Saturday, December 8, 2007

Landscaping - Plants for Sunny Slopes

Many properties have some steep slopes next to roads, driveways, ditches, and in other areas of the property. These are difficult and dangerous to mow. The following are suggestions for how to landscape these areas with plants to eliminate mowing needs.

Property edges often have sunny slopes—next to the driveway, along the back border or adjacent to the street. Mowing steep slopes is unnecessary and can be downright dangerous. Depending on the slope size, conditions, and desired aesthetic, choose from a combination of maintenance strategies that will eliminate the need to mow. You can spot spray to control undesirable plants or cut back with a string trimmer once or twice a year, creating more of a meadow or an old field aesthetic.

Many flowering plants such as goldenrods (Solidago sp.), thoroughworts (Eupatorium hyssopifolium and E. rotundifolium), and common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) will volunteer among the little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), broomsedges (Andropogon sp.), prairie dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis) and other grasses. ‘Plugging’ in a few suitable perennials such as threadleaf bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii), blue star (Amsonia tabernaemontana), butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), showy aromatic asters (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), wild indigos (Baptisia sp.), or pink doll’s daisy (Boltonia asteroides 'Pink Beauty') can expand the flowering season and interest.

When you stop mowing entirely, early successional woody plants such as eastern red cedar, black cherries or serviceberries will begin to colonize. Discourage undesirable woody and invasive plants by selective removal. Shrubs and trees might also be added, such as red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea), sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), sumacs (Rhus sp.) or bush honeysuckle (Diervilla sessilifolia). You can choose to slightly supplement the ecological succession by adding a few attractive species or replant the entire slope as a naturalistic garden bed depending on your aesthetic sensitivities. If you prefer a more orderly composition, limit the palette to two or three plants of complementary texture, height, and form.

Copied from "Liveable Plants for the Home Landscape", Authors: Susan Barton, University of Delaware, Sarah Deacle, Delaware Center for Horticulture, Gary Schwetz, Delaware Center for Horticulture, and Doug Tallamy, University of Delaware. For the full publication with photos go to

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