Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Landscaping in Cary, North Carolina without Feeding the Deer

Selecting Trees, Shrubs, and Landscape Plants

...that are deer, insect, and disease resistant!

There are lots and lots of trees in North Carolina.

Trees are all I see when the airplane approaches RDU for a landing. Trees are everywhere along the two lane highways that curve and wind to the local shopping malls, schools, and Research Triangle Park. There is a "tree protected" thicket behind our house. Tons of yellow pollen covers everything outside during the start of spring...

So why do I need to purchase and plant even more trees?

Unfortunately, the builder from whom we purchased our house cleared all the trees on our land prior to building the houses. They planted some small trees and shrubs on our property for 'landscaping' and leave the rest to the homeowner to do depending on their own personal taste.

I've never needed to plant a tree in any of our prior homes (we've moved a dozen times and most of our homes had 'mature' landscapes.) I'm also not familiar with what thrives in this area since there are a million deer, some snakes, foxes, insects, heat, humidity, and freezing temperature issues.

The builder planted Leyland Cypress trees along the backyard property line. How pretty the rows of trees looked when we moved in. Then, when winter came and there was nothing growing in the thicket of protected trees behind our property, our 5 foot tall evergreen cypress trees looked even prettier. So good in fact that all the deer in this area thought we put out an all-you-can-eat buffet for them!

In the winter we enjoy seeing the deer in the backyard, especially a tiny, young, unsteady fawn. I'll see them in the morning when I'm making my breakfast tea, and then again at dusk when I'm getting dinner ready. Leyland Cypress are fast growing trees, so we'll just let nature take its course and fill them in. Meanwhile, our front yard is in need of help.
What We Want for Landscaping our Yard:

1. Two large evergreen trees planted beside the house on the left and right side. These 2 trees would replace the Arborvitae trees that look diseased.

2. One small 'specimen' tree in the front yard, to view while sitting on the front porch. This tree would give us some privacy, and hide our right-side neighbor's driveway from our view while we sit and have our smoothies or tea on the porch.

3. Two small to medium sized formal evergreen trees or shrubs on either side of the foot of the driveway. These trees/shrubs would anchor the entrance of our driveway and give a formal appearance to the yard.

4. Several small to medium shrubs to replace a small piece of grass between our left-side neighbor's property and our driveway. This patch of grass is very difficult to water, plus we want to soften the direct view we have of our neighbor's driveway/garage. The shrubs must give a formal appearance as this is at the entrance of our driveway as well.

5. One large tree to provide shade, and beauty, in our backyard's corner where there is a steep slope.

6. Several shrubs to control erosion on the steep slope in our backyard.

So that is really overwhelming to someone who hasn't done much landscaping.

How to Make a Landscape Plan
To make this an organized and enjoyable process, I will follow these steps to make a Landscape Plan:

1. Look at the area you are trying to landscape. Separate the area into manageable sections if possible, keeping in mind the entire picture. It helps to enlarge a copy of your lot survey for this purpose. You can make a scale drawing of each patch of area on grid paper. Ask the local utilities companies (gas, electric, cable) to mark the lot so you can plan accordingly. We found out the gas line runs right down the middle of my front yard!

2. Visit local nurseries to get an idea of what the local market trends are, and the availability of common varieties.

3. Drive around the mature areas of your town, including well manicured business locations. Take pictures of trees and shrubs that look interesting and that you might use.

4. Research the Internet for disease resistant, deer resistant, evergreen trees and shrubs. Keep notes on the botanical name as well as the height, width, sun, and soil descriptions for each. This is the most time-consuming part.

5. Read books from the library, home improvement stores, or gardening magazines. These usually show the plants in landscape pictures so you can get many ideas.

6. If you are interested Feng Shui, read "Feng Shui for Gardens," by Lillian Too. This book really gives a great deal of information but you can get really caught up in trying to follow every suggestion. If you can take even some simple ideas from this book, you'll add a very positive energy or 'Chi' flow in your garden. I took the idea of not having sharp, pointy plants in my front yard (cuts up the incoming positive energy.) Also, I decided to plant red, yellow plants in the South side of my yard, blue flowers in the North, and gold/silver color plants in the West. (I'll try anyway...)

7. Draw a rough sketch of each area you are landscaping (try to draw to scale) on grid paper. Now draw in the possible plants, in their mature height and width, in the proper locations.

8. Decide if you'll buy trees locally or order through the web. I decided I wanted to see the trees in person. There are many websites that ship trees all across the states, and for every zone. Ask friends and neighbors for suggestions.

9. If buying locally, you can go to the home improvement stores, nurseries, or tree farms. Through our neighborhood group we found out about several nurseries that are outside the city (1 hour drive or so) that sell trees and shrubs for low prices. This was perfect for our small budget!

10. Plan your purchase and prepare your yard. This is very important for a successful tree transplant. Make sure you select healthy specimens, water and fertilize as needed, and watch your garden grow!

Here are my plant selections for our yard:

1. Nellie Stevens Holly to replace the Arborvitae

2. Specimen tree choices: Osmanthus Fortunei, Southern Wax Myrtle, Japanese Maple, Crape Myrtle. I will select one choice when I actually purchase the trees in the fall. I'll base my choice on what is readily available, looks healthy, and the cost.

3. Dwarf Burford Hollies to anchor the driveway.

4. Lorapetalum, Logustrum, Ilex Cornuta, Curlyleaf Privet, or camellia as small shrubs in the front yard.

5. Lil' Gem Magnolia, or Heritage River Birch for the back yard. Again, I'll wait until fall to select.

6. Junipers, and lavender bushes for the steep slope in the backyard.

Stay tuned, I'll update the outcome of this landscape plan in coming months...

Happy Gardening!
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