I have frequently promoted the usefulness and beauty of a mixed native woody border. I recently took the opportunity to use these ideas in designing and planting my own mixed native woody border.
Susan and I are renovating a 1920s farmhouse, in which four generations of Susan’s family have lived, on two acres in southern Tangipahoa parish. A major goal for this property is to screen it from future development on surrounding lots.
You will see from the following descriptions why I selected these plants!
Ilex cassine (Dahoon Holly) I chose two females: ‘St. Tammany’, which I found near Covington, LA, and ‘Tensaw’, selected by Tom Dodd III for her rounded habit and wide green leaves. Both selections are covered with bright red berries in winter and adaptable to most conditions from full sun to deep shade. Ilex cassine is evergreen, grows 20’ – 30’ tall, and makes a very dense screen. Ilex cassine is a butterfly larvae food source, and the birds love the berries.
Ilex vomitoria (Native Yaupon) One of the finest wild native plants for a border, Ilex vomitoria is a shearable shrub that grows in every combination of sun/shade or dry/moist. Grows with little care to produce evergreen foliage and lovely berries. I chose a mixture of males (for pollination and for pollinators) and females (for berries), some red-fruited and some yellow-fruited, for a beautiful diversity. Moderately fast-growing to 20’, Ilex vomitoria is an important winter food source for birds and is a host for the Henry's Elfin larvae.
Pinus glabra (Spruce Pine) Ideal as a windbreak, large-scale screen with its short-needle evergreen foliage, this tree was sited to provide taller screening to block highway lighting and busy traffic flow seen through the opening of an old driveway. Cones remain on the branches for several years and provide food for wildlife.
Viburnum dentatum (Southern Arrowwood) Southern Arrowwood is a native shrub growing 9-10 feet tall and spreading sometimes up to 12 feet. Two selections from Rick Webb’s West Florida parishes placenames series, ‘Lee’s Landing’ and ‘Osceola’ were chosen. Deciduous large shrubs, the creamy white flowers in the spring/summer and dark blue berries and stunning fall foliage make V. dentatum an attractive landscape plant for borders and screens.
Viburnum nudum (Possumhaw Viburnum) Viburnum nudum gives spring flowers, thick bird-nesting cover and super fall colors. Flowers are creamy white; leaves turn red/ reddish purple in the fall. Fruits go through interesting color changes, starting out pale yellow, then turning pink, and finally becoming a waxy blue-black. At certain times of the year all colors can be found on the same plant.
The trees and shrubs were planted in clusters of odd numbers, mixing evergreens with deciduous species. This created a natural habitat for wildlife while meeting our goal of screening the property from others looking in or us looking out. I planted in late November, so the ground was easy to dig and nothing has yet required watering.
You might also consider giving space in the landscape for borders to establish diverse selections of thicket-forming native woody shrubs and small trees. It’s a good thing to do.
Rick Webb, Louisiana Growers