Another native restoration (photos included)

topieAugust 11, 2009

Were starting on another native restoration project for an area of our land, and was wondering if anyone can help answer a couple of questions about native habitats.

The area we'd like to restore native plants and shrubs to is a large slope which is sitting at the foot of a long cinderblock retaining wall. The entire area is currently carpeted by Vinca minor, and English ivy, both planted by the previous owner of our house (see photos). We'd definitely like to remove the Vinca Minor, and possibly the English ivy as well.

The slope is in a riparian buffer area, not on the banks of the stream itself, but within less than 50 feet of a ravine which leads down to the stream. The soil is has a moderate clay content mixed with shale rocks, and is fairly moist.

Here are our questions:

Sunny section of slope: Should we think of this as a moist thicket, open woods, or meadow? The sunny area is in full shade until about noon, when it becomes a full sun area until dusk. Natives that have self-seeded at the edge of the sunny section of the slope currently include: Black Walnut saplings, Yellow birch saplings, poison ivy, and a very young unidentified conifer, most likely Eastern red cedar.

Shaded section: Should we think of this as dry woods? At one end of the slope is a non-native Norway Maple which keeps that area of the slope in dappled shade all day (the Norway maple overhangs our property, but the trunk isn't on our property, so we can't cut it down). Non-native shrubs in the shade area include Japanese winebery. We're thinking of the shaded area as dry woods due to the roots of the Norway maple, but aren't certain how dry it really is. Natives that have self-seeded in the shaded section of the slope currently include: Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica), and poison ivy.

WeâÂÂre in Zone 6b, in the Northern Piedmont area, inland from the East Coast.

The "sketch" below pretty much shows the approximate placement of everything where it is right now. Definitely a "Before" sketch, not an "After" !!!

Any help with pinpointing these habitats would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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P.S. The soil in this area is a moist, well-drained clay loam with an acidic PH between 6.0 and 5.0

I'm thinking that "woodland edge" or "open woods" is the most accurate description of this habitat??? We'd like to go with a shrub like Summersweet, Winterberry, Virginia Sweetspire, or Lowbush Blueberry in the sunny area (we may transplant the Black Walnut saplings to a different spot). But please let me know if anyone thinks it should be re-planted more as a "meadow" instead.

Again the photos above are PRE-native restoration, not POST-restoration. We are working on eradicating all the Japanese Wineberry right now, which seems to be xtra-invasive this year. Didn't plant that one either. I guess the birds bring in the seeds in their droppings.


    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 8:38PM
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You really have a host of possible options on what you may want to do. It all depends on the amount of time you want to expend in creating your distinct habitat and what kind of elements you may wish to include, such as wet spots or running water. What is most important is learning just how much space each plant or group of plants will require in order to grow well and how compatible they are with each other. Below is a list that may be helpful in isolating what your best plant options may be for your project.

Here is a link that might be useful: US Fish Wildlife listing of natives to Piedmont, Maryland

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 10:02PM
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Thank you so much for your reply and for the US Fish Wildlife listing of natives to Piedmont, Maryland. The list is great! I've been researching the same plants, trees and shrubs as the ones that are on the list, so it's good to know I'm on the right track, and it's terrific to have a listing with everything in one place.

I'm thinking at this point that the habitat on this slope is more of a wood edge than a potential meadow. However, the edges of the slope border a lawn, so I think we'll consider the edges of the slope as meadow for now, until the trees and shrubs get taller.

I think we'll concentrate on the regeneration of the trees and shrubs first.

Thanks again for the great link! The info is really appreciated.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2009 at 1:10PM
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rootwad(z5 Ozarks)

Hi, Topie. Others can probably give you much better advice about what to plant in your area. However, I am really curious as to how you plan on dealing with the vinca? I also have been battling this plant for years now. We have tried smothering, burning, manually digging, Brush B Gone, Roundup. It is very persistent. If even one little piece of root survives, the stuff comes back. It is even harder to deal with when it is mixed in with natives. Our problem is that it covers a large area and can come back before you notice. It is really a plague for us. Good Luck with your project. RW

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 2:37PM
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hi rootwad, that is a good question about the Vinca. I think "plague" is a good word for Vinca. It always amazes me that on other forums that people are actually trying to get it to grow.

We're planning on manually removing it, but I've heard the same thing... that it is very difficult to get rid of. Thanks for sharing your experiences with it. I have the feeling I'll be out there a lot yanking it up.

Because of the Vinca issue, I'm thinking we should install a stepping stone pathway on this slope to make getting around the slope for Vinca removal easier...

Have you attempted to plant a native ground cover instead? I figure the Vinca is probably difficult for native species to compete with. We're thinking of trying Foamflower, Wild Ginger and some colonizing ferns in the shady area, but not sure if they'll be able to drown out the Vinca. Haven't figured out a native ground cover for the sunny areas yet...maybe wild strawberry?

Thanks for the good luck wish!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 4:24PM
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terrene(5b MA)

I also have a horde of Vinca growing happily in the side yard under a large Norway maple. I've removed tons in other parts of the yard to make gardens, mostly via digging and smothering. Digging is hard, smothering is relatively easy. First I scalp it by mowing it down as low as possible, then smother with cardboard topped with layers of organic material (i.e. lasagne gardening or sheet composting). Be sure to overlap the cardboard well or it will grow through. This does indeed kill the Vinca and as the layers decompose it will create a nice rich bed for planting.

In defense of Vinca minor, it can be useful in a hard to grow and contained location, and it's attractive. But in my experience it is very aggressive and will choke out pretty much everything except for mature established shrubs and trees, native or not.

I also had 5 large Norway maples, but have had 4 of them removed (1 huge one left). Even for a maple, they are particularly difficult to grow underneath, as they cast a dense shade, and have mildly allelopathic roots that will suck all the moisture out of the ground. Some natives that will grow in dry shady or open woodland include White wood aster (Symphyotrichum divaricatum), Blue wood aster (S. cordifolium), White snakeroot (Ageratina altissimum), Woodland sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus), Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), Viola, and possibly native Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). I'm sure there are others.

You should conider moving the Juglans nigra as they have very allelopathic roots and are difficult to grow under. They also eventually grow into very large trees with wood that is quite valuable.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2009 at 10:13PM
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Thanks so much for the Vinca eradication tips. I think we will try that smothering/lasagne method in certain spots because the Vinca covers a fairly large area.

I agree Vinca can be useful in certain situations. We have some growing near our house seems to stay contained by the lawn, and the evergreen aspect is a plus. It's just not so great on this slope area because it's really getting into the riparian buffer zone at this point, and is starting to grow into the woods.

Thank you also for the native dry shade recommendations! We'll definitely keep these in mind for the area under the Norway Maple.

Yes, right now we're looking into moving the Black Walnut saplings. We have lots of them here...but can't bear the thought of cutting down a native tree, so hoping we can transplant. Seems difficult to transplant them because they have such a deep taproot...I agree they do make a nice tree though eventually. Hopefully we can move them to an alternative spot in the yard.

Thanks again for everyone's suggestions. The info is really appreciated. Hope to post the "After" pictures someday...

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 12:37AM
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