Monday, December 20, 2010

Community Building - Progress Report

An instant community from a spring plug planting

Eupatorium coelestinum sorting itself out from the mix to form a nice stand

Aster cordifolius 'Avondale' looking especially blue and floriferous in the late fall

As many of my previous entries have indicated I am working in my garden to better understand the practice of developing more-or-less self-sustaining plant communities as gardens. I have what I call my meadow that is several years old now and fully planted, but I continue to introduce new things, especially when I can insert ornamental interest into an otherwise down time of year. I have another similar garden in which I have a very minimal palate of plants on about half of the designated site. I am watching how these self-seed and interact with each other while experimenting with various weed control techniques. Weeds seem to be the biggest impediment to success.

Today I want to report on my newest efforts. In the spring of 2010 I purchased flats of plugs of five species of shade growing native perennials that I thought might get along in an attractive self-sustaining community. (Aster cordifolius 'Avondale', Eupatorium coelestinum, Solidago caesia, Stylophorum diphyllum and Polemonium reptans) I chose three seemingly similar shady locations and planted a mix of the five selections in each spot. After one growing season the plants' response to each of the three sites was vastly different, which is what I regularly find. It is a bit early to make conclusions, but one of the three sites grew some excellent stands of most of the five selections. The three images show a collective image of the aster, eupatorium and solidago growing nicely together but perhaps looking a bit rough. The other two images are of particularly nice stands of the aster and the eupatorium considering they are only one growing season from relatively neglected, newly planted plugs.

I will monitor to see if the polemonium, the weakest performer, does better next year; whether one or more of the selections tends to dominate (my bet is on the eupatorium); and whether the other two sites improve or have elements of the planting die out. Of course, I am especially eager to see if they can dominate the weeds and look good while doing it.

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