The concept of erosion and what we can do to control it may not enter everyday casual conversation, but perhaps it should. Erosion is the wearing away, wearing down, or weathering of the Earth. In a battle of opposing forces—rain, wind, water and ice will eventually beat away at earth and rock until it gives way to its strength. It can be a slow and steady process or quick and violent destruction.
But weather is not the only cause or contributor—heavy traffic, overuse, development—even working on our own landscape can contribute to erosion. Removing trees or a swath of tall view-spoiling hedge may seem harmless, but the results can strip a lawn of its nutrients and pollute local streams and rivers. A decent rain can carry silt downhill and dump it into area waterways, wreaking havoc on ecosystems.
But it doesn’t mean that removing a hedge isn’t possible. It just might mean replacing it with another option. Ground cover, shrubbery, even a tree or two—all viable choices. When it comes to erosion, think local—native plants are the best choice, already adapted to the area’s rainfall. And remember: a slope of 30 percent or more is at increased risk for erosion.
Ground covers and vines work hard to ensure soil remains in place. Consider deep-rooted ground covers when erosion is a risk. Options include Vinca Minor, English Ivy, Pigeon’s Point, Autumn Sage, Common Yarrow or Huntington’s Carpet.
Shrubbery is also an option, the deeper-rooted, the better—most shrubs have medium-depth roots. Ideal bushes—depending on zone and light needs—include Salal, Junipers, Cotoneaster and even certain roses.
Most trees have deep roots—but make the right choice for light and water needs and be aware of just how tall and wide your tree might grow. Consider Douglas Fir, Big-Leaf Maple, Cascara Buckthorn, Willow, Pine, Black Walnut, Flowering Dogwood or Red Alder. An important note: removing a mature tree and replacing it with a young sapling with shallow roots is not an equal trade.
The artistry of nature can be found in its connectivity, a series of cause-and-effect forces—the sun, water, air, gravity, moon, waves and anything green—each, separately and together, ensuring the continuity of life. That’s the big picture. But zoom in on our everyday actions, how we treat the landscape around our own piece of paradise and recognize that our choices impact the health of our environment. We need a strong respect for nature and its health, and a willingness to do our part.