Incorporating Pacific Northwest Natives into Your Home Landscape

Wanda Cucinotta, LIHT Stewardship Coordinator

Wanda Cucinotta, LIHT Stewardship Coordinator

Lummi Island native Maidenhair Fern.

Lummi Island native Maidenhair Fern.

We are so fortunate to live in the Pacific Northwest with its unique bio-diversity and vast array of beautiful native plant species to incorporate into our gardens. Over the years, I have learned a great deal by seeing the interactions of species in mature second growth forests while working with native plants in their natural habitats. I have observed growth habits, soil preferences, preferred environments and transferred that information into understanding their cultural needs. The basic rule when using natives in your landscape is to know your plant and its natural habitat and meet those needs in the garden.

Transplanting Natives:  Woodland ground covers that grow under the canopy of mature trees adapt well to shady gardens around tall buildings and at the base of existing trees and shrubs. The problem occurs when we try to plant them directly in ordinary garden soil without ample organic matter. They don't like their feet deep in dense soil. What I have observed is they like to grow horizontally between the hard tree roots and compacted soil of the forest and the layer of humus (duff and leaf mold).

Improving the Soil:  Plant them on top of the soil, after you have spaded and loosened the top crust, and then add a layer of two to four inches of leaf mold, bark, wood chips or other organic matter. This makes it easier for the roots to spread. It also makes it easier to plant near those close-to-the-surface tree roots.

Mix peat in the soil to lower the pH and sand into heavy dense clay soils to aid the spreading of fine roots on top of the soil layer. Many of these plants like growing with the natural fungi in the soil so never spray fungicides around them. They are all drought resistant and have adapted to our wet winters and dry summer conditions.

Excerpt from Wanda's 2000 Whatcom Watch article, full article: http://www.whatcomwatch.org/old_issues/v9i4.html