Design my (Small) Native Garden

Adam(6a)September 28, 2013

I have an area right behind my house that needs some sprucing up. It's not very large - approximately 4'x12'.

Details: Zone 6b, part sun to shade; clay loam; soil does not drain very well but there's no standing water after a good rain; I have large dogs.

I was thinking about a smaller witch hazel variety under-planted with lobelia or something like that but what are your ideas? In the photo, the stepping stones can be moved or removed if necessary to expand a bit and to the right of those is a native flower bed containing milkweeds, ironweed, joe pye weed, coneflowers, blackeyed susans, asters, goldenrod, and a serviceberry tree.

Thanks for any help and guidance you can provide!

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I'd move some Joe Pye to that spot and put some Agastache or salvias in the sunnier area. There is a red, moisture loving hummingbird magnet that is escaping me that might work there, or in the other bed as well. Darn, what is that? Sorry, dementia moment. You could put in some asters--oops, you've got those. I'm always a fan of increasing diversity everywhere. Though, you can never have too much milkweed. What kind of milkweed do you have? How about liatris? Good luck, I gotta get to work.


    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 7:38AM
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Cardinal Flower? I have used the seed exchange to acquire both the blue and red varieties and was thinking about trying those.

This spot only gets 2-3 hours of direct sunlight in the evening (light shade in the morning and indirect sunlight throughout the day); so I would be concerned about Joe Pye and Salvia. I'm not too familiar with Agastache though.

How about a small witch hazel variety or a spicebush?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2013 at 9:29AM
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How about berry shrubs - blueberries, huckleberries, bayberry, etc. Or, kale, artichoke... cardoons?

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 9:32PM
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kchd(7b/8a MS)

I'll throw oakleaf hydrangea into the list of suggestions :)

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 9:55PM
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What berry shrubs do well in part sun to shade? I had considered the oakleaf hydrangea but I don't think it's native to my area. :)

I'm still leaning towards spicebushes and lobelia for the butterflies and hummingbirds. Feel free to post any other ideas though!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 9:18AM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Might take a look at any columbines native to your area. Some from the southwest will do well in same environment as lobelia, though have found aquilegia canadensis to be a bit less forgiving of prolonged moisture. A nice long blooming shade option where happy with the drainage and fairly inexpensive to try from seed.

Here is a link that might be useful: North American columbines

    Bookmark   October 3, 2013 at 10:58AM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

Snakeroot is native in Michigan, and grows well in shade. It will reseed vigorously, I'm told, but it is an excellent later summer pollen/nectar source. It also tolerates and even thrives in moist locations. I could seed that spot filled with a Snakeroot "hedge". I think it's in the same family as Joe Pye and Boneset, but more shade tolerant.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 5:22PM
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kchd(7b/8a MS)

Lindera benzoin would be a nice option, as you mentioned it earlier. Plus the added bonus of being a host plant for the spicebush swallowtail. Also consider: Mapleleaf viburnum (Viburnum acerifolium). And is American beautyberry native to your area? It's another favorite of mine. How about Lonicera dioca? Or another native Lonicera? Actaea racemosa (black cohosh)? Veronicastrum virginicum (Culver's root)? Redring milkweed will grow for you in shade, and it's a real beauty. If you get enough of a shrub/small tree to really shade the earth beneath it, you could consider things like Jack-in-the-Pulpit, dolls eyes, and other lovely woodland natives.

I'm not entirely sure of what's native to your area, since I'm wayyyy down here in MS.

Quite frankly, your options feel endless to me. There are so many natives that I love which would do well in that spot.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 11:11PM
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bostedo(8a tx-bp-dfw)

Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) should do well in a spot like this and may be a local native depending upon where you are in zone 6. Has spring flowers and great fall color that holds on for most of the winter in zone 8. It can spread by root suckering, but has not been much of a problem with our 'Little Henry' dwarf cultivar - though am guessing this may vary by location and soil condition. 'Henry's garnet' is an improved standard cultivar.

Here is a link that might be useful: Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet' at MBG

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 3:17PM
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If You're Looking To Dramatically Increase The Number of Butterflies That Linger Around Your Beautiful Garden, This Might Be The Most Important

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 3:49PM
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pinksand(7a MD)

Turtlehead is one of my new favorite natives that should appreciate the moisture and shade.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 4:10PM
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Thank you for all of the suggestions! I'm located in the far southwest corner of Ohio; west of Cincinnati. Since the area has been clear-cut and re-vegetated numerous times, it was hard to gather information on what is actually "native" vs. what grows in nearby regions. Pre-European settlement, the area was a beech-maple forest and according to stories, had some of the last giant beech trees before being logged for timber. Not that I'm going to make any meaningful impact on my 0.14 acre plot; but the romanticized idea of restoring a small portion of the area to its former glory is too nagging to pass on. I don't have room to plant a beech tree, but I have a hickory and a serviceberry and would like to restore some of the historic understory offerings to birds and pollinators.

PS - I did move my Joe Pye weed to occupy a small portion of the spot in question.

This post was edited by NKUSigEp on Wed, Oct 9, 13 at 16:35

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 4:25PM
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