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fall / spring on my hillside - update with pics!

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2009 3:56 pm
by rainbowgardener
I post a lot about veggies, flowers, herbs because that's the questions we get, but the project dearest to my heart is my woodland shade garden, I'm creating on what used to be landfill/dump (literally!)

So I bought a bunch more plants, this time from Shooting Star Nursery. I am planting a burr oak, 2 sassafras trees (one of the commonest things in our local woods), 2 more paw paws (already have 3 but it is also one of the commonest things in natural local woods), an eastern white pine, a female winterberry (to replace one that died, still have the male one), kalmia, some more tiarella, aquilegia, and bearberry.

Some of what I already have: one huge old hackberry (the only native tree that was there), buckeyes, spicebushes, carolina allspice, clethera, red maple, silver maple, catalpa, scarlet oak, redbud. Solomon seal, false solomon seal, lots of celandine poppy (it spreads itself enthusiastically), cutleaf toothwort, appendaged waterleaf, wild ginger, lots of white snake root (too aggressive, I've pulled bales of it), black cohosh, hepatica, tiarella, goatsbeard, uvularia, and lots of spring ephemerals: virginia bluebells, three kinds of trillium, jack in the pulpit, trout lily, blood root, squirrel corn, twinleaf, bedstraw, spring beauty, and others.

Posted: Sat Sep 05, 2009 10:29 pm
by LazyGirl
Rainbow - would you be able to post some pics? Your garden sounds beautiful and I'm sure we would all love to see your area of focus! :D

Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 2:06 am
by Jewell
Yes, please post pics. :D It is great to hear what is native in other locations. Your list sounded like something from an old diary, since none of those plants are native to my region (well maybe...a trillium, but I don't know). I love my local natives too. :P

Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 6:15 am
by Diane
It sounds like you have a large area to plant. I'd also like to see pics.
Are you doing before and after pics?

Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:38 am
by applestar
Sounds wonderful, Rainbowgardener. :D All those plantings will provide a super, safe, wildlife habitat. You must be seeing a lot of insects, birds, and animals moving in already!

My property backs to a bit of woods that is part of a recreational area, but the township's management practices are far from my idea of ideal. Still, I think it helps to provide a sense of security for the wildlife. My own goal has been to extend that woodland edge into my property with native plants, and create different habitats -- wet/bog/pond, meadow/wildflower, shaded, weedy/brambly, etc. -- while incorporating edible landscaping for our use as well.

There are many plants in your list that I'm lusting after. :lol: I did a lot of planting myself last fall ("went crazy" you might say... :cool: ) This year, I'm planning to take it easy, seeing as I still have an American Holly, a redbud, and that Ginkgo (honorary native) in their containers that HAVE to go in the ground this fall, as well as two big containers of beebalm and another of turtlehead (I bought a pink flowered one, not knowing it's NOT a butterfly host plant as I thought. Still it's very pretty and I like it. I'll just HAVE to go get a white one next time.... :wink: )

I have my calendar marked for a local Pineland Preservation Alliance native plant sale next Sat. as well as Bowman's Hill's fall native plant sale starting next weekend. We'll talk after then. 8) :roll: :wink:

some pictures -- my backyard!

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2009 6:38 pm
by rainbowgardener
Here's a picture looking down from near the top of the hill to the bench where I sit and admire what I've done and plan what's next: (if you click on any of the pictures, you can see them bigger)


Here's one of the views from that bench:


Here's looking up the hill toward the house with one of the baby paw paws I just planted


Here's a red maple tree, I planted as a tiny stick maybe 6 years ago

part of the path:


celandine poppy growing thru the retaining wall and virginia creeper growing over it:


catalpa I planted last year:


If you look closely, you can see in this picture two of the three retaining walls I've built. Farther up the hill is the third which holds in my herb garden which is at the top of the hill where it's sunnier.

pokeberry with wild ginger (tiarella not very visible in the background) etc


This is just a little sample... there's 40 some native species back there (many spring ephemerals which of course are long gone) and I hope you can see it's turning into a kind of magic space... You can feel like you are in a little woods, even though we are very urban, 1/3 of an acre fronting onto a busy street 4 miles from down town. It's shady and when it's hot and sunny up on the concrete patio at the top, it's at least ten degrees cooler down on the bench...

When I started it was land fill/dump, totally over grown with honeysuckle, english ivy, poison ivy and trash. I have no before pictures, because I couldn't even get down there to take any.

