The Right Plants in the Right Place: Water-Wise Landscaping - University of Wyoming


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The Right Plants in the Right Place: Water-Wise Landscaping - University of Wyoming

  1. 1. The right plants in the right placeWater-wise landscapingW ant a great looking landscape without using a ton of water? That is what water-wise landscap- addition to those on the map shown include: • What types of wildlife inhabit property) – a single house can create at least four microcli- mates – north side creates aing is all about. Water-wise landscap- your property or the surrounding cooler, shady area with moreing is simply creating a landscape area constant temperatures; souththat fits our climate (with Wyoming’s • Soil types and quality (more on side is hotter with more temper-annual average precipitation of 12.68 this later) ature extremes; west is exposedinches). Landscaping in Wyoming • Amount of sunlight in different to strong sun and the most win-also must be adapted to a number areas ter winds; east is sheltered fromof other challenges including plenti- • Amount and direction of wind in many winds and has a moreful wind (in some parts of the state), different areas moderate climate in general.hungry wildlife, intense sunlight, • How water moves across your • Existing plants such as trees andvariable weather (hail, cold, and, in property shrubs that you’d like to retain insome areas, heat), and alkaline soils. • General seasonal high and your landscape.Landscaping must also fit your needs low temps (knowing your U.S. Once you have in mind the gen-including budget, time, interests, and Department of Agriculture Plant eral conditions of your property, nextfamily activities. Remember that not Hardiness Zone can help with consider what uses or features you’ddoing any traditional “landscaping” is selecting cold-tolerant plants) like in a landscape. Do you want a turfalso an option and one that might be • General topography (cold air area for the kids? Do you need a pathleast time intensive. moves down hill in general) to the barn? Would you like a vegeta- The key to successful water-wise • Microclimates (smaller areas ble and/or flower garden and area forlandscaping is choosing plants to fit with significantly different a compost pile? Do you have a viewthe site, not trying to change the site climates than the rest of your you’d like to block or frame? Limitingto fit your plants. Some site manipula-tion can be accomplished, but save itfor the plants and landscape featuresthat are your top priorities (such as avegetable garden or cherished shrub).How to Start The first thing to do is closelyobserve your property. Take time to note some things about it. Sketching a quick map of your prop- erty and making some notes on it can be a useful tool in planning your landscape. Items you’ll want to note in6 B A R N Y A R D S & B A C KYA R D S
  2. 2. the water tends to move outwards as well as down. Therefore, you may need to apply water slowly to allow it to soak in (drip emitters, soaker hoses, etc., apply water slowly). Clay soils hang onto water longer so wa- tering infrequently but deeply fits the bill. Vegetables tend to like “rich” soils and constant moisture. If you have a vegetable garden in your landscape, annual applications of well compos- ted organic matter will help it thrive. Selecting plants Once you have decided what functions and features you’d like in your landscape, you can now have fun choosing plants and thinkingthe size of more resource-intensive understanding of soils and their is- about how they will be grouped.areas such as a vegetable garden sues. If you don’t know what type of Some general tips in choosingor lawn to just what you need will soil you have, you can get it tested at plants for landscapes are:reduce your work load and the invest- a variety of testing labs for a fee (con- • Make sure your plants are har-ment of water and other inputs over tact your local University of Wyoming dy enough for your site, and, inthe long run. A rough sketch of these Extension office to find about the labs general, choose plants that willareas on your map will give you a in your area). In general, many native be happy with the conditionsfeel for how things will look and how or well-adapted plants do not require you have. Knowing the USDApeople will use and travel through the you to amend (add stuff to it like or- Plant Hardiness Zone numberlandscape. ganic matter) the soil when the plant for your location will help you has been chosen to fit the conditions.Weed work In fact, some native plants don’t like choose cold-hardy plants. (It’s While you are observing your not a perfect system, but it being fertilized – it can contribute toproperty and making notes, deter- helps.) http://planthardiness. lush, weak growth and sometimesmine if there are any weed issues Most locations in encourage rot. They tend to like it onpresent. If so, do your best to take the state fall in the USDA zones the “mean and lean” side. However,care of them BEFORE you create 3-5. You can also chat with folks some soils such as extremely sandyyour new landscape. Tackling tough at your local extension office, soils may benefit from the addition ofperennial weeds, such as Canada conservation district, and nurs- organic matter to support a wider ar-thistle, that have nestled themselves eries to find plants to suit your ray of landscape plants.between desired ornamental plants is site. Soils also factor into how you wa-significantly more difficult than those • Choose plants that will give you ter. Watering deeply but infrequentlythat are not amongst desired plants. something interesting (flowers, is often suggested for water-wiseSee our “Weeds, ways to whipem” foliage, bark, fruit, etc.) dur- plants. How you do this dependssection for more information. ing most parts of