Liatris: Yes or No?

edlincoln(6A)

I just saw a bag of Liatris at Lowes, 75 for $14.99. My questions are:

1.) Are Liatris a bulb, corm, or otherwise something you could realistically toss in a bag and expect to survive?
2.) Are they native to New England?
3.) Will they do well in gravelly soil in partial shade where they have to share with Yew, Grape Hyacinths, and Nodding Onion?
4.) When would I plant them?

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Iris GW

Yes Liatris is a bulb/corm and could survive.
Yes, there are some species that are native to New England. I imagine they don't say the species name on the bag?

Yes, they would like gravely soil, but probably would want full sun to flower.

I guess you would plant them after danger of frost.

Here is a link that might be useful: species map for Liatris

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lycopus(z5 NY)

I saw those at the Lowes here. Doesn't say on the bag what species it is but it's most likely Liatris spicata. I bought some corms from Country Max and the recommendation on the bag is to plant them after danger of frost.

Btw, Country Max had boxes of Virginia bluebells and Allegheny spurge for sale. They were 2 for $6.95. I'm thinking of going back to get a few.

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dandy_line (Z3b N Cent Mn)

The Virginia bluebells are well worth that price. And, a surprise to me after planting mine was that they are a food source for Spring migrating Monarchs.

Here is a link that might be useful:

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edlincoln(6A)

FYI, here is the results.





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Campanula UK Z8

What is that allium, Edincoln? Looks like the nodding a.cernuum apart from the colour. New to me this year, I have a.insubiricum growing (I have a lot of time for the ornamental alliums, especially the smaller species)

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

I was going to say cernuum. The "nodding" thing is hard to mistake. I would suppose there are color phases for so common a species.

As to Liatris spicata, it actually likes some moisture in my experience. So...it's natural home would be a wet meadow type of environment. But you've got blooms Ed, so you're good to go. Incidentally, we planted a lot of plugs of L. spicata and an inordinate number of them ended up being white-flowering. It's almost as if this "native plant purveyor" got a line on some cultivar or other and just threw them in with the regular pink ones. Nothing about this bothered me. We pay enough attention to local genotypes, etc. etc...that I sometimes welcome relief from such cares. And it may be that these white ones are just as "local" as any others. Just seemed odd to have that happen.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

My A. cernuum (which I think were from Prairie Moon seed) are very pale, almost white. I'm not too crazy about them. I much prefer the A. stellatum that flower later in the year.

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texasranger2

I'm curious what month you shot the liatris pictures? They look like I wish mine would. Mine bloom in September but I have problems with them as you can see in the photo. I think the ones they sell at Home Depot and such places are L. spicata, the thirsty kind. I think I have L. punctata (collected in Kansas) which blooms later and prefers dryer soil but I also have another taller kind I collected here in Oklahoma which does the same thing--they crawl like snakes so there is something they are not liking here. They are growing in dry soil and full sun but there must be something about the soil they don't care for. I'm wondering if its too much sand?

Another problem I get is insect damage. There is a red & black oval shaped beetle that likes to girdle almost every stem in the middle. I'd never seen them until I planted liatris and they seem to only go after those plants, not to eat, just to girdle which frankly got on my nerves because it seemed like intentional spite. I finally spotted the guys last year because I couldn't figure out why the top half of the stems kept drying up and dying, seemed every day a new stem or two just died for no reason. This makes a stem that branches out at the top in a candelabra fashion. Last year I kept at them daily and smashed the bugs so it wasn't so bad. I never see lots of these beetles, just 3 or 4 on different plants chomping around the stem.

After the first year, I learned the hard way to deadhead the stalks before they dropped seed. Millions of seeds. Now if I had a whole field mind you, all those seeds would be welcome but as it is, I only have so much room and I don't want a whole yard full of beetle food crawling like snakes. I had babies coming up as thick as grass after that first year.

Actually, I am replacing some of them this year with Asters. I think that will serve better at this point, in my situation at least, for butterfly attracting purple. I lost three plants due to the flooding rains last year, the ones planted down in the hell strip by the street where the yard is lowest, the water slowly drained down to those spots keeping that area wetter longer.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I had a bug problem with them too. I have L. muncronata and L. punctata. I thought it was a deer problem but then , after a couple of years , made the connection with a weird bunch of spit on the stem close to the base. I started noticing it on all the liatris that grow in the field nearby. A spit bug of sorts would make a home on it and then climb out of the spit and top it off. I guess the more southern bugs from TX are hungrier and eat the stem through. I started pinching every spit spot I saw and that seemed to slow the topping off down. Some of mine snake and some of mine don't. I always thought that was a shade thing. I think the Punctata and muncronata are prairie plants out here. Maybe the presence of grass gets it to grow more in an upward pattern. I see the L moncronata leaning and snaking gracefully off of rises on the side of the road usually not far from a tree. Maybe it needs the support and sunshine coming from above in thick field situation. I am only talking off the top of my head. They are changing the classification of L mucronate to L. punctata muncronata.

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Campanula UK Z8

I couldn't maintain the moisture requirements where I planted mine and they sadly faded away (just the basic liatris spicata). Another one of those prairie type plants which likes a deeper, richer, wetter soil than mine. It took me a good few years to finally dispense with my prairie idea...the last asters are clinging on, along with a tough rudbeckia clump...but I made the classic mistake of thinking USgrassland plants were analogous to our (UK) meadow plants (which demand lean, well-drained alkaline soil).

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I think I have one L. punctata left from a half dozen or so I raised from seed in 2014. The others either never came back or disappeared part way through that really wet spring we had last year. The one remaining is in a south facing bed, way at the back in the rain shadow of the roof. It has yet to flower and I don't have high hopes for it.

I suspect the best Liatris for my area (based on its BONAP range map) is pycnostachya. I put some in late last year on the sunny back side of the rain garden and will probably add a couple more this spring. They are/will be caged for rabbit protection. My back yard is turning into a forest of little cages.

Edlincoln, did you notice many insect visitors to those Liatris last year?


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edlincoln(6A)

Campanula UK Z8: You guessed it...Allium cernuum (Nodding Onion). I got it in a pot for $10.00 at the Tower Hill Native Plant Sale. Haphazardly ripped it in 5 pieces and planted them in a row. It actually looks better before it blooms then when it blooms...the bent stems with swollen buds at the end have an elfin look. In person the flowers are white with a hint of pinky-purple-lavender.

This spot is actually quite dry. It's in the house's rain shadow, and competes for water with that overgrown yew hedge. We had a drought last summer. The soil is sandy, well draining, and acidic. Not sure if they got watered...my parent's might have watered them. I'm surprised you had trouble with it, Campanula. Not so surprised by texasranger2...you folks in Texas know drought on a scale we don't.

texasranger2: The photo was taken July 18. Usually they bloom in August. Never had any trouble with insects on my liatris. The Japanese beetles don't seem to bother them, I planted them in a location where they are hemmed in by the hedge and the driveway to limit them.

wisconsitom: The liatris turned out to be a bag of corms. Some were supposed to have purple flowers, others white. Only the purple bloomed here. I did pass a few off to a friend, who only got white ones. I wonder if the white and purple have different cultural requirements, or they just didn't mix the bag very well?

WoodsTea 6a MO(6a) Lots of tiny flies visited the flowers, as well as a few bees. Nothing seemed interested in the foliage.

