Creating A Beautiful Home

On Top Of The World -- A Guide To Landscaping A High Elevation Yard

by Serenity Harris

Living at a high elevation usually comes with a few challenges that those in lower climes don't have to face. When landscaping your yard, these challenges can come on multiple fronts—from the soil, the winter and the wildlife. But you can win the battle with your yard. Here's a handy guide to successful mountain landscaping.

Learn Your Soil. The first step you'll need to take is to get to know your particular type of soil. Mountain soil tends to be hard and difficult to work with. But understanding its makeup allows you to add what it needs in order to become useful growing material. A high concentration of decomposed granite, for example, benefits from having a thick layer of sphagnum peat moss worked into the first 2/3 of a foot. Clay soil, on the other hand, may do better with compost added in because the clay retains excess water.

Work with the Rocks. You're likely to find that your ground has a lot more rocks than you had expected. To get the best results from your plantings, it's best to work at removing as many rocks and debris as you can from the first 6 to 12 inches of the dirt. Be reasonable, though—unlike playing Pokemon Go, you won't be able to get 'em all. Once you've cleared the majority of stones from a section, collect the larger and more interesting rocks for use later in rock gardens and flower beds.

Plant Greenery. Perennials that have an early bloom schedule—from early to midsummer—are probably your best bet. Flowers like daisies, yarrow, brown-eyed Susans and tiger lilies will all bloom and complete their cycle before the winter's temperatures drop. By looking for plants that are native to high elevation areas—such as columbine or Siberian iris—you can also decrease the amount of maintenance and watering your flowers will need. If you're unsure what plants thrive in your elevation, consult with a qualified landscaping service with experience in the local area. 

Use Containers. If you want plants that aren't hardy enough to make it through the winter's freezing temps, make use of container gardens. Placing a large pot on a set of wheels allows you to move it indoors to a shed or barn for the winter. Using pots also allows you to move around plants and small trees to better catch the sun when the days get shorter and to protect delicate plants from invading wildlife.

Don't Forget Evergreens. Evergreen plants and shrubs help form a protective barrier for your home and outbuildings in the off season. Because evergreens last through the winter in their full form, they can help insulate your house if planted alongside the outer walls. A row of evergreen trees or bushes can also serve as a wind break -- or even a snow break if your weather is particularly harsh. Combine evergreens with deciduous trees (like Russian hawthorne or river birch) that provide color in the summer and fall. 

By following this checklist as you prepare your high altitude yard for landscaping, you can create a space that will not only be easier to maintain but also look better throughout the year. For more assistance with landscaping, check out a site like