Eco-Conscious Landscapes Fast Track The Rise Of Grasses And Native Plants

Lurie Garden Millennium Park
The Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago incorporates sustainable design with natives and grasses and includes the world’s largest greenroof.
Image courtesy of Elizabeth M./Flickr.

The demand for grasses and native plants continues to climb in direct proportion to a growing consciousness on consumers’ part that nature-based solutions can help solve man-made problems. Consumers are starting to buy in to the idea that natives and grasses are part of the solution to vexing issues like endangered biodiversity, vanishing wildlife habitats and drought.

As public perceptions change about what is acceptable in the landscape and as the demand for pollinator forage grows, municipalities and homeowners are turning to green infrastructure and sustainable, low maintenance plants as part of a movement toward well-defined, naturalistic landscapes where grasses, native plants and nativars have a chance to shine.

Landscape Design Is Getting Less Formal
A major influence on public and private landscapes that uses native plants, nativars and grasses is a re-think of traditional perennial design, away from formal landscapes toward more relaxed designs that mimic nature.

Jeff Gibson, landscape business manager for Ball Horticultural Co., says proponents of the new perennial style support a considered approach to the use of natives and non-natives. This provides an opportunity for growers to move the discussion away from natives versus cultivars to the successful incorporation of both.

Gray Infrastructure Turns To Green
Green infrastructure, the use of vegetation and terrain in lieu of pipes and concrete to minimize the impact of urban development on water resources and ecological systems, holds the most promise for grasses, natives and nativars to coexist in the landscape. Green infrastructure (GI) encompasses storm water management, habitat creation, recreational amenities and beautification, which positions growers well to be a strong supply source in this area, as well as a knowledgeable resource.

“This is the next big market,” says Shannon Currey, marketing director at Hoffman Nursery. “We need to think ahead about how to meet the increased demand for natives and grasses that green infrastructure will bring to the market.”

Hoffman Nursery and North Creek Nurseries make concentrated efforts to collaborate and exchange information with those working on GI projects to stay at the forefront of this market. Since the growing criteria and plants needed for GI projects vary, other growers will need to do the same in order to remain relevant in this rapidly growing, highly specialized and competitive marketplace.

“At North Creek, we have an ecological sales department that fosters relationships with municipalities, government agencies and engineering firms to facilitate proper species selection and procure bids,” says Steve Castorani, owner of North Creek Nurseries.

North Creek’s LP50 and LP32 Landscape Plugs product line is ideal for green infrastructure projects because they can be planted directly in-ground for quick establishment and high success rates, Castorani says. The plugs consist of native perennials, grasses, sedges and ferns that are durable enough to tolerate a variety of conditions, all while being resilient in the landscape. One example is Carex emoryi, which works well for built environments and provides wildlife habitat, while remaining tough enough to compete with invasive species.

All-Purpose Grasses And Sedges Provide Crossover In The Landscape
Carex and grasses like panicums, andropogons and schizachyriums, due to their versatility and workhorse potential, are the foundation stones upon which green infrastructure and sustainable landscapes are built.

Versatile grasses like schizachyrium ‘Twilight Zone’ are multifunctional, thrive in a wide range of climates and blend well with perennials, natives and nativars.
Versatile grasses like schizachyrium ‘Twilight Zone’ are multifunctional, thrive in a wide range of climates and blend well with perennials, natives and nativars.

“Native and non-native grasses provide a lot of ecosystem services,” Gibson says. “They slow storm water, provide wildlife habitat and act as groundcovers. Grasses play an important part in the design, providing mass, movement and seasonal change over time.”

For green infrastructure and sustainable landscapes, PanAmerican Seed’s ColorGrass program includes a range of cultivars that perform well in wet or dry conditions, like the graceful eragrostis ‘Wind Dancer’ and juncus ‘Blue Arrows.’

Emerald Coast Growers’ Customer Service Director, Pamela Straub, says she recommends andropogons like ‘Dancing Wind’ and ‘Red October’ for their multi-functional appeal and muhlenbergia ‘Fast Forward’ for ornamental appeal.

Currey says sedges like Carex vulpinoidea and C. squarrosa are hard-working plants in the storm water world and grow in a variety of conditions. She refers to sedges and grasses that use less water and don’t need high fertility soils as “lean plants” because they adapt for sustainable landscapes.

