Pdx under tree cover?

changingitup(8 PDX)April 28, 2014

I live in portland and have a chemical free lawn. This year a broadleaf weed took over under my large boulevard trees. I am looking for thoughts on wether after digging up the weeds I should replant grass or add a ground cover. The ground is rather slanted and hilled around the trunk and it seems like any mulch would just slide off so I started thinking living ground cover but this is also in an area that I don't want to water often, we usually let our grass go dormant in the summer. This weekend I picked up some salal gaultheria, pictured below, thinking that would be nice but I'm not sure if I've really noticed it in a landscape before for this function, any experiences? Also, I didn't buy enough to cover thickly, and I'd need something to help with weed control while it grew in. My other thought was that I could use a succulent, also pictured below, which is shallow rooted and may also work to keep the soil from running off. Would mixing them be an option or do you think one would keep the other from growing? Any other low maintenance ideas? Thanks!
Ps. Do you know if the salal is shallow rooted? I can't dig very deep in that area before hitting root.

Salal gaultheria?


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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Of the two I'd try the stonecrop. The salal is too large-growing and you will have trouble digging the planting holes for specimens of that size.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 6:41PM
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annukka(z8 seattle, WA)

You might also check out Luzula sylvatica 'Marginata'. It has been indestructible under a hedge for me. It is shallow rooted, so easy to plant without disturbing the tree roots too much. Once you have it, you can divide it really easily to fill in an area. Evergreen.

Here is a link that might be useful: Luzula sylvatica

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 12:02AM
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The "low" species of Oregon grape (Mahonia nervosa) is a really nice understory plant. They're compact (up to maybe 2' x 2'), they're evergreen, the foliage turns a cool wine-red in the winter, they're hardy, and they're pretty much drought-tolerant here once established (though they'll appreciate occasional summer water if they're competing with a large tree). I planted a few of them about 2' from the trunk of my 40' walnut tree two years ago and they've put on nice growth in each of the past two springs. They can get heat-stressed with too much afternoon sun, but the canopy of your trees looks to be pretty extensive.

I agree that salal is probably not the best choice for this area. They can be very mangy-looking and have the tendency to fall over.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 12:40AM
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...the mange coming from an acquired leaf disease that most long-term PDX salal gets. I was just walking past a yardful the other week that looked good 5-10 years ago and now it is awful.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 12:49AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Mildew. Rhododendrons and leucothoe began mildewing here some years ago also. Not in the same family but nandina has a mildew problem now too.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 3:04AM
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changingitup(8 PDX)

Thank you all for your suggestions. Kind of disappointed, I bought them at the Clark county fair so can't exchange them. Any one want to trade a couple Luzula sylvatica 'Marginata', Low Oregon Grape or, for another area of my yard, hostas, ferns or hucheras for three salals that may look good for a few years ? :D

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 4:21PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Many local plantings and wild populations of salal acceptable in appearance. I notice heavy mildew on it here and there, and I do not so far see obvious fatal or otherwise spoiling levels of it - unlike with the rhododendron mildew, which has been actually killing some varieties here for some years now. Of course, with the rhododendrons I am looking at individual specimens rather than sometimes quite large patches.

With any and all plantings of the highly popular heath family plants such as these you have to provide their particular soil and exposure needs, and pests and diseases may appear and have to be dealt with. With many local plantings the soil is too hot, dry (in summer) or heavy for best results (or even long term survival) of this group.

With natively occurring salal (and coast rhododendron, in those scattered districts where it is present as a wild plant) you can actually tell what the soil is generally like on a site (or a situation, like the top of a rotting stump) because these plants are able to grow on it.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 5:58PM
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What I see in town and in the woods is more akin to septoria, a dark spotting and eventual holes/skeletonizing of leaves.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2014 at 11:21PM
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princessgrace79(8 PNW)

I live in portland as well (SE) and have the best luck with either a stonecrop if enough sun comes through - I have a basic ones that pretty much wants to take over the world that makes excellent groundcover, and hardy cyclamen in the fall/winter.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 12:16AM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

Sedums next to grass is a bad idea. The grass will invade the Sedums in a very short time unless you want to constantly monitor the planting. I grow sedums on gravel, rocks, stumps, or on aged woodchips at least 4 inches thick. In other words, places where grass or weeds can't grow.
Vinca minor would be a better choice. There are several varieties to chose from. It's vigorous enough to compete with grass in your situation, especially over time.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 10:03AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Since it grows sideways in time to cover a large area vinca in that small patch and nearby grass are quite likely to merge and produce a weeding headache. Once you get turf grass inside a mat like vinca it is murder to try and get it out.

Presumably right there by the trunk has been weeded out and opened up for non-grass in the first place because the growth of the grass was not strong.

Yesterday I walked by a small patch of Sedum spathulifolium around the base of a young Douglas fir that looked great. With this sedum you get chalky white leaves that really show in the shade.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 12:57PM
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changingitup(8 PDX)

Any experiences on the Luzula sylvatica 'Marginata' keeping the weeds down? It seems that would allow for an easier grass edge, don't you think? I'm going to stop in portland nursery to have a look and price some stuff out. Any suggestions for where to find a deal? There is a fruit plant guy on marine drive and 6th avenue with great prices and product, works out of his backyard, but he doesn't carry ornamentals, any secret hot spots for those?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 3:01AM
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changingitup(8 PDX)

Removed double post

This post was edited by changingitup on Fri, May 2, 14 at 16:39

    Bookmark   May 2, 2014 at 1:30PM
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annukka(z8 seattle, WA)

The Luzula grows into dense mats. Weeds not a problem once it is established.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2014 at 11:28AM
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