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texasranger2

wantanamara, I wouldn't begrudge the bugs a meal on the leaves, that would be understandable. BUT that crud about eating around the stem just enough to kill off the top half was something else and seemed to serve no logical purpose. It reminded me of those school kids whacking down my Red Hot Pokers one year down on the hell strip when they were blooming in full glory. The little creeps just cut them down and then threw the stems up toward the the house, which irritated me even more than the cutting down part because it looked so vicious and you really have to wonder...WHY???? I saw them laying there the next day and was livid. I watched out the upstairs window about 3:30 everyday when school let out for a week+ after that. I was ready for war if I so much as saw a glint in their eyes and I would have been out there in a flash giving them what for.

Woodstea, L. pynostachia is what I think is the Oklahoma one I have. I found it growing on a lot slated to be developed, growing in very sticky clay, stuff you could hardly call dirt. I broke my cheapy shovel digging it out. Barron had these growing (I think this is the same kind) in large numbers on a property once where he was growing wildflowers of all sorts. I was very impressed by his photos of them, Mine look nothing like his did.

Ed, My sister grew the type you have in Kansas one year. They bloomed mid summer and were huge. She'd bought corms at Walmart. It would be kind of nice to have two types for different bloom times. I suppose she still has them, I'm not sure. Her conditions are wetter than mine.

Camps, wantanamara lives in Texas, the Ranger lives up north in Oklahoma but we know drought just as good as any damn Texan.

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texasranger2

I wish I could get mine to look like Michael's in Plano Texas. I shouldn't complain, he lost all his bluestem and said for some reason it didn't grow well for him, hard to imagine but thats what he posted a couple years back. I just gotta have bluestem.

check out this color!! I never see purple, ever. And, they are so vertical and erect unlike my flaccid pink ones.
http://planobluestem.blogspot.com/2014/10/gayfeather-and-monarchs.html

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texasranger2

Is this snakey enough for ya? If it was erect, it'd be three feet tall, but no, it wants to lay on the ground like a big creepy spider.

Maybe dbarron will post some of his correctly growing ones.



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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Ok, by popular request...liatris pycnostachys it is :) The rosey color is due to evening light...as you may notice by the sky and trees.

Btw, Dandy, that's comfrey and not bluebells.

Madame TR, those shown are mucronata..and yes as wantanamara said, they tend to snake just as your did. Especially with the excess rain we had last year.

Thanks your your generosity I have one mucronata and a couple of clumps of pycnostachys rescued from the house the spring before I sold it. Not only does pycnostachys reseed well in a moist environment, but you can break off a dead stem and get a bit of the corm...and replant it in a new place. I didn't have to do that there...they just went wild...they loved it. Most of those stems were in excess of six feet that year. Oh man, the butterflies were in ecstacy!

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texasranger2

GORGEOUS!!!!! I remembered the photo but forgot it was THAT GOOD.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Soil too rich? I know you've got a lot of sand and gravel in there, but lower down you've got clay, right? That seems really tall for L. punctata (from what I've read).

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elvis

I only have so much room and I don't want a whole yard full of beetle food crawling like snakes

Now that's quite a picture, thanks for the big laugh! My liatris are in full sun and rich loamy soil. They're short and straight. My veronica OTOH does the snake routine. I've resorted to training my snakes by using the old-time tomato cages (since I've switched to the collapsible square ones for the toms). Sort of like working with a cowlick, one does what one has to do.

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texasranger2

woodstea, I'm not sure what the tall crawling one is, its the one I dug up in the clay here in Oklahoma, I get liatris mixed up. It wasn't a wet year when that photo of me measuring it was shot. I moved it the next spring to a dry spot with sand over clay and it did the same thing, not quite as bad but compared to the ones dbarron shot, bad enough.

These are a couple of the ones from Kansas. The roadsides were solid purple with them when we were up there. I think they are L. punctata. They are much shorter but a few are tall and those tend to crawl but some stems stand up. Its confusing. Are they two types?? I don't know.



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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Try this theory on for size: it's about planting density.

I've noticed that out in the nearby prairie preserves that big bluestem stands up nice and straight, while in my yard it flops. It's fertile soil, essentially the same amount of precipitation that I get, but the big difference seems to be that the number of plants per square foot out there is much, much higher. In my yard the lack of competition lets it soak up rain and nutrients too fast.

I wonder if L. punctata either needs a drier, leaner soil than you have -- like it might have well to the west of you -- or else a lot more competition from surrounding plants. I notice that the really spidery one has lots of open space around it.

Just throwing an idea out there...

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

My thoughts are that mucronata needs leaner soil than punctata, but both want it rough and tough compared to pycnostachys and spicata (and most other eastern liatris).

Woods, you're probably right...nature abhors a vaccum and in the prairie there are plants relatively everywhere...though I've seen mucronata apparently all alone on a shallow rock shelf ecking out a living in a rock crack and doing great (but again low resources there).

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texasranger2

elvis, what kind of liatris do you have?

Woodstea, the Kansas ones we got along the gravel road were growing in soil that looked like the good stuff you buy as top soil in bags, nice loamy and moist. I couldn't believe that dirt on the side of the road, also, there were miles of them along the highway, in the ditch part they always have for drainage.

Interesting thought about dense planting. I am getting dense here by adding the prairie grasses. The picture of the loner I measured was shot before I went prairie. If nature abhors a vacuum, just let a couple liatris plants drop seed and the vacuum will disappear quick.

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edlincoln(6A)

Where does mine fit in to this theory? My liatris aren't planted densely...but I suppose they are competing with the yew. On the other hand, a couple I planted elsewhere farther from the yew broke but didn't "snake".

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

@Camp, there are prairies and there are prairies. The prairies of Central Texas are nothing like the prairies of Missouri, Kansas or even Oklahoma. Your description of an English meadow, Dry lean alkaline and mean sounds like here. Could you add a soil evaporation rate that can hit the ceiling with 110F degree days. kansas and north is a whole other animal. They have DEEP soil. So does Oklahoma. I don't have soil. I have marl and limestone. I am very careful about the seed sources and have found that often things from further north just don't work too good here. I have good luck with the liatris seed from around here. It will do well in our prairie. I see L mucronate clinging on caliche/marl slopes and living in an extremely dry and hot shadeless all day sun situation. They lived through the big drought of 5" of rain in a year

Liatris punctata range extends to the west through West Texas and New Mexico and north along the same longitudes..

Liatris punctata mucronata range is on the east side of the punctata range. I would think that its soil and moisture requirements were richer than the punctata. (lets do the Punctata Mucronata Dance) They both grow around here.

Tx, I have Bluestem but the bluestem seeds that I got from you are struggling. I never see any of the varieties that I see you have in the stores around here. Its not that they don't carry native grasses because they carry lots of native grasses. They carry a generic "bluestem" from local seed mixes and I am finding that there might be a good reason for that. NONE are the pretty blue. We have GREENstem bluestem here but they grow prolifically, but they are not as beautifully colored.. I am amazed that the bit of difference from where you are at and here does make a difference. Interesting , that the Plano Gardener has had problems with his bluestem. I concur.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Edlincoln, it sounds like your Liatris are probably L. spicata, whose natural range is in the Eastern US and which would be better adapted to higher moisture levels.

