Need suggestions for native ground cover

Discussion in 'Garden Design and Plant Suggestions' started by lbenson, Aug 1, 2008.

  1. lbenson

    lbenson Member

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    Location:
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    Hello! I am new to BC and need to plant several smallish flower beds along the sides of my house with plants, small shrubs and groundcover. I'd like to plant natives and need suggestions for which plants might work and where to buy them. Here are my goals for my gardening project in order of priority:
    1. Cover up exposed soil because tests found some lead content, but not enough to warrant removing the soil. I have a one year old son and want to make sure there's no way he might ingest this soil.
    2. Plant native plants--preferably ones that won't need extra watering.
    3. Create attractive and fun flower beds.

    I look forward to your suggestions!
     
  2. 1950Greg

    1950Greg Active Member

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    Location:
    Langley, B.C. Stones throw from old HBC farm.
    Calluna vulgaris common name heather is easy to grow and can be found in any plant store. I find if you keep it prunned close it grows into a nice compact plant, best prunned after flowering and will withstand abuse.
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Unless throughout the yard maybe where the lead is blanket the soil with cobbles (river rock), concrete pavers or other material too big for him to pick up and throw. If the whole place has a lead problem then you won't be able to garden it in a conventional way without recurring exposure - just to plant a groundcover or anything else you have to disturb the soil. Probably thousands of urban lots have the same issues, with nobody paying attention. What about all the people that live along busy streets in small houses and apartments, with all the car exhaust still being generated now as well as the lead etc. that was laid down in the past? Probably there ARE health issues being experienced, with no general corrective measures being taken.
     
  4. Quincys Slave

    Quincys Slave Active Member

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  5. LilyISay

    LilyISay Active Member

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    You forgot mine! Surrey Mud Bay Art Knapp. Train rides, miniature trains, birds-kids love this place. Don't look at the website, it's embarrassing (I'm working on it, it's a committe clusterf---) We do carry natives, but the selection is getting a bit sparser now. Cedar Rim is a great place to go shop, but I don't think they carry a lot of natives (correct me if I'm wrong.)
    Native plant society of B.C. -http://www.npsbc.org/ has a list of everyone who is known to carry natives.
    As for suggesting plants for you, I'd need to know the sun exposure and soil type before venturing anything..
    With lead being the issue, I wonder if you have considered phytoremediation? Some plants can take up and concentrate heavy metals, even radioactive isotopes. If you remove the plant matter at the end of the season's growth (DON'T till it in!) you remove the contaminants. Suggested plants for lead up-take:
    Armeria maritima - Seapink thrift
    Ambrosia artemisiifolia Ragweed
    Brassica juncea Indian mustard
    Brassica napus Rape, Rutabaga, Turnip
    Brassica oleracea Flowering/ornamental kale & cabbage, Broccoli
    Festuca ovina Blue/sheep fescue
    Helianthus annuus Sunflower
    Thlaspi rotundifolium Pennycress
    Triticum aestivum Wheat (scout)
    Zea mays Corn

    The Armeria is the only one that's a native, I think. Not cheap to plant and pull later, though. Poplar trees also take up lead and concentrate it in their biomass. Indian mustard is the easiest, in my opinion. Fairly easy to pull out with a minimum of pitchforking. There's more of course, many grasses are suitable also. I suppose for you, whatever is dense enough to provide a complete cover for the season that can be pulled out when the kid is no longer on the lawn.
    I know this isn't quite the answer you were looking for, but it's generally better to actually get rid of the issue rather than covering it up.
    For example, I could tell you to plant something with berries (say salal or wintergreen) as a groundcover, your kid eats them and thus ingests the lead. Just out of curiosity, why did you have the soil tested? It's a good idea, but generally people don't get around to it until there's an issue.
     
  6. lbenson

    lbenson Member

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    Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. I like the idea of the plants that suck up lead. I knew about broccoli and the like, but had no idea there were so many others. I decided to test the soil after moving in because the landlord an just painted and had left paint chips all over the yard. Since the house was built in the 1950s I was worried that the old paint could be lead and now that it's in the soil could be poisoning my one-year-old. The paint actually came out OK (except for a fence built with scrap wood from elsewhere) and the soil tested below levels that require it to be removed, but above a standard I found online and one consultant quoted. Basically, the landlord is not required to do anything about it, but I want to take the precautionary approach and at the very least cover it up. I will ponder all your suggestions, visit one or more of the referenced gardening centres and get planting soon!
     

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