British Columbia: What to plant on logged, north facing slope on Gulf Islands

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by GulfIsland, Aug 25, 2010.

  1. GulfIsland

    GulfIsland Member

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    Friends of mine have recently acquired a property on the Southern Gulf Islands. It faces north, is relatively steeply slopped, and is bordered by forest, so it doesn't get much sun in the winter. The previous stand of cedar, hemlock, and douglas fir was logged by the previous owners.

    My question, on their behalf, is what can they plant to help restore the land, given that they don't have irrigation and don't have a lot of time? This season they sowed rye grass and fox gloves, both of which grew well. They also have thriving patches of stinging nettle and russian thistle.

    Thank you in advance!
     
  2. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    The land will go about the process of restoring itself, so to speak...which is to say, a mixed bag of pioneer species will germinate, and left alone will likely be a tangle of broom, blackberry, nettles, thistles, fireweed, alder, huckleberry, maple and fir seedlings (as is typical on such sites in the gulf islands). Eventually, a more mature mixed forest will re-establish and shade out these seral colonizers, though the rather jumbled mixture of trees won't represent a healthy, well-managed stand. So they really have a couple of options, depending on the goal. Take advantage of it's presently open state to plan a garden/landscape, and establish this while it is relatively easy to remove competing pioneers/tree seedlings; choose to manage the succession back to forest which would involve thinning and spacing of tree seedlings as they grow, or do a bit of both: select the trees that will be allowed to mature, cut the thistle heads before they seed, etc. Main point, though, is that the process of succession will have already begun on their land...if restoration is the goal, working with what's already happening is the way to go. Any sort of radical intervention will require additional irrigation and time, both of which you indicate is in short supply....If they do decide to engage in a lot of planting, have them do so in the fall: autumn plantings will require less irrigation and effort in the spring.
     
  3. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Ryegrass is the last thing they should plant!

    I'd plant Douglas-fir, Sitka Spruce, Western Hemlock, Grand Fir, Western Redcedar, Red Alder.
     
  4. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    This pretty much precisely describes the mix that will spontaneously appear as part of the typical succession for the area (along with bigleaf maple). Nothing saying one can't speed it along a bit, though. Probably worth adding that the Red Alder will start to die off around 40-60 years (natural lifespan), and ought to be removed while small wherever they'll be a danger to structures.
     
  5. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Yep, exactly my thought. It'll definitely need assistance though if any ryegrass has become established, as that will smother any conifer seedlings that try to appear naturally.
     
  6. kevind76

    kevind76 Active Member

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    Question: would it be feasable to try to establish a different kind of native ecosystem than was in that location? Specifically a Garry Oak ecosystem, since they are endangered? I don't know much about this, but I read the post and was curious.
     
  7. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    The main obvious thing those need is freedom from competition by other trees. So the site would have to be kept "weeded" indefinitely in order for a grove to develop and persist.
     
  8. kevind76

    kevind76 Active Member

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    Okay, thanks. This leads to other questions, maybe not best for this thread, but perhaps. The one wild patch of Garry Oak ecosystem I have seen was on Salt Spring Island, and was surrounded by thick forest. So, my question then is, what keeps these trees out of the Garry Oak ecosystem? Yes, I agree, that if it wasn't there in the first place, it might be hard to create, but why?
     
  9. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    There is at least one environmental factor present that excludes the other trees, or reduces their presence enough to give the very slow-growing, shade-intolerant oak a chance to live and grow. In the northern part of its range dryness is liable to be involved.

    Usually forms open-canopy stands on water-shedding (rock outcrops) sites....Characteristic of dry mesothermal forests

    --K. Klinka et al, Indicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (1989, UBC Press, Vancouver)
     
  10. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    To answer your question, it might be helpful to envision Garry Oak systems as what they are: remant bits of a savannah that once covered much of southern vancouver island. As the climate changed, fir became more dominant and displaced much of this. The Garry Oak bits that remain are either better adapted to the sort of sites described in Ron's post above, and find a sort of refuge there (as is the case with a lot of the Saltspring Island groves), or exist on account of intensive management (weeding, burning, clearing, cultivating) on the part of local First Nations (and more recently--and in greatly reduced fashion--by conservation groups). With regards to the rocky sites, it's interesting to note that these might not be ideal sites for Garry Oaks, but instead (as mentioned) simply sites that are free from competition that Garry Oaks can tolerate. The characteristic small, gnarled, slow growing oaks you see on rocky slopes become fairly large, and much faster (though never fast) growing trees in more fertile, moister conditions. But such places are favourable to faster growing competitors as well, and oaks are quickly shaded and excluded without costant intervention to favour the oaks (among the primary threats to Garry oak systems are fir seedlings...). So: the hows and whys of establishing a grove are fairly straightforward. Find a suitable open site, plant and tend a grove of very slow growing oaks, or plant a clearing in the forest, and fight a constant struggle against forest succession...either way, it'd be a lot of work. You'll find certain neighbourhoods in Victoria are actually large oak meadows that were divided up into lots, and in a funny way, the net result is beneficial to the oaks, and demonstrates the sort of effort required to tend a large stand: each yard has a large old oak, with fastidiously tended grassy lawns beneath. One person doing this for a number of oaks would be a big task: spread over a hundred front yards, not so much. The result is some pretty spectacular specimens.
     