TR, I thought you might find this interesting:

http://soilandhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/01aglibrary/010139fieldcroproots/010139ch4.html

About a quarter of the way down there is a root graph of L. punctata as well as some discussion of its root morphology. The suggestion is that most absorption happens well below the soil surface -- say several feet down. There's also some good discussion of soil and root differences between tall/mid/short grass prairie.

Still working some of this over in my mind...

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texasranger2

Woodstea, I found it real interesting because its amazing how the roots of prairie plants go down so deep, I read they replenish water into the aquifer, on the other hand, trees suck water out and deplete it. I only skimmed through so far. Speaking of roots, I dug up a wine cup plant last year because it was hiding the water meter down by the street and I got a warning from the city about a violation. The root of it was like a tree root, hard to believe since the top part wasn't such that you'd expect a big thick woody root like that. Of all the grasses I've grown, the hardest to weed out is purple three awn, it has tenacious roots even when just a small immature clump.

Mara, are you talking about the real tall LBS I collected seeds of at the History Center? They are powdery looking because its such a light blue color, even the seedlings are light blue but I have no idea where they came from originally or what kind they are. I think I also sent 'Blue Heaven' and maybe 'The Blues' seed.

The tall ones got so tall they flopped a bit at the end of the season from sheer weight & height. I haven't cut them back yet, currently they are a bit more than waist high, red in color and with stems standing up real straight, each making a narrow vertical statement out on the high & driest end of hellstrip, they stood up all winter real nice. The cultivars from SRG I bought are much shorter and none have such a light blue color or anywhere near the height. The stems of the seed heads on the local LBS around here and on the tall ones I have look different than the thinner more delicate stems of the cultivars. I'd describe the locals as looking beefier, wilder and yet the parts on the stems look more defined with bigger seeds.

The prairies and topography in Oklahoma vary greatly from one part of the state to the next. Texas has even more variety but then its bigger. The east side of Oklahoma is wetter and hillier, the west is dry and flatter and the middle is a bit of both with a very old worn down mountain range a bit further south of me. Where I am, there are a lot of places with big areas of exposed red sandstone, I don't remember ever seeing limestone around here, our soil is red but a little bit further north, the soil is dark brown.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

A lot of those claims about rooting depth of this or that plant are based on ideal soil conditions-conditions which are by no means universal. So, tree roots legitimately are known to usually be quite shallow-all plant roots need oxygen and if a soil is tight-made up of fine-textured clay and/or silt particles-there will be no oxygen at depth. So it really won't matter what the plant is, if the soil conditions don't allow for it, they will not grow deeply. And to make a statement that "trees do this" and "prairie plants do that" is wildly over-broad. Just in one acre of tropical forest, there might be 200 species of trees! To paint them all with the same brush is way off-base.

Got to be honest-it is precisely this kind of proselytizing that causes prairie (over)enthusiasts to make guys like me tired. Nature is so much more complex than that.

One of the prairie guys-back when I was first getting introduced to my new job duties in and around our stormwater ponds and other properties, made the claim that prairie plants allow for greater water infiltration than other plant community types. So I asked, does most of the water in this pond arise from the small area of plantings right around it? Of course, I was asking a question for which I already knew the answer. No, that water comes from up the watershed-mostly streets, rooftops, etc. and often miles away. So his claim made zero sense. And these ponds are construction sites, with heavy equipment going round and round the stripped-off clay subsoil, getting the grade just right. If there's any infiltration through this engineered subgrade, I'd be most surprised.

None of that points directly at the claims made in your post, Tex, but the first part of what I wrote sure does. I've been at this for a while now, and I can smell agenda from a mile away! All native plant communities have huge intrinsic value. They're not at war with each other! In fact, in most cases, one type blends seamlessly into another, forming a tapestry, the whole of which allows for the greatest range of good effects to take place, and it is that whole that we've so thoroughly mucked up with our "development".

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

That difference in rooting behavior in different types of prairie is
one of the main points of that article. In tallgrass prairie the soil is
relatively deep and there is moisture available throughout. Different
plants pull water and nutrients from different depths and that allows
high plant density -- as many as 250 plants per square yard. In
shortgrass prairie "absorption regularly takes place in the 16 to 24
inches of surface soil, below which dry subsoil occurs."

I wonder
what your soil is like several feet down, TR. I imagine your area as a
mixed-grass prairie region (transitioning to Cross Timbers eastward?)
but a lot would depend on the local topography. If you're somewhat
downslope the soils would be deeper. My thought would be that even in
dry years when the soil surface is dry and cracked, there may be more
moisture down below than you'd expect.

It'd be intereresting to see whether that Liatris would behave differently if it were surrounded by a lot of, say, blue grama and lead plant -- plants that would compete with it for resources at different levels. What with the bug problem, though, I don't blame you at all for wanting to tear them out. So many other choices...

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Tom, You live in a world of different rules than down here. Yours is a world of trees and many lakes from what I understand,more rain and water retentive soils under the trees. It sounds like your guys are taking workable info and shoving it into a different system.My main aquifer is 800- 1200' down .There is a tiny pocket aquifer at 125'. I have been to some seminars and works programs centered around land conservation in my neck of the woods. I don't say this to stress my education because they were programs set up to help the landowner through the confusing array of concepts without the plethora of science based data that would have been included in a agricultural environmental science course or courses. So I can not really back up what I was taught. It is limited as education goes. What I was taught was here in Texas where water is scarce and comes down in huge deluges. Grass is better at breaking up the soil and water is better at permeating through to the water table in a field of grass than a cedar brake. I was confused by this because I could see that tree roots break up rock better but I guess there are more grass roots in a field than tree roots in a forest and they do a good job of soil building. Trees build humous above ground level but are not as good at holding the soil that they build from being taken away by the hard rain. Grasses build their soil under the soil and over and the grasses strain and hold the rains. From what you said that things are a tree based community up there so a few pond grasses are not going to be a game changer where as down here, the clearing of underbrush of thickets and the opening up and the growing of grasses under the trees has made the water flow in my arroyo for days longer after a rainstorm. A thick layer of grass keeps trees from germinating. My neighbors are also thinning the woods and using slash berms and the springs have become wetter for longer in the 15 years that I have lived here. That is during a time where more houses have been built in the area and more wells have been sunk into the water table that lessens the aquifer pressures on the springs.. This phenomenon has been seen over large ranches that were all range over grown unburnt cedar and now have springs and damned lakes. . I try to balance between the trees and the grasses. What I have heard is that it is the young cedars that are the water hogs, not the old growth cedar. I do see that the more grasses that grow , the less run off I get in my lower tank. The water is clearer. Water moves slower in its downward push to the sea carrying less of a load.. I use the built up slash in the woods to hold back water and humus and hopefully the grass will sprout and then add its juju to the mix in the woods.

The picture below is of a stretch of live oaks that were strangled in cedar 15 years ago. one had to crawl on ones knees when we bought the place. There was a clearing where the white is that one could stand up in.The soil was rock, gravel caliche mix with a tiny bit of leaf mater that washed away every year. Now we have bluestem under the trees. Still not much diversity in the understory. My husband loves to keep things clean close to the buildings so the deer have their way. Things are improving. Now if I could only get the grasses growing on my hillsides better.


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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

@Woodstea. "shortgrass prairie from 16"- 24" "........I WHISH!!!!! I am lucky if I have 5". it is 0- 2" on much of the slopes.

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texasranger2

Pardon me? Proselytizing? Is that what I'm doing? I'm talking about down here, not up there.

