New plan...I'm getting closer!

whaas_5a(5A SE WI)February 12, 2011

I was tooling around with multiple free downloads (including google sketch up) and I just couldn't get it.

I ended up redrawing my plan exactly to scale (at least within a couple feet).

Additional suggestions are welcome, including plant placement and selection.

Any space inbetween trees and the negative space will be filled with dwarf conifers, shrubs and perrenials.

The "S" in purple represents the steeper 30 degree slope transitions.

The dotted line in the lower third represents the start of the sloping lot (roughly 15 degrees all the way to the back lot line and continuing).

I forgot to put a compass on the plan but the bottom left corner is WEST facing.

After the house images, the series of images are views from the patio UNDER the deck. Starts from left, to the back and continuing to the right corner of the lot.

RP = Regal Prince Oak

A = Picea abies

G = Picea glauca var densata

P = Picea pungens

O = Picea omorika

PP = Asimina Triloba #5

AA = Aesculus 'Autumn Splendor'

AP = Aesculus Pavia #5

CC = Cercis canadensis #5

CR = Carpinus caroliniana #5

CJ = Cercidiphyllum japonicum

CK = Cornus kousa �Samaritian�

LT = Liriodendron tulipifera 'Little Volunteer'

PA = Pinus x 'Forest Sky'

MJ = Magnolia 'Jane'

NS = Nyssa sylvatica #5

OV = Ostrya virginiana #5

QB = Quercus bicolor#5

QE = Quercus ellipsoidalis #5

TD = Taxodium distichum #5

FR = Malus Firebird'

AS = Acer saccharun �Green Mountain�

GB = Ginkgo bioblia Autumn Gold

L = Thuja Green Giant

PF = Pinus strobus Fastigiata

PV = Pinus flexilis 'Vanderwolf's

PC = Pinus cembra

AC = Abies concolor / koreanea

NC = Picea abies Cupressina

PO = Picea OrientalisAureospicata

CH = Canadian Hemlock

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey.. super ... who needs landscapers ... lol ...

what about a 0ne inch supply line.. wont even need to blow it out with the hill ... gravity will do it for you ... 5th pic from the bottom i see the spigot .... out 5 feet from the house.. and straight out to the back.. T'ing off a few times.. to spread some spigots around ...

otherwise... i love the design.. but have one caveat.. kids ... i dont know your age .. but do you need some green area for frisbee ... baseball catch ... bocci.. lawn darts .. etc... insure that you have the open area you need ... for such ...

though the design may be set... later beds can fill in the open space.. once your kids hate you and move out ... lol ...

i never really post pix of my 100 by 300 foot .. well thats a football field ... not that either of them has any inclination towards sports ... it still comes in handy ... you should see our version of cross country bocci ... up and downhill.. thru paths.. its a hoot ... no real expertise needed.. its all about luck ....

i tried to go back and forth from the top to the bottom for the names.. but i cant .... can you add abbreviations to the top map ....

you are making great progress ...


    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 2:40PM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

Looks like a good design...flows good. There is a few places,where design ends at the deck,I would play with. Also where the front porch is the bed sweeps in to tight to the porch. Bring that out a little. I would tie the master bedroom bed in with the garage bed. That will give you better flow and no be so busy.

When you get ready to out line your beds take your plan with a few stakes for layout points and mark your corners. This will give you some reference points to work with.

Take your garden hose and lay your bed out as close to the plan as possible. You will find that it will have to be tweaked here and there for good flow. Easy to do.

Over all you did fine. You will probably make a few changes yourself once things start to take shape. Just take your time. I have played with a few areas of my design for hours till I accomplished just that special look I was after.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 2:46PM
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Your plan looks much improved now that it is a scaled drawing.

Most tidy landscapes define the bed areas with some type of hard edge. Very few edge types allow for the seamless passage of water. Most have some form of elevation change or barrier to maintain the sharp edge. Thus water that runs to the edge is diverted and then runs along the edge in the downhill direction. This can lead to erosion along the edge when the volume of water is significant and the grade is moderately steep. Often there is also the result of concentrated water causing wet spots in the landscape.

In the graphic below I have shown what I think are potential problem areas in your plan. Expected erosion along the edging is in orange leading to pool areas. Note also that much of the water may be diverted to a concentrated flow across the far back bed. The flows here may wash away mulch and cause erosion on your neighbors yard.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 5:04PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

hey ken,
I have to watch the green space as I do have a little one and a high energy lab that likes to bolt around the yard.
I'm going to start googling ways to get additional irrigation. I really need something center back.

hey dave,
good tips on the beds and stakes. It just dawned on me that I should create my beds before I plant anything...maybe even have the mulch blown in.

