Installment Two - "The New Plan"

Installment 2
"The New Plan"

To make a new plan I had to assess what I had that was positive…. and it was heavy clay soil which holds lots of moisture when wet but also dries to cement… so mulching was an absolute. Low volume drip systems were just coming on the market, which meant I could use water at night when it wasn’t needed in the house. Long-term water supply, even with drip, wasn’t feasible so once a plant was established, it was do-or-die… This also meant I couldn’t become attached to any plant…if it lived – great!.. If it died – plant something else! “Love what loves me” became my plant mantra!!! And most importantly, this garden was going to have to go “wild” at some point.

Plants had to be hardy to zone 4/5, drought tolerant and natives…not hybrids. They had to be very small plants, preferably 6-18” seedlings. I also needed to learn to propagate plants from ones that were a success. I began with trees and shrubs because they take longer to grow. Everything planted had to provide habitat for birds…. either dense cover or fruit, seed heads, etc.. Most anything available at conventional nurseries would require copious amounts of water to get established…so I began a search of classifieds in garden magazines for sources for native plant seedlings.

I found several small ones which I used. But a marvelous thing happened changing my life even more and turned a search into a treasure trove. I discovered a tiny ad for a new nursery, ForestFarm. A young couple, Ray and Peg Prag, started a native plant mail-order business in hopes of providing income while living in the mountains of Oregon... The first catalog was only about 50 pages (no pictures) and teeny, tiny type. But it was packed with exactly the plants I needed and I became one of their best customers. Not only did they have what I needed, it was inexpensive…about $2.25-$2.75 a plant so if a plant died I wasn’t out of a lot of money. But the best thing, absolute icing on the cake, was the fact they sold their plants in paper-like biodegradable tublings… I am happy to report that their business became a huge success and they are now online with pictures!!! http://www.forestfarm.com/ In addition to their online site, their printed catalog is available and includes thousands of plants and once you master their abbreviations it is a superb reference source.. And they still sell their plants in biodegradeable tublings….. Hooray for ForestFarm!!!!!

Now I had to step out into my future garden and begin… and that was overwhelming…so much space and so much nothing! Watch for next installment…”Let the Mulching Begin”

Addendum for scrapbook:

Here's a good example of gone wild....On the left is an old wagon and near the wheel is a shrub getting established. The picture was taken in 1984.... The picture on the right was about 20 years later taken from the other side of the wagon. It has "gone wild" and believe it or not the wagon is still there...barely visible.. The purple plant in the front is perovskia...another plant that loves me...drought tolerant and ignored by both deer and gophers...

Following are two excellent examples of "Love what loves me" are:
Hellebores foetidus -It's very name, foetidus, means stinking. You don't see it often in gardens because it isn't very showy but it loves me... It likes heavy clay soil, is not eaten by either deer or gophers, and self seeds and spread, had lovely foliage and is evergreen. It thrives in sun or shade and is fabulous in bouquets of daffodils... You can buy hybrid varieties but they just aren't as tough...

Hardy geraniums are another plant that adores me. Again the bloom is often not showy but the foliage is exquisite. They thrive in my garden in sun or shade and I let them spread everywhere. And as a bonus they are available in all colors and sizes and are not bothered by deer or gophers. When I do find plants that love me I search out as many of them as I can because most plants do NOT love me..
Seed heads of both these plants are not a favorite with the birds but if it is a hard winter and food supplies are getting exhausted, the birds do eat them eagerly. Pyracantha berries are another example of a "back-up" food source in my garden....

Do go to http://www.forestfarm.com/ and click on "About Us" and read about Ray and Peg Prag. If you love plants and gardening you will love their story and their nursery.


Lisa said...

Love reading about the developement of your garden! You have followed a dream that I always wished I could do and it's wonderful knowing how well you succeeded!

Carol said...

I am enjoying this series of posts so much. I love your grown wild purple plants. They look much like sage or lavendar (from a distance) that I have growing in my garden.

Plays with Needles said...

I found this story completely fascinating. I too have soil that is heavy with clay...though I don't believe I'm nearly as dry as you are -- only in the Summer.

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