Planning a Native Bed

Looking rather disreputable in late summer.

Looking rather disreputable in late summer.

This is the view of the front of the native butterfly bed from the street. A month or so ago when everything was full and blooming this was beautiful. Now it just looks sort of grubby.

That empty stretch in the center is the next bed to be planted. That area has been settling and composting since it was sheet mulched back in March. Before it was sheet mulched, this was an area where the soil had broken down into sugar sand. This roughly 6’x10′ patch was layered in about a cubic yard of horse manure, layers of soaked cardboard, and then a foot deep of shredded hardwood mulch. Now the soil underneath is rich and dark. There are actually earthworms! The native plant sale is this weekend. It’s time to plant.

What's already here, around the edges.

What’s already here, around the edges. The pigeon pea, daylilies and buddleia are not native.

The yellow and purple color scheme has been entirely accidental, since I didn’t pay attention to bloom color when I picked out the plants, but it’s an accident I happen to love. Notice, though, that it looks blah right now because nothing is blooming. All of these plants bloomed in late spring to early summer.
I need:

  • Plants that bloom in late summer to fall,
  • Tall enough to be seen behind the echinacea and iron weed from the house,
  • Look pretty from the street,
  • Native and adapted for upland mesic hardwood forest-y areas,
  • and hopefully will host some butterflies.
empty spot3

The sheet mulching has held well here. There is only a small amount of torpedo grass breaking through after almost six months.

Whenever I want to plan beds like this I’m often overwhelmed with the number of choices. So many cool plants! This time I found a website with suggestions for whole plant communities! No more guessing which plants will grow well with which, and there are several suggestions for flowering plants here that are not listed in other books I have, so it’s a double win.

Wish list:

Southern Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Firebush (Hamelia patens)
Gray-Headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) or Smooth Oxeye (Heliopsis helianthoides)

After this stretch is planted, we’ll be sheet-mulching the next chunk to wrap around the existing tulip poplar. That bed will sit and compost over the winter and then be planted in the spring. The plan is to eventually sheet mulch along the entire length of the front fence in manageable chunks. Then I’ll plant natives and medicinal herbs to blend in the ugly wooden fence and to add some beauty and privacy.

Are you going to the native plant sale? What are you going to buy?

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