British Columbia: Ornamental grasses (suggestions needed)

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Irena, Jul 22, 2021.

  1. Irena

    Irena New Member

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    Hello everyone.

    We live in the Lower Mainland and are needing some advice on the selection of ornamental grasses that we are wanting to plant along the fence line.

    The grasses will go on our neighbour's side of the fence (we have their permission) and need to do quite a bit of heavy lifting. We will be putting them in to put a bit of distance between the fence and their dog (prevent him from peeing on the fence or going number 2 right next to it there), and to also catch some of the odour from the dog waste that covers the neighbour's small yard and is never picked up.

    Although we will be planting the grasses and will be able to do some limited maintenance until they are established, once our neighbour takes over their care, I anticipate that little to no effort will go into their maintenance. So we are needing something that is between 3-4 ft in height, is very hardy in our Vancouver climate, doesn't get all floppy and sad in the rain, and requires little-to-no maintenance once established. They should do well in part sun to full sun, and the longer they are around, the better (both in terms of overall longevity and seasonal interest).

    I have tried to do my own research but came up with a couple of grasses that no local nursery carries. I realized I probably need more practical suggestion from knowledgeable gardeners in the Lower Mainland area.

    If anyone has any suggestions at all, I am very thankful in advance for the help.
     
  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Hmm... no maintenance grasses with some height. Nothing comes to my mind. @Ron B , @Douglas Justice , any thoughts ?
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Yes: anything that might have desired growth characteristics will still have to be watered and weeded. And sometimes maybe fertilized. If nobody does follow up maintenance some of the first things that will happen is summer drought effects - as in maybe all the plants dry out and die the first time around - and the lawn invading the planting. Otherwise if any giant morning glory or Himalayan blackberry get into the row of grasses at some point, the neighbor does not address them then you will have those coming through the fence in short order.

    Returning to the dryness issue - a critical factor - if you are thinking of proceeding with your scheme now July is just about the worst possible time to undertake a new planting in our region. It being conventionally the first month of the annual summer drought, to be followed by continuing comparative dryness for some months afterward. But in addition this year specifically there has already been an entire month without rain down here in the lowlands of western Washington. With the western United States currently experiencing the worst drought in 1200 years according to tree ring counts. So I suspect it's not raining much where you are also.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
  4. Irena

    Irena New Member

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    Thank you for this feedback. My husband contemplated putting down some landscape fabric, cutting out large enough openings for the grass and its maximum spread, and then potentially putting down river rock overtop. He hypothesized this might reduce some of the need to weed.

    We would probably be able to water whatever we plant there for the first year, but I doubt our neighbours would welcome us on their property on an annual basis for this maintenance.

    I appreciate the heads up about July not being the best time to plant. It hasn't rained here for weeks.
     
  5. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    There is a history of landscape fabric backfiring on those using it. With the primary issue being the accumulation of organic debris on top of the fabric over time resulting in weeds being able to grow on top of the fabric. Topping with cobbles does not prevent this and can make cleaning up significantly more difficult. Also rocks get hot on top during the summer, which can affect the growth of plants not specifically adapted to growing among them. In addition - as with the annual increase in heights of woody plants - the sideways spread of clumping grasses does not reach a predictable figure and then end, with the specimens at the same time maintaining their previous vitality and appearance. For a woody stem or a creeping rootstock to come to a permanent halt something like complete death or dying back and starting over has to be involved.

    Finally the lack of their interest in even cleaning up after the dog carries an implication that the current occupants do not own the property themselves. In which case their permission to modify the property is not the property owner's permission. Otherwise even if they are the property owners what happens if they sell out soon and then another party, with a different response to a neighbor gardening part of their already limited back yard takes over? If nothing else another phenomenon that I have experienced personally is those giving permission for something to be done on their land by an outsider deciding after the activity has been undertaken that they don't like it. So that one thing I can see happening with what you are contemplating is the neighbors declaring - ironically - that the grass border is not up to their own aesthetic standards. And telling you they want it taken out.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2021
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  6. Irena

    Irena New Member

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    Incredibly, it is their property. They just have an extremely high tolerance for the bad smell and the disorder.

    We are keeping them involved in the process in that we make the suggestions but they ultimately decide what they like. They also insist on paying for the plants themselves, in which case our exposure here is mostly the labour associated with planting and watering until the plants are established.

    Unfortunately, I do not foresee them moving anytime soon. But if they did move, I suspect the underlying issue would be resolved and there would be no need to have anything at all planted in front of the fence to protect it.

    I appreciate the feedback about the fabric and the river rock. Both seem like a bad idea in light of the experience you have shared. Thank you.
     
  7. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    This is hard to imagine

    Neighbors have and love dogs and they have i would guess the gravel called 3/4 crush —— the 3/4 means inches

    Anyway - thé dogs toilet accordingly and then solids are picked up

    And urine just drains

    And then it is hoses down often with i suppose peroxide bleach

    anyway - I am glad they talk to you - that is important

    I cannot imagine letting this accumulate

    PLANTS

    WHAT about sword fern
    It takes a bit to establish
    And leg lifters might kill it

    I look at really pretty professional grass and river rock at a local shopping mall and they trim the grasses each winter spring after snow

    I think you likely need some sort of layered approach to this

    Or have two fences each a foot or so inside your shared property line - our yard is big so I can envision it but I understand it would limit a 10x20 foot area.

    Pinterest?
     
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  8. Irena

    Irena New Member

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    Yes, we did consider ferns, though we wondered if there might not be too much light on that side. I will put sword fern on my list as something to investigate. Thank you!

    I don't have much hope at all that steps will be taken on the other side of the fence to keep things clean and sanitary. They understand that it is quite bad but inexplicably are just unmotivated to clean. So we are doing what we can.

    It's quite dusty and barren now on that side of the fence. The dog digs by the fence/retaining wall daily and large plumes of dust clouds fill our property. So we want to prevent that from happening as well. We currently have citronella and lemon balm in containers on our retaining wall, but it deters neither dog nor mosquito. You heard it here first.

    I wondered if, as a second layer of protection, we chuck the citronella and put up containers of boxwood on the retaining wall on our side? Or bamboo in containers?

    Unfortunately, the dog appeared just as our renovation outside was approaching completion (we still have a couple of fence panels missing), and at that point it was too late to take this into consideration. The property is really just a narrow strip, so no room for a second fence.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2021
  9. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    ——-
    Beautiful hardscape and so much effort put in to it

    I would almost be tempted to sponsor the pro install of some large pavers on neighbor side - maybe then it would be easier for them to maintain —

    I mean there are dog feces services that go around and clean private yards (not a service I have employed as we do our own animal care)

    Plants are ongoing work

    But a few square feet of paved area might be better investment in longterm for the enjoyment of your own garden

    Maybe you could spray a hose thru the fence and clean it toward their direction

    So make sure pavers slope away from your side.

    At least your neighbors converse with you :)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 23, 2021
  10. Irena

    Irena New Member

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    I'm beginning to sense the answer to my dilemma is not botanical in nature. Lol.
    Well, thank you again for everyone's feedback. We'll see what solution we can MacGyver together from all that we know and the advice we have received.
     
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  11. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    Any further development in this dilemma?

    I like to learn follow-up info

    I hope it’s working out
     

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