Michigan Management Plan: Design Challenge

Photo © lee roberts

Design Challenge takes photos of tricky spots in people’s yards and puts 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: Bloomfield Township, Michigan
Eco-Region: Eastern Broadleaf Forest (Continental) Province Guide
Planting Zone: 6a
Learn more about this place by reading it’s Local Resources Page.

Our grandchildren love the yard and we want to encourage a respect and love for nature.


The owner of this midwest home is hoping to do something with the side of their yard that would include native plants. The yard is on the edge of a small wooded area adjacent to a large natural pond. It looks more like a nature preserve as the surrounding area continues to be developed. There are deer, fox and coyote that pass through the suburban neighborhood and they would like to add anything that would be beautiful and helpful to the visiting wildlife.
This area receives partial sun throughout the day. It has clay soil and the rain water runs down the slope and into the adjacent pond area. The owner has seeded it with milkweed and mixed wildflower seeds but it appears it’s going to need a bit more elbow grease to get the job done.


Photo ©

Cornell Says:
Succession is the ecological process that pushes natural vegetation in certain ecoregions through a series of stages from open grassland to shrubs and eventually to mature forest. The process is driven by plant competition in an environment. At this point there are several early succession species that are trying to dominate this area of your yard but you can apply selection pressures to discourage them, giving the milkweed and other wildflowers more of a competitive advantage. The Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) and non-native Curly Dock (Rumex crispus) that are scattered throughout are deep rooted, heavy seeders and the seeds are dispersed by birds. Use a long, sharp spade to remove the plant, cutting the tap root as deep as possible. Do this after the plants have flowered but before the fruit is ripe. This will prevent additional seedlings from sprouting next year and should also weaken any remaining perennial root enough that, after spending so much energy trying to reproduce, it will not be able to recover after the winter.

Justin Meissen

Photo © Justin Meissen

Add in some more aggressive wildflowers like Joe-pye Weed (Eutrochium fistulosum) and Common boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) that will do well in the wet soils. In the front, a low dense cover like Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea) would add color and shade out germinating weeds.

To our readers: What other native wildflowers or shrubs would you suggest adding into this native area to encourage wildlife visitors?

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