I’ve been here four years now, going on five, the longest that I’ve ever lived in one place since I left here as a teen to go to college. The result is that I’m finally witnessing the long-term results of my landscaping efforts. Many of my installations are at least three years along, and I’ve had plenty of time to see what works and what doesn’t.
1. Use landscape fabric for walkways, and any other place that shouldn’t become a weedy mess.
2. Deer fencing should keep out the bucks that jump as well as the fawns that crawl beneath. Therefore, it must be a solid barrier at least 6 ft high. And a frightened deer can run through plastic mesh like it wasn’t there so a few rounds of wire are necessary too.
3. Absolutely every stick of native plant that I buy from Pierce Conservation District must be protected from deer with fencing or mesh. To do otherwise means that all of my red-osier dogwood, red-flowering currant, cedar, and other plants will be browsed down to maintain a permanent stature of about 2 feet.
4. For many shrubs, fast results require soil enrichment. American highbush cranberry (Viburnum opulus var. americanum), for instance, will remain three feet tall unless planted in an enriched soil environment. The difference is about four feet in two years.
Above left – Viburnum growing in a cedar stump that acts like a nurse log; Above right - plants of the same age in more compacted soil along the driveway.
5. My favorite shrubs are the ones that have fall and winter color – they carry me through the grey northwest winters.
Witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) - everyone should have this plant.
6. When in doubt, plant fern. Here, they are freely available (I speak of the native sword fern), grow about anywhere that is not too wet, and give year ’round green cover.
Accessorize with colored ferns like Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn fern) which take on a yellow-orange color in winter.
7. Improved soil = improved growth = fewer weeds. I now buy mulch for trees and shrubs. Also starting with larger stock helps save a few years. My gardening resolution for the year is to purchase more large trees and shrubs of the sort that I acquired in December (15 ft plus). However, I will expand my propagation efforts too.