Spring awakening

The calendar tells us that we are well into the spring season now. Our local Pacific Northwest weather has been hinting to us that summer is not far behind. Rather than an April filled with cold, gray, wet days, we have enjoyed some very refreshing downpours of rain followed by days of sunshine and temperatures up to the low 80s! After three days of having the windows open all day and working out in the garden in short pants and a tee shirt, it is easy to forget we are just in the month of April. Reality refreshes the memory the next day when temperatures drop 25 degrees, blustery winds bring in dark clouds and the rain returns. Back and forth it has been this month, giving me several good working days in the garden and confidence that everything is still being irrigated with our natural rain.

Fresh, colorful, new foliage begins to emerge as springtime awakens in the Jean Iseli Memorial Garden with warmer temperatures and sunny, blue skies.

Clearing out the two spaces where I will grow fresh vegetables and herbs, and the back corner where the native, larger tree seedlings will be planted, I believe I am ready to begin delineating the new, enlarged bed spaces for planting my ornamental conifers and other exciting plants. Once we have more dry days in a row than wet ones, I think our soil will drain enough that I can bring out the rototiller and begin grinding up the old lawn grass to build new beds and expand upon those already there.

One of the first planting projects will be to create the privacy “hedges” on the borders of the property. I enclosed the word, hedges, with quotes because I do not intend to plant a single row of one plant type along the border to create privacy—what fun would that be? No, I’ll be planting a selection of plants that will serve the same purpose as a privacy hedge without the mono-culture monotony with will help prevent an insect or disease infestation as well as make the whole thing much more visually appealing.

Over the years of writing this blog I have discussed alternatives to traditional hedge-row planting, and I will be putting those ideas to work in my new garden. Since the new privacy screen will essentially run along the length of my property, I’ll be keeping in mind the “garden rooms” that will flow and change along the length of the screen and those changes will influence my choices in screening plants to use. I will need to keep in mind the movement of the sun and be careful not to place screening plants that will grow too tall and shade out adjacent space designed for full sun exposure. Likewise, I will certainly plan the right specimens that will provide needed summer, late afternoon/evening shade to outdoor seating spaces. Not all areas will require the same level of privacy, so I will very likely plan some smaller privacy plants in more localized spaces to provide that extra level of screening desired for sun-bathing or skinny-dipping in the grandchild’s wading pool.

Next time I will begin to describe my choices for different kinds of screening and how to mix plants for efficiency and aesthetic appeal. I hope you’ll join me!

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9 thoughts on “Spring awakening

  1. I too am about to create a privacy “hedge” and I can’t wait to read what you will plant. I too am in the PNW near Seattle. Please include some photos. I read your blog every time it appears and enjoy it always

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  2. I have created some of my own privacy screening with hybrid conifers over the years (25) I’ve lived here. It’s both fun and frustrating to watch the sizes of these make some of my plans fail and others succeed. Good luck with yours, I’ll be following the progress and hopefully learning a few things too. Thanks, John

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  3. Hi, I really like “The Amazing World of Conifers”! I live in NW Montana, which can be pretty dry in the summer. I’m in the process of replacing my lawn with native wild flowers, which means I have to put up an electric fence to keep the deer out. An electric fence isn’t the prettiest thing to look at, but necessary here. I’d like to plant some nice conifers (which would grow no more than 8-10 feet high) in front of the electric fence posts. What would you recommend, please?

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    1. I have only had the pleasure of visiting MO once in my lifetime – it was a memorable visit. I hope to return one day. Regarding your question, there will be a few things to consider. First, the USDA hardiness zone where you are located. I am going to guess that in NW Montana you will likely be in Zones 4 or 5. Once your local zone is determined, then you can look at plants that are hardy for that area. You mention plants that will grow “no more than 8-10 feet high”. Since conifers never stop growing, you will want to consider how important that height is to you. I presume you have an expected lifetime of 20 to 50 more years or so. If you choose a conifer that will grow to only 10 feet in 20 years, it will be a rather slow grower, but if it needs to be no larger in 50 years, then it will need to be a very dwarf plant indeed. You don’t mention how wide the plant may grow. There are conifers that grow wider than tall and may work well for you. Also, you might consider something like the Weeping Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Pendula’) that is staked to attain height and then it weeps to the ground from that point. You could stake the plant to 8 feet and let it go.

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  4. Lovely to see the different colours of the conifers. Thanks for sharing! I have just started a poetry blog here on WordPress and today’s post is about Spring flowers in case you have time to have a look? Have a good afternoon, Sam 🙂

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