03 April 2007

the L&S slope

Am trying to figure out what to do with the slope behind the house. It’s very long and very steep. At this point the slope is just weedy and unattractive, but I think it could be beautiful.

We had thought initially that we would plant lots of wildflower-y perennials on it, like bee balm and black-eyed susan, and that sort of thing. Unfortunately, when we tried that, we didn’t keep up with the weeding, because it’s hard to weed on a slope, so that idea kind of fizzled.

Then we thought, hmmm, let’s plant a lot of Rosa rugosa and let that fill in. So last year we got a bunch of bareroot Rosa rugosa from the Saratoga County Soil & Water Conservation District. We figured they’d help control erosion in addition to making our slope look like a sand dune at the ocean. B planted them on the steepest section, where it looks like there may have been a bit of a landslide at one point: There’s a big mound of sandy soil in front of a sort of caved-in area. I don’t know whether G&N had this soil brought in to fill in or what, but it’s a mess.

So now there is some Rosa rugosa there. It didn’t do much last year, but I think the plants might have been settling in (in the sleep, creep, leap fashion I’ve read so much about). Rosa rugosa is supposed to get to be 4–6 feet tall, which would be lovely. I’d be most grateful if it would eventually fill in so that it chokes out the weeds on that part of the slope.

But now what to do about the rest of the L&S (long and steep) slope?

There’s a beautiful old house outside of Salem that has a swimming pool that has been sort of built up from the ground surrounding it. The owner (or his landscaper) planted some kind of creeping juniper around it, and I really love how it looks. Kind of rough, but uniform, too. Very tidy and cool.

Then, a few months back I was taking a walk along the Hudson River Park near the West Side Highway in Manhattan, and I saw a planting I liked of evergreen shrubs interspersed with clumps of grasses, so now I’m thinking creeping evergreen punctuated by grasses. A planting like that would provide a ton of visual interest in the wintertime (as it does in the Hudson River Park).

So, I’ve got a catalog from WG that I’m looking at. It has beautiful photographs, but the plants are on the expensive side, and I’ve read around that the quality of the stock is not so great. I’m sure I could find other sources for these grasses. Here are a few that sound nice to me and would survive in Zone 4:
  • Miscanthus sinensis “Gracillimus”: I love the name.
  • Calamagrostis x acutiflora “Karl Foerster”: Friend A grows this in his rooftop garden in Manhattan, and the sound it makes when the wind blows through it is wonderful.
  • Festuca ovina “Elijah’s Blue”: A grows this one, too. It’s really blue!
  • Hakonechloa macra “Aureola”: I’ve seen this planted in Manhattan, and it looks like flowing water, all of the blades running in one direction. Very unusual. It’s more for shade, so maybe I’d plant some down by the road next to the ancient maple.
  • Juncus effuses “Unicorn” (spiral rush): Wow!
  • Panicum virgatum “Shenandoah”: Gorgeous, and anything named Shenandoah belongs in our garden. As does anything that “takes drought and neglect.”

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