Williston Research Extension Center


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Landscaping at the WREC


Tip #1 - Take Inventory

It is especially important when overhauling a landscape to see what is already there. Many of these existing plants, especially perennials, can be replanted elsewhere. It is typically more difficult to transplant trees and shrubs, especially well established ones. This endeavor may take you well into the growing season to give those late bloomers a chance to show themselves, and don't miss those early spring blooming bulbs, corms and rhizomes.

Tip #2 - Create a Plan

Even something as primitive as a bubble diagram can be as good as gold. A professionally formatted planting plan is NOT required to attain a beautiful landscape. Formulating an idea of how you want to fill a space is the first step in planning; everything else will fall into place. The great thing about this process is that you can change your ideas any time in the process without wasting a lot of time redesigning. 

Tip #3 - Get Dirty

It's easy to spend too much time on the design process when sometimes you just need to get started. For some, it’s easier to capture a vision with a blank slate. At the WREC, we jumped in head first with the removal process after digging up the existing plants we wanted to save. We chose to leave the established shrubs and one tree for their ornamental and environmental values. 

Tip #4 - Consider the Site

Once you’ve removed unwanted plants, it may be necessary to add soil back in. It’s also good to have an idea of where the water drains from the site. Once the plants are in the ground, it is pretty difficult to make any significant changes to the topography. This is the one critical step that homeowners often forget. Up here in the North, our soils are constantly going through the cycle of freezing, thawing and settling. We live in a world of instant gratification, and we like immediate results. Truthfully, it is best to let your site go through its natural freeze-thaw cycle for at least one year, however, we know this isn’t always feasible.

Hardscaping is any non-living component of landscaping, such as patios or walls. We built decorative landscape block retaining walls to fill space and add texture. Designing the proper drainage around those walls is critical to its stability, and depending on the size of the retaining wall it might be best if the design and installation was left to a professional.  Another critical factor that affect any hardscaping is ground settling; another reason to let the professionals use their specialized equipment to deal with this issue.

Tip #5 - Plant Considerations

This is the best part about landscaping - choosing the plants that you want.

This can be a big decision, but the main thing to remember is light requirements. Typically, you will find low light tolerant plants in the more shaded section of your local greenhouse and light tolerant plants out in the sunlight. However, there are certain plants that fill in those little niche areas that you might have in your landscape.

The other thing to consider about plant selection is its hardiness. Williston is considered zone 3b according to the USDA hardiness zone map, but much of Williams county is zone 3a. Most plant tags say zone 3, zone 4, etc. Sometimes you can get away with a zone 4 plant, if you have a nice little micoclimate in an area of your landscape, but it's a safe bet to stay with anything zone 3 and lower, such as zone 2.

Additional Resources

USDA Hardiness Zone Map

Perennial Plant Association

North Dakota Nursery and Greenhouse Association

North Dakota Urban Community and Forestry Association

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