I actually do have some concern with the flow of water but I'm not sure what to do without completely sacrificing the design. Any suggestions?
I plan on using a finer mulch which I've heard does't flow as much. I tried getting some thoughts from the soil/mulch forum but nothing came up except using cypress mulch which isn't readily available around here. For the most part you got the directional flow correct...surprising because I looked back at the photos and it doesn't really show it lol. Generally speaking the lot slopes back and to the right.
My biggest concern is mulch at the back of the back bed...I'm considering adding stone...but 150", hmmm.

Appreciate the comments so far!

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 5:38PM
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Possibly you've already considered the following, but I thought I would throw it out there in case you haven't.

Sometimes the best approach to designing a garden is to first define living spaces or garden rooms within the landscape. The idea is that each garden room has a function. Some ideas for garden rooms can be defined as play area, dining area, welcome area, fire-pit area, woodland trail. etc... Consider how each of these garden rooms relates to the house (dining area near kitchen for example). It's also a good idea to plan beautiful garden views when looking out interior windows. Fire and water are often overlooked in the planning process but can add so much drama in the garden. Remember too, that decks can be brutal in the summer when they are not shaded by large trees, so until trees get large enough you'll want to create a shady spot to sit somewhere else in the yard.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 5:42PM
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Not without precedence this is a plan that puts the horse before the cart. What exactly is the plan, that is the aim or purpose even function of this space? With no other input than what you have shown it is a list of plants that you intend to plant around the edges of your property. Is this to enclose the space, show off the trees gain privacy or what? You are offering the answer to question that has not been asked.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 6:18PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

You have a little one? You do understand that you are planning on ruining a perfectly good sledding hill. I get accused of that every time I plant something woody on the hill behind the house, and my hill is about half the size of yours.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 7:31PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

theresa2 and inkognito,
Good thoughts, questions. The deck is off the kitchen and will be the "main" outdoor space. I may integrate a water feature and hardscaping under and around the deck after I set the stage for the backbone.
I love to collect, plant and care for plants. That is the main goal besides having a lush, enclosed, private landscape.

I live in the hills of Slinger, so there are much much larger hills. That nugget would never consider my yard, lol. I'm going to be quite selfish and offer that the yard is my domain. I'll be creating the beds at my descretion at the time of install to ensure there will be two ~30x30 areas, one on the left that may become a fire and/or water feature. The one on the right is designated as a play area.

There is an empty 1 acre lot to the right of me, that can't be built on. I'm also in a cul da sac with a 1/4 lot across the way that can't be built on. There is also a park 2 blocks away.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2011 at 8:13PM
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couple of thoughts...

agree with ken, I need to see names (even abbreviations) in the plants.

How do people or the lawnmower or other machinery get from the front yard to the back yard? (without going on the neighbors property... hypothetically, they could put a fence along their property line).

Regarding I actually do have some concern with the flow of water but I'm not sure what to do without completely sacrificing the design.

I think any drainage issues (and goals, etc.) should drive the design, not worked in as an afterthought. How long have you lived here? have you been able to observe the water flow and drainage qualities of the soil?

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 8:42AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

addtional good questions, concerns.

I'm completely confused on the water flow now. I have no idea what to do. What is truly the concern?
I understand mulch can possibly wash away during heavy rains. Do I need more breaks in the beds?
Maybe giving addtional details will help alleviate (my)concerns?

I have a fast draining soil and the lot is elevated. There wouldn't be any soggy or collection areas due to the soil type and the grading of the land.

Regarding getting through from front to back. Machinery could be an issue. For people and garden equipment, no problem. There is a 5' grass path on either side for a rider to get through. I'll have a stepping stone path between/under the Regal Prince Oak and Pinus cembra. Same deal for the Blackgum ('Sheri's Cloud').

Here is another view with the plant listing. BE is an existing 15' Boxelder. TA is Tilia ameriana...the only large mature trees on the lot.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 10:55AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Following Inkognito's question, and guessing from the "new" contributor names appearing here that you are of conifer forum origin, I had already postulated that one of the major purposes of this design is to find a way to plant all these plants that you love.

That's a perfectly legitimate purpose - a collector's garden. Having made one of those myself (unintentionally, incrementally), and having transitioned out of that style to some extent, I would caution you to take a step back, waaaaay back, from the stage at which you are contemplating plant names.

