Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Native Plants

Post by Lisa Port, Commons member and landscaping expert.

At the Clearwater Commons, Low-Impact Development community, we are planting native plants in our wetland mitigation and landscaped planting beds because they tend to be hardy in cold weather, tougher and more resistant in drought conditions, and they provide a stable, suitable diet and habitat for our native birds and mammals.

Native plants are relatively easy to acquire from reputable nurseries in our region or propagated on site. They can be planted in native soils and while many homeowners are encouraged to amend their gardens with compost, native plants do very well in undisturbed native soil without special amendments or accommodations. Native plants, once given an opportunity, will overtake invasive plant species. Invasive plants create unhealthy monocultures, limiting available food and habitat for animals in the area and creating dull, uninteresting landscapes.

Ribes sanguineum, Red Flowering Currant

When planted in the fall, natives take advantage of cool, wet, fall and winter seasons to expand their root structures, digging deep into the soil to establish what will become essential root stock to weather our typical summer drought season. As with any newly planted garden, supplemental water is necessary through the first year, especially for trees and shrubs, but native plants actually thrive without special coddling or attention, and usually without supplemental water after their first year in the ground.

Salmonberry flowers

Native plants such as Mahonia provide nectar for wintering hummingbirds even in the coldest of winters. Rushes and sedges along a stream bank or seasonal pond provide essential habitat for amphibians and insects, which also provides a food source for salmon. Diversity in a native plant garden also creates a diversity of food and habitat for many of our bird, mammal and raptor species, thus supporting a diverse and healthy eco-system from the ground up.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Site Construction and Crazy Thoughts

Post written by Lisa Port who is a Clearwater Commons member as well as a landscape designer and master gardener.

Site construction at the Clearwater Commons is well underway. The pristine meadow of billowy seed heads flowing in the breeze and picturesque red barn in the background has been replaced by a lively scene of activity with deep trenches, heavy machinery, cowboy hardhats, and piles of upturned soil.

Commons members Shawna, Tod, Tom and I have been meeting to discuss our next steps for landscaping the site once all the trucks and tractors have left the scene. One of our consultants, the Watershed Company along with my company, Banyon Tree Design Studio, constructed planting plans for areas of wetland mitigation and general landscaping that were approved with our Administrative Site Plan Permit Set many months ago—all good!

But now comes the time for the construction and installation of said plans, when mere lines on a piece of paper become reality in every aspect of the word. Although this is my favorite phase of any job—finally seeing the idea come to fruition!—big, round, juicy questions have come to our attention:
  • How do we manage the invasive reed canary grass that covers our site so that we can install over 1000 plants
  • Where do we actually find 100 healthy salmonberry shrubs and 600 willow stakes
  • Who is going to install all those plants
  • And how pray tell, will we manage to weed and water it all once it is installed??!!
I get overwhelmed at the size of my current single-family lot in Seattle and the lack of time to deal with weeding, watering, pruning and harvesting, to shape it into a beautiful, tended space, and this creates a big question in me: How can I possibly move to this 7 + acre location full of weeds, invasive grasses and blackberry? As a Commons member I will be expected to contribute to the community on an ongoing basis in a landscape that is 65 times larger than the space I now struggle to spend even 1/10th of the required time in. What am I? Crazy?

I then recall the notion that every journey begins with a single step, and the age-old adage ‘One day at a time’ and I take the deep breath and pull out the bunch of reed canary roots and plant the tree. I know that one day the trees will be large enough to shade out the grass, thus rendering the insidious weed a piddily tangle of inconsequential stems and there will be joy and pleasure, gratitude and satisfaction, at being but a small part of something bigger than myself and helping to create a green, healthy space for families and individuals for many years to come.

Overwhelming? Yes. Alone? No. Crazy? Maybe just a little.