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Chapter Three - Landscaping

Landscaping is land shaping. It is bringing your garden and property into order with a design suited to your likes and needs. It needs to suit you, your lifestyle, your time and your neighborhood. One of the primary considerations is the maintenance level and how much time and energy you have available. The first step is to draw your property to scale, showing what you already have, such as trees and shrubs, and what you want to add. This can be a long term work plan if you can not afford to do all that you want at once.

Principles of design for your landscaping are much the same as for art and flower arranging. You will want a unified design, one that flows from one part of the yard to another, it should pull you along. Focal points, such as a bird bath, a flower bed or a good view can be central to your design. When laying out plans, be sure to keep in mind areas for utility, work and play; your yard should be functional for your lifestyle.

Landscaping can do much to modify your environment. Hedges and shrubbery can break the wind, and reduce your fuel bills in winter. Deciduous trees and vines can shade in the summer if planted on the hot side of your house. Then in winter, after loosing their leaves, they will allow in needed sunshine and warmth.

Keep scale in mind as you plan. The trees and shrubs you choose need to suit the house and characteristics of the land. Before planting that cute, tiny little tree, know the adult height and spread of it. Big overpowering trees dwarf a small house, smaller trees make the house appear larger. Foundation plantings, which soften the outline of the man made materials and serve as an anchor for the house, are particularly important to keep in scale. Small, compact shrubby types of plants, usually evergreen are a good choice. Cedars and arborvitae are popular for the corners. Keep low growing plants under the windows and be sure to leave room between the plants and the house so you will be able to paint and maintain the house.

The texture of the plants is important to consider when planning. A variety of textures and shades are visually appealing. Do a graduation of plant materials not sudden changes, like big course trees next to delicate little shrubs. A variation of size, appearance and shape among the parts of plants produce texture, with smooth and rough appearances. Color is also a big consideration, and not just seasonal color with flowers, but varieties of shades of green and grays are attractive.

Paths need to be included in your plan. They can be of any material that fits into your plan; concrete, stones, brick, or nice grass paths. Be sure to make them wide enough for people to walk several abreast.

Nonliving elements can be attractive in your landscaping, such as statues, wagon wheels, logs and rocks. Be careful, however, it is very easy to overdo decorations. Better too little than too much.

Forms of Gardens

The form your garden takes is a personal decision and most people have their own opinions on this. The kind of plants you choose will do much to determine the form and layout. For example, my approach is to have a combined garden of flowers, herbs, vegetables and fruits intermixed both in the yard and in the allotted garden space. This is just confusion to some people, and they prefer to have their plants in a much more organized form.

Yards are often surrounded by borders and the plants laid out in drifts. Lawns form the central portion of the landscape in American gardens, although this is changing as people recognize the resource waste involved in expansive grass growing. Lawns are shrinking and vegetable and herb plots are increasing.

Flowers

Flowers are food for the soul and an important element of a garden. Even if you do not have formal flower beds, you can tuck flowers in here and there. Intermix them into the vegetable garden, either as companions or in rows for cutting. Whatever your overall plan and design, there are flowers that can be worked in.

Even in a short growing season you can have a long season of bloom. Perennials can be the base of your flower bloom and then you can fill in with biennials and annuals. Early spring flowers begin with the bulbs: crocus, daffodil, tulip, hyacine and grape hyacine. Primroses, creeping phlox, pulmonaria and violets are some other perennials that bloom very early. Late spring has too many flowers to name, but some you may enjoy are iris, peony, lily-of-the-valley, lupines, all kinds of poppies and many flowering shrubs. By July, delphinium, day lily, daisies and baby's breath are blooming. By August the annuals really come into their own and the phlox put on an outstanding show. September will probably bring frosts, but you can still have asters, early chrysanthemums, autumn crocus and goldenrod.

Lawns

The trend is away from large expanses of lawn. As water and resources become more scarce and expensive, people are planting golf course size lawns less and less. Lawn can be great for spots, play areas and paths. Although my lawn seems to shrink some each year, it is nice to have some grass. To be able to lay on the grass and just let it absorb your cares of the day is a wonderful treat.

You may opt to lay sod for a quick result, or if you have more time than money, seeding a lawn is less expensive. Whatever your choice, seed or sod, the soil should have plenty of organic matter, and the pH should be slightly acid to neutral.

Grass seed usually has several varieties of seeds mixed, there are "nurse grasses" mixed in with the permanent grass seed. Bluegrass is a good choice for sunny areas with high fertility and moderate moisture. The fescues are also popular and are particularly good in areas that are shady, sandy and dry. Lawns can be planted fall or spring.

Compost is excellent for adding organic matter, manure is also good, but will give you weeds to pull. Cottonseed meal, five per 100 square feet raked into the soil is another soil enricher.

Protect Your Home from Wildfire

Areas of Central Oregon are becoming at serious risk in forest fire season. As population growth continues and as more and more people want to live in the "woods," this will become an increasing problem. Especially for those developments with unrealistic requirements for the safety of their inhabitants.

You can decrease the flammability of your home with nonflammable roofing and siding. Everyone should have an emergency plan, know who (if anyone) is your fire protection agency, and have the tools that are necessary to fight a small fire.

The forest service says that most homes surrounded by at least 30 feet of defensible space can withstand wildfires. Additional clearing may be necessary in a heavily wood area or on a hillside (fire goes uphill like a chimney). To create a defensible perimeter around your home, it is recommended that you:

  1. Clear all flammable vegetation a minimum of 30 feet from around your home. Remove dry grass, underbrush and other combustibles from the area bordering your structure.
  2. Trim large trees near your house, pruning the limbs that overhang your house and that are dead. Large trees should be planted at least ten feet from your home.
  3. A watered green-belt ten feet around your house will serve as a fire line. A green lawn, a tidy rock garden, ornamental shrubbery or well-spaced trees with branches pruned to a height of eight feet can all serve this purpose.
  4. Landscapers with native plants need to be aware that bitterbrush, manzanita and sagebrush are quite flammable. Scatter them throughout out the landscape in such a way that they are not in a direct line leading to your house, giving fire a straight shot. Also be wary of using too many of them for foundation planting. In general break up fuel continuity and eliminate the fuel chain between structures and surrounding forest vegetation.

Flammability of plants depends on age, vigor, moisture content and chemical characteristics. Some plants used in landscaping can significantly reduce wildfire hazard. Some recommended plants are:

  • Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)
  • Paper birch (Betula papyrifera)
  • Maples
  • Poplars
  • Cherries
  • Squaw carpet (Ceanothus prostatus)

In general hardwoods are less flammable than conifers.

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