Sunday, May 24, 2009

How to Remove Lawn

Lawn is easy. That is why there is so much of it. It needs only mowing. But lawn is boring. Lawn does little to improve the environment. Watering lawn is costly, unnecessary & irresponsible. Grass survives almost any drought. If not, it can easily be reseeded. Unless you are ready to work many hours in the garden, it is probably best to remove only small areas of lawn. Lawns look better when they mimic a forest clearing, than when they evoke the wide-open prairie. If you have a small lawn, remove it. Or plant more trees around it. Don’t waste space in a small garden with lawn. If you have a big lawn, remove 5 feet somewhere around the perimeter. Plant shrubs & groundcovers. You can remove more area later for perennials & more shrubs. If you want to plant trees, you are to be commended. Remove 10 feet of lawn from 1 side. Plant the trees at least 5 feet from your property line. Know how far they will spread before planting. Do not use lawn as path. Grass is very invasive. Remember: Turf does not need to be dug out. Just cover it with 2 feet of compost.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tree Peony


Paeonia suffruticosa October 2009

Paeonia suffruticosa is actually a deciduous shrub. It is native to Gansu Province in China where it grows in mountain scrub. It has been grown in gardens for more than 1500 years in China, 1000 years in Japan. The huge flowers are almost always pink, although the Chinese often call them red.  (You may also see purple, yellow & white.) Tree Peonies often appear in Chinese & Japanese paintings. Paeonia suffruticosa blooms in May, sometimes late April. The plant is very hardy & fairly drought tolerant. It requires staking, or the immense blossoms will droop to the ground after a heavy rain. The new growth is red in early spring. The mature foliage is attractive in summer, nicely colored with orange & yellow in fall. The bare stems are hardly noticeable in winter. They require sun, tolerate part shade. Most nurseries sell Tree Peonies. Plants imported directly from China can be found at the Holly Park Nursery (4031 S Willow St in Seattle) at lower cost than most nurseries. Not only that, but the proprietor will show you pictures from a book. He once told me, ‘I am crazy for Tree Peonies!’ Small plants from Japan are fairly inexpensive by mail from Van Bourgondien.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How to Make a Townhome Garden

Advice specifically for Seattle townhome gardens, but useful for small gardens everywhere, especially in USDA Zone 8.

1 Plant a tree. If your garden is small, plant the tree in the corner farthest from the building. If your garden is not so small, plant 2 or 3 trees along the property line away from the building.

2 Pave a small area near the door. 10 feet by 10 feet is good. Decide whether to call it a patio, terrace or ‘my fabulous garden room.’

3 Make planting beds in a U around the paved area. Buy lots of compost in bags from a big hardware store. Pile the compost 2 feet deep.

4 Choose 6 to 9 shrubs to distribute evenly around the U. Choose 7 to 18 perennials. Figure out how many plants will have to grow in sun, & in shade. Choose from the appropriate plant lists. Remember that bulbs & grasses are perennials. Consider using Clematis to climb shrubs. Don’t use too much of the same thing.

5 Plant the shrubs in the compost, halfway between the property line (fence) & the paved area. Plant perennials close to the edge of the paving, between shrubs.

6 Cover open ground with mulch. Buy shredded bark. Let fallen leaves be mulch. Always mulch around new planting. Do not put mulch more than 2 inches deep.

Design for a Townhome Garden

ACE = Acer circinatum (Vine Maple)
ARB = Arbutus unedo 'Compacta' (Compact Strawberry Tree)
HYD = Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea)
R1 = Rhododendron occidentale (Western Azalea)
Perennials & Groundcovers
DIC = Dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding Heart)
GER = Geranium phaeum (Mourning Widow)
IRI = Iris sibirica (Siberian Iris)
NAR = Narcissus jonquilla (Jonquil)
POL = Polystichum setiferum (Soft Shield Fern)