Designing the flood plain

There is an ephemeral stream running parallel with the road on my property. I realized this winter that feral ligustrum had sprouted up all along the western end, so I pulled all that out. It’s a nice space without the Japanese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum), poison ivy, and common dogbane (Apocynum cannabinum); I decided to accept the challenge and try some native plantings.

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I bought some seeds and plants from Prairie Moon Nursery:

Fair warning: the smallest seed package the PM sells is 0.25 oz, and that is A LOT of seeds.

The iris have to be cold-stratified for 90 days! So that will be planted this fall. The other seeds needed just 30 days; the creek and fox sedge were only available as plants that arrived Thursday 18-April. I’m taking the short-run seeds out of the refrigerator today (21-April) and planting them in flats.

Here is the rough plan, not to scale. (If anyone can recommend a simple drawing program that allows text editing, please let me know. It was taking WAY too long to draw this in a program.)

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  • Creek Sedge: wet, shade, 1-2 ft H, space 1.5 ft
  • Fox Sedge: wet-moist, full sun, 1-3 ft H, space 1.5 ft
  • Awl Fruited Sedge: wet, full-part sun, 1-3 ft H, space 1 ft
  • Iris (both): wet, full-part sun, 2-3 ft H, space 1 ft
  • Wild Quinine: med-moist, full sun, 3-5 ft H, space 1.5 ft
  • Ox Eye Sunflower: dry-moist, full sun, 3-6 ft H, space 1 ft
  • Switchgrass: dry-moist, full sun, 3-6 ft H, space 2 ft

I’ve spent the afternoon cleaning up the area and mowing. Here’s some ‘after’ shots.

West facing view of the yard by the road, showing where an elderberry and some juniper 'Grey Owl' are planted.
Road frontage: the road is just to the right of the ditch, and the creek is to the left of this view. I have green fence posts in front of the juniper, which was planted this spring to provide a nicer barrier to ATVs that had been riding through.
View to the left of the road, showing the actual flood plain. There are two wIllows, 'Swizzlestick', and a native witch hazel.
The real floodplain, west of the driveway. There are two small corkscrew willows ‘Swizzlestick’ planted this spring and a native witch hazel planted last year.
The stream bed at the back of the area.
The stream facing south (ignore the arrow). Driveway is in the upper left. The Christmas ferns and some small Ilex vomitoria volunteered. I found dwarf crested iris along the bank in back; it may be voluntary or the former owner may have planted them. I planted the button bush last year, and the wild elderberry a few years ago; I thought it had died.
The stream bed facing east. Three sweet gums that I really don’t like but... There is a large crepe myrtle just off of the left.
The stream bed facing east. Three sweet gums that I really don’t like but… There is a large crepe myrtle just off of the left.

I planted the creek and fox sedge along the stream, but they are so small it wasn’t worth a picture. The seedlings should be ready in a month or so, although I am seriously thinking about sowing the rest of the switchgrass seed into the most western part of the lot.

I’ll post progress pictures, as long as the invasives don’t win again. 🙂

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