Esh -- Natives for Woodland Area

mk87January 22, 2010

Esh -- Recall our postings late last year regarding the woodland area at my house that I want to fill with natives?

I'm actually starting a little sooner than I thought when we last talked about it. The total area is about 1/3 acre and it is a semi-circle in my backyard (will eventually be split by a dry creek bed) and then runs up the side of our house to border half of our front yard.

I had originally thought I would just wait 'til this coming autumn to get started, but I think I want to go ahead and get started on the plantings in the part of the woodland area which extends to my front yard. I will admit that it is partly because I am desperate to plant...SOMETHING...and the back yard is still so sloshy and churned up from construction and rain and more rain and more construction. I really can't get to that part UNTIL this fall.

The area that extends to the front gets dappled sunlight/part shade, moving toward full shade at the back. The only existing trees are 2-3 very tall and spindly sweetgums (hate them, but they provide the only shade and to remove them all would be expensive) and one half-way decent tall, spindly oak (...I think...some kind of oak...really skinny tree...really big leaves). Toward the end of the dappled shade, I have various junipers and moving toward some crape myrtles which border my front yard. I originally thought I would put out dogwoods, because I love them, but I tried one last year and I think I set the Olympic record for the shortest lifespan of a newly planted tree. The area gets plenty of water as it's on the bottom of a pretty good incline and has the sweetgums as canopy. I was really surprised that it died, to be honest.

Got any native tree ideas?

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Hmm... I wonder if your dogwood drowned. Is it a wet area? Halesia (Silver bell) might be better, but you'd have to go to a nursery like Nearly Native to find one.

A lot of nurseries are carrying Service Berry, which is a nice small tree.

Have you ever thought of planting acorns? I'm seeing white oak acorns on the ground that are already sprouting a little root. You probably could find some too in a park or nature trail.

If you live around Atlanta, you might be interested in going to the Native Plant Symposium. It's put on by the Georgia Native Plant Society, which also has plant rescues around Atlanta where you could dig free plants for your yard. It's very cool.

Here is a link that might be useful: Native Plant Symposium

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 9:30PM
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Hey mk, would love to help you with some ideas. In general, is the area overly moist or dry? As lilium suggested, that might need to be accounted for to ensure success.

Was the dogwood planted from a container or was it a B&B plant? It is possible to get a bad B&B plant as they are usually dug dormant and sometimes roots can be severed - I had a bad redbud once and when I dug it up, there was really nothing there! Plants in a container are mostly container grown and you only have issues with being root bound, not absence of roots.

Would love to see some pictures if you can, that always helps with ideas. So this area is partially shady? Are you looking for something evergreen, flowering, good fall color or some of everything? In addition to trees, one can consider large shrubs (like some of the native viburnums).

I'll think about it. I'm out of town right now, but flying home today so will look for your response tomorrow.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 10:57AM
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Sorry's been a very busy last couple of days and this is the first chance I've had to get back on this issue.

lilium -- Thanks for the info on the dogwood...yes, I suppose it could've been overly wet, but didn't seem to be so as I was digging the hole for it. Could've been a little too much clay though and might've held whatever water was there, for too long. It was very frustrating though, because small (almost wild-looking) dogwoods used to grow in that area perfectly well, but had to be cut down due to construction issues.

esh -- Thanks! I will definitely take some pix sometime this week...probably Thursday or Saturday (nice weather those days). The area I want to plant in now IS at the bottom of a hill, so it does get excess runoff, But, the soil is pretty easy to work...even with some clay, it's never very difficult to dig down there...except for working around roots of the existing trees.

The dogwood WAS a B&B, now that I think about it...and it is the only B&B tree I've ever planted. I did cut away the twine and pulled the burlap down several inches, but didn't completely remove it. I'll keep the B&B-vs-container thing in mind for the future. I am more comfortable with container plants, obviously.

