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Is it better to keep up with your landscaping? HOA would not approve — The Grow Network Community
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Is it better to keep up with your landscaping? HOA would not approve

shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,401 ✭✭✭✭
edited November 2020 in Garden Design

I have been in this house for almost two years and I am still dealing with the previous owner's landscaping. Once I get the landscaping resolved, maybe I can grow food in the ground instead of pots. I am not planning to touch the 3/4 acre of undeveloped desert.

They did a charming job of landscaping but did what many do and planted little cute plants close together to fill in spaces, not taking into account what the full grown plants would look like. Then apply some water and neglect...this would not happen in a homeowner's association. (For the record, I never want to be in HOA.)

So, having hacked away most of the overgrowth, I have discovered a good reason to let your landscaping go: native plants are allowed to grow undisturbed. It has taken me a while to identify plants. I have discovered a Rocky Mountain Maple growing in my Red-Tipped Photina forest (watch out for the photinas, my photina hedge plants are now 15 feet high.) Two of my Texas Ranger shrubs are kinda stunted; I found Thin Leaf Cottonwood trees coming up from beneath them, probably why they are smaller than the others. (I have a volunteer Texas Ranger growing in the desert with no supplemental water.) I have a huge Red Yucca with TWO cottonwood trees growing up from underneath. There are other cottonwoods crowding other plants. My best find is a prickly pear cactus growing on the edge of backyard, next to two native shrubs that were ignored.

Anyways, I hate to kill healthy plants, although a couple are on my list. I also favor native plants where possible.

So, I have native plants that have a good start because of the neglected landscaping. The maple stays right where it is, partially protected by the photinas. Should I keep any or all of the cottonwoods? Your input would be appreciated.


  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,383 admin

    I would keep the cottonwoods! I am biased however because they are one of my favorite trees. Just make sure that they have room to grow to maturity. Did you know that you can tap them in spring & make syrup? I am just not too sure if that would work as well in a hot desert area as it would up here...

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,401 ✭✭✭✭

    @Laurie I am considering killing both Texas Rangers to accommodate the trees. Right now, both shrubs are heavily pruned to give the trees some trunk room. At least one tree will have to coexist with the yucca; I am thinking the yucca roots are shallow so should give room for tree roots.

    It is great to be able to talk trees with someone. Very few people know anything about them and I am self taught. Please share any knowledge you think I need as I ramble through my discussion.

    How big of a trunk can I expect? Right now trunks are only a couple of inches at best. The tallest of the trees are less than 5 feet tall. (I am wondering if they started growing after I bought the place?) All are on the outskirts of developed back yard; one is near a future short block wall.

    Apparently as part of the willow family, the seedlings were happy to find irrigated locations and steal water from other plants.

    The poor maple is about 10 feet tall and a trunk an inch in diameter twisting through the photina to seek the sun. It is in a southwestern location so I know removing the crowding will kill it with too much sun.

  • It's such a hard thing to learn, not to put in too many plants or too close together. I think people don't realize how FAST plants grow if given what they need to thrive.

    And everyone (me, too) wants to avoid that bare, scraggly look.

    I love cottonwoods. Just be aware that they can sometimes be a bit dangerous when windy weather breaks off big limbs from mature tress. We learned to never pitch a tent under a big cottonwood for fear of "widowmaker" limbs.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,383 admin

    @Mary Linda Bittle Good points. Our cottonwood is in the pasture & the only other ones we know if in our area are along the gravel road past our place.

    @shllnzl I can try to help, however, some of the trees/shrubs that you mention are foreign to me (as Texas Rangers, & is the yucca the pokey type like what grows in Wyoming?).

    One thing that might help, could you post a few pictures of your problem areas? This is what I preferred when helping with landscaping/plantings suggestions years ago.

  • chimboodle04chimboodle04 Posts: 286 ✭✭✭

    Ugh - I feel your pain..! The couple who owned our house before us loved to garden...no - I should say they loved to plant things and then let them turn into a jungle. I swear, anything that was invasive they bought in bulk and planted everywhere (chamelion plant, gooseneck loostrife, ivys of all sorts, you name it). On top of this, they double planted most hedges around the perimeter of the property (I am assuming for privacy purposes), so while the outer edge was a solid wall of 20 foot arborvitae (planted too close and really starting to show the stress of it...), there was another completely different row on the inside facing the house of whatever they could lay their hands on - russian olives, chockcherries, barberries, etc.... It broke my heart to cut so much of it down because everything was planted within a foot or two of each other - nowhere near where they should have been to accommodate mature specimens. We were able to save some of them as we cleared away the excess and those are now flourishing and lovely. I can only figure they must have taken advantage of a start sale - its so easy to want to put those small twigs close so that they grow together faster - but it really poses a whole host of problems for the future. Proper planning is key!

