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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Steep Hillside Needs Groundcover
Posted: Jul-22-2004 at 3:48pm
My daughter's new home, located on a fairly steep hillside near Lake Stevens, Wa. needs a groundcover designed to keep weeds at bay and the hillside in place. I have given tons of great advice but they are seriously talking Boston Ivy!!! AARGHHH--Not IVY! Help me with some easy to maintain ideas (not including Ivy) to offer. The hillside faces North East, So it gets morning sun. It will not received much summer watering, but of course, lots of winter rain.--oh, and not spreading juniper or giant rocks. The area sits probably at a 115 to 120 degree angle and is 15 by 40 feet.
Posted: Jul-23-2004 at 8:30am
When I started my eradication on my hillside ivy I did lots of googling about it, hoping to come across techniques, info, etc. and soon found out that many counties/cities are banning it. Seattle, for one. Lk Stevens is in Snohomish Co., I think? In any event you might check with the co.
Here's a good site: http://www.ivyout.org
Ask your daughter how amenable she is to rats, 'cuz they love making trails through ivy.
I posted a thread asking about hillside alternatives just a while ago, you might browse through it, too: "Triumph over evil ivy, now what?" posted May 22: thread link here, I hope
Posted: Jul-23-2004 at 11:22pm
I have no suggestion at the moment, but interesting to see this post today.
We were asked to remove top limbs from a honey locust in Murrayhill area of Beaverton to open a view. The tree was on a 40 degree or so slope. It was well covered with kinnickinnick - gee, was it slick.
My feet gave out, I hit the ground on my side and slid for about 10 feet. I'm not going to work for them next year on those trees.
Hills are a challenge in many ways.
Posted: Jul-24-2004 at 9:39am
CJ, that's a serious slope and if not handled correctly, could give way to all kinds of headaches - MD pointed out one of them - difficulty maintaining the area if footing isn't safe. Another possibility are landslides, one they are already aware of, it seems. Planting a slope with only one type of plant is rarely wise. All the roots will be the same type and go to roughly the same depth. Landslides could still occur, the ground would simply slip away, sheeting where the roots end. It happened here many times on ivy-covered slopes during the rains and floods of '96.
I did some googling and came up with these resources for further information.
Puget Sound Landslide Resource - I didn't delve far into the above but it seems to have all kinds of information regarding slope and how to prevent problems, plus a link to find professional help (well worth the cost, IMO) and a link to find out about soil and slope stability.
Another resource would be Snohomish Conservation District. Their website isn't as chock full of information as the above site but IME Conservation District are great resources for information when it comes to situations like your daughter's.
Another possibility is Lake Stevens Watershed District.
I think it would be wise for your daughter to learn as much as possible about her slope and the best ways to address it before putting in the first plant. Hopefully the above resources will help her find the answers. Because there are many factors that affect slope stability - more than us laypeople can anticipate - advice from experts would be money well spent.
Regardless of what actions she takes, erosion with the winter rains coming (hard to believe considering our hot, hot weather lately but it isn't far away) is a concern, I'm sure. There are products on the market to slow the flow of water down slopes. I've used a product called wattles (sometimes called bio-bags) when planting a slope at our church. Very effective. They are also jute mats and other erosion devices worth investigating.
Good luck to your daughter!
Posted: Jul-24-2004 at 9:56pm
Did you see on the Puget site:
Get it? Slide show !!
Hey... remember the news coverage of 96 - those small sections of forest sliding upright down the hills and streets? Trunk and roots and mud all moving in unison.
Posted: Jul-25-2004 at 8:49pm
Okay in Mi we had the same problems. There is a ground cover form of euyonomus (spell that!). But the one thing that I remember reading is good for erosion problems is cheap daylillies. Don't know if that really works but they have good root systems, don't need water and spread real well.
Keep us informed because it really is an interesting topic to me. I can't help but wonder if in one of those websites about native plants if they address this?
Posted: Jul-26-2004 at 10:57am
LOL, MD, I completely missed the "slide" show play on words! I remember those shots of hillsides sliding down, trees and all - incredible!
IIRC, plants with fibrous roots are good for holding soil in place (which does make daylilies a good option) provided they don't require division. I only have a 4' tall slope but I learned the hard way that you don't put plants that require division, pruning or other special care in the middle of the slope. Try digging Siberian irises when they are 2' above where you are standing - not fun! I finally got them dug up and moved them elsewhere to avoid that experience again! I'm sure it was funny to watch - all the odd manipulations trying to get leverage on the shovel, plus all the colorful phrases popping out of my mouth! LOL
I was perusing my garden books yesterday and found a section in Marty Wingate's Big Ideas for Northwest Small Gardens, which had useful tips for slopes (pages 49-54). This is a great book worth owning, IMO, but if you are only interested in the slope information, check it out from your local library.
Bakingbarb, I'll bet you are thinking of a form of euonymus fortunei (2 years at a nursery taught me how to spell that!). It is a good scrambler, rooting where its branches touch the ground. It will also wriggle its way under siding (yes, I learned that one the hard way, too!) - not such a good thing.
Thanks for wondering if native plant websites would address erosion issues, bakingbarb, since it helped jog my memory that Bosky Dell Natives Nursery has various lists of natives for specific purposes. CJ, try this list of natives selected for their erosion control abilities.
