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When Fall's in the Air

15yearsagoBy Stephanie Rose

‘As fall looms before us,’ noted Stephanie Rose in kicking off her Natural Companions column in the September 2000 issue of WaterShapes, ‘it’s timely to consider a question that should be a factor in every design we prepare:  To drop or not to drop?’

‘This question is a good one to ask before you start planning and has to do with how much natural debris your clients will be willing to fish out of their watershapes once you’re gone.  In other words, while it’s always important to decide what style of plants to put around your watershapes, it’s also important to think about types – that is, evergreen vs. deciduous.’  She continued:

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‘When designing a watershape and the landscaping that will surround it, you need to consider whether the plant is going to shed its leaves (or any other form of debris) and if any of that stuff is going to fall into the water.  Aside from the obvious concern about leaves clogging a filter, you need to consider whether tree droppings will affect your watershape in other ways:  Will they, for example, stain the bottom – or poison the water, killing fish or other wildlife?’  

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‘Whether we like it or not, every year nature completes a cycle.  For the deciduous plant, it’s all about leaves that begin their life in the spring, hang around during the summer and then die off in the fall, leaving (pardon the pun) a blanket on the ground as a reminder of their sudden lives.  And we’re talking about more than leaves:  These same plants may produce fruit, seeds and/or other objects that will end up dropping onto (or into) whatever is beneath them.’

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‘If the space below these plants is water, it’s as though they’re letting you know exactly what they think of your watershape.  They’ll drop on down, stain the walls and bottom, change the pH of the water or do any of a number of things that will cause you to ask, Why did I ever plant that there?

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‘Remember, we’re dealing with nature here.  It won’t alter its habits to conform to our needs.  Instead, we need to adapt to its sublime sense of order.  This doesn’t mean you can’t put a deciduous plant of any sort in a yard with a watershape.  It simply means, when planning the watershape, that if you want a deciduous tree such as a Weeping Willow, you need either to make room to accommodate it away from the watershape – or your clients have to be willing to put up with the leaf, fruit or flower drop.’

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‘If the trees you and your clients select present any sort of litter problem – and that’s true of just about any deciduous tree and also about many evergreens – here are some good guidelines.’  

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Think big:  When it comes to leaves, the bigger they are, the easier they will be to clean up.’  

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Consider the future:  As you select plants, think about how big your trees will be when mature.’  

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Weigh the possibilities:  As you think through your options, try to gauge just how far leaves and other droppings will reasonably be able to travel.  Wind and the site’s degree of exposure are big factors here.’

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Remember your clients:  This is a huge factor.  Only plant what your clients say they are willing to clean up!’

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‘A great many of you have learned these lessons through trial and error,’ Stephanie concluded, ‘or by dint of experience and lessons learned the hard way.’

How about you?  Is consideration of leaf-drop a key factor in selecting plants for placement around water, or is it a pure design decision you make solely for aesthetic reasons?  Either way, please share your insights in the comment section below and let us know how you prepare clients for what’s coming!

 

Stephanie Rose wrote her Natural Companions column for WaterShapes for eight years and also served as editor of LandShapes magazine.  She may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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