One of the mainstays of water conservation is the use of mulch. And because everyone likes a uniform look, bark mulch is a popular choice. I'm actually not sure what this stuff really is, but I do know it's some kind of shredded wood, and I shudder to remember when Mr. Mouse and I spread 3 cubic yards of it in the front (the back garden was done professionally).
So, mulch great for water conservation, but it has an annoying tendency to get disturbed when I do some hand watering with the hose.
Mulch also isn't as great at discouraging weeds as I've been told. Any weed that's worth that name will not have a problem to get through 3 inches of the stuff.
But the biggest problem is that bark mulch is booooring. During the last GBBD, I saw Nan Ondras photos from her Pennsylvania garden, and I realized that I'd like my garden to look a little more like that. Actually, I have some areas that come close.
This sunny spot, with sedum, California fuchsia, Artemesia, yarrow, and Salvia leucophylla in the background looks (comparatively) lush and inviting.
The side strip with two species of Eriogonum (buckwheat), sedum, and Correa also looks fine.
But here, we have a bark mulch dessert.
Sure, part of the problem is that the Lavender is still new, and I'm expecting it to grow. Another problem (problem?) is that I have California poppies here in spring. But I'm still wondering whether I have other options.
In this area Salvia sonomensis is an attractive ground cover year round -- of course, we don't have a lot of poppies there.
Things can also be tricky in the shade. This newly planted area with Heuchera (propagated by Ms. Country Mouse), ferns, and blue-eyed grass clearly has a bark mulch problem.
But as the fern grows, it will cover some of the area. What's a Mouse to do?
Here's what I'm thinking of trying (any ideas? please comment!):
- Stop buying more bark mulch for sunny areas. California natives in sunny areas are not usually surrounded by woody substances, but rather by dirt, pebbles, or dry leaves.
- In the areas with spring annuals, plant summer/fall annuals next year. Seeing Ms. Country Mouse's Madia explosion is an inspiration! Is there a shorter version of that plant?
- Worry less about overplanting. The areas that have bark mulch problems are usually those where I've been extra careful not to overplant. But life is short, so I'll probably start being a little more irresponsible. Let's face it, we'd all rather see blossoms than bark mulch.