Think about the really basic questions, such as, do you really want to plant up against the house? This is not a foundation planting plan we're looking at here, but the use of the house as an anchor. But I don't really think that (a) your house is going to look any better with plants against it in this arrangement, or (b) that they will necessarily grow well up against the house. Deciduous plants in particular reach for the light, even when they are against a south-facing wall, and they do not look good after a few years.

Fundamentally, what I'm seeing in this design is a case of what we call "perimeteritis" around here; a fear of simply stepping into the open and creating a bed for plants right where you want them to be for some aesthetic, functional, horticultural, or plant-tending reason. You've made a really easy design decision that is an alternative to Ken's "if I'm collecting I might as well just line 'em up" style, but is still not the creation of a pleasing and functional landscape that allows you to collect plants to your hearts content.

There is a distinction here between perimeteritis and boundary definition. Nothing wrong with defining boundaries. But one way of distinguishing the two is to say, if my neighbour defined his/her boundaries the same way, could we co-exist? The answer is no - because your big trees, for instance, are borrowing airspace (and root space). At the same time, your big trees may be lending or wasting their primary amenity: shade. They may also end up competing with each other for airspace. Is this necessary?

What you need to do to avoid a situation in which you will want to redo this all in five or ten years - and trust me on this, because I've moved every single one of my plants a half-dozen times as I transition from one garden form to another! - is to think in terms of plant form and its function for your life - shade here, sightlines there, enjoy the early spring or late fall flowers from this window, compost bin accessed this way, and view of your house from one vantage point or another. AND water flow. Do your design in terms of "big conifer here, arching deciduous shrub here, bulbs there, spreading deciduous tree here with shade on this patch." No plant names yet. Later, you fill in the plant names.

The problem with a collector's garden is that once you live in it for a while, you start to think of the way the landscape functions for you, vs. for the plants.

So my advice to you: step away from the structures, step away from the lot lines, and put down the pencil. Walk around your property and think about the places you like to BE on it, whether to enjoy the morning sun with coffee in hand admiring the new growth on the pines, watching the kids play while you're weeding, what have you. Put a plastic garden chair there. Sit in it, and think about what you want to see from there. Maybe one of your places is your back steps, your deck; others may be in the shade of the big trees you already have. Make pathways to get to the places you want to spend time, and also make pathways that reflect the routes you already go. Also, where do you sit IN the house and what do you want to see from there in what seasons?

Landscape design, even if it is intended to collect plants, is for people, not for houses, properties, or plants. Design it around the people and their needs.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 1:31PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Hi Karin,

Thank you for taking the time to write that up. I have spent 90 days walking the yard, walking from window to window and back from window to window envisioning what the landscape should be. I even questioned my design when I heard the term "perimeteritis". Almost as if it was a disease. I then began changing it, trying to create rooms. Then I said why am I even doing this? I am trying to create a landscape that cuddles the green space and the home itself. I want a private, woodsy feel and I don't know how you do that without creating a backbone around the lot to maxmize the space. Do you have any specific suggestions on what I could do to change it?

There are a couple trees (the Buckeye and Katsura) that I'm questionsing near the house but I have no concern with the small scale trees that enjoy life with shade, ie Kousa Dogwood, Ironwood, Paw Paw, Seven Son Flower and Paperbark Maple.


    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 6:20PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

If you want a 'private, woodsy feel', then why so much lawn?

What purpose does the lawn serve that you want to keep it?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 10:26AM
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Some of your curves seem a little too curvy to be easily taken care of. One example is the curves in front of your covered porch. I have a similar situation that I created in my back yard. It looks nice but the mower can't quite make the turn so it takes extra hand time. I'm thinking about fixing it when I have time.

The other question I have is that it seems as if there's no break near your stairs coming down from your deck. There's a break in the landscape on the other side of the deck which I guess is so you can use the walk-out basement. Are you just going to walk through the mulch and trees to get to your backyard from the deck?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 12:46PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

mad g,
This is year 1, so the landscape will evolve and establish over time. Once this plants fill the mulch area, I can start planting more trees.

I know what you are saying, I made that mistake at my last house. The curves are drawn merely as representation. I'll use a hose to form the curves and ensure I can easily mow around them. There is a stepping stone path under/between the Katsura and Maple. The break on the other side is a 30-35 degree slope as shown in pic 3.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2011 at 3:59PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

To start with, I apologize from repeating some of what was said on the last thread you started, I never read that one.