Sustainable Landscaping Requires Careful Plant Selection
At their best, sustainable landscapes sync with the local environment and climate, require minimal resource inputs and appeal to the eye.

“Sustainable landscaping is so much more than plant selection and includes management practices that can incorporate most plant materials, as long as they provide the desired effect with the given guidelines,” says Rick Schoellhorn of Proven Winners’ new products team.

The High Line in New York blends 210 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees in a primarily native, low-maintenance landscape. Image courtesy of Lucas Nebuloni/Flickr.
The High Line in New York blends 210 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees in a primarily native, low-maintenance landscape. Image courtesy of Lucas Nebuloni/Flickr.

With water use at the front and center of consumer awareness, one can hardly think about desired effects in the landscape without thinking about drought tolerance.

Proven Winners, like other breeders, focuses on drought-tolerant plants that require fewer fertilizers, exhibit less disease and have an expanded range of performance. For instance, Diervilla rivularis ‘Kodiak Black’ attracts pollinators and adapts to most soils, while heliopsis ‘Tuscan Sun’ is heat tolerant and puts up with somewhat dry soils.

California-based Armstrong Growers offers a palette of Waterwise plants that are native to the world’s five Mediterranean regions with similar climates. Plants chosen for the collection require much less water and tolerate high temperatures and drying winds.

Consumers should be careful about what they plant in sustainable landscapes, as well as what they do not, says Gary Jones, chief horticulturist for Armstrong Growers, who points to grasses non-native to California that are on eradication lists. Jones says some natives that work well for the California landscape, although not all are native to California, are Bouteloua dactyloides and Stipa gigantea. Also, Carex pansa, which is an excellent low-water lawn substitute. GG

Topics:

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Eco-Conscious Landscapes Fast Track The Rise Of Grasses And Native Plants

More From Perennials...
Spin Top Gaillardia Series (Dummen Orange)

March 22, 2017

New Perennials and Tender Perennials for 2018 from California Spring Trials

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the true perennials and tender perennials that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. Here's a sampling of some of the varieties hitting retail shelves in 2018.

Read More
Pennisetum First Knight Feature

March 11, 2017

Now is the Time for Growers to Plan for Fall Perennial Planting

If you haven’t already put in your orders for the items you’ll sell this fall, it’s time to start now.

Read More
craspedia-golf-beauty-danziger-feature

January 9, 2017

Growing Tips for Craspedia ‘Golf Beauty’

Laura Robles of Mast Young Plants offers advice on ‘Golf Beauty,’ a novelty plant with can’t-miss yellow flower heads and silver foliage that blooms throughout the summer.

Read More
Latest Stories
Spin Top Gaillardia Series (Dummen Orange)

March 22, 2017

New Perennials and Tender Perennials for 2018 from Cali…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the true perennials and tender perennials that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. Here's a sampling of some of the varieties hitting retail shelves in 2018.

Read More
Pennisetum First Knight Feature

March 11, 2017

Now is the Time for Growers to Plan for Fall Perennial …

If you haven’t already put in your orders for the items you’ll sell this fall, it’s time to start now.

Read More
craspedia-golf-beauty-danziger-feature

January 9, 2017

Growing Tips for Craspedia ‘Golf Beauty’

Laura Robles of Mast Young Plants offers advice on ‘Golf Beauty,’ a novelty plant with can’t-miss yellow flower heads and silver foliage that blooms throughout the summer.

Read More
Coreopsis 'Madras Magic' (Terra Nova Nurseries)

October 17, 2016

New 2016 Perennial Introductions For Zone 6 And Up

Some perennials are at their best in warmer climates, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be used in colder areas for season-specific containers or grown with cool-crop annuals to add some unique offerings to a product mix. Here are 11 new introductions hitting retail in 2017 that are hardy in Zone 6 and up.

Read More
Bees on flowers

October 13, 2016

45 Pollinator Friendly Perennials Sure To Attract Bees

Pollinator friendly perennials are the foundation of a well-rounded pollinator garden. Check out this list of 45 perennials that are sure to attract bees.

Read More
Echinacea Butterfly Postman

October 12, 2016

16 New Perennials For Pollinator Gardens

Customers who want to attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators to their gardens need plants that will provide food, shelter, and protection throughout the year. Consider carrying a few of these 16 pollinator-friendly perennials for retail sales in 2017.

