Now is a good time for revisualizing your landscape

By Mary Fran McClure
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener

A rhododendron and dark red thread leaf maple border along curving slate path.
A rhododendron and dark red thread leaf maple border Master Gardener Mary Fran McClure’s curving slate path that connects her front porch and garage. It’s the type of project that adds convenience and visual appeal to a property, and, importantly, it can be planned during the winter months. – Photo by: Mary Fran McClure
Mary Fran McClure
Mary Fran McClure – WSU Extension Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener – photo by Don Seabrook, Wenatchee World

As we wind down the year and prefer the warmth of indoors, this is a good time to contemplate garden projects that make life easier and improve the landscape.

A good start is evaluating plants that have outgrown their spaces or just don’t satisfy. Another consideration is what to do with those plants that have proven to be thugs. Eliminating some lawn is yet another possibility. Perhaps you’re ready to take on a larger project, such as redesigning your backyard, as Lloyd Thompson’s Nov. 16 garden column outlined.

I’ll share some landscape changes we have made that may provide ideas for spiffing up your own landscape.

A few years ago, deer were decimating the arborvitae bordering our long driveway. Our neighbor was about to pull them out as they are on his property. We appreciated the border and came up with a plan to set up a temporary winter electric fence. I wrote about our project in my November 2020 column. It has worked successfully, and we’re all happy with the results (except for the deer!).

Another example of thinking outside the box is making a slate path from our front porch around the corner to our garage. It is much handier than having to walk out to the driveway and around the yard to connect the front door and the garage. Credit my daughter with suggesting we remove the end porch railing, pour a concrete step and then construct a curving pathway connecting the two entrances. With surplus slate from another project, we utilized those supplies. From landscape design, we know curving a path invites the viewer to follow what the eye can’t see, yet another bonus of the design.

In our backyard, a low concrete block wall enclosing two sides of our landscape provides height and interest, certainly more interesting than a plain level yard. The downside was having to leap up the 3-foot wall or walking along it from a lower end, since we can attest that age lessens agility. We designed a plan to add built-in steps at the curve that connects the two sides. My husband Pat and friend Brad Timboe removed the blocks in that area, dug back into the ground and concreted in new steps that match the wall. In addition to the benefit of handy steps for getting to the higher level, aesthetically it enhances the look of the landscape.

Smaller projects can make a visual difference, such as digging up a clump of interesting bunny tails perennial grass (Lagurus ovatus). It isn’t that the grass is a problem—just planted in the wrong place and it grows too tall, blocking the view of birds visiting the low basalt bird bath in our backyard. Bunny tails is an appropriate name for a fun and interesting plant with personality and texture. It’s a keeper and just needs a better location. Some divisions of the plant will be available in our late April plant sale. This spring we’ll plant a smaller penstemon near the bird bath.

So many plants — whether trees, shrubs or perennials — are planted too close or too near buildings. They look fine early on, but then start causing problems. A solution is to plant those so-called permanent plants according to their needed mature space, then interplant annuals or short-term perennials that can be removed as the others gradually fill in.

Some thoughts and plans made this winter can be accomplished in our better weather of 2023, providing satisfying benefits for both your family and your landscape. Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year.