Sunday, September 14, 2014

Corporate style planting

This bed reminds me of boring, corporate plantings that one sees in grocery store parking lots, but at least it's all native and is meant to be low maintenance.  See, I wasn't planning to have a bed here at all.  When we someday have the funds to build a garage, this patch will be run over in the construction process.  However, in the meantime we had problems with erosion because a gutter was overflowing here.  My husband requested bushes to help retain the soil.
Heuchera, heucherella, and inkberry hollies.
I didn't want to mess with anything complicated, so I did some research and settled on the Shamrock cultivar of inkberry holly (Ilex glabra).  Inkberry is a native holly.  The female plants make black colored berries in the fall.  Shamrock is a smaller cultivar, growing up to 4 feet tall, which I thought worked better with the size of my porch than the species would.  You can read more about it here.
Heucheras, inkberry hollies, and lyreleaf sage.
This was fine until my husband hit the new inkberries with the edger.  Then he requested mulch to delineate this area as a bed so he wouldn't kill the bushes.  Someday the bushes will grow to fill the bed, or, as I mentioned, the whole thing will be leveled by construction.  However, it looked too empty for now.  This was at the peak of summer heat, but I added some heucheras and a heucherella (a Heuchera/Tiarella hybrid--these and heucheras are trendy lately and easy to find in stores).  I also transplanted in some lyreleaf sage plants from the front bed, aka the lyreleaf sage nursery.  As you can see, I also did a border of concrete chunks.

The whole thing will be easy to maintain and easy to get rid of.  I'll need to deadhead the lyreleaf sage plants when they flower so the bed isn't overrun, and I'll pull weeds occasionally.  When we no longer need the bed, the heucheras will probably transplant readily.  I assume this because they're supposed to need dividing every few years anyhow.  I don't mind losing the lyreleaf sages because I can easily grow a million more.  I might lose the inkberries, but that will be it.

Yes, it's boring.  I suppose it demonstrates that one can do any landscaping style with native plants, including boring corporate plantings.  (Please keep in mind that this was an unplanned project that I had to do concurrently with building the rain garden, something that I did put a lot of time and design effort into.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fall plant sales (and a few links)

We're heading into the season for fall plant sales.  There seem to be more native plant sales in the spring than the fall, but fall is a great time for planting, so it's worth seeking out a sale in your area.  I haven't done an exhaustive search, but here are some of the upcoming sales in Virginia.
In other news, here are a few links of interest.
  • Simply the best natives - Golden Alexander - This is a VA native plant that's supposed to be easy to grow.
  • More love for native vines - Includes recommendations for ornamental vines with various desirable properties.
  • OdonataCentral - Not plants, but you can find a list of Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) species occurring in your county.  Pretty cool!  There are supposed to be 20 species of them in my county.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reduce, reuse, recycle

This isn't about native plants per se, but I've been posting about my front flower bed here, so I'll update you on one of the recent changes.

When preparing for the rain garden project, I wanted to start remedying storm water runoff as far uphill as possible.  On the shoulder of our driveway were several large patches of spilled concrete from when our house was built.  Concrete is presumably even less permeable to water than our native clay soil is, so the concrete had to go.  A sledgehammer and several hours of labor later, I had a large collection of concrete chunks.  I refused to pay to dispose of them, but the stack looked kind of like a rock wall, so that gave me an idea.
Spilled concrete--now broken into chunks and pulled up from the shoulder of my driveway.

I stacked some of the more uniformly sized concrete chunks two high, forming a small wall or border around my flower bed.  I made it undulate artistically.
Faux rock wall (made from recycled concrete chunks) as a flower bed border.

From a distance, one could easily mistake the concrete for rock.  Up close, it definitely looks like concrete.  So it's kind of redneck, but at least I'm not using old tires as planters.  The pieces aren't mortared together, so the top layer can get knocked off by the edger, but thus far it's been quick and easy to re-stack the few pieces that fall off.
Close-up of faux rock wall (recycled concrete chunks) around flower bed.

I've actually found the border helpful in garden design.  Now that I know the exact size and shape of the bed, I can better plan how to fill it.  My initial vision for the bed had straight edges, but adding the wiggles gives me some nice pockets of new space that can be filled with small plants.  I was able to rip out a lot of grass that turned out to be inside the bed.  Now when my husband mows the lawn, it's very clear which areas he's not supposed to cut.  (I'll say more about our mowing issues in a future post.)  The concrete isn't the most attractive border ever, but it was free and is useful in delineating the bed.  I can always spring for fancy stones later if I want.  Meanwhile, the concrete chunks can be easily moved if I decide the bed should be a different size or shape.