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Whidbey Island Landscapes

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6 Months Later

Here’s an update to a project I started in April.  (See the post “Thank goodness for the Mr.”)  The goal was to create a native or native looking area along our little dirt road that would eventually create some privacy and cut down on the dust.  A little like a loose hedgerow.  The first task was to eliminate the sod while retaining as much organic material as possible.  As I’d done successfully many times before, I laid down newsprint and piled compost on top.  Only this time, it didn’t work so well.  I am now in the process of digging out many weeds.  I think the lesson learned this time was:  Do not scrimp on the mulch.  4″ seems to be the minimum and 6″ would have been better.

A glimpse of what the garden will look like once the plants start maturing and touching each other.

Plants for the Roundabout Hedgerow

You can see the Mr. and his weeding bucket just past the little Siberian spruce.

Weeding the Roundabout Hedgerow

We got a good start on the planting.  No matter how many times I do it,  I’m always surprised at how small the plants look when they first go in.

Roundabout hedgerow, October 2011

The Greenbank deer and rabbits don’t seem to be interested in my Spiraea, so I am planting Spiraea betulifolia ‘Tor.’

Spiraea betuifolia 'Tor'


close up, Spiraea betuifolia 'Tor'


















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One of the things I like about gardening is its physical requirements.  I am not enjoying this week of chores so much however.  I am ripping out a border adjacent to our field, one that I planned to be a drought and deer tolerant “no weed’s land”  between the field and the inner border.  I planted it shortly after we moved to Whidbey, using some tough groundcovers that I’d relied on when I lived and worked in the suburbs, such as Rubus pentalobus / Taiwan bramble,  Ceanothus gloriosus ‘Pt. Reyes’ / Point Reyes Creeper, Cistus salviifolius ‘Prostratus’ / Sageleaf Rockrose and Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’ / Dwarf Japanese Juniper.  Of these, the only one that performed well enough to stay is the juniper, which looks good without water, is impervious to weeds, deer and rabbits.

The problem isn’t with these perfectly good plants – it’s with the placement next to a field and I’m guessing the same would happen adjacent to a wooded area where you not only get weeds creeping in (as in town) but blowing in constantly.   With most ground-hugging groundcovers, there’s  just enough tiny spaces for the weed seeds to sprout, but since the plants root along as they spread, you can’t lift branches to pull out the weeds.  Perhaps it’s also true, that with a bigger garden, I’m going to need some plants that can duke it out on their own for a longer period of time.   Plants that have worked to halt the weeds are taller – at least a foot  and allow me to pull up the “skirt” and weed underneath, if need be.  Prostanthera cuneata / Alpine Mint Bush and surprisingly enough, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low / Catmint, a perennial are doing a great job.  Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Kitten’ / Maiden Grass has been fiercely territorial.  So after I finally get done taking out my hard-earned lessons, it’s back to the nursery.   Along with more Prostanthera and Nepeta, I’m going to try Berberis, shrubby Cotoneaster, shrubby Potentilla, Caryopteris and some smaller mugo pines.  I’ll keep you posted.



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Thank goodness for the Mr.

Years ago, my long suffering husband (who for privacy and brevity’s sake I refer to as Mr.)  came home to find me ripping out the orange shag carpet in the bedroom of our Kirkland home.  We’d planned to eventually pull it out since the day we bought the place, but this was the day I could stand it no longer.  Unfortunately, by the time Mr. came home I was only half way through the job.  So, like he always does when I get a bee in my bonnet, Mr.  changed into work clothes and we got it all out by bedtime, including the dangerous tack strip.

This week a similar thing happened in an area along our little dirt road where I have been planting trees in little islands in anticipation of joining all these little islands into one big island screen of trees, along with native or native-looking shrubs and bulbs – a transitional space between the wilder and cultivated parts of our garden.  I’d reached the end of my tolerance of all the isolated islands.

To dig out all of the sod for this new bed would be impossible and would remove a precious amount of soil, so we are creating the bed on top of the sod.  I create an edge with my favorite little sharp spade,  then cut another edge 4-6” inside of this.  This strip of sod gets dug out in chunks and placed upside down inside where the bed will eventually be – again I don’t want to waste any soil.  I’ll cover all the sod with 3 layers of newsprint, which I purchase in bulk from a moving supply store.  This is much easier to deal with for me than unfolding the Sunday paper.  I overlap the sheets to make sure that no green can poke through.  I also remove any weeds with sharp leaves or stems, like thistle that might be able to poke through before they rot.   Then a 4” layer of aged manure will go on top of this – making sure I keep it away from the tree and shrub trunks.  I’ve also used chips for this purpose.  In the meantime, it will look rather nice and in another  3-6 months time, the sod will have decomposed, leaving a bed with nutrient rich soil and then AACK, I’ll need to get it planted quick before the weeds move in.   Maybe I can do this before the Mr. gets home . . ..


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