Landscaping with Restoration Principles

Rick Martinson, owner of Winter Creek Restoration, is passionate about incorporating restoration principles into created environments.

Rick Martinson, owner of Winter Creek Restoration, is passionate about incorporating restoration principles into created environments.

Rick Martinson and the team from Winter Creek Restoration have been on site this past week, creating an ecology-based landscaped area surrounding Desert Rain. By incorporating restoration principles into the landscaping, Winter Creek Restoration will be creating something that is both remarkably beautiful and astoundingly smart.

The Winter Creek Restoration Team: Dayne Galish, Andy Dwyer (OSU Intern), Calina Merrow (OSU Intern), Conor Bidelspach, Kimber Warnock, and Rick Martinson (owner).

The Winter Creek Restoration Team: Dayne Galish, Andy Dwyer (OSU Intern), Calina Merrow (OSU Intern), Conor Bidelspach, Kimber Warnock, and Rick Martinson (owner).

Speaking with Rick about his work, one quickly realizes that he is both passionate and knowledgeable about the way native plant ecosystems function.  He was kind enough to take time from the busy day to explain the science behind the work the team will be doing and the long term process that the Desert Rain landscape will go through.

Resource Islands

The most common landscaping strives to support plant-life evenly throughout a space. Shrubs, flowers, and grass are watered and given nutrients, regardless of the shade created, natural flow of water, and nutrient deposits. This type of landscape requires more water and more nutrients, and also requires more weed control. In an effort to conserve water, soil nutrients, and effort, Desert Rain is looking to the natural world for inspiration.

Planting shrubs near rocks helps create "resource islands" - areas that will support plant-life with very little water or resources.

Planting shrubs near rocks helps create “resource islands” – areas that will support plant-life with very little water or resources.

Looking closely at the natural vegetation in the sage steppe area in places like Central Oregon, you can see that plants clump together in small “resource islands,” surrounded by spaces that have almost nothing growing.  Rick explained that these clusters of plants are supported by, and create, nutrient pools – or areas rich with nutrients, water, and shade. A large sagebrush, for example, creates shade for smaller plants and sheds leaves to create a layer of mulch to keep moisture from evaporating from the soil. Similarly, a large rock creates shade as well as collecting solar heat. Rocks also cause water to collect and even provide nutrients.

A Wyoming Sagebrush is at the center of this "resource island."

A Wyoming Sagebrush is at the center of this “resource island.”

As a variety of plants begin to grow near the rock or shrub, they create a microclimate that other species can also take advantage of.  Conversely, the spaces in which no plants grow are all but nutrient void. These voids don’t support the growth of weeds like Cheatgrass and Russian Thistle. Winter Creek Restoration is using this understanding to plant native small grasses and flowers near shrubs and rocks, creating resource islands that will require very little water and maintenance, yet will offer immense beauty.

We're looking forward to watching the northern slope of Desert Rain grow.

We’re looking forward to watching the northern slope of Desert Rain grow.

Rick’s wife, Karen Theodore, runs Winter Creek Nursery and has supplied all of the plants for our project. We’re looking forward to watching plants like Western Yarrow (Achillia Millifolium), Wyoming Big Sagebrush (Artemisia Tridentata var. Wyomingenesis), Desert Spray (Holodiscus Dumosus), and many more native species thrive in a landscape that mimics their natural settings.

Currently working on his doctorate, Rick hopes that ecology-based landscaping will become more of the norm in the landscaping industry and more appreciated by municipal planning departments. We’re looking forward to hosting some of Rick’s future educational workshops and seminars on the Desert Rain site.

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