planting ideas

seydouxDecember 31, 2013

We have a beautiful backyard which backs up to the woods. I am currently trying to decide what to plant on this hillside. The space from the back of the house to the bottom of the hill is 45 ft and the hill rises about 15 ft. the length is about 30 ft. the bottom has large boulders which I would like to emphasize. any suggestions what to plant? The catalogs are here!

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agardenstateof_mind

What a beautiful site! Congratulations.

A visit to the Leonard J. Buck Gardens in Somerset County, NJ would provide lots of inspiration for you - naturalistic plantings set amid rocky outcroppings and woods. Website linked below, and if you search images for it you'll find some. On their site they have lists of what's in bloom and plants beneficial to wildlife; these might prove helpful.

I would lean toward a mix of shrubs, perennials, bulbs and cascading groundcovers, mostly but not necessarily exclusively native to your region. These would complement the woods nicely, be relatively low maintenance, and give your garden what is called a "sense of place."

Not knowing where you are, I wouldn't want to venture specific suggestions ... besides, there are so many to choose from in zone 7!

Just be sure to choose plants that are well suited to the environmental conditions: amount of sun & moisture, soil type ... as a matter of fact, now would be a good time to take a soil sample and send it for analysis, at the very least, get a pH test. With those results in hand, you can make any adjustments to the soil well before planting time. If there are deer in the area, try to select plants that they will not consume.

Here is a link that might be useful: Leonard J. Buck Garden

    Bookmark   January 1, 2014 at 4:11PM
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seydoux

Thank you NJ. I am not that far from there. Our house is located in Southeastern Pa. just over the border from Delaware. We are in that strange pocket there were we have a higher planting zone than the surrounding area, That part of the yard is more challenging because it is predominately rock. I suspect that we are at the end of a moraine because we have field stone of every geological variety. it would probably we a good idea for me to test that soil individually.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 7:27AM
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nandina(8b)

A great planting zone! A wonderful site to plan. Take your time. However, please do a soil test. Very necessary. Then return for suggestions. Also, as the weather allows, with a crowbar in hand, tamp around the hillside and tag possible planting hole spaces amid the rocks. Also locate rock edges beneath the soil where clumps of whatever could be introduced, roots to grow under the protection of the rocks and top growth to cascade over. Study rocks on site that might be moved to form a stairway or solar waterfall. Does your stone contain the wonderful fossils found in the PA area? If so, think about ways to feature them.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 3:37PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I'd start off my exposing those outcroppings and enhancing them as much as possible. Do the rock and contour work before you plant. Sub-alpine type gardens are more suited to that terrain than a mushy cottage garden. Do not hide the rock! Start with evergreen trees first in back and work down toward the front from there. That way it will have a 'sense of place'.
You have nice rock and a hill. People pay big money for that.
Which way does it face?
Mike

    Bookmark   January 5, 2014 at 8:21PM
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seydoux

Thank all of you for the input. Unless that area differs from the rest of the property the ph is 6.5 and the soil is black loam with large amounts of vegetative matter. The exposure is due south and east where it bends. it gets sun from about 10 am onward after it emerges from the shade of the house. And I was thinking of digging the boulders out further. I have not seen any fossils in them and I doubt that I will because they are metamorphic rock. They do have interesting white striations within the black. They are also almost unmovable. I have rebuilt some of the stone walls and that rock is around 50 lbs for he size of a large chicken.
There are already stone stairs about 20 ft to the right of this area that so to the top of the hill.
Since I have spent 2 summers labor clearing the invasives and grape vines I am excited to start making it beautiful. this is also one of the few areas without black walnuts but we have deer so everything has to be undesirable to them.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2014 at 7:45AM
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seydoux

bumping it up. I would love some design ideas! I find myself torn between planting and keeping the view open, I do need planting 'tho or the brush takes over. Yardvark any of your brilliant suggestions?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 6:16PM
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yardvaark

I didn't contribute to this thread, MM, because I didn't think my ideas would appeal to you. I think you are looking at how you could add some color or spice into the wooded zone and I would, instead, be looking how to clean it and let the strength of the trees, slope and rock be where the beauty is. I think it's already beautiful, but the the beauty is probably covered by a lot of scruff and grunge. I think the sum of the beauty that already exists is far more powerful than little things you might add. Actually, adding little things would probably be a distraction to the existing beauty. My focus would be on cleaning, exposing and unifying. Some analysis of your picture is at the bottom of this post.

If I owned this, I would be out there tomorrow with a pole pruner and set of loppers, limbing up all trees to a height that allowed me to see deep into the wooded area at all times of the year ... to the horizon and beyond, as what is there to hide? Nothing! I'd also removed all the saplings, brush and weeds so that the forest looked CLEAN. At ground level, I'd groundcover it with the LOWEST (hopefully, not more than 8" ... 12" max.) groundcover that I could find. It would need to be something that performed flawlessly and was easy to propagate. Its purpose would be to unify the "floor" same as the leaves now do, but GREEN appeals so much more than BROWN. It is a color or peace and life, whereas brown is a color of waste and decay.

