Patio Landscaping

sah54April 8, 2012

I'm completely re-doing my back yard. I'm in the second year. So far I have had concrete patios and sidewalks poured. I do what I can afford.

The sitting area patio has the house on one side, a fire pit patio on one side, a concrete planter that I built on a third side (with a 4-foot space for the dogs to run from the lanai door to the yard area. The fourth side has nothing and will be the closest to the area where sod will be put in next spring.

My question is, I want to make a planting bed on this fourth side of the patio. I have flowers in containers and in an area between the house and the sidewalk that connects this fourth side of the patio to the gate. So, I'm not interested in putting in more flowers in this planting area. I would prefer small bushes and shrubs.

First, how wide (from the edge of the patio) should I make this area? This area will cut into the area that will be the actual grassy yard in my back yard, since most of the yard is concrete patios.

Also, what kinds of shrubs should I look for? I do not need anything fragrant as I planted 2 tea olive plants and a sweet almond plant this weekend. I would like something to add nice color (different shades of greens).

Here is a photo of the fourth side of the patio that I would like to put in some sort of plantings:

Here is a photo looking towards the fourth side of the patio and beyond to the fence. This shows the area where I will put in grass next spring. (The area from the concrete planter to the back fence (which you cannot see) is about 6 feet and will eventually have grass.)

This is a photo from the back side of the yard, facing west towards the house. This is the fourth side of the patio and a new sidewalk I had poured last month. Between the house and the sidewalk is a butterfly/hummingbird garden that I have started.

This last photo just shows how much hardscape there is. This is taken from the "sitting area" patio towards the fire pit patio. This area is in the opposite direction of where I want to put in the new planting area. I show you this so you can see that I need to soften the back yard with plants.

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You can read the plant' name my suggest in pics.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 10:21AM
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    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 10:29AM
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Thanks for the ideas. I like the second one better as it has really interesting plants. What are the spiky ones in the center, and what plant is between them?
I measured, and I was incorrect about the amount between the concrete planter and back fence. It is 12 feet. I just want to make sure there is enough grass for the dogs, and since I plan on taking up some area with this planting bed, I was concerned.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 12:00PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I remember you! What you have done here is absolutely remarkable, especially relative to where you started when you first posted. But even if you had not started at the stage of not even wanting to GO into the yard, this is one of the nicest patio and hardscape designs I've seen in a while. It really makes the best of the space. Even your block wall is done with real pizzazz.

I'm actually going to suggest that you rethink putting the shrub planting bed adjacent to the patio. I have a shrub border adjacent to a patio, and I find it robs me of really useful space on the patio because the shrubs inevitably encroach.

If you DO want to do it adjacent to the patio, I would keep the plants low, nothing much taller than knee-height. As for width, I would go wide enough that you can group the plants rather than lining them up, so at least three feet, maybe more.

But if you want taller plants, I think I would put them in a grouping in the sod area. I can see they wouldn't grow well at the fence due to the neighbour's trees, but a larger bed in the centre should work. It will create an edging question, but you will have that on the outside of the idea you are proposing anyway.

One reservation I have about the block wall, much as I love it, is that the cavities would become spider habitat in my area. Not sure what critters you have, but I bet I wouldn't like them. So I would fill those cavities with soil and plant right in them, or somehow block off the openings and put the pots on top ... not sure how to do the open bottom ones! Either that, or beware when you move the pots around :-)

I can't help with plant ideas, not knowing your climate.

Karin L

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 12:10PM
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Thanks Karin. You gave me inspiration over a year ago with this back yard. (By the way, I live in NE Florida, which is think is zone 9.)

It was a horrible back yard. One that I never went out there for over 15 years, except to let the dogs out to do their business. Here is what it originally looked like. This is where the sitting patio is now:

And this is the view where the two patios are now:

I have been working really hard for over a year now. I started in February 2011 by adding a new fence and followed up the next month by adding the sitting patio. I am trying to limit the amount of area that I have to mow, but I need to keep some grass for the dogs. I have a very small patch of the original St. Augustine grass that is under the bottlebrush tree, but the rest is weeds and dirt (sand).