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 3:02 am
by Jewell
Steep terrain like yours rainbowgardener I think are the most interesting. What a lot of work you have put in hauling the retaining wall bricks. WoW! It looks like a perfect sanctuary. :D

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 6:15 am
by rainbowgardener
thanks, Jewell. It is becoming that sanctuary... It is a big project and a lot of work. Some people talk about going to work in the garden and they mean going out in a garden hat with a pair of scissors to snip spent flowers off the daisies (not that there's anything wrong with that :) ). My version of gardening involves hauling rock down steep slopes!

But I feel like I'm rescuing my tiny bit of earth which gives me a lot of satisfaction. I'm turning something that was trashed and ugly into a work of art...

Here's a few more views:

Level 1 is the herb garden at the top (because it was the first retaining wall I built):


Level 2 has redbud, red cedar, paw paws, spice bush (plus ground level stuff):





Level 3 has scarlet oak and silver maple, catalpa, carolina allspice:


Level 4 is where I'm working most now. (There is no level 5 yet). It has witch hazel and red maple and I've just added 2 sassafras, white pine, 2 baby maples (unknown variety, volunteered in a flower bed), another pawpaw, kalmia, burr oak, bearberry and spread around some of the solomon seal, wild ginger, celandine poppy that is thriving all over the place:


the shrub/ small tree in above picture is the witch hazel

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 6:58 pm
by Earl K
Very nice work RG.Must be nice to elevation changes,Down here it is just plain FLAT.Beautiful place Enjoy it :)

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:40 pm
by a0c8c
Looks great! I wish I could afford the hill country around here, but anywhere there's a hill, or is hill country, it gets ridiculously expensive. I'm stuck with flat earth :( Maybe I can find a smaller town near a city with some hills I can afford, but anywhere too close to a city will be too high.

I like the retaingin walls, but are they messing with erosion? I've heard alot of retaining walls mess up natural erosion and can cause problems in other areas. Is yours having that effect? I know that's whats killing Hawaii's beaches.

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:52 pm
by rainbowgardener
The point of the retaining walls is to keep the soil from washing away down the hill. I think they can be a problem with beaches, but that's not my situation. You will note in some of the pictures stumps of the big old honeysuckle bushes that used to be there. I leave the stumps because the roots help anchor the soil, until the stuff I am planting gets big enough to do the job.

Cincinnati, at least until you get well out into the suburbs (more expensive) is mostly all hills. I live 4 miles from downtown in a not especially good neighborhood (the wrong side of the main drag, a few blocks away on the other side are mansions). The only reason my 1/3 of an acre is there is it is too steep to build on or do anything with, so I lucked into it. I love my hillside, though it means I have little flat/ sunny space to grow veggies...

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:52 pm
by applestar
Rainbowgardener, those are some Herculean projects! :clap:
I'll remember you next time I feel too enervated to plant a new purchase, and remind myself how little effort it really would be -- in fact, I have three trees (Ginkgo biloba, Ilex opaca, and Cercis canadensis) and four perennials (Cherone obliqua? (pink -- planning to also get the white glabra -- hoping to attract the Baltimore Checkerspot, albeit chances are slim), Monarda didyma 'Coral Reef', Comptonia peregrina, and Asclepias purpurascens) that are waiting to be planted right now :wink:

I'd love to come sit on your bench. It looks like the perfect place to feel at one with the universe. :D

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 10:01 pm
by rainbowgardener
Thanks, applestar! I just this weekend finished planting my fall order. Took a couple weeks to get everything in the ground.

Posted: Tue Sep 15, 2009 10:05 pm
by a0c8c
rainbowgardener wrote:The point of the retaining walls is to keep the soil from washing away down the hill. I think they can be a problem with beaches, but that's not my situation. You will note in some of the pictures stumps of the big old honeysuckle bushes that used to be there. I leave the stumps because the roots help anchor the soil, until the stuff I am planting gets big enough to do the job.
That's good to know, I always knew it was a big problem with beaches, but never knew for sure if ti affected areas like yours.

You're lucky, it doesn't matter what the hill's like here, it gets developed by someone with money. The "wrong side of the tracks" got shoved far away from the hills, lol. When it gets too "steep" the 'green' rich folk build those amazing houses hanging off the hills, or cliffs in some places.

Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:16 pm
by rainbowgardener
Earl K wrote: Must be nice to have elevation changes. Down here it is just plain FLAT.
We all work with what we've got... I like my hillside, but it can also be a pain. There are times, when I'm trying to plant or weed, when I long for some place flat to put my feet! :) Or to be able to set my bucket down with out it rolling down the hill.

If I did live somewhere flat, I'd be doing the same amount of work the other direction (maybe I'm just never satisfied :) ). You can make a flat yard a lot more dramatic by adding some elevation changes: berms, raised beds, terraces, tall containers, boulders, etc... Even raising a section a few inches makes a difference.

Posted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:39 am
by Earl K
RG, I'm definately working with what I've got.My back yard has become my little jungle.All my containers inside the pool enclosure,outside that ive added a raised bed of strawberries,2 25 gal. pots 1 with yellow zukes,1 with 3 cuke plants,greenbean growing on side fence.Its coming along.Out front ive added ixoras,marigolds,vincas and a small ficus tree.Just think that i had no interest in plants at all untill i found this site in march while looking up pepper plants.I'm hooked now and im not stoppin :D Keep up the good work :D

Posted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 10:40 am
by Diane
It is amazing what you've done with your land. It looks so natural and woodsy.
I always thought retaining walls saved the soil from sliding downhill when it rains.
What an effort that must have been to carry each and every stone down an uneven hill.
Bravo. You're returning to nature what was once there.

retaining walls

Posted: Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:21 am
by rainbowgardener
Yup, that is the point of the retaining walls, they "retain" the soil. As it is, everything I plant, has a little semi-circle of rocks around the downhill side of it, to retain the soil around it.

I didn't terrace, that is make flat areas behind the retaining walls 1) it wasn't practical on such a steep slope-- I would have had to have at least twice as many or they would have had to be twice as tall, which you can't do with the interlocking blocks. 2) It wouldn't look natural and woodsy as a series of flat terraces.

But it does mean even with the retaining walls, I still have to work to help the plants hang on to soil around them.

And yes it has been a bunch of work getting all those blocks to where they were used, etc etc. Not so bad on level 1, but getting to be a big deal where I'm working now! :D

Thanks for the kind words everyone! Part of why I love this forum... Somewhere to show all that work where people understand and appreciate what went in to it.

tulip poplar etc

Posted: Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:04 pm
by rainbowgardener
A friend gave me a tulip poplar that volunteered in his yard, so I planted that in Level 4 also. I think Level 4 is now crammed with as many trees as I can put there. So the oak tree (I haven't yet figured out what variety) that the friend also gave me is going to have to be the beginning of Level 5. Since level 5 doesn't exist yet, that means hacking out a clearing in the jungle of japanese honeysuckle, english ivy, trash, wild grapes (some with vines thicker around than my wrist)... Sometimes I wish I had a machete!

In order to plant the tulip poplar, I first had to haul up a 10 foot section of rusted iron (steel?) box gutter, way heavier than they make that stuff now. It was occupying the spot I wanted. It was full of dirt and overgrown with ivy, I had to cut it all loose, obviously had been sitting there for years... It's a very weird and neglected little property I'm restoring!

I may let the oak sit in its pot until spring! :)

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 12:33 am
by a0c8c
Machete's aren't that expensive, you can get one from a gun store for around $15. Just make sure it's got a tang that's the full length of the handle, which should be true for any good knife.

Posted: Thu Oct 01, 2009 7:37 am
by Diane
Maybe a folding garden saw would do a good job. I use mine to prune my Lilac tree and my mother's crab apple tree.

Posted: Fri Oct 02, 2009 5:20 pm
by gixxerific
First time seeing this post.

I'm jealous RG. :oops:

Posted: Fri Oct 09, 2009 4:44 am
by orgoveg
Rainbow -

I'm most impressed with the natural collection on your property. It's really cool, especially considering that you don't live on sprawling acreage out of town.

Posted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:52 pm
by rainbowgardener
thanks, orgoveg.. I consider it sort of a demonstration project of what can be done to restore what people would usually consider an utterly worthless little piece of steep, overgrown, trash filled city land. The previous owners just put a fence around the patio to block the view of the hillside and continued throwing trash over the fence (it had already been land fill in the past, for sometime before that)...

