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Don't know where to start with urban conifer? backyard

Posted by princessaquasong zone 8 (My Page) on
Fri, Aug 24, 07 at 20:39

We are renting a home in Portland, Or. zone 8, i think. there are many very tall pine type trees in the neighborhood. Our yard has 3. My husband est. them at 50 yrs old? I don't know the best way to improve the yard and maintain it. There are a lot of needles on the ground...pinecones too, as well as twigs. Should these be left? I was thinking about planting native and woodland plants to improve the view from the house. I am assuming the soil is acidic, and it seems to be clay? it is also dry under the trees (unless I water) and then it doesn't seem to be well-draining. There is ivy under one of the trees a couple of azalias and one rhododendron, I think a peony or two and something else (shrub) I don't know! Not any "middle layer" or "ground cover" to speak of, unless you count the ivy. If I leave the needles to make a kind of squishy rotting layer, will natives grow in that? What could I introduce that would work for not too much output financially (we are renting)? I forgot to mention that there is also some grass. As you can imagine is is rather spotty in places. Even the weeds come up easy!!!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Don't know where to start with urban conifer? backyard

I read that huge Camellias are growing in filtered pine shade in China. Locally, in our filtered pitch pine barrens shade, we have huckleberry (Gaylussachia sp.), partridgeberry (Michellia repens), blueberry (Vaccinium sp.),mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia),sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia),wintergreen (Gaultheria sp.),and any number of rarer and more difficult plants like Conradina,Pipsissiwa, trailing arbutus and sand myrtle, where patches of sun get to the ground, so your choices seem vast. I also grow Asarum europeaum and Epimedium easily here in my acid soil, as well as Azaleas like 'Flame Creeper, that are, practically, ground covers.
Check out, locally, what is growing in the arboretums,parks and woodlands in similar conditions to yours.

RE: Don't know where to start with urban conifer? backyard

First, decide which areas will be shrubs/flowers/ferns, etc., and which will be grass/lawn. The grass areas should be raked free of pine needles, loosen the soil with a hoe, and this month you can plant seed.

You can rake the extra pine needles and any leaves that fall onto the areas you want to grow shrubs, ferns, and flowers. Lots of shrubs, wildflowers, and ferns should thrive in part shade. Look around your neighborhood for plants that seem to be doing well in settings like your yard. Look in nearby woods to see what types of wild plants do well. Once you know what to look for, I bet you can find cheap ways to obtain plants. Many plants are easily divided, and local gardeners will probably be happy to give you pieces of their plants - just walk around the neighborhood and ask questions. Garden centers, Home Depot, etc. may have plant sales going on at this time of the year. This is a great time to plant shrubs and some perennials can be planted now as well.

I wouldn't worry too much about the clay soil. The soil in the rest of the neighborhood is probably similar, so plants growing nearby should do fine in your yard, too.

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