Black Walnut Resistance, Virginia: Design Challenge

Photo © Xiao Hu and Carol Herley

Design challenges take photos of tricky spots in people’s yards and put them out there for advice from the professionals at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and from our broad audience of participants, some of whom have some serious wildlife gardening credentials (just check out our Featured Sites for proof).

The Details

Location: Blacksburg, Virginia
Eco-Region: Central Appalachian Broadleaf Forest-Coniferous Forest-Meadow Province Guide
Planting Zone: 6b-5
Learn more about this place by reading it’s Local Resources Page.

This homeowner has a well-drained sloping yard with six Black Walnut Trees, providing both shade and limited growing conditions for plants sensitive to juglone, a compound produced by the tree that hinders or kills plants that are not resistant to it.

Cornell Says:
There are several varieties of flowers, shrubs and vegetables you can plant that will tolerate the conditions created by Black Walnut trees. A deep raised-bed planted with onions, beets and carrots could grow close to a walnut tree. Try to place the vegetable bed in a spot that gets 4-6 hours of sunlight a day, but all these crops will grow in partial shade.

BW House1

Photo ©

The most important goal would be to minimize the amount of lawn and create more structure by installing a variety of plants in different areas. Up against the house, a quick growing Common elderberry (Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis) will be tolerant and provide an edible food source for local birds (and people). Or, Southern Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) is another possibility, but allow for 10 foot branching. Arrowwood leaves turn a lovely red in the fall and it’s shade and sun tolerant.

BW Image2

Photo ©

Also, there are a variety of vines and flowers you can consider planting that will be resistant to juglone. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) would be an excellent choice (loved by birds) right next to the trees, as the plant will climb the trunk and sprawl around the base. Native flower gardens, could be planted in clusters around the the lawn area. For ease of installing, we’d recommend using a sheet mulch planting strategy that eliminates lawn and allows you to establish garden beds quickly. Flowers to consider that are shade or partial shade tolerant and will benefit pollinators: Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera), Bee Balm (Monarda didyma), Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans) and Zigzag Goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis).

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