This is a public service announcement from your esteemed blogger-in-chief.
If you’re going to put in new hedging around your house, do NOT plant barberry. Please. Your friendly neighborhood invasive species removal crews will be eternally grateful. (Besides, a couple of states have made it illegal to plant barberry, because it’s such a nuisance of a plant.)
As many of you probably know, it was National Trails Day on Saturday, June 4. I’d joined the Invasive Species Task Force from the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference up at Bear Mountain-Harriman State Park in just-barely-upstate-New York the year before. We’d spent an energetic – albeit prickly – morning removing barberry bushes, a shrub once popular for hedging but now deemed an invasive species, hence the PSA. I was game to try again – and crews would be planting some native species plants along the now barberry-free slope.
My mom was up for a visit and she was game to join in, so Saturday morning found us making the amble up the Palisades Interstate Parkway.
The slope where we did battle with the barberry last year is just up behind the Bear Mountain Inn and near the connector trails to the Appalachian Trail. It is now part of the Trails for People interpretive exhibit. Over the past year, volunteers and parks crews have put in some examples of trail features – floating stone steps, a turnpike, a log foot bridge – and an array of interpretive signs. It’s a work in progress, but it’s definitely worth a visit, so I encourage you to check it out if you’re ever at Bear Mountain.
We signed in and filled out all the “I-promise-not-to-sue” paperwork. We were given two options: we could go up the mountain and work on a new patch of barberry, or we could help replant the Trails for People slope with native species of plants. As I had done the barberry last year, I opted for plant duty, while Mom chose the barberry team – she’d come armed with a full arsenal of garden tools.
Here’s how it worked. We had several dozen black plastic flats of plants, all recently arrived from South Jersey.
There were yellow flags placed at different intervals around the slope, each one with a little tag on them, saying how many of a certain kind of plant should be there. So, if the tag said “SC 10,” that meant we put down 10 Solidago caesia – that’s blue-stemmed goldenrod.
We also planted American alumroot, fire pink, celandine poppy and “Blue Ridge” woodland phlox. So that’s going to be one very colorful slope once the plants are established and blooming.
There was also the matter of watering – so a group of us walked an extra-long garden hose around the slope, giving the plants a good solid drink – and every now and then spotting a plant that was in a too-shallow hole.
Now, the soil of the Palisades region is thin and rocky – and the slope where we were working had a lot of rocks just beneath the surface. So it took some doing, either to dig out the rock or to find a less rocky spot to put the plant. Believe me, I was feeling from my muscles the next morning.
The barberry-removal crew, Mom tells me, was feeling from their muscles too. And I don’t think there’s a person among them who is going to look at barberry the same way again – there were a lot of thorns and scratched limbs coming down the mountain.
There was barbecue for lunch afterwards. Good stuff, too – ribs, slaw and cornbread, and roasted vegetable sandwiches for all the vegetarians.
Did any of you go help out at a local park or a local trail on National Trails Day? Tell all about it in the comments section!
Side note: I checked with Heather Darley, one of the coordinators from the invasive species task force, and she very kindly provided me the list of plants we put in, by scientific name:
Chrysogonum virginianum ‘Allen Bush’
Heuchera americana ‘Dales Strain’
Phlox stolonifera ‘Blue Ridge’