When I moved in there and started clearing the trash, my next door neighbor was watching. I told her "someday this will be beautiful." She laughed then, but she's not laughing any more! :)


Posted: Sun Oct 18, 2009 4:07 am
by rainbowgardener
More trees, gimme more trees, gotta have more trees !! :)

A good friend (?) of mine who knows my tree addiction and also happens to be a naturalist in our county park system told me about their native tree sale (I call her my tree pusher!)

So I bought an American hornbeam, sycamore, buttonbush, and dogwood. the dogwood is baby, just over a foot tall, the rest are decent sized, 3-4' and very healthy looking. Total cost $67.

It's kind of too late to be planting, hard frost predicted tonight and tomorrow night, so I just dug all the pots deep into the ground and mulched well. Plant in spring... Once I get all these planted, my reforestation project will be well underway with 28 trees planted (and baby ones starting to volunteer) plus a bunch of shrubs and understory stuff and a big variety of different types represented.

Posted: Sun Oct 18, 2009 11:24 am
by applestar
Sounds terrific and great buy! (I LOVE native plant sales) You probably know this already, but of the new acquisitions, make sure you keep the buttonbush in a moist area where it won't dry out and the dogwood in a well drained area where it WON'T get waterlogged. :wink:

Posted: Sun Oct 18, 2009 11:35 am
by rainbowgardener
yeah... for the winter once they are dormant, which will be very soon, I'm hoping they won't be too picky and the tree nursery is right by the house so I can take care of them. Once transplanted, the thing about gardening on such a steep slope is that it is very well drained! In drought times, it's hard to give them lots of water, because it runs off rather than soaking in. So the dogwood should be ok. But I might need to make a bowl around the buttonbush...

My theory is that I just plant a whole big selection of stuff that is original to this area and see what takes. Eventually I will have a colony of native plants that are at least reasonably adapted to my particular conditions. I do give them some help, especially getting started, but once established, the point is not to baby them. So some things spread and others don't. Appendaged waterleaf and wild ginger love it back there. The wild ginger is slowly spreading and I keep moving it to new spots. The appendaged water leaf was spreading itself wildly, but the groundhog that has her home on the hillside, unfortunately decided it was her favorite treat, which slowed it down a lot.

Posted: Sun Nov 08, 2009 7:27 am
by Sage Hermit
Now I miss Ohio very much.

I read buckeyes in there. Too much nostalgia. Looks great I am ipressed and a little homesick.

Posted: Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:09 pm
by rainbowgardener
Yeah, the buckeye is a cool tree and it is starting to volunteer on my hillside... baby buckeyes popping up without me planting them. That's very satisfying to see as there was nothing native back there when I started (well one old hackberry and some pokeweed and white snakeroot, but hardly anything).

Posted: Fri Nov 13, 2009 2:03 pm
by applestar
That hill side is going to be an explosion of color! Gorgeous! :D

fall/ spring on my hillside --pix

Posted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 1:12 am
by rainbowgardener
(Applestar's comment above this actually refers to this. I had posted it, then I decided to organize my collection of Photobucket pictures into a couple of different albums, not realizing I was breaking the links. So then my post lost the pictures so I deleted it. Redoing everything now)


red maple


just planted baby sassafras

carolina allspice (with variegated solomon's seal)

spring on the hillside!

Posted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:59 pm
by rainbowgardener




A few pix of spring on my native woodland shade plants hillside garden, featuring virginia bluebells, woods poppy, solomon seal and not as visible wild ginger, trout lily, bedstraw (cleavers), cutleaf toothwort, squirrel corn, red trillium (wake robin), bugbane and others.

Posted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 8:06 pm
by applestar
Rainbowgardener, I love the photos, but I don't know what they all are and it's killing me! Yellow flowers are Woods Poppy and blue flowers are the Bluebells I assume. I recognize the Solomon's Seal, and I have the exact same 3rd photo plant which I believe is Foam Flower/Tiarella.

In the second photo, that tree with long leaves like fingers is buckeye, right?

Squirrel corn? Funny name! I'll have to look that one up. :wink:

Posted: Mon Apr 19, 2010 9:14 pm
by rainbowgardener
You got everything right, including the buckeye, our state tree.

Squirrel corn is a species of dutchman's breeches. Squirrel corn is dicentra canadensis; dutchman's breeches is dicentra cucullaria. Both are sometimes called wild bleeding heart. It is squirrel corn, because the little tubers look a lot like corn kernels and the squirrels like them (and sometimes plant them by burying them for later). In the second picture you can just see it at the far left edge, just above the block wall.