Secondly, I'm linking below to a poster who began with similar intent, though he is not a plant collector. You might be interested in this thread because it has pictures of his yard planted up a bit, and also if you paste his name into a search of this forum, you will find his thread on bed shape - some interesting basic principles under discussion there.

I sense you're getting frustrated with the responses you're getting, and I guess that begs the question of what you were after when you posted your design for comments. It can be tricky - this forum often disappoints both people who post a blank slate, because most of us won't design it for 'em, and people who post finished plans or finished projects, because most of us will point out the mistakes. The ideal time to post is when you have a problem, but you don't have a problem (at least, not yet) and a person with a blank slate doesn't either. When you present a plan and we point out problems, it's like we are creating problems, which makes the person posting feel bad. Kind of a no-win, because the alternative is for us to just say "wonderful." And you know, it probably is, or at least just fine, and you'll love it, but my point is, what was the point in asking?

So let me say what I would do if I had your yard. Me, I'd probably do some hardscape because that's the kind of person I am - and that reminds me that someone once posted a very similar house and lot where he did retaining walls between front and back yards, anyone remember enough to find it? So I'd probably do some terracing, and a few patio flat spots. Mind you, they can cramp the kids' style and create hard things to hurt themselves on, so I might not do it just yet... I'd just plan where they were going to be.

I probably would plant along the boundaries as you want to do, but I would also plant trees where they would strategically shade the yard - I'd want some shade on the deck eventually if the directions work to plant a tree for that, a tree or two that would shade the house a bit in summer, and a tree or two that would provide at least one nice shady spot on the grass in summer. I'd probably want the kids play area shaded for at least part of the day. I'd do all that instead of the plants hugging the house.

More later...


Here is a link that might be useful: One thread by V1rtu0s1ty

    Bookmark   February 15, 2011 at 10:35PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Hi karin,

Thanks for the addtional feedback. The point of posting was to get me thinking outside "my" box and everyone's comments have done that for me regarding the finer details.

I can tell you I am a bit confused on the water flow and perimetritis comments because there weren't any solutions offered (ie use this for a bed edge, put a break in the bed here, put screening where its critical and wrap beds up into the middle of the yard).

I did leave alot of detail out and I lack the tools to integrate that detail into the plan so that part is difficult. You may have seen my landscape from a previous home and generally speaking I'm trying to create the same feel but I want to utilize better plant integration (ie more color, texture and conifers) and utlize feedback from folks like yourself.

Great link BTW from my neighbor south of the WI border. That would be pretty cool if someone could find the post that designed something to compliment a house similar to mine.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 5:32PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I found the threads but there is no installation, just the presentation of the original problem. Still, they may interest you. One linked below, and the other is at I suspect if you search the forum or maybe all of gardenweb for the keyword "slope" or something similar, you'll find other interesting discussions. Check out the gardening with stone forum, or maybe the woodland forum; never know what you might find by way of inspiration.

Interesting to see your previous yard. Slopes do change things, and although my yard is sloped only slightly, it took me years to figure out what the effect was on the space and how best to work with/around it. One thing I've ended up with is the feeling that slopes look their best when you stand at the bottom looking up, and if the slope is away from your house, that is a difficult design objective to meet. We ended with a patio at the bottom of the yard, and it's nice sitting there surrounded by and looking up at beds and rocks (mine is tiny compared to yours, so not necessarily a transferrable plan). But in the front yard, I levelled a side-slope with a retaining wall, because I couldn't get a nice feel to the space otherwise.

As for plant utilization, this is kind of a funny forum. Many of us are plant nuts (current or recovering) so we know our stuff, but making recommendations for what others will think looks good is a minefield, plus it's complicated when talking across zones. Plus, we're way more about helping other people develop their ability to solve their problems than about telling them the answer. There's a reason for that, as you'll find if you hang around.

Anyway, part of the wonder of landscaping is that nothing is permanent (unless you pour concrete, and even that...). You'll enjoy working with this landscape on an ongoing basis over the years and will no doubt adapt if you and your family's needs change.

Nothing wrong with trying out what you have in mind, and really, if it meets your needs, no one else's opinions matter. It's only when your own plans don't seem to be meeting your needs that you need input.

Enjoy, looks like a great space, and a wonderful spot for a family.


PS If any of those trees are going to block house windows, I'd reconsider those.

Here is a link that might be useful: dc_pilgrim's thread

    Bookmark   February 19, 2011 at 2:08PM
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