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,401 ✭✭✭✭

    We went for 155 days with no measurable rain when it should have been monsoon season. Now it is raining.

    I will try to take pictures when I get enough light. Some of the details may not be clear, though, because the trees in question have lost most of their leaves.

    The Texas Ranger is also known as Texas Sage.

    The yucca is Red Yucca, get spikes of red blooms throughout the summer.

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,401 ✭✭✭✭

    @Laurie I am going to have to kill one of the cottonwoods or it will eventually screw up this view. It is growing under the shrub on the bottom right. (The plants look much smaller in this picture that was taken when we moved in.)

    The other cottonwoods are near the property line on both sides. The only view they would screw up is my neighbors' houses on both sides.

    I understand cottonwoods drop branches on windy days; how likely would house damage result from those branches? It is not unusual for our winds to exceed 40mph here in the desert.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,383 admin
    edited November 2019

    You have a beautiful view, aside from everyone else's buildings. 😒 You could always transplant it elsewhere should it work...or give it away. Take special care to keep the roosts damp if digging to move elsewhere and check when the nurseries in your area would sell bare root stock. That is the best time to do this sort of transfer. Another idea would be to pot them (in this same time) and sell them after you know they will survive the transplant into the pot. This is best done when the trees are small.

    In order to reduce damage, plant your trees at enough distance do that a branch can't hit buildings...yours or the neighbors'. I know that a cottonwood grows large & just as wide. I don't remember dimensions right now. Those would be good to figure for your area. If the roots do hit a water source, the trees will hit their full height & width. They love ditches/waterways. Trunks can get quite large.

    Ok...I found a website for you!!! It will answer your cottonwood questions. 😊

    This cottonwood is most likely your type. Ours, being in Canada, most likely is a different variety.

    As for the yucca & tree, take into consideration the rate of growth, height, water & sunlight requirements of both, not just root depth. The yucca most like won't compete with the tree in a negative way, but the tree will most likely eventually kill the yucca due to shading it too much.

    Keep on mind root growth (depth, spread, surface/sub) & if anybody these plants' roots might interfere with fence/ building foundations, walkways or driveways, water/sewer lines, etc. Some roots of certain trees (like our Siberian elm) can cause these issues, others are fine. If the link doesn't answer questions, either contact them or contact a respected local plant nursery/university to find answers.

    You will need to remove at least one of the two cottonwoods that are together. They will not survive well together. Each cottonwood should be spaced far enough from each other that at maturity, the crowns just touch. You can plant them a little closer if you wish, but I would not recommend pushing that idea by much. The health of the trees will be much better if planted the distance of the full mature crown width apart.

    Hedges/windbreaks of other types...not the cottonwoods...can be planted 1/2 that width to provide better wind protection.

    Do these things help you at all? Did I miss anything? Is there anything else that I can help with? Let me know!

  • teachercarynteachercaryn Cook at Wahlburgers The Frozen Tundra in the Northern MidwestPosts: 248 ✭✭✭

    Proper planning is key. Also, wait until you know what is there before making decisions. Also, take a soul sample of specific areas and find out how that area or site zone drains.

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,401 ✭✭✭✭

    @Laurie Thanks for the link and all your work. Your thinking backs mine up. I will have to kill most of them, I'm afraid, and that won't be easy.

    @teachercaryn You are right. I hate to kill plants, especially natives, but nature did not cooperate with human laid structures. I will put more thought and observation into my decisions before I finalize them.

