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Native Plant Garden

Posted by cahnrs.webteam | December 20, 2013


  • Variety of native plant specimens including: Sandberg’s bluegrass, blue bunch wheatgrass, Indian rice grass, needle-and-thread bunchgrass, squirrel tail bunchgrass, sagebrush, rabbitbrush, chokecherry and cactus
  • Developing micro-example of shrub steppe habitat

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The intent of this garden is to recreate the diversity of the familiar shrub-steppe ecosystem of Washington State. The Columbia Basin once hosted a diverse abundance of grasses, lower-growing flowers, semi-shrubs and shrubs, able to tolerate arid soils, irregular rainfall and wide temperature fluctuations. Healthy native plant communities can keep out invasive weeds.

This garden is a restoration project converting a former park lot into a shrub-steppe native plant garden.

In late 2003, a utility trench was dug, backfilled, graded, and allowed to sit.

In Spring 2004, invasive cheat and Bermuda grasses were treated with herbicide. In summer, soil and basalt rocks were arranged. In October a native grass seed mixture was spread (including Sandberg’s bluegrass, blue bunch wheatgrass, Indian rice grass, needle-and-thread bunchgrass and Squirrel tail bunchgrass.)

In Spring 2005, rabbitbrush, cactus, and a chokecherry tree were planted. In December, seeds of needle-and-thread grass, rye grass and yarrow shrub were spread.

Hand weeding has controlled the tumble mustard, Russian thistle, cheat grass and sagebrush seedlings.

The growing season of native plants differs from the traditional landscape garden. It begins in November as moisture increases. Sandberg’s bluegrass, a shallow rooted perennial, as well as invasive cheat grass, will grow while the soil is still warm.

After the snows and rains of January through March, and soil temperature warms again, the shallow rooted plants will resume growth. By June these plants will have completed their cycle and will dry up.

Between April and October, the deeper rooted perennial bunchgrasses will complete for the remaining rainfall which averages less than ½ inch per month. They grow actively in April, drop seeds in August, and dry up by September.

Finally, the deeply tap rooted sagebrush and rabbitbrush pull moisture from deep in the soil for the remaining part of the growing year. They produce seeds in September and October.

The Native Plant Garden calls for patience and tolerance in observing its cycles. Although areas may appear to be barren, seeds are struggling survive. Over time we hope the Native Plant Garden will provide a unique beauty and demonstration of the shrub-steppe habitat that is becoming so rare.

Construction of the Native Garden


1620 S. Union
Kennewick, Washington

(In Kennewick’s Grange Park behind the Mid-Columbia Library)

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Your donation will help the Demonstration Garden stay beautiful.

Donations are tax deductible and are made to the Master Gardener Foundation of Benton Franklin County, a 501(c)3 organization.  Donations of any size are appreciated.

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