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Old 12-02-2013, 09:44 PM   #1
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Default Putting the Design Back in Native Plant Gardening

Those of you who have gotten to know me on Wildlife Gardeners probably know that my idea of "gardening/landscaping" with native plants leans a lot more towards restoration and recreating natural habitat. However, in some areas, I do want these "habitat communities" to look at least somewhat like a landscape around the house itself.

I stumbled upon this article:

Designing with Native Plants
Designing with Native Plants
Quote:
Northern Virginia landscape architect Thomas Rainer (whose blog Grounded Design Iím a big fan of) recently spoke to a rapt audience at the National Arboretumís Native Plant Symposium, addressing the big question Ė how to create a native-plant garden that looks like a garden. You know, cared for and pretty.
Although I don't care for the contemporary design (it doesn't fit my style), I thought the article may help those who are trying to utilize native plants in a more conventional landscape.
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:51 PM   #2
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Just a couple of lines that struck me:
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Thomas went on to complain that Americans treat nature like Victorians treated women Ė as either virgins or whores.
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...native gardens overly embrace the wild look in their attempts to imitate nature. While he loves naturalistic design as much as the next guy, he thinks the resulting gardens look weak and sloppy.
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To avoid design failures like this, he uses what he calls the mother-in-law test Ė would his mother-in-law like this, recognize it as a garden? If so, then itíll probably be accepted by the public.
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Old 12-02-2013, 09:51 PM   #3
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A great example of this style of native-plant design is Gary Smithís design for Peirceís Woods at Longwood Gardens, which uses thousands of Tiarellas, maidenhair ferns and Christmas ferns to glorious effect. Itís not an imitation of an Eastern forest but a bold interpretation of one. Click here to see it.
This fits my vision of a design around the house: http://www.wgarysmith.com/design/peirces-woods-longwood-gardens-2 (same as the "Click here" link above)
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Old 12-02-2013, 11:00 PM   #4
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I admit my yard leans towards the wild and crazy look rather than the "landscaped", but I like the "designed" appearance that the botanical garden achieves. On the other hand, I console myself that I have inherent problems with poor soil and limited light, and boulders everywhere I dig that determine where my shrubs go rather than where I plan them to be. That isn't really true though - I just tend to be too laid back in my house keeping or gardening to maintain a manicured appearance.
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Old 12-03-2013, 07:03 AM   #5
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Turttle, I feel your pain. When we bought our house, I envisioned something like Pierce's Woods in our mini-glade of a sugar maple and a red maple adjoining a line of white pines. Unfortunately, the trees suck all the moisture out of the fill dirt, which is mostly yellow clay, and very little that has been planted/transplanted there has survived. (A few ferns moved from another part of the yard are hanging on with supplemental water, but watering a native plant garden on a regular basis seems --unnatural.) The volunteers we get are some Pennsylvania sedge (not enough), white asters, boneset, the occasional goldenrod, wild cherry seedlings, Bradford Pear from a neighboring street , and--baby dogwood. We're hoping that the last makes it--I could handle a dogwood glade, even though I envisioned carpets of ferns and spring ephemerals.
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Old 12-03-2013, 06:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by turttle View Post
I admit my yard leans towards the wild and crazy look rather than the "landscaped", but I like the "designed" appearance that the botanical garden achieves.
Don't get me wrong, I think utilizing natives in a more designed garden is fine...it will hopefully bring more people into recognizing the beauty of natives (and other benefits they offer). It is just not my kind of design.

