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Sunday - February 19, 2012

From: Gallatin, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Managing Roadsides, Non-Natives, Grasses or Grass-like, Vines
Title: Native plants for roadside in Gallatin TN
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What native plant would you suggest that we try to establish on 100 feet of road frontage which gets full afternoon sun? The soil is mostly clay, and it's on a rather sleep hill about 10 feet high. Trumpet vine? Forsythia? We want to establish something relatively low-growing and then will ask our state highway dept. to stop cutting and spraying that area. Thank you!

ANSWER:

Before we get into your question, we applaud your intent to use native plants in your landscaping but we do want you to know that Forsythia is native to southeastern Asia, but not native to anywhere in North America, which is what The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Mr. Smarty Plants recommend. Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) is native and grows naturally in Sumner Co. If you follow the plant link to our webpage on this plant you will learn it is deciduous, blooms red, orange or yellow from June to September, has low water use and needs full sun.

Before we make any other plant suggestions, there is a question you didn't ask and we don't know the answer. What are the adjacent property owner's rights in the road frontage? When you say you have 100 feet of road frontage, are there rules on what you can or can't do or what the Department of Transportation in your state can or can't do? If you are talking about what might be termed the "shoulder" from the edge of the pavement for some determined width, is that what you are planning to plant, and to ask the Department of Transportation to leave alone? Since we coould not determine the answer to this question, we suggest you contact the Sumner County Superintendant of Roads. If that is not the right place to find out, they can surely refer you.

Now we are going to help you with a list of plants for your purpose, assuming that you will be able to prevent the road department from mowing and/or spraying herbicide on the area in question. Since you have a problem of erosion, we are going to suggest mostly native grasses; with their long roots, grasses are ideal for holding soil against erosion, and many maintain their positions year round. Certainly the Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper) we have already discussed would work, but you should be warned that it is very invasive. In a few years you (and your neighbors) could be cursing and trying to root the stuff out before it grows over your house.

We will find some appropriate grasses by going to our Native Plant Database, and using the Combination Search, select on Tennessee, "grass or grass-like" on Habit or General Appearance and "sun" for Light Requirements. We consider "sun" to be 6 hours or more of sunlight a day, "part shade" 2-6 hours of sun, and "shade" 2 hours. Some of these grasses can tolerate all three, but be sure you know how much sun your slope has before you make your selections. You can search our Native Plant Database in the same way finding other plants that suit your gardening requirements. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant for more information, including expected height, propagation instructions, etc.

Campsis radicans (Trumpet creeper)

Andropogon glomeratus (Bushy bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (Silver beard grass)

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

 

From the Image Gallery


Trumpet creeper
Campsis radicans

Bushy bluestem
Andropogon glomeratus

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Silver beard grass
Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Gulf muhly
Muhlenbergia capillaris

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

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