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How to Plan Your Naturescape: Rebecca's Southern Exposure

It was a cold overcast day in January 2009 when we decided it is time to do some native plant landscaping around our place. Rebecca wanted to landscape the southern exposure on the south side of our office.

South side of Rugged Country Plants’ office. The telephone pole is on the boundary line with our neighbor. Rebecca has 40 feet x 7 feet of open soil to work with.

Site Characteristics

  1. Hottest, driest location on our place.
  2. 10 feet from building to property edge.
  3. Powerline hanging along property edge about 20 feet above the ground.
  4. 16 inch annual precipitation (Foothills), but this hot southern exposure bakes the moisture out of the soil faster than other locations so we think it is more like a 10-12 inch precipitation reality.
  5. Soil is a silt-loam with good water holding capacity.
  6. We have a Puncturevine Tribulus terrestris weed problem in this area.

Ideas to Guide the Project

  1. Want no plants over 5 feet tall to block the view of the Blue Mountains from office windows, and want no plants growing up into the overhead powerline.
  2. We want to raise the elevation of the project so we can see the shorter plants better from the office windows.
  3. We have some chunks of used concrete from the front walk we removed that we can recycle to build a low retaining wall.
  4. We do not want our plants crowding over the neighbor’s property.
  5. We want a rustic western look.
  6. We want to showcase some of Utah’s Choice native plants.
  7. We think we will use plastic weed barrier and some kind of mulch to preserve moisture and control weeds.
  8. We aim to plant this area in February or March and we think that will be early enough in the spring that we will not need to provide any supplementary irrigation water this establishment year or any year. We are not planning for any irrigation system.

Plan by Nora Parkhurst, Parkhurst Gardens. The straight lines in the sketch are going to be some recycled split rail fencing, if we can find it. We have decided to plant groups of 3-5 Estate Plugs™ instead of just one Estate Plug™ in any one spot, so the project fills in more quickly in the first year. We will thin plants later if it gets too crowded. If you don’t mind waiting an extra year, you can just plant one plant in a given spot.

Native Plant Species To Use and Planting Quantities

Estimated
Plant
Quantity
Native Species Plant Type
20Achnatherum hymenoides Indian Ricegrassgrass
40Bouteloua gracilis Blue Gramagrass
10Leymus cinereus Basin Wildryegrass
22Arenaria macradenia Mohave Sandwortperennial
18Astragalus utahensis Utah Ladyfinger Milkvetchperennial
10Castilleja chromosa Desert Indian Paintbrushperennial
7Eriogonum microthecum Rock Buckwheatperennial
10Eriogonum umbellatum Sulfur Buckwheatperennial
18Hymenoxys acaulis Sundancer Daisyperennial
14Penstemon cyananthus Wasatch Penstemonperennial
20Penstemon eatonii Firecracker Penstemonperennial
1Amelanchier utahensis Utah Serviceberryshrub
2Cercocarpus ledifolius Curl-leaf Mt. Mahoganyshrub/tree
4Ephedra viridis Green Mormon Teashrub
2Ericameria nauseosus Rubber Rabbitbrushshrub
3Purshia tridentata Bitterbrushshrub
1Ribes aureum Golden Currantshrub
3Salvia dorrii Desert SageShrub
205Total Plants 

What Actually Happened

  • We did not lay down any weed barrier fabric, we will just do hand weeding as needed.
  • After completing the planting of this project we watered it a total of 3 times, with a soaker hose letting it run overnight.  We do not anticipate the need to water it again because we matched the plant community with the amount of precipitation we normally get.
  • We are very pleased with the performance of these plants.  The Amelanchier Utahensis (Utah serviceberry) put on a total of 2 feet of growth after being planted in late April.
  • The planting looked attractive and filled in by the end of summer
  • Nearly all plants used were either 15 cubic inch Estate Plugs™, 10 cubic inch Estate Plugs™ or 25 cubic inch Rootmakers™…we think this is a real demonstration of the survivability and vigor of the Estate Plugs™ and Rootmakers™…
  • The whole planting was completed with 205 plants for approximately $600 in plant material

Finished hardscaping.

Planting (and watering!) on April 22, 2009.

One month after planting, May 2009.

Three months after planting, August 2009.

Five months after planting, September 2009.

11 months after planting, March 2010.

13 months after planting, May 2010.

Quail pair meandering through… photo taken through the office window.

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