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propagating perennials: Berms
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Friday, March 14, 2008


Some people want to build berms, primarily for screening purposes, but worry about the plant material being stabilized. When I did design/build in Colorado, depending on the client, the house, and the yard I tried to bring the mountains down to the suburbs, by creating berms with moss rock and boulders, aspen and firs, along with a mix of perennials and woody plant ground covers. The first thing a person should do is to lay out the berm circumference with lime, then start digging up the sod and turn it over with the grass facing downward. Then add topsoil, but it doesn’t have to be screened nor does it need to be compost. Adding manure and bone meal when planting will give the plants a good start in any garden bed. As the soil is added tamp it down either by walking on it or by using a tamper. I presume the plant material has been laid out in advance. I always put at least one fir and multiple stemmed aspen in the berm. To secure the plants from being blown over or from being staked, which look out of place in a landscape, I used 1/4" rebar and pound it through the root ball, wet it first, until you hit solid ground. A four foot section should be sufficient. That will stabilize the plants in the wind, because the one gallon container plants will not need staking. Take into consideration the growth habits of the ground covers, you don’t want the plants to be crowded after a year. I used wood bark mulch to cover the bed and it seems everyone in Colorado has a sprinkler system hooked up, so I didn’t need to worry about the garden beds getting ample water. I also added lighting fixtures and not the 12 volt kind either. In some jurisdictions they require the wire be enclosed in conduit. The design of the berm should resemble an amoeba, flowing and sweeping lines that tie into other parts of the landscape plan, but nothing tight because the grass still needs to be mowed freely. I used to drive the sprinkler people crazy because they like things in straight lines, but were mountain ranges formed in straight lines?

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