Sustainable Landscaping
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David and Deirdre (URI Master Gardener) Wrenn, Wickford, RI

What you will see!

Area 1: Coastal bank -- sustainable plants - this page

Existing conditions

Phase I plantings

Phase II plantings


Area 2: Shade Bed -- sustainable plants

Area 3: Roof runoff control

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Area 1: Coastal bank - sustainable plants - this page
Tip 1 - Choose the right plants

Existing conditions:

The north west side of the yard contains a steep bank that slopes down to Wickford Cove. It is an approximately 1,000 sq. ft. area that contained a sparse covering of lawn grass, was difficult to mow and subject to erosion.

Goal: The plan is to establish native and sustainable plants that allow for a view of Wickford Cove to be maintained, require low maintenance once the plants are well-established, and can tolerate north winds, ocean salt and partial shade.


September 10, 2003


September 10, 2003 - establishing the planting area


September 10, 2003 - view of Wickford Cove

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Phase I sustainable plantings: September 22, 2003

Due to the steepness of the bank area, the plants were planted directly into the existing grass area and mulch was not applied due to concerns of wash-out. The areas between the plants will need to be clipped periodically until the plants fill in and cover the area. The upper fringes of the planting area were rototilled to aid in planting groundcover.

Initial plant list includes: Russian Arborvitae (Microbiota decussata); Sweet fern (comptonia peregrina); Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica); Anthony Waterer (Spirea Bumalda); and GreenSheen pachysandra (groundcover).

Day lillies currently exist along the bottom of the bank. Additional day lillies from on-site were transplanted along the bottom of the bank.

The URI 101 class of students learn about sustainable landscaping practices and techniques from Dr. Richard Casagrande, URI Plant Science Department.

Plants selected and placed by Patricia Mullins, URI Landscape Architecture Program

Anthony Waterer and Russian Arborvitae, September 22, 2003

Sweet fern, October 14, 2003

Bayberry, Russian Arborvitae, October 14, 2003

Russian Arborvitae, Anthony Waterer, October 14, 2003


Russian Arborvitae is a low growing shrub/groundcover and will spread much like Rug Juniper. Here is an example of established Russian Arborvitae at the URI CE Botanical Gardens, June 2004.


July 2004, Anthony Waterer and Daylillies in bloom, Wickford Cove

June 2004, Anthony Waterer in bloom, Spiraea bumalda, Wickford Cove

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Phase II sustainable plantings, 2005:


As of July 2005, the Russian Arborvitae is well established and is spreading at a rate of about 6 inches per year. Grass needs to be periodically mowed in between the plants, and it was determined that it would take a few years before the plants would spread and fill in the spaces due to the harsh conditions on the bank.

It was decided that another option could include establishing sustainable groundcovers within the spaces to reduce maintenance and enhance aesthetics.


July 2005. The following grouncovers have been selected:

Barrenwort, Epimedium (red, white and yellow)
Spotted Deadnettle, Lamium 'Pink Pewter'
Herman's Pride Dead Nettle, Lamiastrum Galeobdolon

Two additional Russian Arborvitae have also been planted within the larger spaces.


A line of sweet fern and two bayberry plants had originally been planted to the western edge of the bank. Due to winter kill and excessive shade, one sweet fern and one bayberry plant have survived.

They have been transplanted to the eastern, bottom edge of the bank where another sweet fern and bayberry plant already exist. The eastern edge of the bank receives considerably more sunlight.


July 13, 2005, two sweet fern at bottom, east edge of bank. The sweet fern on the left was transplanted from the western side of the bank.


July 13, 2005, one bayberry transplanted to bottom, east edge of bank.


July 13, 2005. The eastern third of the bank has been accented with Barrenwort. The outer perimeter contains the GreenSheen Pachysandra that was originally planted in previous years. The GreenSheen variety has not performed as well under the harsh conditions as other common varieties. Common Pachysandra varieties will be interplanted to boost the perimeter planting.

The spaces between the Russian Arborvitae plants was lightly tilled. Newspaper was applied in between the new and existing plants to help kill the underlying grass and will break down over time. Mulch was applied to reduce weeds, reduce erosion, and preserve soil moisture until the groundcovers spread and fill in the spaces. The mulch will be monitored closely for wash-out. July 13, 2005.

Lamium, 'pink pewter' is planted in the spaces on the western third of the bank. The top left of this photo (the bottom left of the bank) once contained the bayberry and sweet fern plants that have recently been transplanted to the bottom, east edge of the bank. July 19, 2005.

July 19, 2005. Looking up at the newly planted and mulched lamium from the bottom of the bank.

Area 2: Shade Bed -- sustainable plants

Area 3: Roof runoff control

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Special thanks to Patricia Mullins, URI Landscape Architecture Program, for dedicating much thought and time to the site design and plant selection.

Special thanks to Dr. Richard Casagrande and Dr. Brian Maynard (URI Plant Sciences Department); URI Master Gardeners Rudi Hempe, Vicky Wilson, Linda Hughes and Joy Gerstenblatt; and the URI 101 class of students for their time, expertise, and assistance with planning, implementation and maintenance. Phase I.

Special thanks to Dr. Sue Gordon and the Kinney Azaelea Gardens for a generous plant donation.

Special thanks to Dr. Brian Maynard, URI Dept. of Plant Sciences and Rosanne Sherry, URI Master Gardener Coordinator for their expertise and assistance with plant selection and layout. Phase II.