have to be land surrounded by water.
They can be flower beds and shrubs surrounded by lawn. I see more
and more of them in
Some of the
islands I see are made into berms with small trees for the focal point.
Most are not round but oval or irregular shape, with tall plants
in the center, gradually sizing down to the very low plants as edging.
There are no rules as to what you plant, so it may
be the only place for your favorites.
In a shady yard the island could fill in around the trees,
leaving the sunny part for grass. There are a number of plants
preferring this with the most popular currently is the Hosta.
One can get any size and many leaf patterns of Hosta. Most of
them like water. Their
biggest problem are slugs that hide during the day and eat big holes at
night. There are products that contains iron phosphate (Sluggo, Es-car-go,
and Slug Magic Pellets for
example) that do not poison dogs or kids as the older poisons did. Or if
you want an organic method just put a wet burlap or board close by for
them to hide under. Then in
the morning lift your trap, drop the enemy in soapy water or squish them
yourself. Slugs like damp places to sleep in and they get hooked on the
burlap so are easy to take care of. Replace the board or burlap back
under the plant after harvest.
When you make
an island you have the chance to improve your soil by adding much
compost. Make sure you dig it in and do not layer. In a new island I
like to dig out the sod and set it aside. Then dig out the soil and then
put the sod upside down at the bottom of the hole. Next add compost and
the soil and put it in. If this is a berm you can dig out the sod, turn
it upside down and then add compost and soil spade or till together.
Once the plants are in you will not have this chance to enhance your
Most people put
their vegetable garden in the backyard and then after several years the
bugs and diseases build up their numbers. These cut down on the crop of
vegetables, so for a year or two they plant an island in front. They can
be very productive and beautiful as well.
Roseland Creasy has a book called “Edible Landscaping” with
ideas of adding plants like Blue Cabbage, the beauty of Carrot foliage,
arches with climbing beans. , and gourds mixed in with flowers in order
to “relearn the joy of eating fresh picked peas and vine ripened
tomatoes. Thus having a positive effect on your food supply, eating
pleasures, and household budget.” There are 353 pages of ideas and
plants such as string Beans with purple flowers, and many colors of
“Front Yard Idea Book” by Jenni Webber has an island in the front
yard as the backyard is a play ground that can be changed after the kids
are gone. This little island
is gardened with small shrubs surrounding a table and chairs seated on
square blocks. Other plans
were island plantings on either side of the front walk.
Sometimes I see an “island” at the corner of a house using up
a space that would be difficult to mow and making a space for some
I have noticed
the last few years the seed catalogs are adding new colorful vegetables.
In my Lilies who tend to lose lower leaves, I put Red Bull Beet
seeds. The red leaves are a good Spinach substitute as well as a
gorgeous ground cover, and then later I can eat the Beets. Another red
plant that makes good edging along a path is one or several of the red,
ruffly lettuces. There are purple podded string beans. Some that turn
green when cooked and other that stay purple. There is nothing showier
than a few clumps of Bright Lights Chard with its orangey red or gold
leaves about 3 feet high. You can be eating the small leaves weeks
before it gets those huge curly leaves.
A tall tomato vine in its cage with hundreds of golden tiny,
sweet fruit is not a bad sight. I really like the Sun Gold variety that
is very prolific and the fruit is very sweet right off the vine.
Lastly you can
think of a rain garden as an island in a low spot to catch run off
water. The rain garden will keep your fertilizer at home and not add it
to our water supply.
Just as I was
writing the last paragraph the mail came with “The Seed” newsletter
from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum with an article about “Edible
Landscapes”. Now here is hometown advice on plants that taste good and
grow well right here. There are examples in color and recipes for using
wild plants such as Wild Plum Jelly, Paw Paw Bread, Persimmon Pudding,
and Black Walnut Caramels. There is a section on fruit and nuts for your
backyard. To find out more
about this or to join the Arboretum you can write to Nebraska Statewide
Arboretum, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 103 Keim Hall, PO Box 83064,
Lincoln, NE 68583-0964. Or you can e-mail email@example.com, or call