Read More
Rudbeckia × ‘American Gold Rush’ (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens)

October 10, 2016

20 New Cold-Hardy Perennials For A Rock Solid Line-Up I…

Low maintenance, pollinator friendly, naturalistic, long-lasting — perennials are all that and more. These 21 perennials are tough enough to take the cold, ensuring they will add color and texture in the garden until the first killing frost.

Read More
Anemone 'Harmony Scarlet' (Sakata Ornamentals)

October 6, 2016

Tender Perennials Can Create Marketing Challenges

Growers and breeders are entering new territory as more perennials with marginal zone hardiness make their way into the market.

Read More
Perennial Propagators survey result

October 3, 2016

Perennial Propagators’ Successes And Challenges: Resul…

A survey by researchers from Purdue University and Michigan State University report the hurdles growers face when propagating perennials, and the practices they use to root them successfully.

Read More
geranium-rozanne

October 3, 2016

Perennial Plant Products Launches New Perennials Brandi…

The new brands include two distinct programs for both growers and consumers.

Read More
mukgenia-nova-flame-terra-nova-nurseries-feature

September 23, 2016

Growers Offer Advice On How To Grow Mukgenia ‘Nova Flam…

‘Nova Flame’ is best brought in as a summer or fall crop and bulked over the winter.

Read More
Phlox 'Pink Profusion' (Green Leaf Plants)

August 30, 2016

14 Cool Season Plants To Kick Off The Spring Season

These new cultivar introductions for 2016 are spring bloomers that can take the cold for early-season sales.

Read More
Coreopsis-UpTickCream-19793-DarwinPerennials

August 20, 2016

Growing Tips On Coreopsis UpTick Series From John Wilso…

Editor’s Note: In this new feature, the Greenhouse Grower varieties team will choose one noteworthy variety each month we think is worth bringing to your attention. Then we’ll share growers’ and breeders’ perspectives on the best ways to produce it successfully at your operation. This month we focus on the hardy Coreopsis UpTick series, winner of Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Industry’s Choice Medal of Excellence for Breeding. Growing Tips From John Wilson, Seville Farms When asked about producing Coreopsis UpTick, John Wilson says he doesn’t have much to say because it was so easy to grow. Wilson, a Corporate Grower for Seville Farms, says based on the new series’ strong performance during the trialing he has done so far, the nursery ordered a large quantity of the plants for future growing. “If breeders were looking to come up with something that says ‘wow,’ they have done it with the UpTick Series,” […]

Read More
Eason 2017 Perennials Guide

May 25, 2016

Eason Horticultural Resources Releases New Perennials G…

The two guides are available in digital and print versions and offer information from several breeders.

Read More
Echinacea ‘Butterfly Rainbow Marcella’

May 25, 2016

15 New Perennials For Bees, Butterflies, And Other Poll…

These 15 new perennials, available for retail in 2016 and 2017, will produce colorful flowers and foliage year after year, providing habitat and food for bees, butterflies, birds, moths, and other pollinators.

Read More
Sedum ‘Dark Magic’ (Terra Nova Nurseries)

March 24, 2016

19 New Deer-Resistant Perennials

If you’re looking to offer your customers a choice of deer-resistant perennials, consider these 17 new varieties, hitting retail in 2016 and 2017.

Read More
Sedum 'Chocolate Cherry' Cultivaris March 2016

March 22, 2016

Flower Breeders To Debut Hot New Perennials For 2017 At…

Perennials are becoming more mainstream as consumers look for that long-term, added value of lower maintenance, season-long color, and reblooming plants year after year. And perennial growers and retailers like them for the higher price point perennials offer. So if you’re keeping your eyes open for what’s coming next year, you’ve clicked on the right story. Flower breeders exhibiting at the 2016 California Spring Trials (CAST) have a huge crop of new perennial varieties to show off for the 2017 spring season. Before you head to California in a few weeks, take a look at the slideshow to get a preview of the colorfully delicious perennial genetics coming to the market. These new perennial introductions have all the great characteristics you’ve come to rely on from breeders. Which ones will you incorporate into production for 2017?     If you missed our annuals slideshows the last couple of weeks, don’t worry — you can […]

Read More

March 17, 2016

13 Ways To Repackage Perennials

Allan Armitage says perennials are in serious need of repackaging. The good news is that it is easy to do.

Read More