The area is partial shade-to-full shade, depending on how close to the lawn you get (partial shade near the lawn, full shade next to the existing woods). I am looking for a little of everything I think. I don't want to plant TOO many varieties, but I think it could look more natural if I don't plant just one thing, right? Maybe one flowering (I like white and yellow...hence the dogwood), something for fall color (I already have maples in the yard, so more maples wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing...but open to other ideas), and sure...something evergreen would be nice. I already have quite a few varieties in the pacific juniper, Parson's juniper, Saybrook Gold juniper, blue point juniper (yeah...OK, I like junipers...), and a REALLY big no-idea-what-the-name-of-it-is cedar that actually came OUT of the edge of those woods many years ago. I also have Clarissa hollies in the existing landscape, needlepoint hollies, variegated pittosporums, and kaleidoscope abelia. So, obviously, I like evergreens too! :)

I'm really open to main concern is that it looks natural.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 11:14AM
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Thinking back on it, it STILL makes me mad about that dogwood...and it wasn't a $20 stick-of-a-tree either, dang it. It was one of those I-feel-like-splurging things, where I really wanted to get something that had some good branch structure already happening...sigh... Don't know if I'll do that again. That's the second tree I've spent "real" money for, that has been a problem.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 11:18AM
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Ok, so lots of shade. The problem with shade, of course, is getting things to BLOOM. You can have shade tolerant things like Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis*) that don't bloom, but it's a little harder to find things that can actually get enough sun to make blooms.

Things to consider:
- Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium)
- Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia*)
- Florida leucothoe (Agarista populifolia*)
- Coastal leucothoe (Leucothoe axillaris*)
- Rhododendrons*
- Florida anise (Illicium floridanum*)

Things to consider for sunnier areas (still partial shade):
- Sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) - look for 'Michael Lindsey' or 'Athens'
- Inkberry (Ilex glabra*)
- Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica)
- Carolina cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana*)

* Evergreen

All of these need to be considered in light of your moisture situation. Plants like Kalmia and Rhododendron can take some moisture as long as they are well drained (they naturally grow on streambanks); that is why many people plant them "high" or on a mound. If the area is not well drained, then some things will have to be removed from this list.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 7:54PM
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I just took some pix, but realized that this is in the morning and the area does get morning least here in the winter when there's no foliage from existing trees. I will take more pix this afternoon...when I think the light will be more indicative of how much shade the area gets during most of the year, and post.

esh -- Most of those you mention are shrubs, right? Are there any trees that would work?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 10:24AM
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Trees would be Hemlock and Carolina cherry laurel (that is not the shrubby otto luyken laurel that people think of).

Other trees to consider would be dogwood and silverbell (Halesia). Some of the shrubs mentioned can be limbed up to resemble small trees (especially things like native azaleas).

A good resource is the pdf brochure from the GNPS website (linked below). There is a light indicator (S=shade, P=partial shade). Probably best to pick ones that have P and S but not F (full sun).

Here is a link that might be useful: Landscaping - plants of the Georgia Piedmont

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 12:23PM
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I would try dogwoods again - maybe smaller ones.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 9:50PM
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All -- Thanks for the suggestions. I haven't forgotten to post pix, but everytime it is good weather to take new pix, I have been busy and everytime I am not busy, it is raining! :) I promise to get back on this shortly...

    Bookmark   February 10, 2010 at 1:12PM
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This thread brings to mind another favorite book of mine: The Southern Gardener's Book of Lists.

It has wonderful lists of plants -- Plants for a shady slope. Perennials for dry shade. Evergreen shrubs with berries. Evergreen vines to hold ground on a hill.

Sooooo many lists of great plants from experts all over the south. It is very, very helpful!

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 10:06AM
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I agree - that is a great book because you can find a list of things for particular need. Since I mostly do natives, I just look for the natives in the list - works for me!

Here is a link that might be useful: Link to book on amazon

    Bookmark   February 11, 2010 at 10:20AM
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bagsmom and esh -- Thanks! It's a good time to do some reading anyway, since it's too wet out there to do much else. :(

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 8:06AM
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