All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Salem first retained Joy Campbell Fine Gardening to weed its flower beds, including this one by its parking lot. The bed contained some very nice plants but had succumbed to weed pressure. This bed receives full sun, is exposed to prevailing winds, and the parking lot acts as a heat sink.

In the first year the focus was on weeding, to allow a census of the intentional plants in the bed and to improve aesthetics. Soaker hoses were already in place, and the client put down the dark bark mulch that had been used in the past.

The following year, All Creatures collaborated with JCFG to transform this bed into a pollinator garden. The idea was to provide forage and habitat for pollinators while creating an attractive space for clients to enjoy. JCFG created a design that incorporated existing coneflower, black-eyed Susan, and ornamental sage in addition to a variety of other new plants. Drought-tolerant plants naturally adapted to the site conditions were selected to reduce water use and maintenance (complete plant list here). The existing hydrangea would be kept; even though it provided little pollinator support (its flowers are sterile), it was well established, attractive, and healthy, and moving it risked damage.

The soaker hoses and most of the herbaceous plants in the bed were removed, and plants not destined for the pollinator garden were transplanted elsewhere on the property. The soil was amended with a layer of compost.

New and saved plants were installed. Because the soil was dry and depleted, each planting hole was watered and fertilized before the plant was put in.

 

Once everything was in, a layer of Terra Mulch was applied to retain moisture, protect plant roots, and further amend the soil. Terra Mulch, produced at Brick Ends Farm in Hamilton, MA, has as its base composted stable clippings. As opposed to raw-bark mulch, it does not deplete the soil of nitrogen as it breaks down, and improves soil over time. It also acts as an effective weed suppressant.

As the summer progressed, Nature worked Her magic and the plants quickly filled in and took off. The bed was watered manually on a diminishing schedule while the plants established roots. Watering was then discontinued so that the plants could adapt to the dry conditions, with ongoing monitoring in case supplemental watering is indicated. Weekly maintenance takes care of stray weeds and general appearance.

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