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Plants for a dry shady windy hilly salty site

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#1 Your Letters

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 05:59 PM

Thanks so very much for offering this site.


I’m looking for plants that will survive along a busy road with traffic going 55-60 mph.  The state crew plowing the road can really splash the salty slush going that fast. 


I want to plant in front of the split rail fence.  Behind the fence are pine trees that don’t allow much sun to reach the NW exposure…just some late afternoon sun.  In addition, the ground drops 3 feet in this 4 feet wide section where I want to plant.  Finally, it’s windy most of the time.  I mulch but would rather have a tight grouping of plants and do less mulching.  I never water. 


I currently have daylilies and daffodils.   But I would love to have other plants so I have a longer period of color and also to prevent the mulch from sliding off during the winter.  Do you have any plant recommendations for a dry, shady, windy, hilly, salty flower bed? 


Thanks, D. A.

#2 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 02 June 2013 - 06:09 PM

Phew, that's a lot of strikes against a site! I hope other people have ideas...


How well do the daylilies bloom? My bet is that they do not perform really well, only survive there with perhaps one or two flower buds per stem. But the foliage fills.


Ural false spirea (Sorbaria sorbifolia) may work if you can accept woody plants. They may be 8' tall -- 5-6 is more usual -- but can  be mowed down annually and still come back to bloom that summer. The all-too-invasive dwarf Japanese fleece flower/ Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum compactum, a.k.a. Fallopia something-or-other) may work, too. Another bet involved -- that your daylilies are the "ditch lily" kind of orange daylily, and if so they are very invasive so you're okay with that trait and may be okay with the fleeceflower.


No matter what you add, you have to water it to get it going. And you can't just shoehorn plants into spaces between already established plants. A dry and shady site is inherently gappy, or at least it will seem to have gaps. Ground that may look bare to you is actually the water-draw area for adjacent plants. Roots are there even if the associated crowns  are not, or are 'way above.


So clear a good sized area to plant, no matter what you add, and find some way to get water to new plants during at least the first year. You may want to take a good look at the outline and plant lists from our class/presentation about challenging gardens and difficult sites. Go to our 'presentations to download' page and click on the titles that apply.

#3 Dsmith74


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Posted 02 June 2013 - 09:55 PM

I can tell you one that (so far for me) hasn't worked in a similar spot - Geranium x cantabrigiense 'Biokovo' which is supposed to be very robust, shade-tolerant, drought-tolerant plant. It is those things, but only where it is flat. An extra I stuck way under a rhododendron - deep shade with very little supplemental water - is lovely. Some others I stuck in sandy soil, with no water, in a spot with very high deer populations, and under a walnut tree, are doing well.


The ones on the hill look terrible.


Most made it, but this is their 3rd summer, with supplemental water, and they get some direct sun. I better see some leaping or they are going to have to go. There is a Norway maple (Acer painintheheinies) nearby. Maybe I need to do some root pruning. 


Thought about Microbiota decussa in the same spot, but it's one of those plants with WIDELY varying descriptions. Don't know if that's an observation problem, differing response to various growing conditions, or just high genetic variation within the species, but when one source says spreads to 5 feet and another says 10+ it's kinda hard to plan! 

#4 Steven Nikkila

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 01:03 PM

Microbiota though only 12 or so inches tall it does spread as wide as you let it. It wouldn't work in D.A.'s area because it prefers moist, well drained soil and is only tolerant of some shade. Thinking about something for that site but so far...

#5 Margaret Thele

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 01:08 AM

Maybe epimedium and lamium?

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#6 Steven Nikkila

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Posted 20 April 2014 - 10:10 AM

Almost a year later and still trying to think of something else. If the pines have started to open up perhaps rugosa rose could work. Still thinking...

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