Wantanamara is right, its a different world down here from what I gather based on the things you've written and what you are dealing with up there. The ecosystem here in the heart of the plains is a composition of grasses, herbs and shrubs rather than trees or at least it once was and is subject to extended periods of drought.

Not that trees don't have a place in parts of the state, but since they are engulfing the grasslands problems arise. Cedars threaten water supplies. One acre of trees can absorb 55,000 gallons of water per year. Instead of getting water into the soil or run off into streams the water is taken up by their roots, used by the trees and lost through transpiration, they cost our state $218 million per year in catastrophic wildfires, loss of forage, loss of wildlife habitat, and water yield. Tree populations reduce productivity of grasslands by shading out grass and robbing the soil of water depleting the aquifer during the dry years. Estimates are 5,000 bobwhite quail are lost yearly due to trees along with displacement of sensitive prairie songbirds as the habitat structure is changed in structure and composition.

One of the things the prairie appears to do is capture and store water producing little runoff, rather the water tends to seep down slopes. The land holds water like a sponge instead of letting it run off into creeks carrying sediment with it. There are now dry creeks where there was once water but the disappearance of the prairie has disrupted the hydrological system. Repairing the system involves land conservation management of restoring the grasslands and eliminating trees.

On a less serious level, there is just the visual ugliness of trees invading prairie.

Grasslands store about 1/3 of terrestrial ecosystem's global stock of carbon. Unlike forests where carbon is stored in vegetation, in grasslands most of the carbon is in the soil reducing the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Tom, I get sick and tired of knee-jerk remarks too. People who are always spreading the doctrine about the need to plant trees EVERYWHERE to help the atmosphere are fine in some parts of the country but they fail to understand that grasslands are just as important. Wooded areas are more loved than prairies and seem to have gotten more press, more attention and more funding or at least it seems so to me.

Around here, if you are a strictly tree loving person who cannot abide the bleakness of 'uninteresting' large areas of flat 'boring' prairie, you are simply living in the wrong part of the country but if you care about the ecosystem, you learn to see the beauty and understand the surrounding landscape.

Wanatamara, you guys have gone desert in many areas due to overgrazing, severe erosion and probably a host of other resulting causes. Its a hard uphill battle when its gone that far. Once upon a time, the shortgrass prairies had grasses like you are lucky to see now. Anyway, thats my extremely simplified take on the problem

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Thanks for that additional info, wanto. I should have stressed, it is the over-generalization I find at fault, not this or that particular case. And it does get very confusing very quickly! Just got done reading a paper dealing with "water yield" (in Costa Rica, no less) differences between several different types of teak plantations, grazed land, intact secondary forest. Water yield is greatest on the most disturbed lands if, by that term, one means the immediately-available water following a precip event. Of course, that also means less water yield later, as nearly all of it has been runoff. It actually gets way more complicated than this, but suffice to say, I do get Tex's love for the grasslands ethos, and I think she probably does get at least some of my interest in and love for forests...so what really matters is....what was there originally. If one thing we would seek to do is mitigate the utter disasters that have unfolded by our wanton destruction of hydrology across the "developed" world (I'm going to keep putting that word in quotation marks haha), then we need to know what was there before the corn and soybeans, the McMansions, the mini-malls, the newly expanded airports, the highway widening project.....and in much of Oklahoma, it would indeed have been grassland/prairie.


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edlincoln(6A)

So I take it texasranger2's answer to the original question is "Liatris: Yes!"?

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texasranger2

You wouldn't be trying to hint we got off topic here would ya? Yes, Liatris is a Yes. Fits right nice in a prairie.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Haha...leave it to me to bend these threads beyond all recognition. Tex, I was certainly missing your original localized focus in what you said upstream...I do that sometimes.

One final caution-I've read and read and read studies. It is possible to show just about anything with the right starting points. And I think mostly in world-wide terms. I suppose it could be shown that grasslands have disappeared every bit as much, if not more so, than forestlands. But what I read in all the depressing accounts of what's happening in the tropics, is loss of forest, loss of forest, and more loss of forest. So, if somehow, a being from another planet could have been in earth-orbit over the last, oh...70 years (I want to catch just the timespan just since WWII), what they would witness is the drastic loss of forest land on this planet. Ultimately, in my scheme of things, this would run directly into loss of grasslands: They would amount to the same process. And in every case, it would be short-term thinking responsible for the loss. It "made sense" at one time to plow up the prairie. Heck, all kinds of theories which we could now easily spot as nonsense, were in vogue at one time. My least favorite is "rain will follow the plow". Can you imagine..it was once thought perfectly believable that something so ridiculous was true. And that bit of nonsense was used equally to plow up rich prairie soils (in areas that ultimately are too arid) as it was to justify the complete removal of forests in areas now seen to be obviously both too far north (frosts in June and July, anybody) and having terrible soils for agriculture, (rocks, gravel, and sand). What we all need to get behind is an appreciation for straight-up desert. That's what we're turning this world into.

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texasranger2

I assume you can be safe judging the reports of the settlers enticed by the railroads to build towns and farm the 'Great American Desert', it was a sea of grass as big as an ocean and as far as the eye could see with nary a tree in sight for miles. If we go back to the Mesozoic there were probably lush forests making all that oil we like to drill, then it changed in the ice age etc etc. Forgive if I got that wrong, I'm no an expert on the different paleological periods.

My folks settled in Pond Creek. The earliest photos don't show a single tree anywhere, just a bunch of people massed in a group on a flat prairie with a few buildings. Vintage photos of Oklahoma City look pretty much the same way, a city rising up on an 'empty' prairie with itty bitty trees.

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texasranger2

Early Oklahoma City. Its all covered in trees now extending way way beyond city limits.


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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Hee hee, those are trees? I can't tell...maybe I need to visit the optometrist. But yes, there aren't many trees west of OKC now...except near water courses (or so it seems to me).

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Then too, as a concerned ecologist who sees the earth as pretty much "FUBAR-ed", I happen to believe that "novel ecosystems" are not only acceptable in some (many?) circumstances, they are likely our future. Kind of like the "Plants For a Future" folks, I'm less sure every day that a rigid attempt to return to some imagined starting point is even desirable, let alone possible. One thing this does not mean is that efforts to retain what little undisturbed ecosystem is left are for naught. I see them as seed sources for any diversity we manage to save. But large tracts of land are simply going to have to be, say, tree plantation, maybe corn and soybeans are going to have to continue to cover most of what was grassland.....that sort of thing. We got into this mess with our "engineering" and I really do believe that on some level, we're going to need the same attributes to get out of it.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

It's still not a lost cause Tom, reforestation would probably occur significantly in 100 years, if humans vanished today (or even tomorrow). I've been able to walk on the tarmac of unused landing strips, it's amazing how fast small trees and grasses start eroding that stuff after it's no longer maintained.

The planet is resilient, and it is not too late. However, I think human population growth has to be curbed and even reduced to try to reach some balance.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

To me it looks like edlincoln has already answered his own question with the picture above. Looking good.

I do wish I had an answer to the question about why some Liatris flop, especially the ones in TR's yard. I was having dinner with my girlfriend last night and it was only with considerable effort that I managed to stop ruminating on Liatris roots and focus in on what she was saying about a hiring problem at the theater she works for.

