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Plants for the school yard

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Plants for the school yard

Postby gilly » Feb 07, 2012 7:13 pm

Hi Everyone,
I'm new to this forum and have a new garden challenge. My kids' elementary school is wanting to refurbish their planting beds - not to grow veggies etc, but just to put in shrubs and maybe some easy care perennials so that it isn't a constant mess. It's very hard to find volunteers to maintain it, so the goal is for it to just be attractive and tidy year-round. The problem is that it doesn't get ANY water except rain water in the summer.

Can anyone suggest some good hardy and drought tolerant shrubs - some evergreens would be good for structure.
Many thanks for your suggestions!
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Re: Plants for the school yard

Postby Laura » Feb 07, 2012 10:47 pm

Sounds like a great project .... Why not plant native plants and scrubs ? They can tolerate the climate,don't need a lot of maintenance and rain water will be perfect.
You can find a native plant list for your area and pick some flowers and scrubs and it would also be good for the wildlife,birds,and insects.
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Re: Plants for the school yard

Postby kelly_m » Feb 07, 2012 11:07 pm

What a great suggestion, Laura!

and it could become a project for the kids, learning about native species and deciding what would do best in the spots chosen!!
Kelly
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OLD GARDENERS NEVER DIE. THEY JUST SPADE AWAY
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Re: Plants for the school yard

Postby A Closet Canuck » Feb 08, 2012 10:33 am

Welcome to the list, gilly!

It is hard to answer your question without knowing in which plant hardiness zone your school is located. Colder climates have fewer plant choices. I've done a project at our library; the hardiness zone (worst case scenario) is 5a. Here are a few plants that have worked for me.

Panicum virgatum - native switch grass. The variety 'Shenandoah' is beautiful and not too tall. I've also used taller 'Dallas Blues' which gives a nice, but not overbearing hedge effect.
Hostas - after they are established for a couple of years they are remarkably drought-tolerant in a part-shade area. This depends, of course, on how much rain you get on average each year. They have done well with 33 inches per year.
Asters - hybrids of New England asters give good color in the fall and don't need to be pampered. They look good with the 'Dallas Blues' switchgrass.
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' - if they are planteed in well-drained soil they are relatively care-free.
Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm' - planted in a large group they are beautiful and take care of themselves, even self-seeding and making more plants. Echinacea purpurea, purple coneflower, has the same success when massed.
'Henry's Garnet' Virginia sweetspire - planted in a low spot, this plant is drought-tolerant and has nice fall color.
Crabapple trees - cold-hardy varieties tend to look good most of the year and often have yellow fall foliage. I've used 'Thunderchild'.
Korean lilacs - these shrubs, when planted in good soil do very well with little attention.

If you are located in a place with a much drier climate, google the Denver Botanic Garden. This public garden in Colorado has, as its mission, to focus on drought-tolerant plants. They offer good information.

Remember that you must match the plant to the site for amount of sun, amount of soil moisture, and the richness of the soil. As an example, 'Autumn Joy' sedum needs a site with full sun, well-drained and lean soil. If it is planted in rich soil, it will most likely flop over. There are many books and on-line resources containing this information for invidiual plants. Also, you can look at professionally landscaped projects in your community to get some ideas of what plants work best in your location.

Good luck with your project. More gardeners need to be engaged like you in making our public places bloom.
Trish in Iowa -- -- ..zone 5b or 6a
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------When your feet hit the floor each morning,
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---------the devil says, "[/code]Oh no! She's up!"
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Re: Plants for the school yard

Postby gilly » Feb 08, 2012 8:34 pm

Thank you so much everyone - that's very helpful and gives me a great place to start. I would love it to become something that the kids could get involved in too. We're in zone 8b, but the site gets no water except rain water over the summer.
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Re: Plants for the school yard

Postby seacat » Feb 08, 2012 10:54 pm

I would try Barberry. Tough, burgandy shrub.
Women hold up half the sky.
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Re: Plants for the school yard

Postby Dumbo » Feb 09, 2012 9:27 am

The elementary school my kids went to did this as well. Some of the teachers and us parents volunteered a Saturday to dig, lay down the soil, plant a bunch of flowers, shrubs and trees.

The following week they had all the flowers removed. School board/principle came down on it since some other parents complained and said there are kids allergic to bees.

So they classified flowers with egg sandwiches and peanut-butter sandwiches, and nuts, which the kids are not allowed to have.

The trees and some bushes were allowed to stay since they weren't a flowering variety (no tall grasses allowed either).

It did look pretty for a week though :)

I don't know the policies of the school you are at, but it may be something you want to look into before you begin.
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Re: Plants for the school yard

Postby kelly_m » Feb 09, 2012 9:45 am

Anyone watch the show "Bubble wrap Kids"????

Oh my!

I'm glad my Kid's school has no such policy! And It's nice to see plants, flowers, shrubs, showing up new every year (helps that we have a local nursery with 3 almost 4 kids in the school!!LOL)

BUT...They always have the kids involved, usually the "Green Team" but it would be nice to get the kids learning about native plants and figuring out what goes good in that area!

Too bad it wasn't part of the curriculum....
Kelly
Zone 5a/b


OLD GARDENERS NEVER DIE. THEY JUST SPADE AWAY
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Re: Plants for the school yard

Postby Dumbo » Feb 10, 2012 8:55 am

kelly_m wrote:Oh my!

hehe my first choice of words, when it happened, were different than yours. ;)
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Re: Plants for the school yard

Postby kelly_m » Feb 10, 2012 9:16 am

:P :P
Kelly
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OLD GARDENERS NEVER DIE. THEY JUST SPADE AWAY
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