Landscaping with Field-collected Native Plants

Auuilegia Vol 2 No 5 September - October 1978

by Stan Metsker

On the south edge of Colorado Springs there is a large area being developed for homes. This land has been grazed in the past but much native vegetation remains. Much of 1t is shortgrass prairie and some comprises foothill shrub vegetation. My job has been to revegetate and maintain an 18 hole golf course there. During the past 6 years an effort has been made to preserve a few small areas in their natural condition and to collect and use native plant materials for planting. The task has been a challenge and has posed many problems.

a photo of a winterfat plant in fruite

Winterfiat (Krascheninnikovia lanata)

 The goal of the landscaping has been to develop areas that fit into the surrounding landscape, composed of prairie and foothills dominated by Scrub Oak, Skunkbush, Mountain Mahogany and an occasional Ponderosa Pine. The common method of sprinkler irrigation did not work efficiently but watering was obviously necessary during the stages of establishment. It also was necessary to replant widely scattered plants in denser clumps for desirable landscaping effect. In addition, several cultural problems were encountered with certain species.

Most new plants must be watered every 10 days during the growing season in the absence of rain. Plants should be watered during the dormant season, but not as often. Most of my losses have occurred during the months of June and July. This is particularly true of Scrub Oak, which is most difficult species to transplant during its first year of culture. For the last 3 years we have successfully used drip irrigation. We use Rainbird Emitters under 20 lbs pressure to supply 2 gallons of water per hour. This system is more efficient and less costly than tank trucks, open hoses and other conventional methods of irrigation. Although it may be cheaper to purchase nursery plants than to collect the same species in its. native habitat, most native species are not readily available in the nursery trade. The biggest problem that we experience, other than watering, are weeds. Canadian Thistle, for example, invades and ruins the landscaping effect.

a photo of dotted blazing star flowers at sunset

Blazing Star (Liatris punctata)

Very little information was available on methods of transplantation, culture or care. In general, however, most native species may be transplanted with ease if one follows good horticultural practices.

These are:

1. Select small, healthy but dormant plants.
2. Soil should be moist and not too rocky.
3. A ball of earth surrounding the roots must be taken with most plants.
4. Plants must be handled carefully and kept moist.
5. Plants must be transferred to the new site as soon as possible and watered immediately.
6. Fertilizer should not be used unless in long-lasting or slow release. tablet form.

Although the non-selective, contact herbicide ROUNDUP can be used, it also eliminates all herbs. Selective herbicides, such as 2-4-0 or DICAMBA. can be used in grassy areas but not in the vicinity of any dicots. Selective mowing, although reducing the unsightly appearance of weed infestations, does not eliminate weeds. Another method involves mulching. My experience indicates that plastic ground coverings should not be used beneath a
mulch, since weeds will still grow in the mulching material.

It has been estimated that it may take at least 100 years to establish short grass prairie under equlibrium conditions. I can’t possibly hope to do that, but if I can develop a contrasting and effective landscape that requires a minimum
of maintenance, my efforts will have been worth while. The following includes native species of Colorado plants which have been successfully transplanted from native habitats.

a photo of a mass of white tufted evening primrose flowers

Stemless Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa)

Amorpha fruticosa – LEAD PLANT
Antennaria rosea – PUSSYTOES
Atriplex canescens – FOUR-WINGED SALTBUSH
Castilleja sessiliflora – PLAINS PAINTBRUSH
Ceanothus ovatus ( = C. herbaceus) – NEW JERSEY TEA
Ceratoides lanata (=Eurotia lanata) [Krascheninnikovia lanata] – WINTERFAT
Cercocarpus montanus – MOUNTAIN MAHOGANY
Chrysothamnus nauseosus [Ericameria nauseosa]- RABBITBRUSH
Clematis ligusticifolia – VIRGIN’S BOWER
Crataegus erythropoda [Crataegus succulentia]- HAWTHORN
Delphinium geyeri – LARKSPUR
Erigeron pumilus – LOW DAISY
Eriogonum jamesii – FALSE BUCKWHEAT
Fraxinus pennsylvanica – GREEN ASH
Gutierrezia sarothrae – SNAKEWEED
Hymenoxys acaulis – HYMENOXYS
Iris missouriensis – WILD IRIS
Llatris punctata – BLAZING STAR
Mertensia lanceolata – NARROW-LEAVED MERTENSIA
Oliogoneuron rigidum (= Solidago rigida) – STIFF GOLDENROD
Penstemon alpinus [Penstemon glaber var. alpinus] – ALPINE PENSTEMON
Prunus virginiana – CHOKECHERRY
Prunus americana – WILD PLUM
Pulsatilla patens [Anemone patens]- PASQUEFLOWER
Quercus gambelii – GAMBEL OAK
Ratibida columnifera – PRAIRIE CONEFLOWER
Rhus trilobata – SKUNKBRUSH
Ribes aureum, cereum and inerme – CURRANT
Robinia neo-mexicana – LOCUST
Rosa woodsii [Rosa blanda] – ROSE
Rubus deliciosus – BOULDER RASPBERRY
Salix irrorata – BLUESTEM WILLOW
Symphoricarpos occidentalis – SNOWBERRY
Townsendia hookeri – EASTER DAISY
Yucca glauca – SPANISH BAYONET

photo of a Great Plains Soapweed plant with white spires of flowers

Spanish Bayonet (Yucca glauca)