Shrubs for the lawn
February 4, 2004
Some questions have come in about lawn issues, use of native shrubs, thistles, weed control, seed sources and about the ornamental grass article. This week we’ll briefly address what can be answered here, and otherwise we’ll steer you toward the right resources.
Some native shrubs, including some of the most common, make interesting additions to a landscape. Sage, rabbitbrush, mountain mahogany, and some other common locals can look quite bland when massed, but can be quite striking as individuals. Simple design strategies include using just one of a type as a specimen, or spacing multiples away from each other.
Potentilla fruticosa, the species, grows native here at higher elevations. It is lower growing and more irregular in shape than the many popular hybrids. Its shape and form lend it to rock gardens and other visual interest areas, where the hybrids’ strengths lie more in ongoing color and fill.
Common juniper is a graceful shrub addition to gardens that don’t get full sun all the time. Native, it grows mostly in shaded slopes to full-sun north facing slopes in this area, and is adaptable to many landscapes. There are also a number of hybrids on the market.
In general, most of the native shrubs take well to pruning, shaping, and cleaning. They are also a worthy addition to your landscape.
A less welcome occupant of many gardens is thistle. This monster-ugly invader has several species that intrude when they get the chance. Most aren’t that hard to eradicate, but the one that seems to give people the most trouble is Canada thistle. It’s pretty easy to identify once you know what it looks like. Unlike musk thistle, which has a large, single stalk and larger magenta-pink flowers, Canada is a somewhat shorter thistle that branches out as it matures (it often starts as a single stalk when young). Its flowers are smaller than musk thistles’ and a little lighter in color.
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It also can be recognizable because the dang stuff seems to come back after it has been sprayed. Canada thistle is a perennial with an aggressive, extensive root system. The roots send up new plants anywhere. Sometimes it takes more than one spraying to kill the roots, and not just the foliage. It responds to different herbicides in different ways, too. Some people mix stuff at a stronger rate, but that’s not my suggestion. It is done. Use herbicides with care, and with concern for the environment.
We’ll save some specific lawn concerns for cooler weather. They require solutions outside of drought and early August heat. One question to address now came in regarding dead spots and patches in their lawn, and it isn’t dog damage. There are various turf diseases and pests that can and do damage lawns here. The best thing to do is contact a landscape company or nursery that has a knowledgeable turf person and can identify molds, funguses, and insect damage.
The CSU Cooperative Extension Service also has publications that address turf issues, and is worth contacting.
Ornamental grasses could easily take up a page. We’ll talk more about varieties, as well as seed sources for grasses and wildflowers in future articles (when it cools down some).
Save water. Shower with a plant.