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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - July 18, 2011

From: Manchester, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Erosion Control, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Plants for a property near a conservation area in MD
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Can you tell me what native plants and the type of landscaping that would be good to plant in front of a forest conservation area that is on a steep hill behind our future house? It is located in Manchester, MD.

ANSWER:

We are really delighted to see new homeowners concerned about the impact their landscape will have on an adjacent natural area. The best thing you can do is take cues from nature. Spend the season exploring in the conservation area with field guides identifying plants.  Look at how nature arranges the plants.

You can learn more about what plants are native to your area by visiting out Native Plant Database and doing a Combination Search for Maryland.  You can create lists of plants that are linked to detailed information pages.  You can also check the Recommended Species for Maryland for a list of plants that are known to be readily available in the nursery trade and suitable for a home garden setting.

Check out the website of the Maryland Native Plant Society and consider joining a local chapter. The people you meet will be a great resource as you embark on the project.  Their website has a wealth of information including a list of Native Plant Nurseries. We also have nurseries affiliated with the Wildflower Center that you can find on our Suppliers page.

When you get to the stage of planning and planting on the slope you will want to consider using shrubs and perennials that spread by stolons and native ornamental grasses whose fibrous root systems are particularly adept at stabilizing a slope.

The organization that maintains your conservation area probably has plant lists and plenty of advice as well.  Before you plant, you would be well advised to check with them that you are choosing plants that will not spread into their area and displace the delicate plant communities they are trying to protect.

Here are a few plants we think might be suitable:

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea)

Comptonia peregrina (Sweet fern)

Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed)

 

From the Image Gallery


Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

New jersey tea
Ceanothus americanus

Sweet fern
Comptonia peregrina

Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Fragrant sumac
Rhus aromatica

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Prairie dropseed
Sporobolus heterolepis

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