the year. A on your soil type. In sandy soils, the garden of mainly spring bulbsSoil prep water tends to move straight down looks great in spring and blah Soils vary considerable around fairly rapidly. Therefore, applying just the rest of the year. Considerthe state and sometimes within a enough water to wet the root zone incorporating some plants thatsmall area. If you are looking to re- area is best, and it can be added have winter appeal.duce your workload and save water, fairly quickly. Sandy soils lose their • If you are interested in a morechoosing plants suited to your soils is water quickly as well, so you may cultivated form of “lawn,” con-the best way to go. Read the “Soils” have to water more frequently. Clay sider using more water-thriftysection in this manual to get a good soils absorb water more slowly, and grass species or varieties. r u ra l l ivin g in wy o m in g 7
  3. 3. There are even varieties of blue- • Also for a naturalistic affect – if • Locate plants that need more grass that have been developed planting trees or shrubs, try to water closer to your water to thrive on less water. You can plant different ages of plants in source and/or home where you find info to help you choose a each grouping, if you can find can best enjoy them. grass variety by visiting barn- them to purchase. • Leave room for generous paths and • Locate any lawns where you for people to move through choosing “Resources” and will use them the most. Also, the landscape to various “Lawns”. make sure they are located destinations. • If you’re not sure a plant will be near water sources. Consider a successful in your area, plant lawn shape that best suits your Finding Plants for Your one or two and see what hap- watering system, for maximum Garden pens! Some experimentation watering efficiency. Also, make Choices for obtaining plants will help you learn what best sure lawn boundaries make for your landscape depend on the suits your conditions. mowing easy, if you plan to resources you have locally and your • Look around your area and see mow. budget. Some communities have what other folks are growing successfully, and note where they are growing them. In some of our more exposed parts of the state, what succeeds in town is not always successful outside of town in less pro- tected locations. Learn from the locals (reputable nurseries and local garden clubs are good resources, and try to chat with the owners of landscapes you truly admire and local Master Gardeners).Some general considerationswhen deciding how to placethe plants: • Group plants with similar water and exposure needs together. This allows you to care for them most efficiently, and they are more likely to grow well. • If you are trying to produce a more naturalistic, eye-appealing effect, clump plants in odd- numbered groups (3, 5, etc.), and don’t plant them in straight lines unless you’re trying to achieve a very formal look. You can create naturally curved beds by laying a garden hose down to mark the edge of the new bed and then creating gentle curves with it.8 B A R N Y A R D S & B A C KYA R D S
  4. 4. good local nurseries/garden centers • Water. Water your plants regu- to stable landscaped areas(sometimes seasonal) where you can larly until they are well estab- (trees and shrubs, etc.). If youobtain good plants and advice; other lished (usually for the first year plan on changing things aroundcommunities are not so fortunate. or so for perennials, longer for much you’ll eventually poke tooScout out what your community has many trees and shrubs). Even many holes in the fabric, reduc-to offer, and ask others where they plants that are water wise need ing its efficacy.get their plants. In general, some to be watered regularly until • In the windier areas of our statesources are: they are settled in. Watering on exposed locations, mulch • Local and regional nurseries. during the winter can help becomes more problematic as • Many conversation districts in some evergreen trees and the 70+ mph gusts can blow Wyoming offer seedling (and, in shrubs survive. When you do your mulch toward Nebraska some cases, larger) shrubs and water, water deeply to wet the or South Dakota, even picking trees for conservation use. whole area the roots inhabit. up small pea gravel and pelting • Mail/Internet-order sources (be When plants are established, it your house with it. It is said that careful when utilizing sources is better to water infrequently those mulches that “knit-to- far away from your area to but deeply than it is to water gether” such as shredded bark, make sure that the plants of- frequently but shallowly, though etc., are best at resisting wind. fered will be a good fit for your this is dependent on your soils Also, having established plants site and will arrive in good as mentioned previously. that crawl along the ground or condition). • Weed. Be on the watch for creating windbreaks can help • Friends with gardens (one ca- weeds of all kinds. In general, to keep mulch in place. Your veat – if possible, ask to see the quicker you take care of best bet is to experiment with the plant in the garden, ID it, weeds, the less problematic mulches to determine if any will and ask how much it spreads – they are especially for the first work in the various microcli- many a plant that turns out to couple of years. Be vigilant. If mates on your property (visiting be a “weed” has come from an you choose to use an herbicide with area homeowners who unsuspecting friend). follow the label directions and have tried different mulches • Grow plants from seed. More be careful in their application as can be helpful). and more native plants are be- many herbicides can kill flow- ing offered by the horticultural ers, shrubs, and trees, in addi- For the Windier Locations: Wind can be a challenge! Take industry; however, for certain tion to weeds. the