While this picture is of materials different from what you have, it illustrates the general character and some of the traits I would be seeking to expose: non-wimpy vertical trunks free of horizontal scruff ... a unified floor ... an occasional "art object" feature ... a distinct edge. Your space has the opportunity to be as beautiful, but on an even grander scale as it is larger.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 6:54PM
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Deeby

Yardvaark, your name is hilarious. Wish I'd thought of it !

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 6:57PM
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yardvaark

If I had used "yardpig" it wouldn't have sounded as classy. One needs only to go outside of their native language & screw up the spelling a little.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 7:22PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I too would open it up and make it as 3D as possible. If you look closely, you can see what remains of an old road. Maybe from when it was first logged.
Clean things out and enhance what you have, don't cover it. Yardvaark said it better than I.

Mike

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 12:42PM
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Jon

Yardvaark has some good advice. It does seem though that the picture shows bamboo and you should be aware that unless it is clumping it will be very invasive and spread all over unless restricted which is not easy as it grows very deep.

Jon

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 1:23PM
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seydoux

Thank you all. Jonny, it is worse than bamboo. it is the last of the Japanese knotweed. I have spent three years doing things I swore I would never do like using herbicide, and then following that up with digging out the crowns, putting lime down and covering that with carpet. The picture above shows what it looked like. and mixed with the knotweed were briars and grapevines. I think it is finally dead. However, I do have to plant because in that area, weedy understory quickly fills in. I think I may take your advice yardvark and plant ground cover. I may chose pachysandra because the vinca in that area would eat the rocks all of the time. And yes now I am no longer spending days levering the crowns of the weeds out, I can spend time trimming up the trees. I am so lucky to have this view, that we did not even know was there when we bought the house!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 2:02PM
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seydoux

LOL sorry the photo is of all the Knotweed that was there. It was higher than the hill! So Yardvark we are on the same page!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 2:28PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

Gads! Japanese Knotweed! That's a real bad one. I've seen it come up through asphalt.
The Knot weed I had came in on a bulldozer's tracks and it took me over ten years to get rid of it on the lower five acres I have. The upper five acres has been Knotweed free. Roundup just wounds it. I finally resorted to a brush killer called Crossbow and sprayed it every time I saw it. It's been three years now that I haven't seen any.
I've read that it's the first weed to grow after a volcano erupts in SE Asia.
You really had your work cut out for you!
Mike

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 4:18PM
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agardenstateof_mind

Some good advice above re exposing and not hiding the rock. Please don't resort to pachysandra, unless you choose the native pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny spurge). The Asian varieties are overused and invasive ... your site deserves better. Same issues with vinca.

Do a search for images of Leonard J. Buck Garden to give you just a hint of what they're like. This is a nationally recognized rock garden and a visit would give you lots of inspiration. (I have no affiliation with that garden, honest; but I have visited it.) Their web site is at http://www.somersetcountyparks.org/parksfacilities/buck/LJBuck.html

Another I have visited that you'd find inspirational is Mill Fleurs in Point Pleasant, just north of New Hope, PA. It is a private garden, but open on occasion for tours and possibly for one of the Garden Conservancy Open Days. There are some images of these gardens on the web, too ... for example at http://www.flickr.com/photos/karlgercens/sets/72157622098067830/

You're probably a little farther from Mt. Cuba in Hockessin, Delaware, and they don't have as rocky a setting, but it is a wonderful place to view native plantings in naturalistic, wooded, as well as cultivated, settings.

You have worked so long and so hard to get to where you are now, don't rush the planning and planting process ... as eager as you (understandably) may be to move forward.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 10:00PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I would overexpose the rock outcroppings so the groundcover you choose won't hide it as much. The loose rock can be rearranged so as to look like it's part of the outcropping, or as a base wall at the bottom. Place the larger rocks first working with the contours of the outcroppings rather than a straight wall, or even one with a constant gentle curve. Go with the 'flow'.
Wish I were there. I like working with rock. The larger, the better.
Mike

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 12:04PM
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seydoux

Thanks Mike,
I will dig the rock out, but I seriously doubt I can move any of it. LOL It is incredibly dense. I will look at the gardens suggested for ground cover

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 7:31PM
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lippies

keep with a native theme,native grasses ,maybe some boulders with flowers inbtween don't know exactly where you are but a native theme works well anywhere and attracts native birds etc.and you will save on water and you wont have to work too much in the garden.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 7:41PM
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yardvaark

To be clear, I didn't suggest planting any bamboo. The picture was to show how beautiful trunks, groundcover, an item or two and an edge can be.

One thing is certain about cultivating groundcover in a large (in residential terms) area, get rid of all the weeds first or the problems of trying to eradicate them as they are mixing with groundcover will be unbearable.

If there is any question of what groundcover to use, it would be easy to try samples of several for a season and get a good feel for what will be the best. Usually, groundcover is easy to propagate so can be multiplied exponentially, saving much $.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 8:57PM
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