What to do! pics

Battalina(6b)March 7, 2012

Hello dear people! We recently bought a house with a not so typical backyard. We don't have money to spend on professional landscapers and and we've never had a yard before (meaning we don't know much about plants, trees, shrubs, etc.). Here are some pictures of our backyard. We live in zone 6 and it's still too cold, but I am planning to clean up all the leaves as soon as we get a nice day. What currently grows on that hill is English Ivy and moss.

I want to beautify it a little without disturbing the roots of the kind trees that keep our home cool in the summer. Any ideas, advice and your time will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for helping out! Oh and I don't know what kind of tree that is (the one in the second photo) but all the other trees lost their leaves in the fall but this one. It's almost Spring and the dried up brown leaves are still holding on. It amazes me :) From Drop Box

From Drop Box

From Drop Box

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It is so cold as Buffalo.I like a small fire pit,small color trees,vine.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 2:28AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Can you grow ferns in your area? I'd be tempted to educate myself about different types of ferns of varying sizes and leaf textures to tuck among the trees, and here and there along the fence. Intersperse a woody flowering shrub or two, but keep it simple.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 11:41AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Surface work scraping away the moss and pulling the ivy shouldn't bother the trees. I'm not sure what to make of the moss on the slope; maybe ask in the soils forum? (I think there is one). Usually it means bad drainage/perpetual moisture. It suggests then that the trees are not surface-rooters and you should be able to work under them.

These should be ideal growing conditions for ferns, hostas, hellebores, brunneras, hardy geraniums, and many more shade loving plants - you could have a marvellous garden there. Or you could mulch it and have just very few plants; all depends on the look and amount of work you want. One warning I would have is that creeping groundcover plants will likely migrate downhill, following the water, so to keep plants growing at the top of the hill you need clumping plants that will pretty much stay where you plant them like hostas, ferns, and hellebores.

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 2:01PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Leave it for now. There may be spring ephemerals, perennials, and other pretties in there that you haven't seen yet. It would be a shame to destroy a colony of trilliums just to pretty up some moss. It looks reasonably neat the way it is, so this isn't an emergency.

The tree may simply be a young oak. Many kinds of oaks keep their leaves when they are young. Some hold onto leaves for a while even when mature.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 3:02PM
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Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions! Karinl I want a marvelous garden like you said and I am willing to work hard for it. I just need to educate myself first, which is why I came here for suggestions because I started googling shade-loving plants and got lost.
mad gallica that is a very good point. To be honest, I doubt it as we bought the house from an old lady who admitted that she hasn't done anything with the yard in years because she just couldn't, but one never knows.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 3:27PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Oooh - very good point by Mad Gallica. Yes, wait out spring, just in case, and/or weed carefully. But you can certainly start shopping for plants - the nurseries are well stocked in spring. But visit throughout the season, as they frequently restock.

Educating yourself about plants is, as far as I am concerned, best done off the internet. My favourite place is the local nursery, where you can browse the actual plant and read plant tags to your heart's content. Your nursery will have preselected plants relevant to your zone. Write things down and come home and look them up on the web if you must, but books (library, used book stores if on a budget) are often very good sources. Also, gardening magazines are actually great. Again, used, thrift stores, or libraries are very useful. Watch local craigslist for someone like me who one day looks at the stacks of gardening magazines in her basement and declares "these have GOT to go!". I will do it one day, I swear it.

Local botanical gardens, local garden tours, all also great sources.

Beware of anyone on craigslist, or friends, who wants to give away "extra plants." Be very choosy, since plants that are so plentiful are also often very aggressive and hard to kill. (If a friendship is at stake, accept graciously and put them in a pot, not the ground).

You learn the most by getting plants and watching them grow (or not grow, as the case all too often was for me).

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 4:19PM
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Yes, think I see some oak leaves in there - they often keep their previous season's leaves until new leaves sort of push them off. However, the specimen there on the bank in photo #2 was probably a volunteer from an errant acorn. Oaks are stately with one trunk - not so much as a shrub. You could cut out the two front trunks and see how the remaining largest one develops... looks straight, at any rate.

There's a Moss, Ferns, and Cryptogams forum - fairly active. I tend to "celebrate" moss when I find patches of it; I transplant it between the bricks on my patio.

There have been threads on English Ivy here, too - easy to find using the search feature.

If I had your spot, I'd enhance the woodsy aspect. There are more exotic ferns to be had, but I've gotten no end of pleasure from my Ostrich Ferns. And moss and hostas and ferns are quite compatible. So would be the addition of patches of scilla and forget-me-nots (Myosotis Sylvatica).

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 4:37PM
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I agree to wait and see. If you don't like what's there or find something else, move it then. Here is an idea I had for the area; some tiered walls; they would give you some room to plant what you'd like

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 9:36PM
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If you were in Arkansas, I would say that the small tree holding its leaves is a blackjack oak.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 10:51PM
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That slope would look absolutely gorgeous covered with a thick mass of ivy. I'd also want some upright evergreens to break up the monotony of the fence.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 7:42AM
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