It makes me want to do some reading on why plants stand up in the first place. How it's possible, for instance, that Silphium terebinthinaceum can put on so much height in a single season with such stiff stems -- and it's growing in deep, rich Illinois black soil prairie. I suppose the answer is that it had to, or else it wouldn't have competed successfully against big bluestem, etc.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

My Silphium gracilis does the same in partial shade , 3" of something that looks like soil and no competition. True. Its habits might have been formed out in the field and not in my yard.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Well for that matter, there are woody plants that grow amazingly fast (think silver maple for instance) and certainly have (compared to herbaceous plants) very strong stems. It's all in the DNA, of course.

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texasranger2

Woody plants just grow fast..period, that whats so worrisome and they often seem to seed about a lot. They will take over in the blink of an eye, well, at least well within a single human lifetime, I've seen it with my own eyes. Barron, the OKC picture was taken decades ago, its now a solid mass of trees in the city and traveling north all the way to Stillwater, 45 miles and then it finally starts to thin out because its farm country and you see fields of crops. Remember all those fires a couple years back between here and Stillwater and down south around Lawton and beyond? Those drought years are a nightmare.

I don't see any significant areas without them around here unless you get out far enough west or in the panhandle. Going south, same thing, the fires are terrible once those cedars torch up into explosive fire bombs. East and NE, well, its supposed to be tree-d up the further you go in that direction. Thats heading toward your parts but they are different trees than you see around here. They are actually pretty going up toward Arkansas.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Ugh, silver maple.

Hypothesis #2: TR's yard is less windy than L. punctata's native habitat out on the open plains due to abundance of pin oak and hackberry trees.

"Collenchyma tissue is composed of elongated cells with irregularly thickened walls. They provide structural support, particularly in growing shoots and leaves. Collenchyma tissue makes up things such as the resilient strands in stalks of celery. Collenchyma cells are usually living, and have only a thick primary cell wall
made up of cellulose and pectin. Cell wall thickness is strongly
affected by mechanical stress upon the plant. The walls of collenchyma
in shaken plants (to mimic the effects of wind etc.), may be 40–100%
thicker than those not shaken."

-- Wikipedia article on ground tissue

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edlincoln(6A)

For what it's worth, the liatris I planted are growing in a very windy spot...the property gets a sea breeze, and the shape of the house and garage create an accidental wind tunnel.

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texasranger2

In the book 'Native Texas Plants' I got from Mara when she updated hers (thank-you for your old copy) here is the info on the liatris flopping problem.

'If a liatris that likes good drainage is grown on clay, not only does it get too tall & flops over, it also writhes --the stems curve like snakes."

L. mucronata--Well drained limestone or sand on the Edwards Plateau, N. Texas, Corpus Christi, Nebraska to Mexico

L. punctata var puntata--Well drained limestone soils in W. Texas, Trans Pecos, Panhandle, Canada

L. punctata var mexican--Well drained limestone soils in Trans Pecos; Mexico

L. pycnostacha--Sandy, acid bogs in east Texas, prairies in Kansas north to S. Dakota.

Thats all she lists.

Writhing is a good description for some of mine. I dug one out of a clay field going under for construction and planted it here on the other side of the city in well draining sandy soil. It writhes so the reverse might also be true of one liking good drainage being planted in clay? Something's wrong with it somehow.

I seriously doubt wind is a factor. I think its about soil, drainage and moisture.

By the way, TR's yard is good and windy, sometimes it feels like the house will blow away. Especially right now. If there's one thing we have plenty of, its wind, the trees all lean to the north around here from southerly wind currents. We could use some rain.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

We have had some good gusts today. You do have clay under your sand.Here is off the Native american seed description of L. muconata;
"An important plant in the fall during butterfly and hummingbird migrations, this perennial sometimes requires two years before making a bloom. Strong roots grow down as deep as 16 feet, and will easily cling to any poor, infertile, well-drained soil. Also makes a good cut flower. "

16'!!!!!!!!

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texasranger2

We've got 35 mph coming up with temps in the upper 80's and low 90's forecast. Its real dry, fire danger extreme.

Only 16 feet? Hummingbirds are on their way to Texas by the time the liatris bloom here.

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edlincoln(6A)

Liatris is usually planted as a corm around here. I usually plant the corms a few inches down. How does that work with the 16 foot roots? Does a corm I plant in my border really send roots down 16 feet?


Never seen the local hummingbirds show an interest in the liatris.

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texasranger2

This is from the website Woodstea attached, shows 16 feet. Thats a good website. Thanks for posting it.


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edlincoln(6A)

Odd. The one thing I know about liatris roots is liatris spicata has a small corm that resembles a clove of garlic. Is muconata that different?

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I just copied and paste. I didn't say it be a personal observation.

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edlincoln(6A)

I'm genuinely trying to understand this one. Did those little corms drop roots down that far? Has implications for trying to move them. If they did, could I move the corm and hope it could grow back from the severed roots below?

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edlincoln(6A)

Anyway...looking at my pics, does this border look kind of cluttered? The liatris and echinacea kind of overshadow the nodding onion. Should I remove some of these plants, and if so, which ones?



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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

I have moved young ones. The roots broke off but the plant lived,

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texasranger2

edlincoln, at the risk of coming across as proselytizing like an over-enthusiastic prairie zealot, I think its not cluttered enough, in other words the plants are too neat & equally spaced out making it too flower-bed-like but then I am a pain-in-the-butt prairie enthusiast so thats just my own biased opinion, the differing plants seem too equal and spaced out in a single row rather than being tied in together into a blended bank of plants like you would see them growing in a natural prairie environment. Again, please keep in mind I am bonkers off the deep end when it comes to obsessing about prairie in both urban situations & the surrounding countryside and have been called a rabid tree hater.

Is there room for a mix of prairie plants naturally interspersed among short native grasses (instead of mulch) which would add unity, texture & filler growing right up to the driveway with the shrubs serving as a backdrop? It looks like there is a strip of lawn next to the drive? Anyhow, thats what I'd do.

At least they aren't writhing, obviously its the right liatris for your conditions.

I imagine the corms of liatris are starchy and they probably store energy for growth sending up stems above and roots below to grow down deep for water. The corms are edible and once served that purpose among native Americans, or so I read. When dividing an established plant or planting new plants, you just need the corms which easily root and transplant quite well with about 100% success, they also can be stored out of the ground for a while like bulbs. The plant we dug up in Kansas was a big mass of corms and we were able to get starts easily, leaving the main plant. Its just like when getting a start from a yucca, all you need is to dig down a little ways and remove a tuber or just a portion of one.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Heh, I agree completely with the bonkers prairie enthusiast-you need more stuff there Ed, not less! Any natural plant community-well, I'm sure there are exceptions-but most naturally-occurring plant communities have an exuberance about them. Pretty much the only place where you will see widely-spaced plants, just so, is in people's gardens. A meadow full of mixed items is fairly chaotic in some sense but that's the beauty of it. I'd have more stuff there.

BTW, are you at all familiar with Helenium? The native H. autumnale is a great late-season bloomer, best in moist spots, but there have been some very interesting cultivars introduced as well, bringing more rust and orange shades to the otherwise golden flowerheads. Might be one to look at.

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edlincoln(6A)

Keep in mind...there is a place for praire style plantings, but this isn't one. This isn't a natural plant community. This is a border, and an effort to add interest to the boring yew hedge I don't much like. Hopefully a fast food stop for traveling bees, monarchs and hummingbirds. The strip really isn't that wide. Yes, there is a strip of grass between the mulch and the driveway, and I'm kind of hoping some of the plants spread into it, but that still won't give much width.

