recommendation for native meadow border

c2g(6)March 18, 2013

Trying to suggest a combination of grasses/wildflowers for someone in Northeast PA who wants to grow a native meadow border along their property. Not sure about soil composition, but the area is full sun and they'd like it to be as maintenance-free as possible (no watering, no staking). Looking to order trays of plugs for spring planting.

My initial thought was:
grasses - little bluestem, indian grass, switch grass
wildflowers - common milkweed, black-eyed susan, oxeye sunflower.

They'd add some potted plants in for color/seasonal interest as needed, but the rest would be trays. I've never seen a "narrow" meadow used as a privacy screen before - about 4' wide separating a yard from the sidewalk.

Hoping someone could weigh in on this combination or suggest a better one.

Thanks

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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I would add some monarda, New England Aster, lupine, Purple Coneflower, Obediant Plant, Golden rod, Agastache (hyssop), Hoary Vervain, and others. The greater the diversity, the better the chances that something will survive. Also, more diversity increases the chance that something will be blooming at all times. That will provide constant nectar sources and seeds for birds and other small animals. I'm sure there are many more plant options, but that's what I came up with off the top of my head. Good luck to your friend.

Martha

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 7:46AM
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Nick4Natives(5b)

Your choices for grasses are great. Love them all. Just make sure you plan for the future and don't have them planted too close together. Growing grasses from plugs may take several years to have a desired effect, so buying started plants in 4' pots might be worth looking into. Heck, if you or someone you know has a clump of these grasses they are willing to part with you can easily divide it into 4 parts using a shovel or saw and have mature-looking grasses by the end of this Fall.

Black-eyed Susan and oxeye are great, but I question their longevity. They are prolific seeders, but that adds to maintenance issues. If low maintenance is a high priority, go with taproot plants. They generally live a long time and are pretty easy to maintain. Plus they don't need to be watered since the roots go deep.

Perhaps establishing the grasses should be the first priority. I wouldn't spend a lot of money on buying plugs of black-eyed susan or oxeye unless they are very cheap. Buy an ounce of seed of each, throw down in bare spots after everything else is in, and you will have more than you know what to do with of both. I collect both varieties of seed each year and it's remarkable how easily the seed grows. I literally have thousands of black-eyed susans just from seed planted last year.

Here is a link that might be useful: Improved Ecosystems

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 12:21AM
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c2g(6)

Thanks for the advice. Since I have access to grass plugs at a really good price and the homeowner is on a tight budget, I'm going to plant the grass plugs for the first phase and work in flowers after that. Unfortunately, the only grass I have established that I can divide is switchgrass. May try that, but I was told it can become dominant. Also, interesting blog, Nick.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 9:32AM
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Nick4Natives(5b)

Thanks. Switchgrass can become dominant, but it takes a while. I generally try to divide my grassed once the clumps get close to a foot in diameter. I usually leave about 1/4 of what was originally there and move the other 3 parts to a new location.

Regardless of the plants aggressive nature, I still recommend it in garden settings. There are few other grasses that can offer the amount of appeal throughout the seasons. Most other grasses will collapse once Winter sets in, but switchgrass stays tall until Spring.

I'd love to see pictures and progress once the project starts!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2013 at 2:13PM
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c2g(6)

Prepped the area over the weekend. Couldn't believe how long it took to pull up lawn. Soil was rich and black with tons of worms. Not sure if that's necessarily a good thing with native grasses. Anyway, we have a tray of each of the following:

little bluestem, indian grass, purple top, purple love grass, and bottlebrush grass. Most of the bottlebrush plugs will go in partly shaded areas under trees since I read they might not do well in full sun. Everything else will go in the meadow. We changed the plan up a bit and it's about a 30' section, maybe 6-10' deep.

Nick, I'm dividing my switchgrass this week. I have a few that are about 1' diameter and agree that they look great throughout the winter. I'll update this once we get everything in.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2013 at 8:07AM
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