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Friday - January 16, 2009

From: Tarrytown, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Propagation
Title: Student project on Hudson Valley, NY native plants and ecology
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty, Hi I am starting a project with a school group 4th-6th grade, that has a greenhouse. The goal is to teach children about native plants & ecology of the Hudson valley region in NY. We will be propagating plants for proposed planting of a rain garden or meadow. What plants (south-eastern NY) might be the easiest for children to propagate? Part shade.

ANSWER:

Because we were not too familiar with rain gardens (in fact, in Central Texas we've about lost touch with rain, period) we found some information that helped us to understand the ecological importance of rain gardens and how to construct them. We particularly liked this article from the University of Rhode Island on Rain Gardens. On the subject of planting a meadow, please read our How-To Article on Meadow Gardening.  This article actually deals with large-scale planting of a meadow, but its suggestions on the sort of plants and the mix ratio of grasses and herbaceous plants should be valuable, anyway. We are going to go to our Recommended Species section, select New York from the map, and look for some appropriate plants for your project. We will want plants that can tolerate wet soil for a period for the rain garden, as well as plants suitable for a meadow, and then look at propagation instructions for each to try to help you determine which would be appropriate for your young gardeners to try. For the meadow, we're going to pick some wildflowers but also some grasses, which usually are very easy to plant from seed. Three of the grasses are also good candidates for the rain garden.

For other resources, check with the Cornell University cooperative extension office for Westchester County.  On that home page, under "4-H Youth and Family Development", there is a School Gardening Program where you can find additional information and contact names.  Native Plant Societies can also be a great deal of help with projects like this, but we did not find one for Westchester County; perhaps you have local contacts for such an organization.

Now, on to the plants.  Follow each link to the webpage to get propagation instructions, moisture and sunlight requirements, and go down the page to the Google link to that plant for still more information. If you need help finding the seeds, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type in your town and state and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape consultants in your general area.

FOR THE MEADOW- herbaceous plants

Campanulastrum americanum (American bellflower) - 3 to 4 ft. tall, annual, blooms blue and purple June to August. Seeds germinate easily, shallowly plant the small seeds in Spring for a biennial and in Fall for an annual.

Desmodium canadense (showy ticktrefoil) - 2 to 6 ft. tall, bushy perennial, blooms pink and purple June to September.

Monarda didyma (scarlet beebalm) - 3 ft. stems, perennial, blooms red in July and August.

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox) - 8 to 18", perennial, blooms white, red, pink and purple March to May

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan) - 1 to 2 ft. stems, annual, blooms yellow June to October.

FOR THE MEADOW - grasses

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) - perennial, stems 4 to 8 ft. tall, can withstand periodic flooding and high water tables, so is also good candidate for rain garden.

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - 2 to 3 ft. warm season perennial grass.

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama) - perennial, 10 to 1" tall.

Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint) - perennial 3 to 5 ft. tall, valuable wetlands restoration species.

Deschampsia caespitosa (tufted hairgrass) - 2 to 3 ft. high, also good in rain gardens.

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill) - 1 to 1-12 ft. tall, perennial

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - perennial, 2 to 4 ft. tall, not native to New York, but is to New Jersey, so would be fine at your location.

OTHER PLANTS FOR RAIN GARDEN

Equisetum arvense (field horsetail) - perennial, spread by spores, not seeds, but with some small starter plants, it is very valuable in a rain garden.

Equisetum hyemale (scouringrush horsetail) - perennial to 3 ft. tall, again not a seed plant, but wonderful in rain garden and can perpetuate itself nicely.

Equisetum hyemale var. affine (scouringrush horsetail) - spreading reed-like perennial, worth trying to start in greenhouse.

Typha latifolia (broadleaf cattail) -perennial, 4 to 8 ft. tall.

 

 

 

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