Don't look at the most recent picture I posted...that picture is older. The plants have grown and spread. Look at the first picture I posted.

I liked the idea of Native bulbs so I planted a repeating row of nodding onion and liatris. Then I planted various other plants there as I found them in the bargain bin. A Minerva echinacea that got huge, a dwarf orange echinacea that looks great but grows slowly, a fluted echinacea that is doing terrible, two bee balm that are doing terribly because of powdery mildew, A bleeding heart and Montauk daisy I planted when I fell off the native wagon recently.

For some reason things are mostly coming up at the center of the row...the things at either end tend to languish. (Except the nodding onion.) One end is more windy and gets run over, one is more shaded.

The spot is massively windy, very dry, and partially shaded. Gets Northeast sun.

As far as the corm question...if liatris have that much of a root system, could you dig them up, move them, an count on the liatris to grow back from the remaining roots? Doubling your plants...

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Liatris spicata were not the best movers I've ever encountered Ed. Granted, this was long ago, and only one try, but it didn't fare well IIRC. As to this little planting strip, I
hope we're not getting buried by our own terms here. I could care less what you or me or anyone else wants to call that planting, if it were mine, I'd want more density, and ultimately, this has little to do with the way actual prairies do or do not behave. It's just an aesthetic judgement is all. A part of my work, for example, still does deal with the design, installation, and maintenance of ornamental plantings around town here, and if there's one overarching trend that could be said to typify my work in that domain, it's one of exuberance and fullness of effect. I always like to think of it as...if anybody's going to see this planting (mine, not yours), it's going to be at 35 mph, while they're thinking about something other than these plants! I go for big, bold effects for the most part, and in this regard, I could be using an actual native forb, a "nativar", a completely non-native plant from "somewhere", and any mixture between these extremes. None of that matters at all in my view. Now under the guise of the stormwater work I also do in my job, there we are mandated to install "native vegetation" and that whole thing had a large head of steam before I got there and was completely under the misperception that a handful of easily-grown "prairie species" were what constituted native vegetation in this area. Remember, these were engineers, not biologists I was (and still am) working with, so I can excuse the relative lack of sophisticated thinking when it comes to vegetation. And we're getting better all the time. But my point as it refers to this little spot is that the only criteria I'm using in making any suggestions I might make is what looks good, nothing more.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Generally I'd say you will do better to move away from this
one-at-a-time bargain bin shopping, and buy larger quantities of a
smaller number of species. Even though the planting is pretty sparse, it
looks cluttered because there are too many different things going on at
once. Look at this three-species combo of Sesleria/Stachys/Allium:

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/211809988699139145

These aren't natives, but you get the idea -- masses of foliage and bloom rather than a bunch of lanky individuals looking like they might be at the first hour of a high school dance.

I would want to add something with good foliage structure throughout the bed. You could put in a compact grass that can handle part shade like that Sesleria autumnalis, for instance (which I think would be an awesome fit but unfortunately not native nor particularly cheap). It's only about a foot wide. You should have room for that if you remove the strip of lawn.

There are various native sedges that have a similar appearance to Sesleria, although they aren't quite as tidy. Carex albicans comes to mind, though it is maybe a bit on the large side, more like 1.5-2 feet. C. penslyvanica is smaller, has no problem with dryish soil. Where I live all of these are available as plugs in the sprint native plant sales. Looks like you have the same type of thing:

http://www.grownativemass.org/programs/plantsale

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edlincoln(6A)

wisconsitom(Zone 4/5): I was just starting to get the impression people's eye's were glazing over as they imagined vast rolling fields of prairie.

My reason for using native plants is not that I have any illusions I can recreate a natural plant community. It's more the fact I like aggressive spreaders, and i don't have to feel as guilty if a native plant escapes my border and gets into the lawn or nearby vacant lot. (That may be what some of the engineers were thinking).

I know one mistake that amateurs sometimes make is they get carried away, buy everything, and don't take into account spacing. Looking at the first picture, I was starting to think I'd made that mistake. The liatris and echinacea look good, but I was worried they'd crowd out the nodding onion.

WoodsTea 6a MO(6a):
I *REALLY* want to stay away from the non-native grasses...grasses are thugs. And I don't really like them, with the exception of Northern Sea Oats. I'd be concerned grasses would overshadow the nodding onion. To me, the Bleeding Heart and some baptista australis nearby have nice foliage.

If you think I have too many species...we are back to the question. Which ones should I remove?

This is a walkway from the garage to the front door.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

I'd say nodding onion is a plant that should be overshadowed -- at least later in the summer after it blooms. That's the nice thing about grasses like Sesleria that stay relatively low until later in the season. The spikes help hide other plants in the garden that are past their prime. But I understand the reluctance to introduce non-native grasses. Also I realize I'm probably more grass-centric than the average gardener.

And I'm not crazy about nodding onion -- so I might not be the best person to tell you what to pull. If it were me I would stick to about three or four species total for the bed -- choose the ones you like the best but also try for contrasting textures and bloom times. I'd probably go with just one type of echinacea.

This might be a better question for the (busier) Perennials forum. Some of the folks there are excellent at combinations. You could tell them up front that you want to keep the cost down, avoid non-native spreaders, and ideally provide some benefit to pollinators.


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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Oh, I have to throw in a line for Prairie Dropseed as a foliar accent...such nice neat tidiness...Prairie Dropseed at NorthCreek Nursery.

I have no affiliation with NorthCreek, nor do I advocate them, just really liked the photos on their listing for PD.

It almost must make you love grasses...surely. It's a clump former and not an aggressive seeder (at all...wish it would seed some more).

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texasranger2

Woodstea I don't know about you but I am thinking HELL STRIP approach for this situation, those challenging narrow spaces that are so fun. I bought a dozen Autumn Sesleria from SRG on sale and I absolutely love it, I got them for an area in dappled shade since it will do good with some shade, I'm hoping it seeds like crazy because I want more plants. I bought 16 'Prairie Fire' carex on super sale last fall and like it just as much, its in the courtyard, its reddish and bright, its ever-green and looks good all 4 seasons. I agree, buy several small plants or plugs of one variety whenever possible and keep the number of varieties in any given area simple rather than a lot of individual species. I'm still working on massing plants for visual purposes.

Ed, the picture where the plants are more filled out looks like an excellent start to me & I don't see why you'd have to take out anything (!), Since you asked for opinions, I was speaking in terms of adding which brought me to the idea of increasing the narrow space. I'd get rid of what I'd personally resent as wasted soil (no matter how narrow) covered in that ribbon of lawn grass, I mean, you could have a lot more interest, not to mention more fun and easily create a more natural and softer effect by planting low interesting plants, some of which could gently spill over the straight edge.

Lawn grass is, well, boring lawn grass and is supposed to be for creating a nice soft lawn for the kids to play on etc, not for wasting valuable space in a border but then, I'm always needing more space on my lot. Some people are neat freaks and can't abide an edge thats not mechanically trimmed and straight, obviously I'm not one of those people and my lawn disappeared over the years as the garden encroached and finally ate every bit of it.

Bulbs would be fine for spring but they won't change the situation or add much in the way of reliable 4 season color (I include winter). Adding annuals is invaluable for reliable spring-summer-fall bloom and you can change the color scheme every year. Small prairie grasses could serve as a foundation & add stunning fall seeds and winter interest, they simply cannot be matched for catching sunlight, textural contrast and ease of care. By the way, Northern Sea Oat seeds about like a bandit, be warned.

