So you have soggy soil and everything you plant seems to sink in the
mud or drown? Why fight Mother Nature when you can go with the flow?
Instead of trying to force unsuitable plants to adapt to your damp
conditions, pick plants that love getting their feet wet!
In the previous Plant Man column, I discussed plants that should be on
your list if you have soil or weather conditions that is on the dry
side. If you missed that one you can find it archived under the Plant
Man heading at my Web site www.landsteward.org
Today we're at the other end of the moisture scale: looking at plants
that are singin' in the rain!
Sedges and rushes You might not find Moses in your bulrushes, but if
you're familiar with the story, you remember that rushes can be found
beside water so you know they like the environment. Sedges are similar
to grasses but there's a simple way to tell the difference: the stem
of a grass is flat or round while the sedge stem is more triangular.
Bulrushes are distinguished from other sedges by their substantial
height and can make a spectacular statement adjacent to your water
Weeping willow (Salix babylonica
There are few sights more tranquil than a graceful weeping willow with
its many long, thin branches hanging to the ground in pendulous
curtains, ruffled by a gentle breeze. The babylonica is very adaptable
and thrives in moist soil as well as in its traditional location,
beside lakes and rivers. It grows quickly to a mature height of around
50 ft with a matching spread.
Red Twig dogwood (Cornus sericea)
One of the few plants that remain colorful in the winter, due to the
distinctive deep red branches, this dogwood also boasts delightful
white blossoms in May and glowing red berries in the fall. It has high
moisture needs, so the Red Twig could be a good choice for a location
with consistently moist soil. Mass several as a shrub border in a
residential landscape or utilize its soil-retention properties as bank
cover. Red Twig grows quite quickly to a modest and manageable height
of 3 ft to 6 ft.
Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum)
You might have seen this majestic beauty alongside water hazards and
lakes at golf courses and country clubs. You might also have cursed it
when the little white ball ricocheted off the trunk to plop into the
water. But keep the Bald Cypress in mind if you have a moderately wet
area in need of a stately enhancement. It should mature between 50 and
75 ft and is fairly tolerant of salt and alkali soils.
This is the little cousin of the Bald Cypress. With its lush fern-like
foliage (turning to yellow-orange in the fall) and its dwarf habit, the
Peve Minaret is a real attention-getter. Because it thrives in regular
to wet soils, it would be a good choice near a pond or as a foundation
plant or as an unusual hedge. It's an adaptable and low-maintenance
dwarf tree (rising to around 8 ft at most) that isn't easy to find
but worth the search. Send me an e-mail at email@example.com if
you're having trouble locating a source.
River Birch (Betula nigra)
This birch seems to adapt very well to urban and suburban environments.
It is aptly named, doing well in "riparian (wet) zones" but also
able to hang on through modest droughts. I love the texture of the
peeling, flaky, cinnamon-brown bark. At maturity, it should reach 50 to
70 feet in height.
Lily of the Kings (Iris pseudacorus)
This really is an Iris of wet places... frequently found edging small
ponds and streams or growing marshy areas. It is sometimes called
Yellow Flag and is reputed to be inspiration for the fleur-de-lis
heraldic symbol of French royalty. Some gardeners plant Lily of the
Kings in a container of rich potting soil and place it directly into a
Wet soil... dry soil... there are trees and shrubs that look great, if
you pick the ones that are best suited to your environment.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and
landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org. For resources and additional
information, or to subscribe to Steve's free weekly e-mailed
newsletter, go to www.landsteward.org