Monday, August 18, 2014

Tut, Tut: The Secrets of Papyrus

In recent years, ornamental grasses have become de rigueur for most modern garden designs. They are graceful, tall, and elegant – rather much the Audrey Hepburn of horticulture. But how can we translate this vertical effect to our indoor gardening environment? The solution comes replete with a rich and stunning history dating back to the ancient Nile, Pharaohs, Egyptian gods, and Moses in the bulrushes. Welcome to papyrus, one of the most important plants in early human civilization.

Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus), is undoubtedly the most famous member of the genus Cyperus (kupeiros is Greek for sedge), which is comprised of some 4,000 to 5,000 species, several of which are well-suited for indoor and outdoor pond gardens. The species name papyrus derives from the Egyptian word meaning “that which belongs to the house,” where house alludes to the ancient ruling body or bureaucracy.

Papyrus is, of course, the source for our word paper, and was also the plant used to produce sheets of paper for thousands of years, beginning as early as 4,000 BC. In fact, a thriving and vital trade existed for this writing material until about the third century AD, when it was found easier to produce paper from plant pulp, in a process introduced into the Middle East from China via Arab traders. Papyrus-paper also faced competition from Europe and the Near East in the form of parchment or vellum, which was made from animal skins, such as calf or sheep (hence getting your diploma or “sheepskin”). Papyrus continued to be manufactured and used in ever-decreasing amounts until the 11th century.

Interestingly, the plant itself all but disappeared from Egypt during the 20th century, due to dams on the Nile and other unsustainable practices. The plants were reintroduced into the area around Cairo from thriving native plant stock in Ethiopia and the Sudan in the late 1960s by Dr. Hassan Ragab, an Egyptian inventor and scientist, who also rediscovered a method for creating papyrus, which has now reemerged as a high-end novelty product and specialty paper.

Papyrus was, however, much more than an everyday paper product. Ancient Egyptians would also use the soft pith of the stem as a foodstuff, cooked and processed like sugar cane, or eaten raw. Ancient pharmacologists, like Galen and Dioscorides, cataloged a wide variety of medicinal uses for infusions made from the plant. Egyptians also harvested and dried the woody rhizomes and culms to use as a fuel – whose ashes were also medicinal! Garlands were woven from the graceful flower heads to adorn the shrines of the gods, and for funeral observances. The stylized representation of the papyrus inflorescence, or umbel, is a central motif in the art of the period, akin to the lotus motif in Eastern art. Fibrous strands taken from the stem of the plant were used to weave sandals, ropes, plaited fans, mats, wrapping materials, and to produce, oh yes, baskets.

Lest we forget, the basket into which Mariam and Jochebed placed the infant Moses to escape the infanticide decree of Pharaoh was woven from papyrus stems. And, as you think of sister Mariam watching the basket float along the Nile and nestle into the bulrushes, keep in mind that bulrush is but another common name for papyrus. Holy Moses!

Today, papyrus can find a ready welcome far from the subtropical banks of the Nile, especially as there are closely related species of sedge which can readily fit into a water garden, pond, or even into an attractive indoor container. Actually, the true papyrus species is overwhelming, and might be more bulrush than you can handle. Under ideal conditions, Cyperus papyrus can grow between 12 and 15 feet tall, with stems approaching six inches in diameter, although most gardeners report that indoors the plant only reaches eight feet. Still, that might be a bit much for the average family room. And don’t forget that all of the papyrus-like species originated in tropical and subtropical climes, and will need to be relocated indoors before the first frost.

A species suitable for the average backyard water feature is dwarf papyrus or miniature cyperus (Cyperus prolifer), which will stay upright and well-ordered at no more than 12 to 36 inches. Like most Cyperus, the plant thrives in full sun and likes to sit in water. Pretty ideal, having a plant that cannot be overwatered! This species can also take light to partial shade in the yard, or will purr happily in a sunny indoor window.

Pygmy Egyptian papyrus (C. haspan) has a sparkling appearance much like a bright green feather duster. It will top out at about 18 inches, and feels at home in a pot filled with a rich, loose soil mix, which is then placed in a second larger container filled with water – or set into an outdoor pond.

My personal favorite Cyperus species actually hails from Madagascar, and while it bears some overall resemblance to papyrus, its leaves are thicker and lie in a flat plane, which easily led to its common name, umbrella plant (C. alternifolius).

Umbrella plant can grow to five feet or more indoors, and slightly larger outdoors, although three to five feet is more common. Another sedge, it has a triangular stem, whose shape lends structure support to keep the stem upright in strong winds, perhaps faring better than the average umbrella. It also loves to sit in water day after day.

In fact, many of us who fancy the plant actually grow it in nothing more than a cachepot or sealed container filled with water, and lined with rocks on the bottom to help stabilize plant roots. In this hydroponic setting, it’s important to fertilize somewhat regularly, especially during active growing and flowering periods. But don’t mind the flowers: nothing much exciting there, mostly a bland, tan, oat-shaped affair.

Like most sedges, umbrella plants can be propagated by dividing the substantial root masses or clumps of rhizomes, keeping the outer, younger sections for replanting, and composting the older core. Although a much more entertaining method, of which I have not tired in more than 20 years, calls for cutting off the top six inches of a stem of the plant, leaves and all, and inverting the whole into a glass or vase of water. After a few weeks, roots will form around the junction of leaves and stem, and new shoots will emerge growing up, out of the water. When well-established, carefully plant the rooted cutting into a loose soil mix and keep well watered – or immersed. You can also continue to let the plant grow in water alone.

For the record, several plants gracing the bookcases in my office are descendants from several cuttings given to me in 1979. They have, over the years, produced huge clumps of plants for my rooftop garden, and smaller, discrete potted specimens for windowsills. Scores have been propagated and given to friends and curious visitors. And the tradition lives on.

Like the Egyptian papyrus alternatives, umbrella plants are available in compact and dwarf varieties, such as sparkler grass (C. alternifolius gracilis) under 18 inches with delicate, narrow leaves, as well as in a related variegated form (C. diffusus variegatus), where both leaves and stems are striped with a touch of creamy white against a wide, light green leaf.

Whether you’re striking out to honor Osiris, or print your own Book of the Dead on homemade papyrus, or maybe just add a little excitement to your parlor window with a dwarf ‘Nana’ umbrella plant, you can find just the right plant through online sources year-round, while many fine garden centers sell potted specimens in their water garden section.

Copyright 2014, Joseph M. Keyser

Friday, August 15, 2014

Getting Close to Cloisters

A garden can play many roles in our lives, depending on its design and intent: a treat for the senses, a source of sustenance, or a simple place to mess about with plants. But certainly one of the most important and traditional roles is as a unique place away from the world and worldly concerns. This special sort of garden can serve as an area for reflection, meditation, and spiritual healing. Indeed, for many of us, while we acknowledge having lost Eden, we haven’t given up on trying to recreate an ideal space for body and soul.

Perhaps no finer model for this meditation garden exists than the great monastic gardens which flourished for more than a millennium. By their very nature, these cloistered gardens were physically separated from the outside world by walls and roofed arcades, allowing visitors to focus within: both on the inner features of this peaceful garden, with its tranquil fountain, fruit trees, and healing herbs – and, more importantly, within themselves.

In fact, the very act of enclosing a garden reflects an almost primal understanding of what a garden is. For fun with philology, we can look to the etymology of “garden” and find the proto Indo-European root word “ghor-dho,” which means “enclosure.” (That word is also related to “yard” and the Latin hortus, as in horticulture.) Perhaps more interesting, medieval cloistered gardens were often called paradise gardens, hearkening back to Eden, with the word “paradise” coming to the West as pairidaeza, from the Old Persian, also meaning “walled enclosure.” The West, after all, did not have a monopoly on enclosed gardens.

