April was Native Plant Appreciation Month and that meant more gardening webinars on native plants!
I learned some key things about planting in a yard that’s full of giant trees: tread carefully and remember that what you can’t see below the ground is as important as what you see above the ground.
Biggest takeaways in planting under mature trees:
Don’t add more than a couple of inches of dirt under mature trees, and stay away from the base of the trunk and the trunk flares, the portion of the trunk that flares out.
Plant out away from the dripline of the tree if you can and allow the plants to naturalize and fill in on their own.
Use super small plants so that you barely need to dig a hole. Trees don’t appreciate us digging around their roots.
Don’t do too much at once.
The previous owners of our house had wood stacked up between a few trees out front. We have mostly ignored it. But after the webinar, seeing that wood stacked up was like seeing an accident in slow motion. That stacked wood wasn’t doing our poor trees any favors. I removed it all. A small amount went into the green barrel for yard waste recycling. Most of it was used for border edging (a lot of it was surprisingly uniform).
In a story that seems to be on repeat in my life, one webinar recommended a couple of plants that grow under red cedars: redwood sorrel and colchicum. There was something very familiar about the plants. That’s because I have a pot of sorrel growing on my porch. (It looks like giant clover.) I got it a few years ago from a landscaper who was giving away salvaged plants. I don’t know if it’s redwood sorrel or common sorrel. (Note that sorrel is poisonous when ingested so better to place it in a part of your yard where the cat or dog won’t try to sample it.)
I purchased some colchicum at an annual plant sale that benefits a local cat rescue organization. I love this plant sale because it’s held right around my birthday, it includes native plants, and all the plants are grown by local gardeners so you know it will grow here!
Well, they had colchicum so I bought one and it looked very familiar. Exactly like the plants that I thought were tulips that never bloomed. That’s because they aren’t tulips! Turns out that I have several colchicums! I’ll be damned.
To learn more about native plants for the Pacific Northwest, check out the book Real Gardens Grow Natives by Eileen M. Stark. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is an excellent resource, too: www.wildflower.org. The North American Native Plant Societies website includes links to groups in Canada and the U.S.: nanps.org/native-plant-societies. In the U.K., visit Plant Heritage: www.plantheritage.org.uk/local-groups. In Australia, visit the Australian Native Plants Society, anpsa.org.au.