Check out Hell Strips online, its a fun idea that's catching on even in the most snobby, discriminating and high-brow urban neighborhoods where neatness is absolutely a requirement, there are even annual tours in Buffalo New York of what entire blocks have done with Hell Strips, its quite the rage.

Like Tom, I'm looking at this from an artistic perspective of good visual design & color combinations, not an attempt at creating a natural plant community for ecological purposes. I would never suggest something that looks like a wild native 'field' for a yard, you'd probably end up with a citation if you did that.

Here is my skinny 3ft wide strip, a mix of perennials, grasses and annuals and a couple shrubs (Woodstea's is wider cuz he's luckier). I have another along the driveway that borders the neighbors conventional bermuda grass lawn. MIne is self maintaining for the most part and I'm proud to say, we are the only people in the neighborhood who doesn't own a weed-eater or lawnmower and we don't miss ours. We get envious comments about that all the time, especially in the heat of summer. Seems everyone has a yard but hates to mow, edge, water and do the yearly 'weed n feed'.

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texasranger2

Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) is a good long blooming, pollinator attracting early season purple, delicate see-through plants with interesting seed heads throughout summer for texture, a kind of fine grass-like effect for people who don't care for grasses, there seems to be a lot of people who don't. I think of it as the spring equivalent to fall blooming Liatris, on much more delicate scale.


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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Yep, TR's "lawn" is something to see. I've seen it. I really like it.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Dbarron, about prairie dropseed... I'd say it's tidy early in the season, but later on gets rather untidy in my yard, though that could be because the soil is so rich. The ends of the grass start trailing on the ground, and some of the spikes lean over into the sidewalk space. The smell is odd, too. I am planning on thinning some of it out of my hell strip after all the trimming I had to do on it last year.

Definitely agree with TR that the strip of lawn would be better removed. I really think it would be hard to beat Sesleria autumnalis along the front. I wouldn't be too worried about invasiveness. It doesn't show up at all on the BONAP site, or in a search on invasive.org. The bigger problem would be cost.

Bleeding Heart is probably the best foliage contrast you've got in your bed and it would be nice to have more of that -- if you don't mind it's non-nativeness.

One thing I would definitely yank is the bee balm. I think that without irrigation you're going to have that powdery mildew problem every year. There are supposedly mildew-resistant cultivars/hybrids, though I have not tried any of them:

https://www.chicagobotanic.org/downloads/planteval_notes/no12_monarda.pdf



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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Woods, I might say...send me your PD, if you're rogueing it:)

Bleeding heart is usually quite ephemeral, and leaves a BIG hole in the later season...but nice in early spring when most prairie species are just coming forth. I'm going to try some (native) dicentra eximia this year...I have a notion that the moisture levels would be good for it here.

And yes, monarda is a PM magnet...I haven't really tried the new hybrids with M. fistulosa either...though even fistulosa gets PM sometimes.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

TR, about hell strips -- I think that the approach that you take (I
do it also, but to a lesser extent) of using a lot of different species
might not be the best strategy here.

Part of the reason your yard
looks so good is that you've spend lots of time building and editing it
over the years. It's challenging to make a diverse planting look good
without that sort of long-term effort, unless you've already built up
the experience and plant knowledge that allows you to make good choices
and placements off the bat. Edlincoln admits he's a lazy gardener.

Again
my suggestion would be to whittle it down to four species max -- plant
more of those (or divide the existing ones), combining them in drifts,
and pull the rest.

Just my opinion, though -- and I am a relatively novice gardener.

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texasranger2

Woodstea, absolutely agree with simple. Repeats. Low plants by the driveway.

I'm working on the same thing, massing plants & have been moving plants to create groupings of same kinds together and added more repeats of certain others, especially grasses. I ordered 14 more 'Blue Heaven' plants that will arrive in mid March + 3 asters and 3 white guara's. Now that I mentioned it, Guara is another plant that has a grasslike feeling by the way for people who don't like grasses.

I had the same problem with Mulenbergia riverchonni that you have with the Dropseed, drooping, too dense, muddy tips from street etc. I had 3 planted together spaced according to HCG specs. which was too close together, it lost definition and looked overwhelmingly 'grassy'. Once I took 2 out and left one, the problem was fixed. I left the one that was planted furthest from the street so it doesn't drag in the slithery street muck (ulgh!) during rainy times. This particular area was downright nasty looking before once they reached full size & bloomed anytime it rained. I bet if you thin out some of yours, it'll make a big difference. Your's are full grown and that takes a while on DS, also, they aren't cheap. Gee, I'd take em off your hands if you was a-tossin them. Me and Barron might have to come up there on cleanup day with empty pots.......

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edlincoln(6A)

So, WoodsTea 6a MO(6a) thinks it is getting cluttered by too many species, but texasranger2 likes the way it looks and thinks I don't have to remove anything?

I find nodding onion actually looks better before it blooms then when it blooms...the buds at the end of stalks bent like shepard's crooks look dainty and elfin. The flower is anticlimactic.

Evergreens aren't really an option. The spot gets buried in a snow drift most winters, and occasionally run over. Also, I'd be worried things that were there all year would be bad for the yew...shade it out. Things that die to the ground every winter anyway are safer. I hope to get a row of daffodils and muscari there in the Spring and some late summer flowers after that...two season interest is adequate.

I've been passive-aggressively hoping these plants reseed into the grass strip...

Funny you mention Purple Prairie Clover. A while back I tried to buy a bunch of their seeds and scatter them down an embankment for erosion control & pollinator interest. I was hoping for a mix of purple prairie clover, Northern Sea Oats, and Cape Beach Grass. Couldn't really get it to take. I've also never been able to get Northern Sea Oats to spread.

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

You and/or Barron are certainly welcome to them. He mentioned the possibility of getting together for foraging, so perhaps I could bring some south in one direction or the other. I am particularly interested in finding Nothoscordum bivalve and Viola pedata. Where I've seen them, near Sedalia, MO, they were in flower in mid to late April, but they were on a prairie preserve and non-collectible.

Agree about nodding onion -- better just before it blooms. Mine just don't have enough color and so with a little distance they don't look terribly different than dandelion seedheads. Also I wished they bloomed earlier and disappeared.


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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

The unfortunate thing is my property in Oklahoma had thousands of Nothoscordum. I know where some viola pedata is...(or used to be lots)..but we would be technically tresspassing to go there (wasn't much of an issue for kids back when). Might be a bit of one now, I have no idea who owns it...likely the person who did when I was a lad has passed on.
However, if we wanted to make a trip of it...within Arkansas...I have friends that could give directions (from the Arkansas Natural Heritage commission, they wander the state doing surveys and discovering new things...and know where to find everything).

Usually both of those species appears in abundance if you find them.

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texasranger2

Gee Ed, I thought me and woods were pretty much saying the same thing, I got where he was coming from and thought I was wholeheartedly in agreement.

OK. Here is a photo to attempt to illustrate. (forgive the grasses, it can be something else, like low mounded plants for example)

PHOTO:

See how these guys planted just as many varieties as you planted in front of the wall, only they have more than ONE of EACH KIND of each variety?