To create a true garden meant separating your plants – and your person – from the world outside. And as our world is no more peaceful than that of the abbots who created the Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries, perhaps we might just want to return to the notion of a cloistered garden of our own.

Naturally, your three bedroom colonial might not easily lend itself to the addition of a finely cut stone-walled quadrangle, but you can at least separate your meditative space from the rest of your landscape with a simple wooden fence, trellises, arbors, or a planting of shrubs. You’re simply looking for a private inner space where you can turn within.

Following the lead of the monastic gardens, which typically observed a formal layout of rectangular beds and pathways, you might want to establish raised beds, another common medieval feature, in which to cultivate herbs and vegetables. After all, St. Benedict in the 6th century required that his monks provide all their own “necessaries” within the walls of their monastery. Not unlike the Victory Gardens of the 1940s.

Herbs were especially important to the monastic garden, as any fan of the Brother Cadfael mysteries knows. Medicinal plants were at the heart of monastic life, where monks studied and recorded the therapeutic properties of roots, dried leaves, and fruits, thereby institutionalizing modern pharmacology, much as the abbeys laid the groundwork for hospitals. Consider a quick visit to a public herb garden to identify medicinal and other herbs for your garden. You will be surprised that key medieval herbs are still favorites today.

Fruit trees, another symbol of paradise (munching on which led to man’s expulsion), were common features in almost all medieval gardens, and might adorn your garden, as well. Of course, barring the presence of a serpent, you should feel free to enjoy any of the apples or plums that you grow.

And while planning your bit of backyard paradise, remember that fragrance can stir memory and reflection, much as incense is used in both Eastern and Western religious traditions. Depending on your taste, you might plant soft musky-scented English boxwoods as a formal edge to your pathways, or choose from the palette of native shrubs and vines such as buttonbush or arbor-loving virgin’s bower.

The center of your garden should host a single, strong element, whether a trickling fountain, birdbath, or piece of sculpture. Original medieval works are probably out of the question, but concrete knock-offs of the Irish St. Fiacre (patron saint of gardeners) can be found in various garden shops, especially those associated with cathedrals, naturally.

Lastly, remember to set aside an area where you can actually sit and enjoy – and use – your meditation garden. That means setting aside time as well. The world goes along in its bumpy chaotic way, but you can still find a peaceful retreat and solace for your soul in paradise, even if it’s only in your backyard.

A personal note on cloistered gardens:
I strongly believe that at one time or other, nearly everyone has been profoundly influenced by a special place or an experience of place. For a young kid from Brooklyn, that place was the Cloisters in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s world-renowned and truly staggering collection of medieval art. The Cloisters is a museum woven around five actual monastic gardens disassembled and reassembled stone-by-stone in Ft. Tryon Park, overlooking the Hudson River. At around age 12, I experienced the Cloisters for the first time with my father one late winter’s day. I remember the scent of lemon and orange blossoms from potted trees dotting the glass-screened arcades; the burbling sound of fountains competing with Gregorian chant echoing through the complex. That single visit ultimately led to my educational life as a medievalist, my vocation as a horticulturist, and created a cultural passion that informs each and every moment of my life. Today, my wife (a medievalist) and I are on the verge of planning the construction of my dream home: it will have bedrooms, a kitchen, library, and all the rest – and it will be built around a central courtyard, a garden, with herbs and fruit trees and fountains. Evidently some places change you forever.

Copyright 2014, Joseph M. Keyser

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bamboozled by Bambusa

A common axiom in gardening is putting the right plant in the right place. Where bamboo is concerned, most people think that the only appropriate location is somewhere on the far side of hell. Bamboo is cherished and ardently defended as a vigorous landscape screen by some, although it is usually cursed as an invasive, unstoppable menace by most others, especially irate neighbors who find spikes and spears shooting up in their lawn and garden beds.

