Saturday, May 25, 2019

Front Rain Garden

We thought it would be interesting to show the progression our front yard rain garden has followed in the last seven years since we installed it.
At the beginning in spring 2012, there was a ditch with tiny plants replacing the flat lawn we inherited. Unfortunately, we didn't keep a good list of the plants we originally planted; they were all Oregon natives. Just from the picture, you can see the Cascara tree, 5 sword ferns, a Red Flowering Currant, a few sedges down in the bottom and there were a few Kinnikinnick. There was a row of Spirea douglasii along the front edge, and then a few more Nootka roses in front of those. (In the early days, Jeff tried weaving together the rose branches into a living fence, but that didn't work well.)
By 2016, you could see things were starting to fill in. (Got out of control?) We had a little vegetable garden between the rain garden and the path.

Another view in 2016. Those plants along the front side got a lot bigger than the plant directories said they would. You can barely see the house through the plants.

Here it is in early spring 2017. Without the leaves, it didn't seem so bad. 
By this point Jeff had dug out the wild roses because they were spreading out of control. The Spirea douglasii was still really tall. Many plant directories say Spirea douglasii grows up to 7 feet. Don't believe them. You can clearly see they're taller than the first story of our house. Maybe they were growing taller to try and find sun, but it won't work. Once we figured out we could prune them mercilessly, Jeff did that. He cut them down to about two feet.
At some point, we got a volunteer birch tree in there. It had gotten really tall and Sharon asked Jeff if he would remove it but he really liked it and wanted to leave it. But about a month ago, when we had a week of unseasonably hot weather, and it did this—which spelled its demise.
When Aaron was here earlier this week, he and Jeff worked to clear out the tallest shrubs. The rain garden is looking a little rough right now, but it's on the road to recovery.
The big hole is from the elderberry root ball they removed
It's definitely starting to look less overgrown.
Now that we have easier access, Jeff was able to weed the interior, and prune the Currant. Now we need to see if we can find any shade-loving plants to replace those that died. And we need to find a couple shrubs that are MUCH shorter, maybe a maximum of four feet. We're thinking about a ninebark, which can also be pruned to the ground if it gets too big.
Update a few days later: We bought a Summer Wine Ninebark for the space. We love the burgundy color. This should fill in nicely over the next couple of years.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Parking strip planting

The time had come to deal with our parking strip. We originally thought it was a hot, sunny spot, but after Jeff spent the day digging it out, we realized it only gets a couple hours of direct sun a day. The neighbor's maple tree is so huge, it shades most of our front yard. So, we shifted the original plan to focus on plants that would tolerate more shade.
Sharon spent hours researching locally-available plants that would fit the parameters and she came up with this collage of plants that she thought looked pretty good together. (Yeah, purple and maroon were obviously a major theme.)
Jeff wanted to shape some planting berms with space for water to flow across the space.
We were delighted to get Aaron's help again. He came a couple days ago and helped Jeff double dig the bed and mix in 8 bags of composted manure.
With the plan mostly ready, and the site prepped, we spent the day driving out to a couple garden centers and Joy Creek Nursery. Plants were purchased and placed.
Then planted.

For future reference, here is the list of plants we've planted and planned for the space:
  1. Adiantum x tracyi (maidenhair fern). This plant will act like a groundcover and spread. We only bought 2 because they weren't in the original plan. We put them out there and to see how they do in the spot.
  2. Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant' (bugleweed) for  groundcover. We bought 6 but probably should have bought a few more of these. I hope they spread fast.
  3. Aquilegia (columbine).
    We bought 3 columbines of various varieties. All purple tones. These were also a spontaneous purchase.
  4. Athyrium nipponicum var. pictum (Japanese painted fern). What's not to like about a fern that has purple on it? The last time we bought purple ferns, they didn't survive. Today we couldn't resist trying again. If it survives the winter, we'll probably get more.
  5. Campanula Pearl Deep Blue (Carpathian bellflower). We bought two of these, but sadly one of them has already died.
  6. Corydalis flexuosa 'Purple Leaf'
    (Purple leaf corydalis). This plant has the strangest looking blue flowers. Sharon thought it was cool looking and couldn't resist.
  7. Geranium x 'Johnson's Blue' (hardy geranium). We bought 2 of these and planted them in late July.
  8. Heuchera FOREVER® Purple (coral bells). We bought a total of 7 of these because Sharon really liked the color.
  9. Juncus patens (spreading blue rush). Jeff likes these and put 3 of them in the base of the ditch.
  10. Iris Lazica. Sharon loves irises. This is one of the few varieties she found that would tolerate shade.
  11. Polypodium scouleri (leather-leaf fern). We didn't have any of these in our yard yet. We just bought one to try it.
  12. Polystichum munitum (western sword fern). Can you ever have too many ferns? These can survive anywhere.
  13. Polystichum polyblepharum (tassel fern). This fern is pretty interesting looking. We bought 2 of them.
  14. Polystichum setiferum (Alaskan fern). When we picked this up we didn't realize how huge it could get (4' tall by 3' wide). We may eventually end up moving this to a better location if it outgrows this area.
  15. Pratia pedunculata 'County Park' (blue star creeper). These weren't actually in the original plan; they were a spontaneous purchase from the nursery because it was a good match color-wise and it would work in the shade.
  16. Sisyrinchium bellum ‘Rocky Point’ (west coast blue eyed grass). This plant was a substitution for another plant which was not available. It will hopefully survive the location because the flowers are quite pretty.
  17. Dicentra formosa 'Luxuriant' (bleeding heart). Another late addition. We put it in the shadiest spot we have and hope it lives.
We mapped out the planting so we can remember what went where.

Updated with plant additions on Jul 28.

Bulbs ordered for fall delivery:
  1. Crocus 'Remembrance'
  2. Hyacinth 'Purple Sensation'
  3. Hemerocallis 'Ledgewood's Belgium Blues' (Daylily)
  4. Iris 'Dakota Smoke' (Tall Bearded Iris)
  5. Iris Reticula 'Harmony'
  6. Tulip 'Negrita Double'