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Steep creek bank - shade - what thrives?

Posted by harleybrutus NJ (My Page) on
Mon, Oct 2, 06 at 17:27

Hello, I have a very steep almost cliff-like, densely shaded creek-bank in Monmouth County that I would like to have ground retaining plants growing on. The bank is 70 degrees +/- 10 degrees and about 12 feet top to the bottom. At the top of the bank to prevent erosion I have rhododendrons, azalea and a few ornamental trees - pear, cherry, dogwood, white birch, Japanese red maple and pines. On the bank itself is for the most part exposed soil. I have tried ivy - planted about 500 bear-root plants at various locations along the 200' of bank about 10 ivy plants took root. I have fern that took were the bank is 60 degrees and a bit more light. Where shaded and the banks 70 degrees plus it seems hopeless. Vinca vine will maintain on the top of the bank, even though it is technically an annual it comes back each year but doesn't thrive as it would in the sun. The shade is coming from very large an mature Poplar, Maple, Pin Oak, Beech, Chestnut, Locust and other indigenous trees. The stream runs north-south, the bank faces the West and any sun that filters through the tall wooded area a of trees is in the afternoon is minimal. The soil quality is fair, dense dark brown (redish - I am near Red Bank) not sandy but not all top soil and generally acidic (typical Monmouth County New Jersey) and you can't really till a 70+ degree bank. For the ivy plantings I poked-a-hole in the bank and planted the bare-rooted plants in April (being told they would thrive no-problem) They mostly died in winter 9 or 10 months later but were doing okay until then. Do I have to build terrace planters on the bank with top-soil and/or cut down trees for more light or is there some thing other than poison ivy that will thrive on 1.) a steep cliff-like bank in 2.) dense shade 3.) without amazing soil? I am okay with anything that looks "okay" and with thrive while keeping the bank. Thanks!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Steep creek bank - shade - what thrives?

Part of my streambank is like yours; almost vertical. I'm assuming the stream can rise during rains. Xanthorrhiza simplicissima and Leucothoe are good, low-growing (native)colonial shrubs which will stabilize the bank. Vinca minor and V. major should also work, as might Lamium. Chrysogonum virginianum 'Eco Lacquered Sunset'and Ajuga spread vigorously in shade. A few of the low-growing bamboos will spread slowly in deep shade, but beware of their aggressiveness if they find a brighter area. Plants competing with tree roots will need supplemental water for a few years until established. That means watering several hours a week with an oscillating sprinkler. I think adding soil or making terraces would be a waste. Lessening the tree cover would certainly help your ground covering plants grow.

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