I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Boulevard Improvement Project

As I mentioned in my Canadian Wildlife Federation post I have been slowly, very slowly, implementing plans to improve my boulevard.  When we moved into our current home just over 2 years ago the boulevard had three photinias, one of which was growing sideways, and several pyracantha bushes that were a large, prickly, snarled mess.  For those interested in plant families both the photinia and pyracantha shrubs are members of the Rosaceae family.  Both get clusters of white flowers and the photinia is currently flowering while the pyracantha is covered in buds.  These large shrubs were nestled among thick, tall grass and interspersed with holly and himalayan blackberry.  



As you can see by the picture above the pyracantha has a knack for shooting off in every direction, while the photinia can look rather sparse depending on which side of the shrub you are standing on.  I am not particularly fond of either one of these shrubs and I have been plotting their demise since we moved in.  They have survived thus far for several reasons.  First, the birds love these shrubs.  I see hummingbirds and other small birds perched in the photinia branches quite often, the pyracantha, being extremely thorny, protects little birds from predators, and the robins seem to enjoy the pyracantha berries in the fall.  Second, my husband enjoys the fact that our backyard is private due to the height of the shrubs and I am guessing that without them the deer could probably jump our fence.  Third, I do not have the budget for ripping everything out and planting the whole thing in one shot.  And last, but not least, my kids make little forts underneath and behind the branches, climb the photinia branches and play various other imaginative games in this area.  They would be very unhappy with me if I ruined their fun.

Lucky for me I have a mother-in-law who enjoys gardening and over the course of several days last year she shaped up the photinias and tidied the general area.  It was a huge improvement and I think the whole neighbourhood was pleased with the outcome.  I also spent some time cutting back the pyracantha to a slightly more manageable shape (although you cannot tell by looking at my picture) so that I could cut the crazy grass without suffering huge scratches like I did the first time.  The pictures below show what the boulevard looked like prior to the new tree being planted.  The branches you see on the ground are the remains of the sideways photinia.  My husband and I spent a very wet Easter Monday removing the stump to make way for the new addition. 

Over the last year I have also planted a few native plants, which are not visible in the above pictures. They will eventually become large shrubs. 

Indian Plum
 The Indian Plum is deciduous, but one of the first shrubs to get its leaves and bloom in Spring.  Its white flowers are a welcome sign that spring is on the way.  It is one of the plants that I notice most when I am walking through Mt. Doug park as it often grows near the edge of the trail and along roadsides.  Unfortunately the deer enjoy snacking on the leaves so, as you can see in the picture, I have put some mesh around it until it gets taller.  According to the native plant book I have the Indian Plum should get between 1.5 and 5 metres in height.  

Red Currant
One of my favourite native plants is the Red Currant.  Another early bloomer, the flowers provide food for hummingbirds and also apparently deer.  The only flowers I saw this year were on the inside of the plant buried among the green leaves, which the deer have not touched so far.  Thankfully I got to enjoy the pink flowers of the Red Currant I have on the other side of the fence.  This one should grow to between 1 and 3 metres tall.

Tall Oregon Grape
 I just planted these Tall Oregon Grapes on Sunday.  I assure you the two shorties in front are the same type of plant.  I had to go for the starter size to stay within my budget while shopping at the Swan Lake Native Plant Sale.  The yellow flowers are already finished for this year and will be followed by edible, purple berries.  Not sure how tasty they are, but the birds will eat them if my kids do not eat them first.  The mature height for these plants is between 1 and 5 metres tall. 

The pictures I have included are by no means the most flattering of these plant species.  I would encourage anyone who is interested in including native plants in their landscaping to check out some images online.  The Swan Lake website has a Native Plant Gallery that includes many different types, and I purchased a book called Plants of Coastal British Columbia including Washington, Oregon and Alaska, which I refer to quite often.  The picture on the right is a link to the Amazon.ca website if you are interested in learning more about it, or purchasing it for yourself.

Big Leaf Maple

I used this book when I was trying to decide on the type of tree to include in my boulevard planting and eventually decided on the Big Leaf Maple.  I decided to go with a deciduous tree because I wanted to have the shade in summer, but let the sun through in winter.  Its requirements seem to suit the spot I picked for it and I also have great memories of playing in maple leaves when I was a kid.  I have to thank the Municipality of Saanich for supplying and planting the tree upon my promise to look after it for the next several years. 

My long term plan for the boulevard is to suppress most, if not all, of the grass and replace all of the pyrcantha, photinia and holly with native plants.  I may have to leave a small, tightly controlled, patch of himalayan blackberries or risk the wrath of my children.  You might have noticed in the Tall Oregon Grape picture that after digging a wide hole for the plants I covered the surrounding grass.  I used recycled coffee bean bags, which you can see sticking out around the edges, and spread a layer of compost over top.   The coffee bean bags will rot fairly quickly, but hopefully with a good layer of compost I can keep the grass down long enough to make sure that the plants get a good start.  I will definitely be off to the Swan Lake Native Plant Sale again in the fall for more Tall Oregon Grapes and possibly another Indian Plum.  It is a good thing for my bank account that the sales are only twice a year and I tend to ignore other plant sales...so far.

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