There are more than 750 species of bamboo plants which have been introduced to North America from Asia, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Most of these woody grasses (yes, they are actually grasses!) fall within the genera Bambusa, Pseudosasa, and Phyllostachys, and are renowned for growing upwards of 16 to 40 feet, with a cane or “culm” diameter ranging from one to six inches. Many also experience a general die-back after about a dozen years, usually after flowering, which will leave a dead, yellowed bamboo jungle, until new growth repopulates the grove.

Some species are considered “clumping,” which are generally well-behaved, while the more insidious specimens are called “running bamboos,” which will swiftly produce an impenetrable and monocultural thicket as they exert their own manifest destiny. Among the most commonly sold, planted, and (ultimately) loathed of runners is Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea).

These exotic invasive bamboos have caused feuds just shy of the infamous Hatfield and McCoy dust-up. Lawsuits have been filed, bulldozers mobilized, and concrete barriers poured. And yet, for all that, people looking to screen their yards from neighbors continue to plant running bamboos, especially in narrow spaces between properties or along fence lines.

Happily, there are attractive and non-invasive alternatives to bamboo blight, but first we should address how best to control and eradicate these invaders.

To keep bamboos from running, a rhizome barrier should be used. Bamboos very seldom produce seeds, and use rhizomes, or horizontal underground roots, to spread outward. To stop this march, a barrier two-three feet deep is essential, with about two inches rising above the soil surface. Slant the barrier outward near the top to ensure that rhizomes hitting your blockade will grow upward, and not down and eventually under the barrier. Keep an eye out and cut off any roots that attempt to grow over the top. Barriers can be made from metal or concrete, although heavy 60 mil plastic is the most readily available and affordable.

Clumps of bamboo can also be dug out, as the roots are actually quite shallow. Be sure to remove any and all pieces of the rootstock, including wayward rhizomes, and keep an eye out for future incursions.

A somewhat easier approach is to cut bamboo shoots as close to the ground as possible, and thereafter snip or mow down any new shoots or pesky regrowth. Eventually, you will starve the rootstock and the plant will die, although you will need to patrol the area on a regular basis for a year or so. This technique is best used on bamboo entering your yard from a neighboring property. In fact, some homeowners simply mow down any shoots in their lawns when they cut their grass, and have seen thumb-thick shoots eventually replaced by pencil-thin sprouts, just before they disappear altogether.

For quicker, more thorough results, Jan Ferrigan, an invasive plant program manager in Virginia, recommends cutting down bamboo shoots and applying Roundup or a similar glyphosate herbicide directly inside the now-open stem, and painting the outer surface of the culm. Jan suggests carefully using the herbicide at a 25 percent concentrated solution, not the typically diluted two percent used for routine spraying. And fall is the usually recommended time for application.

Naturally, the best solution is not to plant exotic bamboos at all. And the finest alternative is, not surprisingly, a native bamboo. Generally called canebrake bamboo (Arundinaria gigantea), or southern cane, this species used to cover enormous stretches of riparian “bottom land” from the mid-Atlantic to the Midwest prairies, down through the southeast, and along the Gulf states. Amazingly, before European colonization, native Americans lived among canebrake groves several miles in width, running up to 100 miles in length. Today, there are only scattered patches of these lush thickets.

Homeowners looking for a tall, dense, yet elegant, living fence need look no further. Canebrake can reach 12 to 18 feet or more, with half- to three-quarter inch canes and medium to dark green foliage year-round. However, when shopping around, don’t confuse this species with switch cane (A. tecta), which is smaller, low growing, and more suited as a groundcover plant. And while very few garden centers and nurseries seem to carry canebrake, there are numerous sources online and through mail-order catalogs, with prices ranging from 15 to 25 dollars for one and two gallon containers.

Not interested in bamboo at all? Consider arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) as an alternate evergreen screen. The cultivar Emerald Green is probably the most popular of standard arborvitae, growing 15-20 feet, with a spread of four-six feet. Its lustrous gem-green foliage is tolerant of cold winters and hot summers, although, as a native of the northeast, it would prefer to be watered during dry periods, and mulched three to four inches deep to retain soil moisture.

