Just the back yard!? Nah, I want the front and side yards landscaped in natives too.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

March Madness

I am not a basketball fan, and I don't follow March Madness, but the title seems somehow appropriate to describe the past week or two.  After being cooped up all winter with little motivation to work on my project during the winter like I normally do, I got outside and got inspired.  Despite the temperatures being below normal over the past two weeks, I've been doing a lot in the yard...every day for more than a week...even after work, I have gone out and dragged myself in when the light was failing.

Mostly I've been focused on the pocket woodland (my "would-be woods" as I've often referred to it). Come summer, this sparsely treed area grows in too thickly for me to get through the paths--and my focus by then has turned to the meadow, pond/stream bed, and various other projects.  Winter allows me access to the "woods" and allows me a chance to assess my progress.  It also exposes the many rocks and boulders along the slope.  Some I want to showcase, while others I want to move to use in the stream bed.

The beauty of the boulders have really motivated me to get this section shaded enough to keep down the weeds so I can enjoy this nearly half-acre part of our yard year round.  I plan to add a lot of trees this year--mostly things I've already got growing, such as the silver maples that have appeared in the meadow, some black cherry trees that I have in pots and in a starter bed, sumac, quaking aspen, black locust, black poplar, (all fast growers) and various other tree seedlings.  I also plan to buy a couple of tulip trees whose flowers I hope to be able to view from above while at the top of the slope.  The slower growing oaks, shagbark hickory, and any others I want to add, will fill in under the shade of the pioneer species.

Crevices for wildlife such as salamanders--I found a few the other day.

Aside from all of my plans for adding trees, understory trees/shrubs, and wildflowers, I have been moving rocks--some quite large.  I am trying my best to maintain the holes, crevices, and possible tunnels for any critters that make them their homes.  At the same time, I am trying to stabilize the slope; many of the rocks are loose and doing nothing to hold back erosion.

I have grand plans for this section and plan to use my favorite park from where I used to live in Western PA as inspiration.  The slope, rocks, and various levels really lend themselves to viewing wildflowers at eye level (as well as at the foot of the path).  I hope it is not too long before I have pictures to post of a more established woodland, replete with wildflowers.

First I had to rake away last years growth to expose the rocks.

Imagine this as a full woodland with trees of various girths, 
understory trees, ferns, and wildflowers. 
"Before" photo..give me a few years for some beautiful "After" shots.
Another beauty for the stream bed.
Originally I pulled this out for the pond/stream bed...but, as I did
with a couple of others, I incorporated it into the hillside slope 
(see below).
The thin, flat rock just right of center didn't have the right presence...
So, I added the rock (from above) which, to me, makes the whole 
composition a thing of beauty.  Just wait until the woodland 
wildflowers grace the slope.  The funny thing is, in the back of 
my mind (although I can't be sure) I have to wonder if I didn't 
take it from that exact spot in the first place! :) 


Nicholas Weber said...

Great to hear you are finding inspiration now that the season is changing. It sounds like you have a great plan to make it all happen too and I can't wait to see pictures of the progress/finished project.

I did notice you want to plant black locust. Although they flower and have some winter interest I would avoid planting them. They spread way too quickly, are hard to kill, are covered in thorns, and kill neighboring plants. Two side of my property are bordered by black locust and I'd be more than happy to share pictures of how fast they can screw up a landscape.

Every other species sounds great though, especially the oaks!

Are you going to attempt seeding the wildflowers in or using transplants?

David said...


I am actually a bit wary of adding the black locust there. There are some several on the wooded hillside between my neighbor and me...and another small stand out along the road. The ones I planned to add were the few seedlings I've started finding in the yard. My goal was to have some fast shade, then once other species have established, to girdle them so they become snags. Now I'm not so sure.

I did remove on from the site of my future pond, cut it back severely, and moved it to the woodland section. I'm not sure if it will live...but I know I don't want it where it was.

I think they can be picturesque trees when grown out in the open and they do (I think) provide nectar for hummingbirds, but they are not something I would have purposely added, had they not already been on the property.

Hmm...what to do now?

David said...

"Are you going to attempt seeding the wildflowers in or using transplants?"

I forgot to answer this.

With the woodland wildflowers, I plan transplants/divisions of what I already have...and to purchase potted ones from native plant sales/nurseries. I think the competition right now, would make establishing them from seeds difficult at present. Hmm...I'm not sure why, but I've never considered growing them from seeds!

The meadow wildflowers, however, I do plan to grow mostly from seeds--not sure when THAT project will be ready!

(I take that back, I have collected and planted columbine and will try bloodroot again this year I know they can't be stored...but, I didn't think to protect them from critters last year.)

Nicholas Weber said...

Woodland areas can be difficult to establish from seed because of the leaf litter, but I have had some decent results in the past. Transplants do work better, but it is a lot of work. I posted a blog a while ago about the steep shady slope I constructed and planted last year if you're in need of some inspiration on how well some species grow in shade. Wild Bergamot is surprisingly shade tolerant and it's a prolific seeder to boot. I was also pleased to find out that Harebell grew well in the shade.

Do you grow any Wild Blue Phlox? I could see them doing well in this spot too and they are easy to propagate from cuttings. When I used to work at a native plant nursery I grew thousands from cuttings. I'll be posting some pictures of mine once there isn't a pile of snow covering them...

David said...

I wouldn't have expected wild bergamot to do well in the shade, but that might be a nice addition--actually, I think I have seen Monarda didyma (beebalm) growing in a woodland setting. I'll look into harebell as well.

I definitely want to grow Phlox divaricata there and in the other woodland setting. I'll have to purchase some...thanks for letting me know about taking cuttings...I'll definitely look into that!

I'll look forward to your posted photos. :) I hope the snow melts quickly and you soon have a blanket of blooming phlox.