Planting instead of mowing on a hillside.

Installing a low maintenance planting on a small hill.

She said, “I don’t mind cutting the grass, but I would like for you to start taking care of that hill out front.  It’s kind of scary to mow.”  I guess she meant for me to mow the bank.  I always try to do as I’m told, but I don’t cut grass for starters and a long time ago I slipped while mowing a bank and my toe got caught under the mower.  Many years later this toe is so ugly it has a name, “Horace bad toe

A picture came to mind:

I got a picture in my head.

I got a picture in my head.

Anyway, since she didn’t say that I had to actually cut the grass but only to “take care of it”, I started thinking out of the box that I never think inside of anyway.  I looked at the project and thought about it for a while.  Then I got out the trusty Roundup sprayer and killed the grass on the bank.  That took care of that problem. But, then I had another problem.

Oakwood Street is aptly named.  It runs between rows of beautiful trees and well kept yards.

Oakwood Street is aptly named. It runs between rows of beautiful trees and well kept yards.

Oakwood Street is aptly named as you can see in the picture, and the yards are neat and well kept. It is a street where people walk their dogs, push their strollers, and jog so I wasn’t surprised a couple of weeks after the Roundup episode to hear the neighbors asking, “What’s wrong with your grass? And what are you going to do about it?”   I grinned because I had a picture in my head.  It was this:

An alternative solution to mowing a bank--cover it with cypress chips and plant neat stuff!

An alternative solution to mowing a bank–cover it with cypress chips and plant neat stuff!

In order to get the job done, I had to accept that any landscaping project includes a fourth dimension.  There are the three common dimensions of width, depth, and height, but a landscaping project also includes the dimension of time.  So, I took my time.  I started by purchasing and spreading 40 bags of cypress mulch that I got from my friendly Lowe’s nursery center.  Then I spread some high nitrogen seed starter fertilizer on top.  This would counteract the nitrogen depletion in the soil caused by the chips.

I found a bunch of liriope (monkey grass), dug a trench right behind the curb and planted it solid.  This would keep anything from falling out into the street.  Borders are important in landscaping as in life.  They define the parameters.

Liriope (monkey grass) installed as a curb side border.

Liriope (monkey grass) installed as a curb side border.

I set out to plant something new every day, but that determination soon changed to once a week.  I started out with some annuals last summer and then replaced them with pansies and violas for the winter.  Violas are very nice—they are hardy and long lasting.

Violas are very nice in the winter and they look fabulous in the spring

Violas are very nice in the winter and they look fabulous in the spring

Next, I started adding some perennials plants and ground covers.  Some lavender was nice at the entrance and of course, we had to plant a clematis to climb up the mailbox.

Clematis, of course, on the mailbox.  Lavender backing it up.

Clematis, of course, on the mailbox. Lavender backing it up.

I found a bit of Artemesia ‘silver mound’ to plant.  It disappears in the winter but comes out strong in the spring.  I love the dainty texture of the silver leaves.

artemesia 'silver mound'--one of my favorite perennials

artemesia ‘silver mound’–one of my favorite perennials

Another plant that will cover a lot of the bank with a silver/blue cast will be the santolina.  Santolina is a member of the same family as the chrysanthemum and blooms a pretty yellow, but its strong evergreen trailing foliage with a gentle frangrance is what I like.

Santolina--offers texture, fragrance, color, spreads, tolerates drought, and deer don't like it.  What more could you ask?  Kinda hard to find, though.

Santolina–offers texture, fragrance, color, spreads, tolerates drought, and deer don’t like it. What more could you ask? Kinda hard to find, though

This spring, the plants started coming out in clumps.  I will wait for the spreading clumps of dianthus, ice plant, and sedum to fill out around the larger plants.

Clumps of mounding ground covers develop well with the verticals supplied by the iris.  (there are also some 'roof iris' coming on)

Clumps of mounding ground covers develop well with the verticals supplied by the iris. (there are also some ‘roof iris’ coming on)

Now the only thing I have to do is pull a weed every now and then.  The chips will slowly decompose and earthworms will churn it into the soil, making a compost rich bed with time. I like the little dianthus, also–very dependable.

I like the little dianthus for foliage, bloom, and fragrance.  They are actually miniature carnations.

I like the little dianthus for foliage, bloom, and fragrance. They are actually miniature carnations.

I also love to use ice plant and different kinds of sedum.

Ice plant is a good choice for a bank.  It covers well, has purple flowers, deer don't eat it, and it is drought tolerant.

Ice plant is a good choice for a bank. It covers well, has purple flowers, deer don’t eat it, and it is drought tolerant.

Sweetie can cut the grass now and I will “take care” of the bank at the road by pulling a weed every now and then, adding some water when necessary, and sticking in a plant or two as it suits my fancy.   God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world.

 These articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of the novel, Requiem for a Redneck .  You can read more of the adventures of John the Plant man here:

http://www.amazon.com/Requiem-Redneck-John-P-Schulz/dp/0981825206/

Try “see inside the book”

Or you may prefer the ebook edition:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOAJCGO

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jane Schulz
    Apr 11, 2010 @ 15:58:41

    John, what a difference a year makes! This is lovely and I can just see you sticking a special plant in every now and then and waiting for Dekie to notice.

    ‘Bout everybody has a bank somewhere; this is a good model for it.

    Reply

  2. bill amos
    Apr 12, 2010 @ 10:40:27

    FRIEND JOHN AS YOU RECALL I HAD A HECK OF A SLOPE IN MY FRONT YARD WHEN I LIVED IN ROME..AT THAT TIME IF I WANTED TO PLANT SOMETHING THERE IT WOULD HAVE BEEN A WEED….THATS ALL I COULD AFFORD..HERE IN THE “COASTAL EMPIRE” (THATS WHAT THE NEWSPAPERS CALL IT….) IF I WANTED A SLOPE I WOULD HAVE TO DIG A HOLE AND MOUND IT UP…RIGHT NOW I WILL ENJOY WHAT WE HAVE..EVERY PLANT DOWN HERE IS BLOOMING..THANKS FOR ANOTHER INTERESTING ARTICLE BILL AMOS

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Planting Instead of Lawn « Gardora.net

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