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Mr. Smarty Plants - Restoration of hilly area with natives of New York

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Monday - April 24, 2006

From: Hudson, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Restoration of hilly area with natives of New York
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have an area, down the street from me, 2 side hills. During the summer, this all becomes over grown with small trees and just brush in general. I have asked our city for over 20 yrs to clear it as just behind it is our local city operated swimming hole called Oakdale. I have always thought if these side hills were cleared and wildflowers grew there, how nice it would be and look. I live in Hudson NY and need ideas as to what to grow there. Perhaps if the new political regime decides to heed my request and I have the proper flowers to plant, something can be done. We do have a small contingent of deer the frequent this area though. Any help you could give would be GREATLY appreciated.

ANSWER:

You don't say how large the area is and what sorts of trees and brush grow there now. Moreover, you don't say who would be in charge of caring for the area. I am assuming it would be the city—or you. Whoever it is, the simpler the maintenance, the better the area will look year round. You need to realize that wildflowers would be blooming only part of the spring and summer and that the rest of the year the area would have, at best, just green (or dead brown) plants, and at worst, lots of weeds. Also, since you are dealing with hills and some slope, clearing away all the trees and brush could open up the site for erosion. Therefore, it might be an advantage to leave or plant scattered small shrubs or trees. So—first, you might assess what is growing on the site to see if it is native and potentially attractive. For those that fit the "native and potentially attractive" description, you could mark and ask the city to save. A few potentially attractive shrubs and small trees native to New York are:

Red bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
Alternate-leaf dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)
American strawberry-bush (Euonymus americana)
Red chokecherry (Photinia pyrifolia)

If there are flatter areas on the hill, perhaps that would be the best place to clear and sow wildflowers along with attractive native grasses. Grasses have several functions in a wildflower meadow; for instance, filling in spaces between the flowers, providing protection from erosion, and adding color and texture. I suggest you visit our Native Plant Library to find two articles, "Wildflower Meadow Gardening" and "Large Scale Wildflower Planting" that would be useful in your project. Here are some suggested grasses and wildflowers:

Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis), spring bloom
Little bluestem (Schizachrium scoparium) summer and fall bloom
Prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) summer bloom

Spring wildflowers:
Red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Lance-leaved coreopsis ( Coreopsis lanceolata)
Narrow-leaf blue-eyed-grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium)

Summer and fall wildflowers:
Butterfly-weed (Asclepias tuberosa
Dense gayfeather (Liatris spicata)
Cardinal flower ( Lobelia cardinalis)
Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera)
Smooth aster (Symphyotrichum laeve var. laeve)

Your goal, I assume, would be to have the area attractive year round and not just during the seasons when the wildflowers are blooming. With this is mind, you might consider ferns in some areas:

Crested wood fern ( Dryopteris cristata)
Marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis)

Since I don't know completely the character of your area, not all of the suggestions may be appropriate. You can look for more possibilities by doing a "Combination Search" in our Native Plants Database where you can narrow your search by making choices for: Bloom Characteristics, Growth Form, Growing Conditions, and Distribution. Finally, you can search for sources of native plants and seeds in your area by visiting our National Suppliers Directory.
 

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