant leaves. Due to its size, it also provides cover for birds and wildlife. Lastly, the gold finches will spend hours in the fall picking the sunflower sized seeds from the spent blooms.
The garden is about 40 feet long and 12 feet at its widest point. It was formerly paved (part of the driveway), five years ago we removed the pavement and created a bowl-shaped garden with a berm on the back. The garden collects all the water runoff from our cul-de-sac.
Because the garden became so clogged with sediment, water and mud pooled on our driveway all spring.
The landscape next door has finally been sodded and paved (a story for another post) but it means that we will have to redo this garden in the next year or two since it’s collecting even more water runoff from the location of the new driveway next door.
Despite the sediment runoff, the garden looks pretty good. Many of the species from the park are included in this rain garden. We planted Cup Plant (yellow flowers) at the back along the berm to provide a tall backdrop. Where the majority of the water flows into the garden we have Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata), Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum), Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum). Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is in the foreground on the right.
The tall white flowering species is Pale Indian Plantain (Cacalia atriplicifolia) which provides structure and interest. In the drier parts at the back we planted some upland prairie grasses and forbs including Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Side Oats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida) and False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides).
If you have a pond, creek or low lying moist area in your landscape, be sure to take advantage of all the wonderful wetland marginal native species that grow locally.
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