Landscape Maintenance

Now for something a bit different... to get me into trouble!

To many, landscape maintenance means the removal of every last shred of leaf litter, all branches & twigs, dead flower heads, end of the season debris, lawn clippings, and heaven forbid, a dead tree on the `back forty’ that could fall a maim a gopher. Then some folks cover everything that is not lawn or pavement with plastic (or landscape fabric) and pure calcium carbonate white gravel. I find this type of ‘maintenance’ repulsive. Whenever I travel through a new neighborhood, I continue to be horrified by beautiful new homes being surrounded by white gravel. It makes the attractive brick, stucco and other facades appear to be crumbling into the landscape. I am not sure who decided this is a refined look. Complementing this repulsive background, are bushes controlled into oligarchical green balls, a few Stella d’trash Daylilies dotting here and there and then, occasionally everything completely surrounded by poured concrete edging. Can’t let those plants get out of their corrals. Nature forbid, the grass breaks-in and infiltrates the gravel beds. If they do, government mandated notices have been posted that chemical warfare has come to the rescue.

            A recent article
noted, ‘Up to a third of European forest species depend on veteran trees and deadwood for their survival. Deadwood is providing habitat, shelter and food source for birds, bats and other mammals and is particularly important for the less visible majority of forest dwelling species: insects, especially beetles, fungi and lichens. Deadwood and its biodiversity also play a key role for sustaining forest productivity and environmental services such as stabilizing forests and storing carbon.’
            I’m sure the same could be stated for many other environments across the planet, including those in our residential yards. Our gardens require biodiversity to exist. We require biodiversity to exist. Without this biodiversity, your landscape will only be able to support those plants and creatures that are pioneering species aka, weeds. 
            Heavily compacted, non-humus containing, oxygen deprived soils don’t lend themselves to quality biodiversity. These are the reasons that so many new homes have a Fraxinus pensylvanica--Green Ash and Gleditsia—Honeylocust in the back yard, a Betula – Birch clump, struggling in the front, Malus – Crabapple on the corner opposite the garage, Euonymus alatus `Compactus’ – Compact Burning Bush on the garage corner, Ribes alpinum – Alpine Currant on the north side, Spiraea `Anthony Waterer’ or some other disgusting older cultivar, across the not-so-sunny side, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’– Juniper beneath the Malus, Taxus – `Densiformis’ Large Growing Yew under the front window (don’t worry on how big it gets, you can prune it 2-3 times a year for the rest of your life) , Potentilla – Short lived Cinquefoil in the front sunny gravel bed, Prunus -- Disease prone Purpleleaf Plum on one of the other corners, Thuja ‘Techney’ -- Giant Growing Arborvitae for screening the back, dot in a few Viburnum opulus – Invasive and Borer Prone European Highbushcranberry and  Cornus sericea – Swamp-loving Redosier Dogwood, and let’s not forget, the mandatory conifers, Picea ‘Densata’– Black Hills Spruce or Pseudutsuga – Douglas Fir (don’t worry where you place the Douglas Fir, it abhors heavy compacted soils so it will most likely die anyway.)
            Now cover the soil around the plants with plastic or landscape fabric, and washed pure limestone gravel. Starve the soil and kill the bacteria, but have no fear, after all, we’ve added some short term and of little value peat moss to the soil. (Peat moss is primary empty humus containing almost no nutrient value with very little temporal persistence in the soil. Instead of using peat moss, try using the wonderful screened compost being offered by our municipalities. Call for further information.)
Flatten, grade and compact the bejeebies out of the remaining acreage with the largest piece of diesel-powered equipment that’s available, then sod it.
And presto, you’re finished. Now all you ever have to do is get the beautiful John Deer® 4720 with ALL of the attachments and you’ll be all set to control all that lives. Have no fear, this John Deer® will fit into and look good in the third garage bay.
NOTE: Almost all of the above woody ornamentals perform satisfactorily in nearly every Midwestern’s new or existing landscapes. While all of these are the mainstay of many landscapers’ palettes, Landscape Designs, Inc. tries to utilize the best of the currently available cultivars, taking into account disease resistance, growth characteristics, ornamental qualities, ease of maintenance, etc. Remember, every plant has its place, even if it’s on the compost pile.


originally published 2005 V19 #1



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