Wildscape Takes Root on Rocky Wasatch Slope

Wasatch slop.

After (June 2013): Native plants stabilize a rocky slope on Salt Lake City's Wasatch Front.

Native Plants Replace Spurge-Filled Salt Lake City Landscape

The truth is, we didn't set out to create a wildscape. We were happy to let the mountain landscape for us. Little did we know the mountain was in the thrall of a villain that was carpeting our backyard—myrtle spurge!

Turning a Weed-Filled Backyard Into a Habitat Hero Wildscape: Before/After Transformation

Carpet of spurge.

Before (2010): The noxious weed spurge carpeted the slope.


The truth is, we didn't set out to create a wildscape. We live on the foothills of Salt Lake City, at the base of city-purchased green space. We were happy to let the mountain landscape for us. Zero water, zero cost, zero work. Little did we know the mountain was in the thrall of a villain that was carpeting our backyard—myrtle spurge! We pulled a full carload of this noxious weed off our rocky slope. Then we had to stabilize this ridiculously steep, swath of dirt. Plants from the dry mountain west were our only good choices. It turns out the critters like them, too.

It’s four years later and we've pulled a lot more spurge and put about 200 plants on our back slope. New sage and rabbitbrush emerged after the spurge was cleared. We are coaxing along other shrubs and trees, including Golden Currant, Rhus trilobata, Apache Plume, Serviceberry, Fernbush, and Scrub Oak, among others. Bunch grasses lend texture and cover while the shrubs grow.

Wasatch slope during transformation. During: Spurge cleared from the slope as the area is prepared for planting.

We didn't expect such a huge burst of wildlife. We've spotted up to 14 different bird species in our yard in one day. Hummingbirds, not seen here before, now fight over the flowers. Butterflies, bees, and other bugs set whole patches in shimmering motion. A trio of baby owls learned to fly on our yard. We enjoy the bunnies, squirrels, and deer. Our daughter is growing up with a community in her backyard.

-- Erin A. and Craig B., homeowners

Plant Lists

Here is the list of some of the 200 plants we used on both the upper slope and bottom terrace. For a few of the plants listed without a link, High Country Gardens carries other varieties of these plants, including Artemisia; Monardella macrantha; and Yucca.

Upper Slope:

Bottom Terrace: Agastache rupestris; Fraxinus cuspidata; Kniphofia; Phlox subulata; Salvia pitcherii (similar to Salvia azurea); Schizachyrium scoparium; Sphaeralcea grossulariifolia (similar to Sphaeralcea munroana); Symphoricarpos orbiculatos; and Zauschneria garretti.

Terraces in autumn.After (October 2014): Terraces in Autumn - Native plants can span the seasons, adding long-blooming color.

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Browse Native Plants

  • Purple Milkweed Asclepias purpurascens

    Starting at $10.99

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • Native Intermountain West Songbird Garden

    $170.84

    Sale: $153.76

    Per Garden of 16 Plants

  • Lady in Black Aster Aster lateriflorus Lady in Black

    $10.99

    Sale: $8.79

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot


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