With two sparse and lawn-centric landscapes making me wrestle for something more, I have to step back and ask myself, “What are the goals?” I think I am finally beginning to round the proverbial corner and make steps toward a bit of insight into what those goals are.

The small lot in town and the other plot of rural land north of my pole shed are very different and so require consideration independent of the other. The reasons for doing something on the small, town lot are to provide some visual interest, to create a greater sense of depth in this narrow strip of yard, to minimize mowing, and to provide some screening from the road and from the church across the street. I also want to attract as much life as possible to this otherwise sterile piece of turf.

The land at the north end of the pole shed shares the need for some screening and lawn reduction. I want to screen it both from the road and from a nearby cabin. This is true even though the cabin is also on our property. I still feel like it’d be nice to sit there and feel like you are by yourself and no one can see you. I like the idea that one can landscape to create outdoor rooms with differing orientations and purposes. I’d like this to be a three-sided outdoor room with one side open to the river and the hills across the way. The room’s center will be a fire circle with semi-circular seating arranged to take in both the fire and the big view. The living “walls” or varied-height screens need to attract as much wildlife as possible. I want plenty of birds, bees, and butterflies to distract and fascinate anyone who visits and takes the time to just sit there.

I had previously tried to grow Chinese and hybrid chestnuts as well as black currents in this area. However, the currents were often neglected and became messy because mowing and trimming around them was difficult and time consuming. The chestnuts got freeze-damaged and so heavily browsed that they looked more like over-grown shrubs than stately chestnut trees. And, even worse, mature chestnuts on the ground are big pains in the feet! It was like planting painful landmines of prickers for unsuspecting bare feet. This effort was basically poorly thought out, and I kick myself now for the wasted 10 years.

I have a new plan now though. In the next entry, I’ll write about the tools and resources and all the notes I’ve taken to help select the best native plant species which, I hope, will help me accomplish every one of these goals.

Tom Lukens, VSN Board Chair