Posted: Jul-27-2004 at 8:00am
I didn't think Boston Ivy was as aggressive as English ivy which is what is taking over the PNW. Is that correct? Either way, I wouldn't plant any kind of ivy. I inherited several different kinds of varigated ivy. Just keeping up with it is difficult and it is not supposed to be as invasive as EI.
I think it is much better to plant a slope with natives which can handle the conditions than plant a monoculture!
Good luck, cj!
Posted: Jul-27-2004 at 11:10am
I completely missed the "Boston" part of the ivy comment in the original post. I've never read of Boston ivy being used as a groundcover, which may be why I read it wrong (hey, it's my story and I'm sticking to it - LOL).
You are right, Jeanne, it isn't as aggressive as English ivy. It may spread quickly as it climbs along on a wall but I haven't herd any concerns regarding its invasive seeding nature or its ability to grow in almost zero light conditions, like English ivy. These are 2 completely different plants. English ivy is Hedera helix, a member of the Araliaceae (ivy and ginseng?) family. Boston ivy is Parthenocissus tricuspidata, a member of the vitaceae (grape) family. In addition, Boston ivy is a woody deciduous vine. It looks great on walls - its woody structure creates "garden art" in winter - but I'd think it would disappear visually on the ground in winter. Not a desirable large area ground cover for that reason, IMO.
Posted: Jul-27-2004 at 9:49pm
Thank you all for your good ideas, and there is a very good posibility that I really meant English rather than Boston ivy! I have advised the kids to at least read Rainyside for the info, and I totally agree with Lisa that trying to teeter on the itsy bitsy flat place you make with the shovel while trying to dig or divide calls for incredible balance or some lively downhill dancing. They want to control the growth with a weed eater once a year--hummmm. There was a great article in Fine Gardening a couple years ago that showed a steep Seattle hillside full of great variey of plants but it isn't diversity that they seek. It is simplicty. I looked at Bosky Dell site for ideas-- and I plan to visit there soon, and also the idea of several diffrent root levels is addressed in the list. Great information, Thanks again.
Posted: Jul-27-2004 at 11:29pm
I recall that article - lovely hillside! I save all of those mags so I'm sure to have it somewhere in my den.
"lively downhill dancing" - I've done those dance steps! LOL I'm amazed I never got hurt physically, only my pride was wounded. You know the routine - do something stupid and graceless and glance around quickly, hoping no one saw! LOL Thankfully, I never did the downhill dance with a weed eater in hand. That is a scary thought!
It might be good for them to realize that diversity does not necessarily equate to more care if plants are chosen wisely. In fact, diversity usually encourages a more sustainable landscape . . . hmmmm, how do I explain this? . . . think of a room of people all susceptible to the same germ. The germ comes in, the chances of everyone getting sick are very high. It's the same with plants. One pest problem - insect or disease - comes in and the whole monoculture is at risk. Having a variety won't necessarily prevent a pest problem but it will mean less plants affected and subsequently less holes in the landscape when something dies. Also, I swear that insects hone in on those monocultures as if it were a smorgasboard, made just for them. "C'mon, guys, it's all you can eat over at the Smith's!" LOL
Then there's the whole roots-all-at-the-same-depth problem. If they are serious about stabilizing their slope, they will want to take this into consideration, because a monoculture is unlikely to add much stability.
And if, despite it all, they are still bent on a monoculture, please, do all you can to strongly discourage them from planting English ivy! This plant poses so many problems to our natural areas, adding to the huge cost to public and private organizations to remove it from natural areas - along with all the other noxious weeds. The economic impact of a few of Oregon’s worst noxious weeds was conservatively estimated at $83 million annually a few years ago by economists with Oregon Department of Agriculture.
Oh, yeah, if that doesn't change their mind, have them read this:
Axial wrote: Ask your daughter how amenable she is to rats, 'cuz they love making trails through ivy.
When the City of Portland receives complaints about rats, the first thing they tell homeowners to do is to remove the English ivy on the property, because it provides such excellent habitat for them.
I'm sure it seems like a daunting challenge to them, CJ, and choosing one plant - possibly a familiar plant - to plant all over the hillside is very tempting. An easy solution on the surface, but in the long run perhaps not so wise, IMO. I wish them luck!
If they have any questions, they can post in the Guest forum or register and post in this forum. Or they can ask them through you.
Posted: Jul-28-2004 at 11:23am
A well planted slope of natives is much more beautiful and easier to care for than english ivy any day!
As to rats, Portland is having a tough time with them this year. There was an article in the Portland Tribune on how Portland's waterfront is being overrun with them. I guess conditions were just right to have a population explosion. You'd think the cold winter would have done something! Hey, guess what Lisa, my pals The Killers were mentioned in the article as one of the companies helping to control the population! Hehehehe.
Posted: Jul-28-2004 at 11:52am
I came here to post about this very thing. We have some slopes that I need to plant.
My reasons are a little different. I don't want to mow the slopes. We're trying to make most of the yard so that it can be mowed with a lawn tractor. My husband has MS and the amount of work he can do is limited.
I plan to get the book that Lisa mentioned and get some ideas.