Emerald Green can be pruned if or as desired in early spring, and is often considered superior to the much overused Leyland cypress, which could also work as a screen, although it can reach 60 feet and would require substantial pruning to achieve the same effect. Other desirable cultivars include both ‘Nigra,’ which remains dark green even through the winter, featuring a pyramidal form reaching 15-25 feet and five-eight feet wide, and ‘Pyramidalis,’ with softer, bright green needles, growing to 15 feet with a four foot spread.

Another clear winner is Irish juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Hibernica’) with bluish-green foliage, and a columnar form reaching 10-12 feet. This juniper is drought tolerant, with dense upright branches. Some nurseries indicate that it can reach 15 feet with only a narrow two-four foot spread.

There are also numerous species of yews suitable for narrow space screening. All are able to handle heavy pruning and shaping, and contrast their dark green foliage with bright, fleshy red or yellowish-red berries, called arils.

Perhaps most prized of all is Irish yew (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’), which is actually an English or common yew, easily growing from 15-30 feet tall, with a four-eight foot spread. [It is the most commonly grown species in Europe, and has been in use for well over 200 years.] The needles are a striking blackish-green, although other cultivars, such as ‘Fastigiata Aurea,’ while similar in form, actually feature golden foliage on its new spring growth.

Japanese Yews (Taxus cuspidata) generally tend to have a broader spread and lower growth habit, and often quite a slow growth rate. However, cross Japanese and English yews and you’ll find a hybrid (Taxus x media) showcasing some of the best assets of each parent. Many of the outstanding cultivars for living screens were developed or discovered on my native Long Island, including several by famed nurseryman Henry Hicks. The specimen bearing his name, Hicks yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’), is columnar in form, 12-20 feet high, and six-ten feet across, with glossy needles, deep green on top and a pale green underneath.

Lastly, Eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadenensis) has long be valued for its light, airy needles and graceful branches, which readily accommodate heavy pruning to create a lush, dense hedge. Left on its own, however, the tree will reach 60 feet with wider spaced branches.

Copyright 2014, Joseph M. Keyser

Monday, August 11, 2014

RainScapes! Harvesting the Heavens

For imaginative landscapers, rain gardens may represent the perfect marriage of heaven and earth. Specially-designed garden areas help to receive and store rainfall, using that moisture to nourish an oasis of interesting native plant communities reminiscent of lush stream banks and freshwater marshes.

The notion of developing rain gardens has received a lot of attention across the country. Jurisdictions from Seattle, Washington, to Montgomery County, Maryland (and thousands in-between), have made considerable progress in developing “bioretention” structures to control the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff, seeing rain gardens as attractive, cost-effective options to curbside storm drains and large stormwater ponds.

In essence, rain gardens function like miniature wetlands. Rainwater from paved surfaces and downspouts is directed to a low-lying garden area which allows the water to be stored temporarily until it is absorbed by the plants and soil. Any pollutants, such as fertilizer, pesticide residue, or even oil, grease, and heavy metals from roadways, are effectively trapped by the rich organic soil and root systems in the garden, permitting clean water to slowly soak down through the soil and rocky subsoil until it “recharges” groundwater supplies.

Sophisticated rain gardens are designed to accommodate all of the rainwater from a surrounding area: rooftop, driveways, walkways, and so on. Moreover, a true rain garden is developed with consideration for existing soil types, and often includes underdrain systems, in addition to lasagna-like layers of gravel, landscape fabric, sand, and amended soil. However, while effective, the bonafide approach is complicated and relatively expensive. And most homeowners do not have the stomach for bringing earth moving equipment into their backyards and turning 60 percent of their landscape into a stormwater marsh.

Fortunately, many of the features and benefits of a carefully engineered rain garden can be employed by backyard gardeners willing to give up a bit of lawn in favor of a colorful, low maintenance backyard habitat.