  • JaneMcTavishJaneMcTavish Posts: 26 ✭✭✭

    Our property had huge Maple trees when we bought it. Storms have damaged them or took them out completely. The last one will have to be removed, It's trunk split. I had been tapping them the last 3 years. All of them had trunks so large, two of us weren't able to reach around them. Their loss opened up areas that began growing prairie plants and I promoted them. We live in Southeastern Iowa, in a small town with larger city rules. We have turned the lots from heavy pesticide and herbicide use to organic and our neighbors do the same. The whole place was landscaped for the daughters weddings and more. That has become an overgrown mess. I'm trying a new approach, one side of our property was lightly tilled as soon as possible this Spring and Daisies, Lilies, Oat Grass, Purple Cone Flower, and more Milkweed than one can imagine all planted. Three to five feet from the sidewalk into the planted area is being mowed, the rest left to grow and be foraged as wild foods. I've applied to have it all deemed a Monarch Wayside and it will have signs in place in the next few months. The Purple leaf Plums are small trees that actually produce tiny plums that the birds and squirrels enjoy we think! Last year we had some crazy infestation that flew in and feasted on the apple trees and the grapes. We lost all of both and decided not to replant them instead added a Cherry tree, doing well in its 2nd year, a pear tree, and 3 peach trees that grew from pits the grandchildren experimented with. The big tree loss also opened the sky for 2 new young Maples that will begin to be tapped in 2021. I hope.

    I have to say you have a breathtaking view. We're hiding in our over growth of what I call our "Garden of Weed'n".

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,401 ✭✭✭✭

    @JaneMcTavish I would be interested in seeing photos of your Monarch Wayside and other areas of your property. It has to be beautiful.

  • VermontCathyVermontCathy Posts: 377 ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020

    @shllnzl  One option to consider is to keep the cottonwood, but prune it drastically every year so that it never grows big enough to block the view. It would likely be very healthy because the root system would outgrow the top part of the tree, so it could draw plenty of water even in a dry location like yours.

    I don't see anything wrong with overplanting and then pruning or killing excess plants. Nature does everything in excess anyway. There is an argument to be made for putting in a lot of fast growing plants to get quick coverage, beauty, food, whatever you are looking for, and then culling some of them back as they fill in.

  • VermontCathyVermontCathy Posts: 377 ✭✭✭

    I've been doing a balance of different methods on different parts of the property. The north acre is all wooded, and is completely left alone. I dump leaves there and let them turn to leaf mold, and harvest apples from the edge of the woods, but otherwise it's not managed.

    The other acre is lawn with scattered trees. We mow the lawn, but otherwise leave things largely alone. I have planted a few blueberries that are still struggling, and even in year 3, we will probably get no more than a small handful. I acidified the soil, but with so many trees around in the thick eastern forest, they may be limited by hours of sun per day,

    The previous owners clearly loved flowers, but had little interest in growing food or medicinal plants. I've left the tulips, daffodils, and lilies alone, but haven't made any effort to do more with flowers. I did plant some herbal annuals in the flower patch, but most didn't take. The plastic the previous owners put under that bed may be creating problems.

    Then there's the actual vegetable garden, which I grow mostly in raised beds because of problems with flooding in the spring snowmelt and rains. That's 100% food-production, without trying to be pretty landscaping. And some of it is in the front yard, which gets more sun, and most in the back yard, which is deer-fenced. Don't hesitate to use your front yard too!

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,401 ✭✭✭✭

    @catherine.james Well, we keep trying to kill the 4 cottonwoods growing up within the yucca but of course we haven't succeeded because we don't want to kill the beautiful large yucca.

    Since I am losing the battle, and essentially am pruning the trees anyway, I will go with your suggestion. The real issue for that location is to keep the trees from getting too close to the house. Maybe small trees will produce the medicine.

    Nature does indeed do things in excess. I am just softhearted and don't like to kill healthy plants.

    The maple has been given some room to grow out in the sun. I am waiting to see that plant develop.

  • VermontCathyVermontCathy Posts: 377 ✭✭✭

    @shllnzl I have a potential problem with many small trees that may eventually undermine the foundations of my house and garage. I have to keep aggressively pruning them right down to the ground because I cannot kill their roots.

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 193 ✭✭✭

    There are actually food plants that are lovely, too, and I've been experimenting with "stealth food gardening" to help homeowners in HOA's grow some food without attracting the ire of the neighborhood authorities. Multiplier onions, for example - I grow the Green Mountain variety - are pretty enough to grow as ornamentals if you allow them to flower. Allow some to flower, and casually cut the heads off the rest so the bulbs grow larger. Nobody will notice. The bulbs are not quite as large and round as the commercial onions, but they're delicious and can be harvested all summer long. Leave the excess bulbs left in the ground to overwinter and begin growing and multiplying anew in the spring. They're attractive AND easy, plus tasty and a delight for the pollinators. What's to not love?

  • VermontCathyVermontCathy Posts: 377 ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020

    @Suburban Pioneer Where did you get your Green Mountain potato onions? I've been trying to find to find them, but haven't had any luck.

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 193 ✭✭✭

    I've gotten my seed from several smaller seed companies, including Experimental Farm Network and Maine Potato Lady (although I don't know if she still sells them). EFN has them, though. I think, like many seeds, these lesser known varieties go in and out of fashion and you have to grab them while you can.

