I have had a blast since last July working with Mr. and Mrs. Doug Green of Folsom, assisting them in the design of their now-planted prairie-meadow project. They have developed a home site on six acres of land just east of town.
During my first visit we discussed his ideas and looked at where our activities should be focused. The focus area in total is about three acres, most of the ground north of the homesite. We walked about, identifying existing vegetation on the ground. We discussed working with the tree plantings that he had established and so forth and so on.
When Katrina blew through in 2005, it layed down all of the mature pines on their property. So Doug got busy, replanting trees in what was then a fairly barren, mowed field. There are oaks and maples and some other native hardwoods now that have grown nicely, nutured by their owner. Doug told me right-off, that his intention was to plant Long Leaf pines to further fill the area with a loosely arranged tree canopy, creating the image of the natural Pine savannah-type landscape. This was right up my alley. I liked all of his ideas.
As we walked the grounds, I was looking for bad weeds, since they can cause an adjustment in the design and in the planting schedule. But there were no bad ones to be found! In fact the vegetation on the ground plain was quite “clean” of weeds. Most of what was there was good, early succession stuff. The only offender was some carpet grass which I considered to be only a nominal miscreant.
Then it was off to the drawing board for me, to design an awesome pyrogenic(fire dependent) landscape. I am no landscape architect (but I play one on TV, ha!). However, after 30 years, I can deliver a half-decent hardcopy conceptual, albeit in magic marker and crayola.
above: This was my first valiant attempt. Kind of simplistic, huh?: a loop of mowed walking trail surrounded by prairie-meadow and a great lawn area adjacent to and extending from the house. The yellow is meadow. The green is lawn. Ho, hum. Yawn. click on the photo to enlarge it.
Doug liked that and asked if I would further develop the idea, so I produced a more complex, five-legged-drunken-octopus/terantula-looking thing. The dark green areas are walking trails and lawn area, the yellow is meadow and the light green is wet meadow, pitcher plant bog/ pond cypress/ upland mix. Its a little bit “busy”, but there are some nice forms. The ideas are solid.
I really like the overall concept here, but I backed off of the complexity a bit and whittled it down some to a more refined study. A more simplified trail system with more interior “spaces” or “garden rooms”, subtle “enclosures” about the landscape, for the purpose of creating more intimate spaces in what is otherwise, something comparable to a very large Broadway stage.
above: In this, the green is mixed, wooded plantings added to further the idea of enclosure and providing cover structure, so important in attracting wildlife. The yellow is meadow, with uncolored paths and open spaces of lawn.
above: this final drawing is what the Greens settled on. It provides for the mixed tree and shrub plantings that will generate somewhat naturally with minor assistance from humans. We may plant some things in the mixed woody plantings but will hopefully experiment with using stakes hammered into the ground, so that songbirds can perch and drop seeds of Black Cherry, Holly and other mast producing trees. We’ll manage the ones we don’t want out, and leave the ones we like, and move the stakes once trees are bird-planted.
Doug was determined to do the work himself or at least as much as he could. For this, I was grateful. Whenever a client has a hand in the construction process, the project is much more likely to persist.
We weighed options for preparation and he chose the non-herbicide route since the “weed competition” was fairly docile and so, he began plowing in about August or September. He did repeated plowing using a disc harrow and eventually, over time and through persistence, produced a decent seedbed for sowing. When planting time came to plant, it was really wet so he ended up finally getting the seed out during a “dry spell” in mid-January. What he seeded was an incredible array of species collected from a high quality pine herbaceous association. A really substantial seed mix. Best I’ve ever collected for pine species.
This is how it looks from 1000 feet up in the air(click to enlarge). Its cool stuff, ya’ll!
He will plant Long Leaf pines next year since time got away this year. And maybe we’ll get enough fuel by January or February next year to light that sucker up! Fire in the hole!!! Saweet! That aught to raise the eyebrows of the neighbors…. 🙂
Best of all, Doug asked me early on about hardscape and major drainage work near the front of the house so I suggested he talk to Johnny Mayronne, a noted landscape architect, preeminent plantsman and all-around good guy from the Covington, Louisiana area, just south Folsom.
John is fully on the team now and he has come up with some incredibly smart and attractive ideas. I knew he would. I will keep you posted as to the progress we make, incrementally, as it happens.
Doug is writing his own blog on the project @ this link: