Western edge of woods non-invasive plants
What plants would you suggest for the edge of a woods that is growing above a retaining wall? We'd like to back up the tree growth about twelve feet from the top edge of the retaining wall and plant other low growing plants there. Condos are at the base of the retaining wall. Our aim is to prevent aging trees from falling on the condos in the event of a windstorm. We realize that this is something that must be continuously monitored; we can't let the woods creep in. The woods is on the western side of the condos. We'd appreciate suggestions of non-invasive, possibly flowering plants.
You're right to be concerned about tree hazards to your condos. Especially big trees. This is one of the most commonly forgotten or disregarded subjects when planting trees. On the west side of your condos is more hazardous because most of our weather comes from the west, but trees can and do drop from any direction.
If your aim is to prevent existing trees from falling on the condos, there isn't anything that you could plant that could discourage that. The mission therefore seems to be to keep any new trees from growing in the bare area. This is not hard to do. Yearly you would want to pull any seedlings that happen to take root in the area.
What to plant in the area is another matter. There are endless possibilities, requiring differing amounts of time and maintenance. There is no such thing as maintenance free and plant decisions should be made by the level of gardening expertise and desire from individuals. In short, who would maintain it?
The low maintenance approach would be to use shrubs in the open space, varying sizes of shrubs. Many do flower and many have good fall color as well, creating three seasons of interest. In this category would be a variety of viburnums, ninebark, and lilacs for spring flowering. Hydrangeas, varying sizes and colors for early summer to fall flowering. Rose of Sharon for late summer flowering. These are just a few that could create considerable flowering for the growing season and all are easy to grow. Or for four season interest you could go with evergreens such as yews, arborvitaes, junipers, mugho pines, boxwoods and others. Or you could go with some combination of evergreens and deciduous. There are hardy shrub roses that require very little care these days as well. As I said before the possibilities are endless.
But again, none will have any affect on current tree growth. If it becomes more worrisome for you, I would suggest an evaluation by a Certified Arborist for a risk assessment. Arborist evaluations are generally not expensive and they are all well trained in risk assessment. It could give you the desired peace of mind. You can find one or more Certified Arborists in your zip code at www.treesaregood.com