We moved to Logan four years ago after living in Pennsylvania. We became interested in gardening back East, but we had to relearn a lot when we moved out to the arid West. Our goals with our home garden have been to create a multifunctional landscape that is attractive, uses limited water, features native plants, and produces many of our favorite fruits and vegetables. Some of our favorite projects over the past couple years are our new rain pond installed last year, xeric rock gardens featuring cactuses and succulents, and a new garden featuring only Utah native plants. We have also been experimenting with growing some unusual fruits for Cache Valley, including growing blueberries in peat bales, and figs, pomegranates, and citrus in containers.
Some of our favorite plants
Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius): this tall native waterwise shrub is a great structural element in our garden with an elegant vase shape with evergreen leaves set against white bark.
Desert four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora): this incredible native perennial grows to an impressive size (about 6’ in diameter by 1’ high) from a tuber each year with no supplemental water. It is covered in beautiful purple flowers from June-September that open later in morning, afternoon, and when it is cloudy. Pollinators love it!
Penstemons of various species and hybrid varieties, including “Red Riding Hood,” “Electric Blue,” “Pike’s Peak Purple,” Firecracker, Wasatch, and Rocky Mountain. Our penstemons need no supplemental water once established, have brilliant colors, and are pollinator friendly. Utah has more native species of penstemon than any other state!
Osteospermum: This South African perennial does great in northern Utah. It has cheerful purple blooms that open with the sun all spring and summer. No supplemental water needed once established.
Spanish poppy (Papaver ruprifragum): This rare poppy needs zero additional water once established and blooms with crinkled apricot colored blossoms all spring and summer.
Garden description and highlights
We love living on the Logan River, but the location also presents some challenges when it comes to designing and implementing our garden ideas. For one, living in the river’s floodplain means that our soil is very rocky, so any excavation is challenging and produces many golf ball to watermelon sized rocks, which we’ve used for things like lining our garden paths and in our rock gardens. Our yard also slopes down to the river, creating several distinct microclimates that are also influenced by several large trees on our property.
Our front yard to the south of our driveway is a low-water landscape with areas devoted to fruit trees, perennial borders, a rock garden featuring cactuses and succulents, a culinary herb garden, and several raised beds for growing vegetables among the fruit trees. Along the front of our house is a stand of native bigtooth mapIe (Acer grandidentatum) and Gambel oak (Quercus gambelli), which protects a small shade garden under the eaves. Adjacent to this shade garden is our new rain pond, which sits at the base of a rain chain that drains about a quarter of our roof area. The pond is made out of a galvanized steel cattle trough and features water lilies, irises, and rushes. We use the rain pond to fill watering cans for hand watering plants in the front yard as a supplement to our drip irrigation system. Moving around to the south side of our house, we have recently installed a dry rock garden here focusing on cacti and succulents from North America, South America, and South Africa. Although this garden is still young there are some standout plants, including a Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia), cold hardy agaves (including Agave utahensis and Agave parryi) and many small but brilliantly flowering hedgehog cacti (genus Echinocereus and Escobaria), prickly pear cacti (genus Opuntia), and cholla (genus Cylindropuntia). A smaller cacti and succulent-focused rock garden installed two years ago lies in the middle of our front yard along the street. Along the southern edge of our property near our large spruce tree is a woodland shade to part-shade garden featuring native thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus) and serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia).
Along the street north of the driveway we’ve recently designed a 300 square foot garden that comprises exclusively Utah native plants. This garden features a large curl-leaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius), Mormon tea (Ephedra viridis), rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus), Apache plume (Fallugia paradoxa), and desert four o’clock (Mirabilis multiflora) and also has many smaller native Utah perennials and succulents. Other than for the year they are planted, plants in this garden receive no supplemental water.
Around on the north side of our house and north of the driveway is a border of grapes and fruit trees. At the back of the driveway are our rain barrels, self-watering containers growing dwarf tomatoes, and our three blueberry bushes planted in peat bales (the peat gives the blueberries the acidic soil they need, when they otherwise wouldn’t thrive planted in the ground in our very alkaline Utah soils). This is the blueberries’ third summer and they’ve already produced a couple harvests for us. At the back of the driveway is our vegetable garden with several raised beds and a new sunken bed that we’re trying this year for water conservation.
Our back yard is zoned for higher water use since it is a higher-use area. We have trellises for raspberries, a wild slope with chokecherries, blackberries, and black raspberries leading down to the Logan River, and a new moderate-water rock garden bed cascading down to our back patio with alpine flowers, roses, lilies, and peonies. We also have a small lawn surrounding our patio and leading up the hill underneath our large box elder and red maple trees. The patio and deck overlooking the river have a variety of ornamental plants and fruiting trees and shrubs we bring out during the summer, including several citrus trees (a Meyer lemon, grapefruit, and lime), a pomegranate, fig tree, and dragonfruit. Our pomegranate and fig trees overwinter in our unheated garage, while the citrus and dragonfruit live in our basement during the winter.
As you can probably guess, we love to spend time in our garden, and are always thinking about the next project. Future plans include a living fence of espaliered fruit trees and grapes and terracing some of our slopes using gabions to provide more flat gardening area. We can’t wait to share our garden with you!
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