    An alternative may be Allium ALtaicum, the "mother onion" from Siberia. She's the progrnitor of most or all the bunching onions we know today, and she's currently threatened in her homeland due to overharvesting. So, growing a few Altaicums will help to preserve diversity, as well as yielding small bunching onions for the table and keeping the HOA mavens quiet.

    I'm trying Kurugoma Black Sesame plants this year, in the cut flower bed. Supposed to be pretty enough to put in a vase, and pollinator friendly while yielding yummy black sesame seeds. Will see - so far, our summer weather has been totally crazy. In the 90's two days ago, between the mid-80's and high 40's yesterday, and low 60's today with sheets of rain. Don't know how well the hot crops will grow and flower in this yo-yo weather, but if they do tough it out, I'll see how well the sesame fits into the stealth showcase.

    Certain violets are another sneaky food. The Huron Sand Violets sold by Oikos Tree Crops yield a hairless edible leaf that's nice cooked in soups. Yields a mild-flavored, slightly mucilagenous green that thickens the broth a little (rather like okra). The flower is also edible, though, like most flowers, the flavor is nothing to really brag about. But the appearance is awesome, and NOBODY will suspect that you're actually growing something for the pot!

  • aprilbbrinkmanaprilbbrinkman Posts: 192 ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020

    @shllnzl my HOA that I'm currently fleeing mailed out to each alleged member of the cult a "how-to" on how to "garden" which basically invoked "hiring" an undocumented migrant worker who'd subsequently spray around Roundup. The migrant workers leafblow even when there are no leaves to be found. The sound is excruciating and if it feels like that to me what must the bees think of it? It is devastating to the land not to mention the pollinators--not to mention those of us against cancer. Not a day goes by in this land of HOA that I don't hear the deafening sound.

    The homeowners don't hear the deafening machinery being used on their land. They don't smell the pungent, choking, petrol fumes spewing out of the mostly dilapidated "garden" machinery. Did you know that beyond industrial farming practices, and Roundup, not to mention the chemical fertilizers this kind of outdated gardening machinery is one of the major sources of environmental contamination. Motor vehicles are actually much better regulated than garden tools. Gardening tools are still back in the day before we did anything about the catalytic converter.

    Why do the HOA homeowners not see this happening? They're out and about doing the truly valuable societal work and don't have time for sustainable gardening but don't tell that to Einstein (at least bf coronavirus). And the migrant workers will be paid, or at least their employers will. So they find a way to spend time and I kid you not I've seen leafblowers turned on in the wind and rain with painfully comical results. I've also seen my share of "phantom" leafblowing. Nor am I at all impressed with any of my past hood's gardening. Not only do none of them grow food, they cannot even safely walk on any of their blaring, grotesquely bright green lawns or artificial landscaping due to all the chemicals. Or at least they shouldn't not if they don't like cancer. Do you know what the cancer rates of migrant workers are compared to the rest of the population. Anyhow, that's the latest ground control to Major Tom reporting... Out and over!!!

    The desert is maybe my favorite landscape of all time, be well!

  • VermontCathyVermontCathy Posts: 377 ✭✭✭

    @Suburban Pioneer Thanks for the update.

    "I've gotten my seed from several smaller seed companies, including Experimental Farm Network and Maine Potato Lady (although I don't know if she still sells them). EFN has them, though. I think, like many seeds, these lesser known varieties go in and out of fashion and you have to grab them while you can."

    I bought my basic brown potato onions bulbs from Maine Potato Lady, along with two varieties of shallot. They are all doing well, but the bulbs are on the small side, and none of them are flowering. Maine Potato Lady is not currently selling Green Mountain multipliers.

    Thanks for the pointer to Experimental Farm Network. They list Green Mountain multiplier seed as out of stock, but that' s probably a time-of-year issue. They don't offer bulbs at all, and since potato onions don't breed true the only alternative is probably to get some seeds and establish a landrace.

    Skillcult used to sell bulbs, but he no longer does.

    I think you are right about lesser varieties going in and out of fashion and in and out of stock, but in the case of potato onions it's been hard to find them at all. Several suppliers that sold them 5 years or so ago have stopped. Getting seeds for a landrace is also hard. Getting bulbs for any type except the basic brown ones is almost impossible. Kelly Winterton did some good work over the past decade to breed new varieties, but as far as I can tell none of them have become readily available. I hope that his work hasn't been lost.