A basic approach might be to identify at least one downspout which can be redirected toward an area which slopes gradually away from your home. Keep the rain garden at least 15 feet away from the building, and ensure that all water flows away from the house to prevent dampness or flooding in your basement.

Layout your garden on the gentle slope, preferably in an irregular shape, such as a kidney bean or round-cornered crescent. Use an old hose to help create an attractive outline and start removing the top layer of turf and soil. For your garden to effectively capture runoff, dig down on an angle to about one foot. Most of the material you remove can be used to build up or “berm” the sides of the garden.

The next step is the most crucial. Your goal is to create an area which will act like a sponge to soak up hundreds of gallons of rainwater. Local heavy clay soils will never function properly, and you will need to amend or replace the clay with compost – and lots of it. You can use the compost by itself, or mix it with topsoil and even some of the soil you have excavated. You might also want to add well- rotted leaves to the mix.

Flexible downspouts can deliver water to your garden, or you might bury corrugated drainage pipe in a trench and bring it to within one or two feet of the garden. It is important to allow rainwater to run over a grassy area or planted buffer before reaching the garden. You do not want a surge of rainwater to start eroding soils and washing away mulch.

Planting is, of course, the fun part of the process. But before planting, let your garden handle several rainstorms first, to ensure that your soil amendments have settled appropriately, and to guarantee that water will not pond in the garden more than three days. If done properly, excess rainfall will flow over the garden and continue across your lawn, and water “harvested” by the garden will be absorbed within 24 hours. If water ponds for three days or more, you will need to improve the soil with more organic amendments and possibly lower the downslope side of the garden to improve runoff.

The plants you select for your rain garden are often unlike those used in conventional settings. Native perennials that enjoy moist and even saturated soils will thrive in your garden, and will encourage visitation by butterflies, hummingbirds, and other nectar and berry feeders. Your pallette can include swamp milkweed, columbine and asters, ironweed, lobelia, blue flag, bluebells and bluestem grasses, bee balm, ferns, sedges and switchgrass, boneset, gentians, liatris, and much more.

Many of these natives are now sold by local nurseries, where experienced horticultural staff can help match suitable plants with your rain garden needs. You will need to consider sun or shade exposure, how moist your garden soil is and the duration of wetness, and also think about how well your plant selections can tolerate drought periods. And, after planting, be sure to mulch your garden to save every drop of precious rainwater.
For more information about rain gardens, be sure to check out my former website (now under different management): RainScapes.org.
Copyright 2014, Joseph M. Keyser

Friday, August 08, 2014

A Closer Look at Commercial Landscapes

Maintaining healthy turf areas around most commercial properties requires a considerable investment of time and resources. Moreover, those lawns also produce a prodigious amount of clippings that must be recycled, either through the preferable practice of grasscycling, or by transporting clippings to an appropriate recycling facility, which is also an expensive proposition.

Fortunately, a growing number of property managers are learning that selecting alternatives to landscaping with grass leads to both long-term savings and to exceptional aesthetic values — which can be seen as an investment in advertising: visually separating that colorful, creative site from the boring sea of grass around them.

Excellent examples of departures from lawn-only landscapes can be seen in the District of Columbia, where projects sponsored by the Federal Reserve and Pennsylvania Avenue Development Authority called in the landscape-pioneering firm of Oehme and Van Sweden to install traffic-stopping plantings of dramatic ornamental grasses, native wildflowers, colorful perennials, and assorted ground covers. There were even some spaces where small lawn areas were used to contrast with the bolder plant materials — but they were very small.

There are horticultural and environmental benefits to altering traditional landscape designs. From a tree-care perspective, it is important to realize that one of the most common causes for tree mortality is disease resulting from injuries to bark and shallow surface roots — almost universally inflicted by lawn mowers and trimming equipment. Replacing turf under trees with wood or leaf mulch, or replanting with low to no-maintenance ground covers, eliminates these injuries and the costly need to replace specimen trees — in addition to paying for the removal and recycling of a dead tree. Lawn care needs are also reduced, whether in terms of mowing, aerating, fertilizing, or irrigating.