time to read our section on wind- species you’ll still have to grow • Mulch. In many areas of our breaks. This will help you decide if them yourself. This can be a less state, mulch can be very ben- you’d like to plant one on your place, expensive way to stock a land- eficial in keeping moisture from if you have the space. Established scape with flowering perennials, evaporating from the soil, sup- windbreaks make a big difference but it takes some practice/learn- pressing weeds, and moderat- on many properties, but they can be ing if you haven’t grown plants ing soil temperatures during all slow to grow in some areas. Consider from seed before. Many native times of the year. What type of the wind-breaking aspects of exist- plants produce seeds that need mulch you use depends on your ing buildings, and take advantage of a period of moist cold (outside personal preferences, but they them. Consider the short-term use of or in your refrigerator) before all need maintenance. Organic artificial windbreaks (snow fencing, they’ll germinate. mulches (bark, wood chips, etc.) hay bales, other handy items) to help all eventually break down andMaintenance will need to be “topped up” with get your plants established. However, All landscapes that look good in addition to thinking about how they more mulch. Our wind eventu-require some kind of maintenance. will change wind patterns, also con- ally blows dirt and weed seedChoosing plants adapted to your con- sider how they will affect where and into rock mulches so you’ll needditions and that aren’t overly aggres- how snow drifts form. to maintain those as well. Weedsive (aka “weedy”) will reduce the In the end, remember that “shel- barrier fabrics can be used asamount of maintenance needed. ter begets shelter” as one smart lady well but are probably best suited r u ra l l ivin g in wy o m in g 9
  5. 5. once told me. A building’s shelterhelps a shrub grow, the shrub helpsa flower grow, etc., etc. It can be along process, but if you plan to call Some water-wise plants to consider foryour property home for some time tocome it’s probably worth the effort.Wildlife In many locations, wildlife createschallenges for landscapes. The chal-lenges vary depending on the typeof wildlife that is the issue. There aresome ornamental plants that you canplant that are less likely to be eaten Wild Four O’ Clock Lambs Earby wildlife; however, if the wildlife Mirabilis multiflora Stachys byzantinaare hungry enough all bets are off. Native plant Height: 8-18”Visit Height: 1-3’ Width: 12-24” (or much wider)for lists of these plants and for other Width: 2-4’ Foliage plant.‘ Silver Carpet’ is a groundinformation on dealing with wildlife. Very long lived. Has large taproot, will cover and ‘Helen Von Stein’ has largerVegetable gardens planted in areas likely die if you try to move it (if you injure leaves than the generic type. Both variet- it’s taproot) so plant it where you want it ies flower very little so they don’t reseedwith significant wildlife will probably and then leave it be. as much as the common variety.have to be fenced. See the “Wildlife”section of this guide for more infor-mation on fencing and wildlife issues.Above all, keep your cool, be adapt-able, protect what you most value,accept some losses, and rememberthat the wildlife were probably therebefore you were.Resources There are a lot of resources avail-able to help with landscaping efforts Rocky Mountain Penstemon Small-Leaf Pussytoesin our often challenging climate. Penstemon strictus Antennaria parvifoliaMany of these can be found at barn- Native plant Native (including Height: 18-24” Height: 1-2” (foliage)resources on a variety of other topics Width: 12-18” Width: 8-12”including vegetable gardening, ex- Easy to grow; can get powdery mildew Native plant common in our region;tending the gardening season, irriga- on the leaves though doesn’t seem to slowly spreading groundcover; about 6”tion, and more) hurt the plant much. Short-lived perennial tall in flower. ‘McClintock’ is a variety in (up to 4 years or so). Can reseed a lot so cultivation. dead-head if reseeding is not wanted.Jennifer Thompson is the SmallAcreage Outreach coordinator. ‘Moonshine’ Yarrow Achillea Height: 24” Width: 18-24” Some yarrows spread around a lot. This yarrow is more self-contained and forms a clump. Has nice lemony yellow flowers and silvery green foliage.10 B A R N Y A R D S & B A C KYA R D S
  6. 6. your landscape (see “Windbreaks” section for tree suggestions)Prairie Coneflower Sulfur Buckwheat Large Beardtongue IrisRatibida columnifera Eriogonum umbellatum Penstemon grandiflorus Height: varies (dwarf, intermedi- ate and tall iris)Native plant Native plant Native Plant Width: variesHeight: 18-24” Height: 6-12” Height: 2-3’Width: 18-24” Width: 8-12” Width: 8-12” Great water-wise plant.Plant dif- ferent types (dwarf, intermediate,Long bloom period; short lived Long season of interest. Large showy blooms. Short and tall iris) to spread out bloom(1-2 years) but reseeds moder- Flowers turn a rusty orange blooming period (two weeks season. Divide every 3-5 years toately. There are burnt orange color as they age. or so). Short-lived but reseeds maintain flowering. Variegatedand yellow colored flowered moderately. variety provides interest whenstrains available. not in bloom. Blue Wooly Veronica Catmint Veronica pectinata NepetaGayfeather Height: 1-2” Height: 15-18” Width: 12-18” (or wider) Width: 2-3’Liatris punctataNative plant Early summer blooms; good groundcover in Long bloom time. Resistant to many kinds many sites. If the winter is dry (lack of snow of wildlife. Choose only those varieties thatHeight: 12-18” cover) may get winter burned. are “sterile” (don’t produce viable seed) andWidth: 6-12” "vegetatively propagated" or can become aSlow grower. Drought tolerant. pest by reseeding. r u ra l l ivin g in wy o m in g 11