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Chesapeake Native Plant Design: Modern, Low Maintenance, Marvelous

Less is so much more.

native oak sedge in fall

I am excited to share this simple yet captivating garden with you. This front garden grows on a slope in an urban setting. The plant list is succinct: Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica), ornamental ferns, ornamental Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) and ornamental wisteria (Wisteria sinensis).

This garden, envisioned ten years ago, is a study in minimalism. Landscape architect Lila Fendrick designed the spaces for Jessica Lerner and Daniel Pink. Jessica and Daniel wanted something calming and easy to maintain, using local plants if possible. Well, I’d say this is a home run. And so very replicable if you are looking for a modern low maintenance garden.

native oak sedge on a slope in fall

The waves of sedge look good, even here in fall, when the colors have turned and the grass is approaching dormancy. Imagine this in spring when the fresh greens of the sedges and ferns emerge.

native oak sedge close up of cascading foliage in fall

Lush ferns break the slope of sedges. The point where the sedges fall into the ferns is reminiscent of water cascading over a ledge. I am not sure which fern this is but many native ferns would do the same. Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) would add color year round.

native carex pensylvanica in fall

Two Japanese maple trees screen the view from the front porch to the road and add vibrant spring and fall colors. These trees could easily be native dogwoods (Cornus Florida) or autumn brilliance serviceberry (Amelanchier grandiflora 'autumn brilliance'), creating the same effect.

Pennsylvania sedge is easy to grow and does well in shade and dappled sun. This sedge, also called oak sedge, has a symbiotic relationship with oak trees. When planted beneath an oak, it creates a soft landing spot for the over 500 types of caterpillars native oak trees support. Read more about Pennsylvania and other native sedges here. For dense plantings like these, plugs are a great way to start. After a couple years, the plants fill in and the job of weeding pretty much disappears.

native oak sedge in fall

An ornamental wisteria vine, the fourth plant, is a great cover for the area beneath a porch. The native wisteria is a less aggressive and dense grower than asian wisterias and requires less maintenance. Read more about native wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) here.

butterfly chairs amid native oak sedge

The theme in serenity carries to the back garden as well. With over eight years experience with this garden, Jessica and Daniel say maintenance is pretty easy -- an annual cutting of the sedge, occasional pruning of the wisteria and trees, and every once in a while, replacing a sedge or two with a new plug.

That's pretty simple indeed!


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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