Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Oh So Steep Landscaping Learning Curve

My Oh So Steep Landscaping Learning Curve

When we first moved to the rocky clay filled ridge that we now call home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, I naively thought that we could till a bit of ground, enhance the rocks and clay with organic materials, plant flowers, shrubs and trees, do a little watering, and sit back and wait for Mother Nature to do the rest and present us with a beautiful yard. My, was I self-delusional and uninformed.

Naturally, as one who eyeballs where to hang a picture on the wall instead of measuring, I made certain assumptions that proved to be…..wrong.  As a city girl who could not manage to keep a houseplant healthy, horticulture had never been something I’d studied. I really thought one could buy a plant at Lowe’s, dig a hole, pop that puppy in the ground, and wait for the flowers to bloom.

The azaleas died. The rhododendron died. The cherry trees died. The Bradford pear died. Even the viburnum planted by the builder failed to thrive. The Day Lilies survived, but even walnut trees don’t kill Day Lilies. What I had seen of Virginia was lush and green. Did we live in the only spot that spurned plant life?

So, it was time to perform some research and determine what plants would not only survive but thrive in our uninviting environment.  I came to discover that my preconceptions were wrong and that Virginia had numerous microclimates and terrains that were uninviting to planting anything but grapes. That is why the state is developing an up and coming wine industry.  But, grapes were not on my immediate agenda. I wanted flowers, trees, shrubs and groundcover that created a lush landscape.

I studied, experimented, researched and began to learn what would work, what might work, and what just wouldn’t work. Add to the terrain, we have to be concerned with deer munching our tasty greens. That created another facet of research.

After seven years we are seeing progress. I’ve learned to look for plants that tolerate clay soil, wet feet, and drought. I’ve mulched, amended, enhanced, fertilized and transplanted. It has been worth the effort. When I see the roses bloom, the coneflowers and black eyed-Susan’s brighten the landscape, and smell the honeysuckle, I feel joy and contentment.

Now, this weekend, off to pick up my next selection of Day Lilies from the Thumper Day Lily Farm!

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