Landscape designers native planting suggestion - thoughts?

gala522August 19, 2008

We're building a new home. The developer wants a native planting bed in the back corner of our property. I'm all for the concept, but I'm new to natives and a novice gardener.

Here's the plant list provided by the landscape designer...

5 Ninebark

5 Purple willow

5 I.G. (this isn't spelled out... any ideas?)

10 Purple coneflowers

10 Swan coneflowers

10 Black-eyed Susans

10 Whorled milkweed

50 mix of rose verbena, Missouri evening primrose, purple poppy

2 Cedar

1 Oak

I will be responsible for maintaining this bed. My biggest concern is that the plants require little maintenance to look nice. The plants I'm familiar with from the list (black-eyed susans, puple coneflowers, swan conflowers) are sufficiently low maintenance for me, but I don't have any experience with the others.

What do you think? Should I be concerned about any of these plants?

Thank you!

Gala

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joepyeweed(5b IL)

The ninebark is a shrub, commonly used for a border or screen. It could benefit from an occasional pruning, a nice choice.

And the list is common names which can be misleading. Purple willow, salix purpurea, isn't necessarily native. There are plenty of native willows, and perhaps he is planning to use a native one, but without having the latin name, you can't be sure.

The same could be true for the IG... if he had used latin names, I might guess that its an ilex (or holly species) but the latin names that are Ilex g.... are typically not the native hollies, either. But really, I have no idea what IG is...

As you know the coneflowers are nice.

I don't really care for evening primrose, as I think its weedy, but that is personal opinion. I know other people who love it...

As for the milkweed, personally, I'd probably pick asclepias incanarta or asclepias speciosa over a. verticillata. But as far as maintenance, they would all be similar.

I would want to know specifically which cedar and which oak, he is planning to add.

Generally, if you want low maintenance, the list looks pretty good - but it lacks details.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 5:51PM
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felisar

I am sorry to say I think the list is a little uninspiring. I am not a big fan of black eyed susans. Yes they look great in flower but then the foliage gets very ratty looking and it spreads all over the place. Nor would I choose the willow. The ninebark is an excellent choice. There are cultivars with different color foliage which would give you season long interest. Some other higher quality alternatives I would consider are: Eupatorium 'Gateway', the native grasses praire dropseed (sporobolus heterolepis)and panicum (switch grass)-there are several interesting cultivars, liatris spicata (blazing star or gayfeather) both the white & purple, amosonia(bluestar)-there are several species to choose from, physostegia 'Variegata (variegated obedient plant-not nearly as invasive as the regular variety). If IG does stand for a member of the holly family (ilex) I would research this carefully. Typically prairie plants grow in neutral to slightly alkaline soil whereas ilex are definitely acid lovers. As for trees, look at kentucky coffee (gymnocladus dioica) tree as a possible alternative to oaks. I would also be careful with the native cedar. It is the alternate host for cedar apple rust. Not a good thing if your or your neighbors'landscapes include crabapple trees.

I hope this helps rather than confuses.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 8:43PM
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esh_ga

IG could be Ilex glabra - inkberry holly.

Where are you located, by the way (other than zone 5)? Sometimes it helps to know that.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 10:43PM
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gala522

Thanks for the responses. I'm in Kansas City.

I've been searching the mobot.org site. So far I'm thinking I might substitute amsonia for the milkweed and black gum for the oak. Thanks for the amsonia suggestion, felisa. I saw a fringed variety in a display garden and loved it. I didn't realize it was native.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 11:00PM
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Soeur(z6b TN)

To paraphrase what they used to sing on a kid's show, some of these things are not like the others... your designer's plants don't go together well. Some of the suggested selections want a lot of moisture and some want much dryer conditions. Unless it's a large area that goes from a high dry spot to a low moist one, some part of that list is gonna suffer.

Looking at that list, the evening primrose and whorled milkweed like near-xeric (dry) conditions, while the coneflowers, verbena (not sure this is hardy in your area, actually) and rudbeckia like mesic ("normal"), and the ninebark and willow need steady moisture to prosper. Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed), which was suggested above, likes mesic to moist conditions, and err on the moist side for best results. Assuming IG stands for Ilex glabra, it prefers a mesic to moist situation, and in your area would also appreciate shelter from cold northwest winter winds. Cedar is adaptable to everything except wet feet, and there are some cool cultivars available of both J. virginiana (eastern red cedar) and J. scopulorum (rocky mountain cedar). No telling about the oak, as you need to know the species to know what conditions are appropriate. Black gum's a good choice unless the site is quite dry. That's a dioecious species, so if you get a female and there's a boy gum around to pollinate, you'll have a messy berry drop in the summer, if that's a consideration. Amsonia is an awesome genus and very adaptable -- A. hubrichtii is quite beautiful in and out of bloom. Joe Pye Weed wants moisture, as does Panicum. Sporobolis wants dryer. Liatris spicata prefers moisture, but there are plenty of liatris species to choose from that will like whatever you've got.

Many mesic plants are fairly drought hardy when established, so a dry-ish site might not kill them once they've been in the ground a year or two with good culture and no stress. But that just means they survive a drought, not that they look good and sail through untouched. Coneflowers are a good example. They usually survive dry spells, but they often look pretty wretched. It's sort of a judgment call on whether they're appropriate for you, depending on how pretty you want the garden to look like in the bad times.

No offense, but I don't think the designer is very up on his/her natives. I'd say you'd probably lose 30-40% of those original suggested plants over time, depending on whether your situation is dryer or moister. I've found that good way to figure this out, if the site is relatively undeveloped, is to take a look at whatever's growing there now (even weeds), ID it, then look up its preferred habitat relative to moisture availability. That'll help you figure out what will thrive there without irrigation or other artificial life support. Then you can develop a plant list that suits the site.

BTW, I assume "swan" coneflower is 'White Swan', an older white selection of E. purpurea. There are better newer white cultivars now, such as 'Primadonna White', which for me has performed better and is a prettier garden subject to my eye.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2008 at 4:10PM
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