There’s No Problem Planting Banks And Slopes

A bank skirting the street can often be a problem spot. Sowing it to the lawn is impractical because of the inconvenience of mowing a slope. 

Grass and creeping ground covers, like myrtle and pachysandra, remain too low to separate the grounds from the street. A retaining wall involves a heavy expense unless the owners do the building themselves. 

Banks And SlopesPin

The best solution is to plant the bank in some sturdy shrub with fibrous roots that hold the soil.

Japanese Barberry

Japanese barberry is one of the best and least expensive bank-covering shrubs, and if one is willing to wait 4 or 5 years for a permanent planting, the whole cost can be written off by growing the shrubs from seed.

The trim bank planting in front of the property of Miss Mary J. Averett in Chatham, N. J., began with a hedge of Japanese barberry along the top of the slope.

The owner selected seeds from the heavily-fruiting plants in the hedge and sowed them in rows in the vegetable garden. 

When the seedlings had grown to a suitable size for transplanting about two years later, they were set out on the bank, one foot apart each way.

Barberry Seedlings

The bank was covered with a 3-year-old rough sod when the barberry seedlings were planted. Instead of turning this under, holes for the small shrubs were dug in the sod. The grass was cut with a sickle for the following three seasons when necessary.

When the plants were set out in the spring, they were cut back immediately to 4″ inches from the ground to encourage thick branching from the ground level. The following winter, they were again cut back to 6″ inches, and the second winter, to 8″ inches. 

The plants had filled in enough by the next year to make grass-cutting unnecessary. Then the plants were left undisturbed until they became so large that they required shearing to keep them in scale.

Barberry Pruning

Now the barberry planting gets two regular prunings a year with hedge shears. The main trimming is done on any mild day in late winter.

Starting at the top of the slope, the gardener shears all plants within reach to a height of about 2 1/2′ feet. Then the shearing is completed from the foot of the bank.

Light pruning is given the planting again in early June to shear back the new twigs and encourage dense growth. The shrubs can grow the rest of the season freely and set fruit for fall and winter interests.

Evangeline Daffodils

Overflow Evangeline daffodils planted 10 years ago in a single row at the foot of the planting have increased so much that they make a solid foot-wide border that provides a nice spring show.

An occasional feeding of bonemeal is the only encouragement given to these daffodils, a variety that appears to thrive close to the fibrous-rooted barberries.

Hedge Top of the Slope

The hedge at the top of the slope is joined by the more refined boxwood, yews, and junipers to form a neat dooryard combination.

The whole planting has remained satisfying to this garden-minded owner for 25 years. 

With two prunings a year, the only cultural demand of the established barberries, such a planting may well be copied by other owners of sloping lots.

44659 by Alice L. Dustan