Lets get back to that backyard landscape design we have been working on and lets finish it up.
In my last post on this design process, we defined the turf area and we added plants to define the patio space.
We ended with this view.
Finishing the Design
Remembering our goals for the backyard landscape, I will point out some of the features that help to meet those goals as we go.
Let’s get on with it and take a look at the landscape from a birds eye view from the lake.
Goal: Naturalize my rip rap shoreline
I hate rip rap shorelines. Sure they do a useful job of controlling shoreline erosion when properly done, but in most cases for smaller inland lakes they are completely unnecessary.
Native vegetation can do the job better, more attractively and usually cheaper. Native plants also benefit wildlife by providing habitat and food. If you don’t like wildlife, get off the damn lake and go live in a condo in Schaumburg!
Anyway, I am burdened with existing rip rap I am too cheap to remove. So my solution is to plant into and around the rip rap with plants that will spread by seed or vegetatively (for instance by suckering).
Here are the four main plants I will be using for this.
Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’)
This yellow version of the commonly seen red twig dogwood is native to my area and grows along river banks; lake shores; wooded or open, wet areas. It will be planted above the rip rap, but spreads by suckering and I hope to encourage it to grow into the rip rap.
It also provides a nice dose of winter interest when the three shrubs will shed their leaves and show bright yellow stems against the snow on the lake all winter. Waterfowl, marshbirds and shorebirds are major users of this plant also. It has nice flowers in the spring and fruit in Summer and it attracts birds and butterflies. It’s also a Larval Host for Spring Azure (but really what plant isn’t?)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Don’t like common milkweed, but want Monarch butterfly caterpillars in your yard? This is a great choice as it is Monarch preferred host plant. It also works especially well in wet areas. This staple plant of rain gardens will be planted above the rip rap but I hope it will seed into it and spread.
Blue Flag Iris (Iris virginica shrevei)
This is a showy native iris is surprisingly common in most areas of Illinois. Nice texture, wildlife value and nice purple flowers make this an obvious choice for naturalizing my shoreline. The flowers are pollinated by bumblebees and long-horned bees. Butterflies occasionally visit the flowers. I will be planting a lot of small plugs and hope for a lot of big plants in a few years.
Tussock sedge (Carex stricta)
This plant is more commonly seen in wetlands and wet meadows. It forms dense tussocks of straw-colored leaves at the base with bright green new leaves emerging from the top if grown in water. The tussocks create great places for small wildlife to live. It spreads by rhizomes which is one reason I am planting it. Another good attractive native sedge I will probably add is Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoidea).
Goal: Attract birds and butterflies
Here is just a couple of the native plants I’ll be using that look great and some of the butterflies they support. I won’t even go into birds or this post would never end.
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) – Attracts: Birds , Butterflies Larval Host: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio Troilus), Promethea silkmoth (Callosamia promethean).
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) – Attracts: Butterflies by the ton, Larval Host: Monarch (Danaus plexippus) and Queen Butterfly (Danaus gilippus).
Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) – Attracts: Small mammals relish the fragrant fruit which tastes banana-like. These include foxes, opossums and squirrels. Black bears like them too, so I might not plant this if I lived in bear country. Larval Host: Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides Marcellus) and Pawpaw sphinx (Dolba hyloeus).
Other goals these same plants meet
These next plants will actually accomplish all of these goals we had:
- Replace most of the grass with low maintenance plantings/surfaces
- Build soil health
- Use mostly native plants
- Invoke the feeling of nature
- Use plants that don’t require any supplemental watering
- Sequester carbon
- Wow from the Lake view
- Purple color
- Multiple textures
I won’t go into all the details but here are a few key plants and how they help to meet those goals.
The native perennial plants and grasses such as Prairie dropseed, Butterfly weed and Switch grass send roots deep into the soil. This helps to add to build the soil by adding organic matter, aggregating the soil and oh by the way it sequesters carbon. So they help to fight global warming. See The Soil will Save Us for more info on that. They also won’t require any water once established no matter how bad a drought we have.
I will also be arranging these in pattern to invoke nature in the form of a simple meadow (see a future post for how this turns out!). The textural contrast of the grasses against the other plants will also provide long lasting interest not dependent on flowers.
I will also include a Coppertina Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Mindia’ ) that you can’t quite see in this view. This will help frame the view of the lake and add more purple color that was requested by my wife.
The native smooth hydrangea and Virginia Sweetspire add some nectar for pollinators, although I admit I planted them mainly for flowers and Fall color. The Oakleaf hydrangea is pretty useless to wildlife but I love it long flowering period, fall color and great texture and it is MY yard!
Besides all the baby bird food (see related post) we are providing with host plants for butterflies and moths, we will feed adult birds with seeds and fruit from Serviceberry, Pagoda dogwood, ninebark, Prairie Dropseed, Common oak sedge, Tussock sedge and Purple Coneflower among others.
That’s the design. I’ll show you my side yard (food area!) in a few posts. The front yard will be a few years. If you want to look back over how I developed this design, take a look at these posts in the series:
- The Importance of a site assessment BEFORE you design your landscape
- Creating your landscape wish list
- Base Plan is the foundation of your landscape design
- Looking at a site’s landscape soils
- Finishing our Base Map adding sun, shade, and wind
- Landscape Functional diagram, a key step in creating a landscape design
- Moving from functional diagram to design