Notice there's several echinacea plants (looks like about 9 or 12 plants) planted among several of the exact SAME kind of grass plants in just this section of the border but they are ALL THE EXACT SAME VARIETY & HEIGHT which = adding more plants massed together (in other words I would add more plants repeating the varieties you already have) for continuity.

Also in the picture, there's repeats of that wide mounded white blooming (?) plant further down. Repeating plants (buying several instead of just the one) along a border ties the whole thing together and simplifies. In other words simplifying by expanding on what you have (which is a good start) it just needs to be harmoniously tied together instead of a hodgepodge of individual plants competing with each other, working as a unit rather than plunked in the ground in a line.

What plants to plant? What ones do YOU like?

When you have several repeated plants grouped and complimenting each other you keep it simple. It works much nicer than when you go to the store and pick up one of each and then try to make it work, which, it never does. We are all tempted to do that for varieties sake but instead, load up on 3, 5 or 7 of each kind and plan to arrange masses, or groups or repeats down the row to create a more thought-out & cohesive look as opposed to a collection of this and that planted here and there. I mean, you have one isolated iris stuck in there. What the heck? Poor guy looks lonely (and out of place). They look 100% better in mass of iris grouped together.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Yes, I'm VERY very guilty of one by one...but it looks so much better in masses.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

Even nature (remember nature?) likes to repeat elements. While true that in the tropics, some very high total species richness is often the case, throughout most temperate parts of the world, repetition in native plant communities is very commonplace. It adds power and harmony to the landscape-like when you come up over a little hill and before you, all you see are the white trunks of paper birch, or you head into a low spot and northern white cedar has all but taken over the landscape. Of course, these two northern US examples are just that-examples-and the same tendency repeats itself over and over again across the land. And also true-there is more diversity in such scenes than may immediately hit the eye, but the macro elements are indeed replicated over and over again.

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edlincoln(6A)

Everyone is repeating the general principle and suggesting new things to add. The question is, what do I remove? If I'm going to repeat elements, I have to remove some. That's the hard decision.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Well, that's your decision...look at time they're attractive (factoring in flower, bud, foliage, and maybe even fall and winter appeal)...and make a list (that's what I do)...score points, etc.

Then be ruthless (or relocate or offer to other people).We're enablers...not destroyers (we want you to plant more) (lol)

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texasranger2

If you are simply set on removing something then either remove the strip of lawn grass or remove the plants and let the grass come up to the shrubs. Or just pick what you least like and remove it.

Frankly, this is a dead end discussion.


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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

OR repeat what you like the most and let the few remaining others just be anomalies. But get rid of the grass. I like the liatris and the echinacea together. The pale leafy thing , I don't understand. The nodding onions might get overpowered once the echenacia and liatris expand. Maybe move them and consolidate them to one end where the dark background will accent them nicely. I know, decisions , decisions. I am not good at them either.

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edlincoln(6A)

What pale leafy thing, in which photo? The Bleeding heart in the first?

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Trouble is, all of us have different gardening styles and preferences. I'm constantly changing my mind about my own garden. And none of us lives in coastal Mass. nor knows the particulars of your site. We're not going to be able to come to a full consensus on exactly what changes need to be made as far as removing specific plants or adding others.

The first thing you can do, though -- and I think most everybody is agreed on this -- is not to add any more one-off individuals you happen to come across. If that's all you do this year, then I think you'll be ahead at this point next year. What you have will have expanded somewhat, and you won't be making it any more complicated.

If you want to keep it simple and easy, you could try to identify one or two things that you like the best, and plant a few more of those this spring. Let's say it's the Liatris and one of the Echinaceas-- then plan on adding a half dozen or so of each next to the ones you have already. Put them fairly close together -- say a foot apart, maybe slightly more for the Echinacea. If there isn't room, move whatever's in the way. Do the same next spring. Leave the strip of lawn where it is for now.

I'm suggesting this strategy because it involves a lot less effort and the decisions are easier. In a couple of years these larger drifts will give your border a more definite personality, and then it may be easier to decide what comes next.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Pale leafy plant on the left of the first photo in the 4th reply post.

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edlincoln(6A)

wantonamara: Yup, I believe that's Bleeding Heart.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

A plant I will never be able to grow down here. I know nothing about it. Doesn't it need more shade than the liatris and echinacea? Interesting to see them side by side. It would be toast where I have my echinacea.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

It's definitely a woodlander, native to cool wet areas. The only reason he can get by with it (assumption) in a full sun area is that it goes dormant as things heat up.

It would likely to better in half shade...certainly the foliage would be more persistent.

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edlincoln(6A)

Actually, I think the Echinacea and the liatris are the ones that are inappropriately placed and surviving largely because they are just tough plants. The yew provides shade to the South-west. Also, I'm north of you, so the sunlight is less intense. I was hoping the bleeding heart would spread to beneath the yew.

The spot is part shade and dry. Wasn't sure weather to plant shade-loving plants that like moisture or full sun plants that tolerate drought. The bleeding heart was a recent addition, so I don't know if it will survive long term.

The bleeding heart looks good with the nodding onion, but doesn't really go with the liatris.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Ah, then you're probably right and the prairie plants don't belong (my assumption was they were in the correct place). The bleeding heart isn't going to like dry...at all, though it can get by if the moisture levels are adequate during late winter through early summer.

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wisconsitom(Zone 4/5)

As much as I like Dicentra (quite a bit, lol), it's simply not going to provide the type of presence you need here....or anywhere else for that matter. It's for all intents and purposes a spring ephemeral. Gone by warm June weather, it's not just lacking in adequate presence, it will be lacking in any presence. Sure, sure, there are those bleeding hearts, growing in ideal, half-shady locations, that eek along for half the summer or so. But really, spring ephemeral. since this is a half-shady spot here, go for it, but I don't think it's going to be all that.

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edlincoln(6A)

Oddly, the liatris seems to have multiplied and crowded out the echinacea. Wouldn't have thought that would be the one to win out...echinacea is a thug. The Bleeding Heart does it's thing before the liatris fill out, so it's fine. Nodding onion looks to be losing out. On the plus side, oodles of bees and butterflies.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Hmm, nodding onion is pretty hard to crowd out...but it can be done. It does so much of it's photosynthesis earlier than most prairie plants get going (here at least).

Yeah, liatris (pycnostachys at least) is amazingly vigorous and will spread without bounds if allowed to reseed. It also has a root system that's very impressive.

Echinacea is relatively speaking, an early colonizer and easily crowded out (on the assumption it can just reseed in a more favorable place).

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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

In my mind that's a good thing, gives that planting a more unified look. I like the height of it there in front of the yews.

I've got some crazy bendy L. pycnostachya out back that I'm sure aren't getting enough sunlight, just coming into flower now. So far I haven't seen much activity on them. The bees are still after the waning Culver's root and downy skullcap blooms.

Edited to add a picture of that snaky Liatris on the back side of the rain garden berm:



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WoodsTea 6a MO(6a)

Here's the same Liatris plants a year later:

The sunlight here hasn't really changed. My theory is that in the first year the compost-amended soil and lack of competition made them too soft. It also could be that a young plant with just a stem or two has a weaker connection at the crown and leans more easily.

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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Very interesting. I love the wait and this too shall pass scenario. NICE liatris.

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dbarron(z7_Arkansas)

Mine are so snakey this year...it hasn't stopped raining since March...which is why.

They're happy, but oh my, they'd be 8-10 feet tall if they were straight.

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