Moreover, property managers have often commented on the difficulty of keeping grass growing vigorously under the shade of a mature tree. In fact, grass generally needs more light than is ordinarily found in full shade; turf plots under trees should be replaced with shade-loving ground covers or mulch. Consider also that grass roots aggressively and too-successfully compete with trees for moisture and nutrients. During drought periods, trees can suffer from this stress and decline in health or perhaps even die. Replacing grass with any of the scores of ground covers commonly available will eliminate trouble areas in the landscape, improve tree health, and add color and beauty to your site.

Replacing grass with mulch islands and perennial plantings or sun-loving ground covers is especially important along curbs, streets, streams, and other watershed areas. These alternate plantings can serve as valuable buffers to prevent erosion and the run-off of lawn fertilizers and other chemicals. Plantings along curbs or streets also serve to frame your landscape, present color to the eye immediately, and then draw the visitor's eye to your company's building. Again, nibbling away at turf areas will ultimately reduce the amount of lawn care required, while the "frame" effect will make remaining turf areas more attractive overall.

Combining plantings along pathways, site perimeters, and parking lots with ground cover plantings under trees, will add a level of sophistication and elegance to your landscape — and your corporate image — which is generally lacking in sites carpeted with grass from curb to foundation. And the new design will soon pay for itself as the more intensive needs of turf management and recycling grass clippings are diminished.

There are several other practical benefits which accrue from landscape alteration: expanding areas utilizing ground covers creates a "organic sink" which eliminates the need to recycle some of your yard trim materials. Leaves can be allowed to fall under trees in autumn and remain there: earthworms and bacteria will work year-round to convert those materials into organic nutrients which will themselves continue to nurture and enhance the health of trees and ground covers alike, without additional fertilizer applications!

Augmenting your need for mulches under trees and in mulch island plantings also provides a "sink" for leaves and brush which can be readily shred into mulch or composted on site, eliminating the need to transport those materials to an off-site recycling facility. Furthermore, your landscape will benefit as your management regimen shifts to incorporate as much organic material as possible, saving you the cost for expensive soil amendments and fertilizers, and naturally revitalizing the soil in lawn and garden areas.

Using grass in a landscape has its place, but consideration should be given to how much turf is really necessary — if any at all — and how much does it cost to maintain that lawn. Reducing lawn area reduces expense, reduces solid waste generation, increases natural beauty and thereby enhances corporate image.

Lastly, the transition away from turf need not take place overnight: a phase-in period can be developed which favorably balances plant and mulch installation costs against maintenance and recycling costs, leading to property management cost savings — and ultimately leading to a sustainable and healthy environment for employees, customers, and your surrounding community.

Copyright 2014, Joseph M. Keyser

Hardy and Reliable Native Plants for Sunny Locations

Herbacious Perennials

Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
White wood aster (Aster divaricatus)
New England aster (Aster novae-angliae)
False blue indigo (Baptisia australis)
Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)
Tickseed Sunflower (Coreopsis tinctoria)
Threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
Hay-scented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula)
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Joe pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)
Oxeye sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
Grass-leaf blazing star (Liatris graminfolia)
Gayfeather (Liatris spicata)
Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Horsemint (Monarda punctata)
Sundrops (Oenothera perennis)
Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)
Moss phlox (Phlox subulata)
Obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana)
Early coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida)
Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Fire pink (Silene virginica)
Rigid goldenrod (Solidago rigida)
Wrinkle-leaf goldenrod (Solidago rugosa)
Showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)
Bird’s foot violet (Viola pedata)

Native Grasses

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus)
Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis)
Bottlebrush Grass (Elymus hystrix)
Virginia Wild Rye (Elymus virginicus)
Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)