I just think I need to soften up the concrete some. On the other side of the yard I have a lot of plants and mulch. I'll add 2 pictures to show you.

This is an area that is to the south of the fire pit patio. I had a bunch of concrete pavers, so I turned them on their side and put them in to form a raised herb/veggie garden. (It doesn't look fantastic, but I cannot afford to hire people, so I'm doing all of the work except pouring the patios.) In the area where the dirt is (in the back), I'm going to put in rock. It will be right up against the fire pit patio. In the foreground is a tea olive and abelia that I just planted this weekend. (Funny, I was born without a sense of smell, but I'm obsessed with have fragrance in the yard.) I added the toad because I have so many toads. I hope it's a good thing to have toads in the yard.

This is the entrance on the south side. I have the mulch because I didn't want to have to mow there, and the dogs like to lay in the sun here.

And, again, I am trying to limit the amount I have to mow, which is why I thought about a planting bed. I really do not want to add flowers as I have so many in containers on the patio (and in the concrete block planter). Thanks for the tip about the spiders. I'll spray bug spray every so often.

I have all summer (I'm a school teacher) to think about this planting bed, so I'm in no rush. I get out on the weekends and do a little bit of digging at a time.

Any help any of you can give is greatly appreciated. As I said, you gave me a lot of encouragement that I could get this yard in shape. It definitely does not look like a professional did it, but it looks so much better than before I started. I go out there when I get home from school and grade papers, or just sit and listen to all of the birds singing. I really enjoy going out there now.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 1:01PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Please tell me those are not pygmy date palms in the hummingbird garden...

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 2:20PM
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I can't do that catkim. No matter how much you beg me. ;-)

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 3:31PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

If you are enjoying the birds and the toads it is probably best not to use any toxic sprays, because they inevitably find their way up the food chain. So either just ignore what I said, or find a way to close off the openings if you can.

I don' t see softening as a real need here. In a way the clean hardness is the attraction. Grass alone will be enough on this side, and if you add some shrubs at the back fence I think it would suffice. Once you have the mower out anyway, a three foot strip more or less is not going to make much difference.

Maybe that's where the pygmy date palms should go :-) Sounds like they will get a bit big for next to the house.


    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 3:54PM
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You know, I think I'll take your advice and just plant grass there next season. That will save me $$$ from buying more plants.

Also, I think I'll move the pygmy date palms to the back fence next weekend. How far away from the fence should I plant them?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 4:20PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Pygmy date palms should not be planted near walkways due to the extremely wicked and long spines at the base of the fronds. The palms pictured have been in the ground about 7 years. This palm has 3 or 4 trunks from a single plant:

    Bookmark   April 8, 2012 at 10:37PM
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Well, then, I do not know where to move them. I was thinking of moving them to the back fence, but the dogs would be running in that area, and I do not want these palms to hurt the dogs.

Could I trim the bottom fronds so they would not brush up against the dogs when they walk/run by?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 9:22PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Yes, you can trim them, and it's not so difficult while the palms are smaller; at that stage the spines are smaller and softer. The palms will soon grow tall enough, and the dogs won't be in danger. But the palms are too wide to put between house and sidewalk. The planter in my photo is about 6 ft deep, front to back.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2012 at 11:51PM
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Thanks for the info, catkim. How far away from the fence should I plant them?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 5:40PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

3 feet should be adequate. You could plant them closer, but they may lean outward. If you like that look, it's fine. They won't fall over.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2012 at 9:54PM
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I finished the area where I installed river rock. I really like it and think it adds another texture to the yard. Here is a picture of the south side of my back yard:

This is the area that is adjacent to the fire pit patio.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 10:02PM
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