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Formal Gardening with Native Plants, Revisited

Last Winter I designed a garden in three phases for a yard across the street from me. The homeowner and I wanted a formal plant design to match the formal existing structures of the beds, which were overrun with a mess of Lilly-of-the-Valley, Sea Oats grass and other non-native weeds. After a few revisions of the design and months of prep work (eradication of those two plants is not easy work!), I finally installed the last bed yesterday. To keep the original idea of formality I used clumping/wave techniques, short-growing species, multi-seasonal interest and monoculture bordering. We dissected the bed with a path of flagstone and lined each side with Sideoats Grama. The top border of the bed is a row of Prairie Smoke, which will be stunning in the Spring with it's ethereal blooms followed by interesting basal leaves that are almost fern-like and persist into the winter. The bottom border is two rows of Nodding Wild Onion, a species that looks best en masse. The top corner by the fence is a mass planting of Little Bluestem that has exclamation marks of Royal Catchfly mixed in. Underneath the Pagoda Dogwood, the shadiest spot in the bed, is a mass of Wild Geranium with Sundrops in the transition between the Little Bluestem. The River Birch is ringed in Showy Goldenrod with clumps of Butterfly Milkweed, Purple Prairie Clover and Hoary Vervain clumped on the outer edge of this ring. Other species clumped elsewhere are Leadplant, New Jersey Tea, Hairy Penstemon, Wild Petunia, Blue Wild Indigo with Rough Blazingstar poking out of all of this randomly.

After the flagstones are installed I will plant Field Pussytoes around them to grow between the cracks.

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