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Originally Posted by turttle View Post
On the other hand, I console myself that I have inherent problems with poor soil and limited light, and boulders everywhere I dig that determine where my shrubs go rather than where I plan them to be. That isn't really true though - I just tend to be too laid back in my house keeping or gardening to maintain a manicured appearance.
I'm sure it is hard to design when you can't dig a hole in the exact spot a design calls for.
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Old 12-03-2013, 06:55 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Rebek56 View Post
The volunteers we get are some Pennsylvania sedge (not enough), white asters, boneset, the occasional goldenrod, wild cherry seedlings, Bradford Pear from a neighboring street , and--baby dogwood. We're hoping that the last makes it--I could handle a dogwood glade, even though I envisioned carpets of ferns and spring ephemerals.
I'm glad you got some good volunteers. A dogwood glade would be great...and, if you can somehow manage your spring ephemerals underneath, all the better. I'm hoping for something similar here in some spots.
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Old 12-05-2013, 11:30 AM   #8
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Hey Rebek56, I like your idea on the dogwood glade which may still be doable if you work really hard at it. I've found on those florida dogwoods, that the root system is similar to a maple, sprawling further than the specific tree canopy, but just under the dirt to a depth of 4-6", the dogwood roots are nearly white & brittle. I guess this is why you rarely see dogwood at a nursery in a proper pot (very wide but shallow pot)!

Breaking or cutting the roots will hurt or kill a good tree, but if you take the time to hand dig the roots out to the ends, where the fine matted hairy roots are, protect the tender ends from drying out while excavating the other roots, and prepare the transplant hole with some good dirt, spreading the roots as they should be, expecting success. A nurseryman suggested to me about large dogwood transplant loss, to try cutting the roots around the tree & mark the cut line with stakes, but do not move the tree, rather let it stay in place for a year...then dig it out, with a more manageable size root system.

As for the sprawling maple roots, they take as much ground as they can! So I would think you could cut those maple roots back to the edge of his canopy, sure they will quickly regrow & spread from the cut line, but it might give you enough time to get your dogwood established nearby, but not under the the maple canopy. I've got wild cherry that has no problem spreading roots 30' from the tree (8" diameter), much like the maple they take all they can get, and will compete with the dogwood for the surface layer of dirt, he has red roots.

You might try transplanting dogwoods under hickory or oak canopy, as the oak's root system runs much deeper typically around a depth of 6"-2' deep, which leaves lots of room for the dogwood roots in the upper layers of dirt.

Does that sound about right dapjwy?

ww
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Old 12-05-2013, 05:46 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by wildwatcher View Post
Does that sound about right dapjwy?
~smile~ As for the depth of the roots and how far from the canopy they spread, you sound like you've a lot more knowledge and experience than me. I guess I know more about trees above ground than below!

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Originally Posted by wildwatcher View Post
You might try transplanting dogwoods under hickory or oak canopy, as the oak's root system runs much deeper typically around a depth of 6"-2' deep, which leaves lots of room for the dogwood roots in the upper layers of dirt.
I would agree about the oaks and anything else with a taproot. From what I've read, the oaks not only don't compete as much with spring ephemerals, but they also leaf out later which allows more sun to reach the wildflowers in the spring.

Quote:
Originally Posted by wildwatcher View Post
A nurseryman suggested to me about large dogwood transplant loss, to try cutting the roots around the tree & mark the cut line with stakes, but do not move the tree, rather let it stay in place for a year...then dig it out, with a more manageable size root system.
I have thought of doing just that with some things I've wanted to move. It makes sense to me, although I've yet to put it into practice.

When it comes to tree roots, I think members are going to start looking to you to share your experience: wildwatcher, root expert extraordinaire!
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Old 12-05-2013, 05:57 PM   #10
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Also, as for dogwoods, I've added at least a dozen or so in the past few years. I bought them as four-foot trees, dug some holes (granted away from tree roots in most cases), and put them in. Most of them are taller than me now. A few were "trimmed" by deer and are still on the smaller side, and I lost at least one to rabbits the winter after I put it in (in the "woods" not out in the open where the rabbits seemed to let them be). Believe it or not, I'm starting to want to put in at least a dozen more (these at the edge of the woods, in the hedgerow (I've already put in a couple), and as understory trees in the woodlands. Seeing the birds that came for the berries, I want even more.
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