Tagged: landscape planning

Lake - summer 09The Lake – Summer 09


I defected to Southern California this Thanksgiving to visit friends. The weather was warm, as usual, and I spent two days drawing and taking photographs at the Los Angeles County Botanical Garden in Arcadia, one of my most favorite places. Still, I was glad to return to this place where I was raised, where the sun never gets much above the horizon in December, and the ground is already saturated and muddy. Of course, it is wet, chilly, and above all, gloomy in winter. Yet looking beyond the human need for warmth and light, it is only just another place on earth with its own grace and beauty beyond what we demand of it. Peace can be found anywhere, and the tone that we set for own lives makes us flourish despite the weather.

My outdoor activities have slowed considerably in the wake of the heavy rainfalls. I have injured my shoulder, and the soil that I had hoped to place in my new rock garden is too wet and heavy to haul. Still, there are numerous chores requiring less endurance that await me, one of which is planning.

Between my design and business classes, I have sketched and schemed until I have the layout for my penultimate garden firmly fixed in my head. How to get it onto paper is a far different matter. A back issue of Pacific Horticulture featuring a man near Woodinville with a 30 acre garden surrounding two wetlands that he restored after years of logging gave me hope. If he can do it, so can I.

I need a landuse plan first of all, something that inventories what I have and where I want to go with it. I know what the final outcome will look like, now, how do I get there?

lake narrow  - summer 09lake and south shore

The Lake – Fall 09


My goals are as follows:

  1. House and three acres: A Northwest Naturalistic landscape (after Ann Lovejoy) that incorporates both natives and non-natives in a mix of perennial gardens, rock gardens, meadows, and rhododendron gardens.
  2. The rest: A natural woodland devoid of invasives such as ivy and blackberry, with a few trails that allow an easy walk around the lake and up through the back of the property to the house.
  3. Around the barn: A small permaculture-based agricultural section with a chicken house, blueberry field, vegetable garden, fruit trees, and potting area. Some of this is already in place.


The information that I need to map so that I can develop a plan for where things should be placed will be:

  1. Gradient – I have a contour map in AutoCad that I can start with.
  2. Soils – based upon the web-based Natural Resource Conservation Soil maps.
  3. Vegetation – my own inventories of vegetation types, mostly upland Douglas fir with evergreen huckleberry, swordfern, and salal, lowland redcedar and red alder, willow riparian, and wetlands ranging from skunk cabbage marsh to seasonally inundated sedge and cattail wetlands.
  4. Exposure – based upon observations of wind and sun.
  5. Wildlife habitat – the deer bed in the lake, pileated wood pecker nests, barred owl nests, etc.

 future lakeside parks

 Future sitting area by the lakeshore

 I am fortunate enough to have already spent 10 years on the property in the 70’s and 80’s, so that I already know the lay of the land. Now, I view it not through the eyes of child, but as an adult ecologist, so I see it quite a bit differently now.

My rules to live by will be:

  1. No deliberately introduced invasives (including ivies and periwinkle (Vinca))
  2. Maintain areas of no non-natives, particularly around the lake.
  3. Maintain snags and wood piles for wildlife.
  4. Restore and maintain the original channels that feed the lake.
  5. Maintain soil integrity to the extent possible, which translates into minimal grading.


Each day, I observe the patterns of the sun, the shady areas, the wet areas, where the water flows in winter. I have noticed that the driveway has potholes in the low areas and have planned where the water bars should go. I’ve learned where the seeps area and planned how best to allow the water to cross the driveway and reach the lake. I’ve noted which Douglas firs are too spindly and close-set to survive and should be removed. I see the barred owl pair that peers at me in the thin light of dawn from an alder, and wonder where they nest. I mull over which snags the pileated woodpeckers prefer, and I see the Douglas tree squirrels moving to warmer quarters under my father’s shop.

My head spins with plans. It will be my challenge, both with this project as with my life, to take a deep breath, set my priorities, and find the strength and tenancity to see each one through to its conclusion.

Winter Planning