    If I can get a variety or landrace established here in Vermont, I plan to spread the bulbs around to as many gardening friends as possible in the hope that it will still exist when online supplies disappear. Multiplier onions are a great way to spread local home garden resilience in hard times, while regular bulbing onions aren't.

  • shllnzlshllnzl Southwestern UtahPosts: 1,401 ✭✭✭✭

    @aprilbbrinkman Thanks for the well wishes, same to you!

    When I moved to this house, the photina "trees" were a solid mass of green that swallowed the front of the house. Other plants were out of control too. I got a recommendation for a gardener from a new friend and hired them to prune plants, haul away the huge amount of debris and mow my mini lawn until we were fully moved in from out of state.

    They were a lot like the workers you described. They did the pruning in one day and when I saw the results, I realized that I knew more of pruning than they did. They wanted to dump the prunings on my undeveloped desert but I declined and they had to haul the stuff to the dump.

    They worked for me for a couple of months. I finally noticed and told them to stop spraying my weeds as it was bad for my dogs AND THEM, and I would pull my weeds by hand. All they wanted to do was blow leaves, spray Roundup and barely mow my lawn. The lead guy tried to take credit for my lawn greening up until I pointed out that the greening was happening in circles, courtesy of my dogs. (He did sprinkle a little fertilizer after that discussion.)

    The person who recommended them called me later to tell me that she had fired them; I told her I had done the same months earlier. (All her other recommendations have been outstanding.)

    I consider my rush to hire someone as an expensive lesson.

  • aprilbbrinkmanaprilbbrinkman Posts: 192 ✭✭✭
    edited July 2020

    @shllnzl thank you very much for sharing your experience what a good story! It is amazing to me how many of the wealthier Americans who are supposed to be so smart live in ways that are undeniably dumb. One in two of us now gets cancer. Most are on all the wrong drugs. Depressed. Living in big houses all alone with strangers hired to cook, clean and demolish the homeland around them. Don't know how to survive at the same time they're supposedly more wealthy than any other civilization on the planet and beyond. I was an attorney and so unhappy and dysfunctional. I didn't even know how bad it was until I came out of it, like waking from a bad dream. Almost escaped fully now. Now I'm a house mama and live a life of huge privilege even though I no longer have an attorney salary. Life it's just so full of contradictions and it's what makes the world go round God from what I've experienced definitely has a sense of humor. Glad you fired those guys and found a better way. Happy fourth!

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 193 ✭✭✭

    I definitely agree with the "resillience" issue. That's why I got multipliers instead of bulbers. EFN is just out for the season, I'm sure. And yes, a landrace is what you're going to have to deal with, though I've not found that to be any problem as far as yield or flavor. I let almost all of my onions flower, partly for ornamental purposes, partly to establish hybrid vigor, partly to feed the bees, and partly just because I lack the time and energy to cut all the flowering stalks off. That will come in future years as I have less to do just getting the whole shebang established. Letting the ladies do their thing, however, spreads onion plants around with no effort on my part, so yay for me on that one! So far, all the onions have been relatively homogenous, which is good, so I can count on the flavor without going through the bother of taste testing and roguing out the bad ones. (Flavor has been uniformly good so far and I know I'm wierd but I LOVE the aroma of the plants - they smell like sauteed onions right out of the pan!). I also grow Lilia red onions from seed, and those things are great multipliers, too. Last but not least, you might try Allium altaicum, the Baikal onion, or Siberian onion. She is called the Grandmother Onion because she's the ancestor of all bunching onions. I haven't tried eating her, yet, though she's being hunted to oblivion by wild foragers so she must be pretty tasty. This is my second year growing her and she seems quite happy in our heat and sandy soil. I'll try her next year when she's more established. She's easy to grow, white flowering and a little smaller than in bulb and stalk than most other onions (but equally attractive). I get my seed from Sacred Succulents. Baikal is one of the varieties I'm growing to help provide refuge for plants that are under pressure.

  • seeker.nancy - Central Texasseeker.nancy - Central Texas Posts: 755 ✭✭✭✭
    edited July 2020

    @shllnzl we had a mobile home that we had replaced the siding with those fiber cement panels. During one wind storm a four inch cottonwood branch was broken off and driven through that exterior all the way inside the mobile home. Winds were extremely high, in fact I still maintain it was a small tornado because you could see the path of destruction at least a mile long. The weather "gods" said it was only wind shear. Anyway, winds of 60-70 mph, which was a bit more that the 40 mph usual.

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