Freeing a creek 2: Select Plant Materials (or, how I fell in love with native plant catalogues)
The second installment on freeing a creek, from The Zetetic:
This riparian restoration project is going pretty well so far. Sticking to the guidelines in the Extension publication, I’m taking the lead on Part Two: Selecting Plant Materials, while my husband has skipped ahead to start Part Three: Prepare the Site, before the winter deluge hits in earnest.
This efficient separation of tasks saves time and plays to our individual strengths. John has spent his weekends on his tractor happily maneuvering a flail mower down the banks of what we now call Cinderella Creek. He removed the Schwinn along with miles of old fencing and carved out islands of willow, snowberry, and hawthorn. With its new close shave, Cinderella Creek is visible for the first time.
I am not sure he would have made so much progress with mowing had the Beavers had a winning football season.
And I was a kid in a candy store, poring over descriptions of riparian trees and shrubs that will someday replace the reed canarygrass and blackberries that currently line the creek. I thought Extension’s publication Gardening with Oregon Native Plants West of the Cascades would be a great place to start. With color photos of flowering natives and suggested uses in the landscape, this book fills hours by the wood stove dreaming of springtime and flowers.
I was beguiled by the thought of bleeding heart, camas, and spirea blooming like calendar art under the dappled shade of white oaks and black cottonwoods. I got carried away with flag-waving visions of redcedar, white alder, and blue elderberry parading down Cinderella Creek.
Reality check! This is a restoration, not a garden. Although John has mowed areas we’ve chosen for replanting, blackberries and reed canarygrass don’t give up that easily. Himalayan blackberry roots are strong and hearty; they will resprout with renewed vigor as if the mowing merely pruned out old wood. Reed canarygrass seeds are prolific and long-lived; with new access to sunlight, they’ll sprout to form a new, thicker carpet in the streambed.
These weeds, say the Extension foresters “must be controlled to allow good establishment of native trees and shrubs.” Controlled, that is, before planting. “You may need to spend two years getting your site ready for planting,” they write.
Coming soon, Step Three: Prepare the Site (or how we made the choice between herbicides versus tilling, cutting, mowing, pulling, grubbing, mulching, and swearing)
For expert information, see: