Help this Eyesore

salem1772April 6, 2013

Area around back deck is awful. Need your suggestions.

Existing hardscapes are brick house, deck steps, two pitiful paths (one with stone steps), gravel drive on an incline.

Issues: entire area gets heavy covering of acorns, walnuts, sticks, and oak leaves every fall and is hard to keep cleaned up; short morning sun, then shade during summer; one bare area and one island-type bed that is a jumbled mess; pathways don't have enough large stones; I removed rotten landscape timbers --- do I need to replace them?

Wish list: lighted, attractive, easily maintained pathways; bring order and balance to the jumbled bed (would consider a fountain or statuary as anchor); plant the bare area in front of basement windows with low growing plants that can take a beating every autumn. (I don't want to block light entering basement; wish herbs would grow in this spot, but there isn't enough summer sun.) Deer resistant plants. Direct drainage away from foundation of house. Draw attention away from electrical boxes on back of house.

Plants that do well in my yard: arum, English ivy, vinca, lenten roses, boxwoods, azaleas, rhododendron, holly, dogwood, Bishop's weed, acuba, hydrangea. Zone 7, piedmont NC.

I have tried many times to post about 7 photos, but can only manage to get one to post. If someone can tell me how to attach more, I will do it. Thanks!

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Just read that we can only post one picture at a time. So here goes. Appreciate your patience.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 12:52AM
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This is the awful bare area between basement windows. I started some vinca minor there last summer out of desperation. I plan to cover the open area beneath the deck with lattice to hide the stuff stored there.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 12:57AM
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This is the path with pretty good steps.

Dislike the gravel covering the area between stones.

Add more large stepping stones, plant a ground cover we could walk on, use pea gravel?? Remember, this area is covered with acorns in the fall. Frankly, something easy to sweep is preferred.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 1:02AM
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This is the other "walk way" --- more like a pig path! It is mostly dirt, some gravel and a couple of medium sized stepping stones. It is an incline.

To the right is the bare area along house foundation.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 1:09AM
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The back of the house could use some dressing up, huh?

The "island bed" used to be anchored by a dogwood, but it died. It has gotten overgrown with lenten roses, ivy, vinca, a pretty but poorly placed hydrangea. It is disheveled, and I cannot figure out a simple balanced look.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 1:16AM
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Here's the view looking up the pathway with steps. I removed the rotting landscape timbers after I took this photograph.

That acuba looks ridiculous out there by itself. Plus it is too big.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 1:21AM
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My first suggestion would be to replace the stepping stone "walk" at the foot of the deck stairs with a single walk that takes you to the drive. Rather than having one walk that goes up and one that goes down, I'd opt for one that goes to the drive (A - A') that is level (though pitched to drain, of course.) A solid walk would be easier to maintain than stepping stones. No walk could "protect" itself from debris falling from above. That's just a maintenance chore. Having the walk raised slightly above grade at its "downhill" edge makes the chore a little easier by giving the debris someplace to be easily swept.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 8:46AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

We inherited some very messy trees too, and invested in a leaf blower. It makes maintenance much easier!

Our front porch attracts every blowing thing in the wind, and our deck is next to a Silver Oak (I am the president of the ban the silver oak club)! Kidding! Messiest tree ever!

Not sure what we would do without that blower!


    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 9:59AM
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molie(z6 CT)

Lizb_1772, you can post more than one photos in a message if you use a hosting site. You can open up a free Picasso account and post a collection of your photos onto Picassa. I usually then edit all the garden photos so that they are not private (seen only by me) but are public on the web.

You then click on all the photos you want to upload to FB. For each photo, click "Link to this photo" and select "Medium-640 px". Copy all the info in the embedded info box. Paste this into you message. I put a space between any text and the image link. You can add written text above or below the photo. Go back to your album and repeat until you get all the photos you want in that post.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 10:41AM
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I actually like your area lol. The bare area beside the deck though id go with elephant ears or cannas depending on if it gets sun or shade, nice tall plants will hide what you want, and then some hostas if you get shade there, if sun then daylilies . all relatively maintence free plants that will grow well and spread. Divide those clumbs of ornamental grass to fill in bare spots, they will puff back out again. edge those gardens, even with the plastic liner to prevent the gravel from washing out and leave a cleaner line, and then a gravel walkway can be greatly improved just by adding simple edging, you have a nice natural look, id just collect large rocks and line the walkway and then add more fine gravel inside it with some slab rocks, or homemade stepping stones which can be made very cheap, spread out. If you go with pea gravel get some edging in there to stop the washout and drop stone dust on the path before the pea gravel to make a studier base to hold the pea gravel in.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2013 at 12:12AM
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Thanks everyone.

