As in my kitchen garden, sometimes just adding relevant items can enhance the nuance of a planting or set a mood. (Andrew May)

As in my kitchen garden, sometimes just adding relevant items can enhance the nuance of a planting or set a mood. (Andrew May)

A GROWING CONCERN: Find harmony between home and garden

MY ELDEST SON has just been recently married in a client’s garden; the corn roast with all 400 people has come and gone; and with the aid of my sweetie, the guest rooms and bathroom were redone for the out of town visitors.

So after reflecting this week, I realize the need to occasionally break away from job lists, water tasks, the reporting of the year’s subset — Day 1 of late mid-summer — and get into a philosophical discussion about you, your yard, its surroundings and the appropriate type of plants and landscape style.

So, sit back, relax, get a cup of coffee or tea. There will be no work today.

The perfect yard is so much more than a manicured lawn, neatly pruned bushes and beautiful flowers.

It is a combination of many things that culminate in a theme that encompasses your entire surroundings and is this harmony with the house and the environment.

It does not press the limits of maintenance.

To begin, you must look around your domain and decide what outstanding characteristics already exist, then incorporate them.

A large green grass mall, mountain views, big trees, dark underbrush, gorgeous water views, the slope of the hill or a large stump or rock — these all begin as the anchor to your landscape plan.

The trick is not only to enhance these features, but also to capitalize on them.

A client had been waiting a long time for me to do his yard. He just loves the driftwood designs I have been creating and has been begging me to bring some.

A few weeks ago, I was able to fill my truck with these items and off to his house I went. Backing the truck across his yard, I came to rest in front of a beautiful wood chip island with several large trees.

As soon as I got out of the truck an uneasy feeling came over me. I could not see any water view at all and the house was a mile offshore.

Even though I knew he adored these elements, they were not for this house. The theme would be disjointed.

What was needed was tall ferns and exotic evergreens, so that the huge trees make a frame to the storybook yard.

The perfect garden is more than deciding on a theme or connecting to views. One must have the right plant in the right place.

Without question the following is the No. 1 problem I see caused by Harry and Harriet Homeowner when selecting plants.

They walk into their favorite plant outlet, cruising around they see a plant that would be just perfect for spot X.

The plant is purchased, brought home, placed in spot X and in many cases the slow decay begins.

Why? Because the process was backwards.

First one should determine the internal and external conditions exerted on spot X. How dry or wet is this spot? What kind of soil exists here?

How shady or sunny is this spot and does the light change with the time of year? Is there heavy traffic here? Do deer frequent the spot and what about moles? How tall is too big or how small is disproportional?

All these are fundamental questions to answer before going to the nursery. Once you have answers, have the vendor suggest the wide range of plants available that would fit these conditions.

From the group of plants, pick out the “oh so perfect” plant and place it in spot X. A true specimen plant will grow because it is the perfect plant in the ideal spot with the optimum growing factors.

After weighting your options, don’t forget indigenous plants. After all, they evolved here.

They can take all the weather, bugs, disease and poor soil conditions this peninsula can dish out. In short, they know how to survive here and are quite good at it.

A common problem that shouldn’t be overlooked is deer. Plants like sedum, sage and artemesia can cause deer to detour, not destroy your garden.

Ultimately, don’t lose sight of the many fine qualities of the peninsula that outweigh the loss of a tree here or a rose there.

They are the unique features of this area most of us came here for.

Vermin, drought, neighbors or rain should not diminish these features.

Correct planning and forethought should drive your decisions.

In closing, I looked for over two years to find the perfect house — one with a water view, close to town but in the country, with a great yard, nice trees and off the main trail.

Well I got it ­— along with deer, raccoons, squirrels, moles, mountain beavers and two sons.

The house is surrounded by an aggregate slab — deer cannot stand to walk across that — a fully fenced-in kitchen garden and a lot of natural salal, ferns, huckleberry, western red cedar, big leaf maples, scattered pines and fir. All nature with a little peace after gardening all day in the garden I love.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email [email protected] (subject line: Andrew May).

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