  11. kevind76

    kevind76 Active Member

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    Thanks for that info - very helpful! So, the Garry Oak is not the right choice for the site in question.

    Returning an area to it's natural state is noble, and should be encouraged. If it were me, though, I would like a mix of native and landscape. Native is always good, but personally, I would love to see plants like Redwood, Sequoia, Rhododendrons, Bamboo, Bananas, Palms, Eucalyptus, etc. These could be planted in the desired locations, and let the natural vegetation reclaim the area around them, so it will look like the plants have always been there. Would give a nice mix of the native plus a bit of the exotic.

    May I ask which Island this is? How large of an area was logged?
     
  12. GulfIsland

    GulfIsland Member

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    About 2 acres of a steep, north-facing slope were logged. Just in case the owners of the property are particularly sensitive about their privacy, I won't reveal the island, other than to repeat that it is a Southern Gulf Island.

    Moreover, I probably didn't express their intentions correctly when I said they wanted to "restore" the land. I think they are happy to have the view created by the logging, just not happy to have all the ugliness and weeds the logging created on the ground. If they had time, money, and irrigation, they would probably want a sparse forest with arbutus, salal, and moss. Since they don't have any of these things, I was wondering what easy things they could do to make their land, for lack of a better word, "prettier."
     
  13. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    North-facing won't be good for warmth- and sun-loving trees like Garry Oak or Arbutus.
     
  14. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Garry oak groves turned to lawn and houses won't be reproducing or have various other significant features that were present before development. Individual mature specimens may look good for a long time (species lives for centuries) but there will be little recruitment (generation of new trees) going on. Each time one of the relict specimens dies, there is very little likelihood of a replacement being present.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2010
  15. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    Yah, true enough...Homeowners could replant seedlings, and associated companion species could (and are sometimes) grown as a part of the understory garden. It's not a managed approach, though, and over time I agree, they'll decline...still, they always were in part an anthropogenic phenomenon, and the present situation continues that, albeit in a greatly diminished way. The main point: to establish an optimal grove of Garry Oaks, constant tending of the understory is required, and this is a rather large, ongoing task.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2010
  16. kevind76

    kevind76 Active Member

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    I respect that - I was just curious.

    As for making a logged area 'pretty' without time or money, that can be a challenge. Are there stumps, or did the previous owners clean that up? Stumps would really be a pain.
     
  17. GulfIsland

    GulfIsland Member

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    Yes, there are still stumps scattered throughout the property.
     
  18. kevind76

    kevind76 Active Member

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    Perhaps burn the entire area to clean it up and then seed with native wildflowers? I'm not sure. I think your friends might have a big job on their hands.
     
  19. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Stumps etc. should be left to protect the soil from slippage. Something that might happen anyway, even with stumps still in place.

    What often happens when people down here log a slope for a saltwater view is that varying assemblages of more or less aggressive vegetation respond to the opportunity provided to take over the site. If native trees like bigleaf maple or red alder and native shrubs like California hazel or ocean spray are able to partially or completely colonize the new gap then these are then kept cut low to retain the view. Usually to ugly effect. But many such places in and near cities here end up awash in foreign origin land grabbers like Irish ivy, Himalayan blackberry and giant morning glory.

    If it is possible to access all of the clearing on a regular basis without climbing gear the optimum approach might be to periodically cut off any unwanted tall-growing trees or exotic invasive plants as they appear on their own, leave the rest of the spontaneous vegetation in place to provide furnishing and cover.
     
  20. Other

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    Huckleberries love to grow on stumps. Currents have nice flowers and are low growing to help keep the view. Mushrooms could be an option to help cover the stumps too. Definitely cut the invasive plants.
     
  21. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Note the shrub name is spelled "currant".
     

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