Yardvaark, I didn't quite catch the vision of one pathway as you suggested, but as my DH and I discussed it, it dawned on us as a brilliant idea! We are a tad slow!

I have decided to hire a landscape designer to create a Master Plan for our large and out of control property. With a thoughtful plan in hand, some of the work can be DIY and some professional. Years of English ivy growth has taken over our woods and I have spent many backbreaking hours this past weekend getting it out of and away from trees. I've done a dozen; only 100 more to go! If a copperhead doesn't get me, it'll be a miracle! Ivy is just the beginning of our problems: I spy bamboo in the woods too. A hillside front yard presents challenges for keeping mulch from rolling down, ground covers are growing so slowly to get the job done. Trying to find spots of sunshine to cultivate flowers is also a battle. Am tiring of falling back to more azaleas and rhododendron . . . and can a person have too many Lenten roses? Yes!! Everywhere I look, there is a ton of work to get the place back in order. I am the sole caretaker as DH doesn't enjoy yard work. And i don't have enough time or energy to handle everything well.

This one small project just underscores the need for a larger master plan, and I am relieved to come finally to that conclusion.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 7:46AM
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Since you have a "large" property and already have ivy (English, I presume?) it may be better to learn how to manage it than to get rid of it. Presumably, it's doing something for your property that is positive(?). If you can learn how to control what you perceive are its "negatives," it could become a friend instead of a foe. (Saying that you've spent many hours and only did a dozen trees is the clue that you are approaching the task wrongly. But I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish.)

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 8:41AM
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You are correct in a way that the English ivy serves a purpose, but it is halfway up some enormous oak, hickory, poplar, walnut, beech trees and I fear will eventually destroy these grand trees. You know how ivy is --- almost like kudzu that covers everything in its path. My technique has been to cut the ivy at the base of the tree, pull the ivy by the roots and take it back about 20 inches around each tree. Then, because I hate seeing trees covered in brown dying vines, I do my best to pull the vines off the trees without damaging the bark. The ivy on the woodland floor means nothing else can survive there. Things like ferns or wildflowers don't have a chance. I've been reading the English ivy forum. This invasive plant has taken over this place! How would you keep it under control? I suppose I could resign myself to keeping it on the forest floor if I could just keep it out if the trees. Thanks for your advice.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 9:23AM
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I can't do anything about your dislike of seeing dying vines on trees. But when it comes to English ivy, since it can be a challenging plant, sticking to PRACTICAL methods of managing it seems more important than overcoming every temporary dislikable feature. Therefore, I would give up on the idea of pulling dying ivy off of trees and opt for, instead, being more patient and allowing it to fall off on its own. This turns an hour's worth of "pounding one's head against a brick wall" into a minute's worth of "picking up litter." One can find better things to do and just ignore the ivy until it falls of its own accord. The ugly brown leaves don't last all that long. Once they fall off it's pretty easy to ignore the attached vines. Gravity will bring them down in 3 months or so.

Actually, there are great and substantial differences between Kudzu and English ivy. Kudzu blocks out all light trying to reach its supporting plant. English ivy does not. It grows only on the stout interior wood. If the supporting plant does not have a strong root system, it can become more susceptible to the effect of wind, but this is usually not an issue in the typical forest situation.

I would never pull ivy by the roots. It would be better around each tree to spray a 2' swath of Round-up once or twice a year. It's the quickest, easiest way to keep it from climbing trees and the actual amount of Round-up used is extremely small.

I don't know where you get the idea that things like ferns or wild flowers don't stand a chance in ivy. The ivy "canopy" is only 10" tall, so anything that will reach above that usually has no trouble at all surviving and prospering in the midst of ivy. I've grown ferns, countless daffodils and a variety of perennials in it with no trouble at all other than carving out the initial planting spot.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 10:05AM
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amanda_m(z7 MD)

Liz - To see an amazing wooded landscape that you can steal ideas from, see if your library has David Culp's The Layered Garden.
What he and his partner have done with the large wood on a sloping hillside is inspirational. He doesn't pretend it wasn't hard work to get it set up, but now it is amazing.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 12:59PM
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amanda: Thanks for directing me to David Culp! The gallery photos on his website are indeed fabulous! Oh, for just a tiny fraction of that look. Will definitely check out the book. Thanks!

yardvaark: hit some ivy today with Round-up. Time will tell. My fingers are crossed. Thanks.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 10:24PM
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Round-up comes in several formulations. It's better to buy concentrate than ready-mix. Mix in a strong formulation. Or hit the area a second time a month later. (It's not going to be effective where you've already removed leaves. It must go on the leaves.)

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 9:20AM
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