Hello Fellow Readers,
“Plant more plants” was music to my ears shared by Claudia West at the recent NJ Plants tradeshow held in Edison NJ. Claudia is the Ecological Sales Representative of North Creek Nurseries; my go-to wholesale propagation nursery in Landenberg, PA. Her presentation was titled Planting in a Post-Wild World. She, along with Thomas Rainer, co-authored a book with the same title.
Claudia described how to layer plant communities akin to those seen in nature to create a beautiful and healthy ecosystem. The Structural Layer is made up of “plants that have naked feet,” Claudia explained, which allows room for plants to thrive below. Its comprised of trees, shrubs or large perennials that should cover no more than ten percent of the landscape. One of her favorite structural perennials is ‘Jeana’ Garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) which grows 4 to 5 feet. It has outstanding mildew resistance and fragrant lavender-pink flowers from mid-summer to early-fall that are magnets for pollinators. Then there’s the stately Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) with mauve-pink fluffy flowers in July through September atop deep burgundy stems.
The second layer, called Seasonal Theme Plants, creates a “strong color moment” each season that should consist of at least thirty percent of the landscape. Amongst nature, we see fields of glorious Goldenrod (Solidago) in fall or native Eastern Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) we have grown to love. Its best to design using six to seven themes a year, advises West. She shared the attributes of Blue Wood Aster (Aster cordifolius) with puffs of blue flowers in early fall; perfect for naturalizing under trees or along a woodland edge. Then there’s sun-loving Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) with bright orange flowers in mid-to-late summer that attracts butterflies, especially Monarchs.
I was dancing in the aisle when Claudia talked about the Ground Cover Layer. At last, an ecological expert that advocates understory plants rather than the wasteful cycle of mulching. The Ground Cover Layer occurs in the wild with waves of ferns, moss, and lichen on fields of rocks. Claudia touts a native “liriope alternative” Creek sedge (Carex amphibola). Then there’s Golden ragwort (Packera aurea) which is semi-evergreen. Its yellow daisy-like flowers spike up from the field of green and serve as a seasonal theme as well as a groundcover.
Claudia wrapped up her presentation, sharing a picture from her native land of Eastern Germany formerly destroyed by industry. She then shared the same scene restored with blue water centered in a meadow of textures and colors. Thanks to funding from the European Union, she explained, the transformation took place and concluded, “Nature is resilient. We can make a difference.” Indeed, we can.
Garden Dilemmas? AskMaryStone@gmail.com