Pleasing Aesthetics Hospitable to Nature
Spirit Lake Condos consists of 8 5-story apartment-style buildings situated between the White River and Spirit Lake. Environmental concerns are paramount. The property is too big for perfection to be an attainable or affordable goal, so there must be tolerance among residents for a natural look. Most residents, but not all, agree that a naturalized aesthetic is more desirable than the “cookie-cutter” image that is common to most large developments. To get to this point, many people were necessarily involved: The HOA Board members who delegated decisions to resident volunteers, the volunteers who researched and donated time, materials and labor, the landscape contractor, Landmark Landscape, who were willing to learn and experiment with new ways of doing things, the donors to our Angel Fund, and, last but not least, the residents who didn’t always know the what and why something was being done but were willing to wait and see how it would turn out.
2005 HOA inherits what developer installed: River birch, bayberry, maples, arborvitae, yews, boxwood, stella d’oro lilies , privet, barberry, miscanthus grass, callery pear, crown vetch, lawn to edge of riprap, slopes turf or bare. Landscape contract is for maintenance of status quo only.
2005-2008 HOA maintains what’s there, and individual residents begin gardening on a voluntary basis, without a plan, and some, but not all, with native plants.
2008-2011 To discourage Canada geese (80-100 at a time) and maintain lake quality, volunteers research and consult with IDEM, DNR, IUPUI, MCSWCD, and others, and begin installing switch grasses along lake edge. Landscape contract expands to include improvement projects.
2012 Begin buying native plants from Native Plants Unlimited to augment lake edge switch grasses. A resident-donor sets up an “Angel Fund” for purchasing native plants. Phosphorus is eliminated from fertilizer program. Insecticide is allowed only with prior approval of landscape committee, and herbicide may not be sprayed into plant beds. Heavy resident involvement in gardening/maintenance continues.
2012-2015 Landscape maintenance contract now allows for incremental removal of invasive plants and replacement with native plants. Residents continue volunteer involvement in gardening areas.
2015-2017 With fewer volunteers available, formerly “gardened” areas are being allowed to naturalize with management of weeds and honeysuckle and replacement of non-natives with native plants. “Pollinator gardens” of native plants and chemical free areas are designated.
2017 Results Today, we have eliminated most Canada geese from the property, the matured lake edge requires minimal maintenance, the quality of the lake water has improved and remains good, most invasive plants have been eliminated or are being managed, “pollinator garden” areas have expanded, reduced exposure to (and cost of) chemicals in the landscape.
Challenges/Plans for Future The entrance needs more work. A few landscaped areas need to be renovated, using native plants, of course. Selected saplings are allowed to remain, others are taken out. Continue eliminating invasive plants including poison ivy, replace with non-invasive native plants. Monitor meadow to the south for invasive species. Edge northern (final) border of lake with little bluestem. Dream.
A partial list Invasive plants removed, and the natives that have been installed.
Invasives removed/mostly removed: Privet, Miscanthus sinensis grasses, Japanese barberry, Burning bush, Butterfly bush
Invasives being minimized or managed: English Ivy, Wintercreeper, Vinca, Honeysuckle, Tree of heaven , Poison ivy
Other problem plants needing attention: Liriope, Rose of Sharon, Yarrow (variety unspecified), Callery Pear, Autumn clematis
Partial list of native plant (species) we have planted and are growing (or tried out): (* = Self-planted)
Forbs, most purchased from Native Plants Unlimited:
Agastache foeniculum (Lavender hyssop) Allium cernuum (Nodding wild onion) Amorpha canescens (Leadplant)
Amsonia hubrichtii (Narrow leaf bluestar) Amsonia tabermontanae (Willow leaf bluestar) Aquilegia canedensis (Columbine)
Ascelpias incarnata Swamp milkweed) *Asclepias syriaca (Common milkweed) Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly weed) Asclepias verticiliata (Whorled milkweed) Aster azureus (sky-blue aster) Aster cordifolius (Heartleaved Blue wood)
*Asters, various wild Aster novae-angliae (New England aster) Baptisia Australis (False blue indigo)
Baptisia alba and leucantha (White false indigo) Chelone obliqua (Pink turtlehead) Coreopsis lanceolata (Lance-leaf coreopsis)
Echinacea purpurea (Purple coneflower) Eryngium yuccifolium (Rattlesnake master) Eupatorium purpureum (Sweet Joe Pye)
Filipendula rubra (Queen of the Prairie) Geranium maculatum (Wild geranium) Helianthus rigidus (Showy sunflower)
Heliopsus helianthoides (False sunflower) Hibiscus palustris (Swamp rose mallow) Iris virginica shrevei (Blue flag iris)
Liatris aspera (Rough blazing star) Liatris ligulistylis (Meadpw blazing star) Liatris spicata (Dense blazing star)
Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower) Lobelia siphilitica (Great blue lobelia) Monarda fistulosa (Bergamot)
Monarda didyma (Scarlet beebalm) Petalostemum purpureum (purple prairie clover) Pycnanthemum tenuifolium (Mount. Mint)
Ratibida pinnata (Yellow coneflower) Rudbeckia fulgia speciosa (Showy b-e susan) Rudbeckia lanciniata (Cutleaf coneflower)
Rudbeckia subtomentosa (Sweet b-e susan) *Solidago speciosa (Showy goldenrod) Stylophorum dyphylium (Celadine poppy)
Tradescantia ohiensis (Ohio spiderwort) Tradescantia virginiana (Virginia spiderwort) Vernonia fasciculate (Smooth ironweed)
Vernonia lettermanii (Narrow leaf ironweed) Vernonicastrum virginicum (Culver’s root) Zizia aurea (Golden alexanders)
Grasses and Sedges (Most from NPU):
Bouteloua curtipendula (Side-oats grama) Carex Frankii (Frank’s sedge/removed - invasive) Carex gracillima (Graceful sedge)
Carex Grayi (Gray’s sedge) Carex muskingumensis (Palm sedge) Carex pensylvanica (Oak sedge)
Carex radiata (Straight-styled wood sedge) Carex shortiana (Short’s sedge)
Chasmantheum latifolium (Northern sea oats) Juncus effusus (Common rush) Panicum virgatum (Switch grass)
Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) Sporoboulis heterolepis (Prairie dropseed)
Shrubs purchased in bulk from DNR Nursery:
Aronia melanocarpa (Black chokeberry) Cephalanthus occidentalis (Button bush) Cornus amomum (Silky dogwood)
Sambucus Canadensis (Elderberry)
Miscellaneous others: Ferns, Christmas, Cinnamon and Lady Lonicera Sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle)