There is nothing, (in my humble opinion), as interesting and enjoyable as spending time in the forests or mountain areas in Idaho. Whether it’s the beauty, the quiet, the trees, the interesting rocks, the shade, the adventure, or any of the infinite reasons to go out and get away from the world; the backcountry of Idaho is an incredible place to enjoy. But in reality most jobs and locations aren’t conducive to having the time to get away after work on a daily or even weekly basis. But, with some planning, work, and of course budgeting; you can create a backyard that has some of your favorite things from Idaho’s backcountry in your own yard. So I pose the question, would you rather come home at the end of the day after work, and mow a piece of grass on your time off, or instead enjoy a forested space that isn’t as much work or expense as grass? Last week after work, I was driving by the home of one of my friends and he was out mowing his huge front lawn. This friend has a long work schedule with no real opportunity to leave his work building during the day to go outside, get fresh air, sunshine, and be away from a confined space. So for him, mowing is his time to get outside, but how much better would it be to get out in some trees, enjoy the evening with the family, and have fun rather than spending time and money maintaining a large grass area where its primary purpose is for show rather than anything else. I always recommend that if we can improve a yard with trees and low input design ideas that require far less water, provide shade, and stop the wind on the property, then we have improved the landscape dramatically.
Repeating what already grows in the area and mimicking the natural settings of the Eastern Idaho climate is much easier than trying to force a bunch of plants to grow where they normally don’t grow anyway. To re-create the natural ecology of East Idaho I would do the following things:
- Select trees, shrubs, and grasses that are native to the inter-mountain region. Simply put, avoid plants that you wouldn’t naturally see out in the wilderness, and choose plants you enjoy while out hiking or enjoying the outdoors. A few examples include potentilla, douglas fir, columbine, wild geraniums, birches, and small low growing willows.
- Rocks. Living in the mountains, we have a wide variety of different kinds of rocks to choose from ranging from sandstone, river rocks, lava rocks, and many other kinds. The type of rock can add or detract from the style of mountain landscape that you are trying to create.
Put your yard together the way that mother nature does. Meaning don’t plant trees or shrubs in straight lines and instead put natural curves into the layout of your yard. Use groupings of plants to make your yard more reflective of what you see in the mountains. Aspens for example never grow alone in the mountains, nor do they grow in a straight line. Trees in natural settings grow in large groupings or clusters, which is why we call them either an entire forest or a grove of trees. This way of landscaping can work well with urban settings as most people would like the privacy, screening, and shade that a grove of trees would
- Walkways can also be similar of how a trail might be laid out in nature. NOT, in the sense that trails in the mountains are many times hazardous and can make you trip and fall, but rather trails that are winding walkways that go around natural outcroppings or around trees. Most hiking trails in the wilderness started out as wildlife trails created by elk, deer, or moose. Later on, people started using these same walkways as hiking trails, so repeating a winding walkway or something like that in your yard adds to the feeling you are out in the woods rather than living in a subdivision.
- While water features and small ponds may look attractive, they are a lot of work, are expensive, and are a drowning hazard for children. More authentic to our area than an actual water feature, is a dry creek bed since we do live in a high altitude desert, and dry creek beds are quite common. Putting in a dry creek bed is a great way to utilize a difficult area in your yard that may not have a specific purpose, and also saves on water since plants used in dry creek beds are normally drought tolerant, deep rooted, and low maintenance.
For further gardening ideas, please reach out to Lance at 208-624-3102.