Here are some more tips from Charles Bartlett, who spoke in September at the River House about historic landscapes and water conservation.
Go native. Rather than using nandina as a specimen plant or hedgerow, use a native alternative whose berries are edible, rather than toxic to birds or pets: dwarf Barbados cherry. Asiatic jasmine isn’t bad, but the hard-to-find snake herb is a native alternative that uses less water and requires less trimming. Mountain laurel trees are slow growing but may eventually obscure historic architecture. These trees can be trimmed up to 30% for a better view.
Embrace diversity. For example, if you cover a fence with an evergreen vine, plant a different variety as well. It will be more visually appealing and disease resistant.
Solid walls as fences are not historically appropriate here. They can be improved with cross vine, a native flowering plant that gently adheres to walls and attracts hummingbirds.
For certain flowers, there are no substitutes. Look for Gold Star esperanza, which is a patented plant grown from cuttings, not seed. If you like roses, plant the red variety of knock out rose – the other colors are not as hardy. Trim annually for healthy flowers.
The buildings and trees in King William create microclimates that support subtropical plants, such palms and the unusual Rangoon creeper vine seen on Beauregard St. Another subtropical that does well here is bougainvillea, especially when planted along a fence that receives little water; it blooms best when under stress. It also blooms on new growth, so bougainvillea should be trimmed frequently. Spring runners should be pinched back at three feet.
Mulch should not be used as a wholesale replacement for plants. Incorporate organic mulch in beds and beneath trees. Avoid mulch along foundations where moisture retention is discouraged. Consider using pecan shell mulch, which is sourced locally at one-third the price.
Neutral-colored rocks can be used in planting beds, especially between the sidewalk and street. Although larger rocks can be added intermittently for interest, the bulk should be golf-ball size or smaller to avoid buildup of leaves and other debris.
- Rose Kanusky