Let Your Environment Dictate Your Garden Style

Let Your Environment Dictate Your Garden Style

The Rogue Valley is blessed with a great climate for growing many different types of plants. We experience all four seasons and get to enjoy the many fine plants that define them. We boast a blend of Mediterranean and Pacific Northwest growing conditions — hot and dry in the summer and cool and moist in the winter. So how does our location affect garden styles in Southern Oregon? With such a broad palette of plants available to us, how can one choose a garden style that will be unified and attractive at the same time?

Our climate may grant us a wide array of plant material, but there are other factors at work in our valley that suggest, if not downright dictate, the plants we grow and how to grow them effectively. Here’s a run-down on how to make your garden choices simple and successful.

Soil is the great equalizer. Without good quality soil in the right amount, it’s difficult to grow all but the toughest plants. Clay soil, which covers much of the Rogue Valley, produced the pear industry here. The pear tree’s ability to cope with wet, heavy winter soil made it a viable crop in many parts of the valley. The granite-type soils found in Ashland and other higher elevation areas produces a reversal of clay soil issues; it has trouble holding onto water.

In the homes located in our surrounding hills and beyond, fire danger is a prime consideration when designing a landscape. Not only are low-fuel, fire-resistant plants called for, a green “defensible space” around homes is required with scattered plantings and careful selection of materials for mulching and hardscaping.

Time is essential in determining garden design. That is: How much time can be devoted to maintaining the property. It is hardly possible for a young, active family to try to keep up a large formal landscape that requires hours of pruning and meticulous care in between work and trips to soccer games. How much more sensible to live with carefully chosen eco-type lawn areas that provide places to play and need only the occasional mowing and watering to perform well.

Water is a consideration for residents outside city limits and dependent on wells. Unless you are fortunate to have a high volume well, it is a good idea to limit plantings that need irrigating and to use water-saving techniques to deliver that water. Fortunately, an abundance of drought-tolerant plants are available in local nurseries.

Wildlife gardeners have additional considerations to guide them. If you are a bird fancier, you will want to provide food sources, as well as water and shelter for your feathered friends. Butterflies often need specific plants that supply food to young hungry caterpillars as they develop. If you love to watch all types of wildlife, the untidy hedgerow, which has all but disappeared in today’s modern, orderly world, is still one of the best places to observe quail, foxes, skunks and almost any animal that needs to move from place to place.

In order to create the garden you want, you must understand the underlying elements necessary for success, and then create those conditions within the proper locale. Only then are you free to pursue plants to fill in your plan. Fortunately, with the great number of plant specimens that perform well here, it’s possible to fill that order and keep the environment healthy.

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