Small sloping garden, small budget. Ideas?

pointgardenerMay 7, 2010

The small garden behind my 110 year old Victorian house was neglected for many years and is sadly in need of TLC.

It slopes up away from the back of the house; there is not one flat spot!

The link below will take you to some photos of the garden. This weekend I'll take a few more to better show the overall garden.

There is a raised bed with rotting retaining boards at the back, butting up against a deep concrete retaining wall/fence and the street above. There is a sturdy work shed to the right of the bed, but it's an eyesore. In front of this are ugly stairs going up to the garage access door. I might remove the shed and extend the stairs landing to the back fence, with a new gate, so I can access the house from the street above.

At the back right of the property is a garage building with 'basement', and a wood pile in front of that. The whole right side of the yard is covered in concrete, sloping up toward the garage.

I'd like to replace the rotting board retaining wall with rocks for a naturalized look, and level in a terrace in the middle for chairs and maybe a table. In my dreams I would break out the concrete, but that could get costly.

Overall, the view from the back bedroom is unattractive, and there is nowhere flat to sit and enjoy the garden. I'd love to hear your ideas. What would you do?

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Photos

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First, I would remove all the "ugly" that I could. Haul away anything that you can that doesn't require a chain saw.

Collect all the possible recyclable paving material in one spot. Remove all the badly laid paving and pile it there too.

Plants that are in the wrong spot, dead, or too damaged to recover need to go - dig them, cut them, whatever you need to do to get them out of there.

After you have cleared the decks, you are ready to start thinking about what to add.

The link has instructions on DIY landscaping.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to make a landscape plan

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 2:19PM
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If you are a gardener (likely from your moniker) you might try to identify perennial plants/shrubs that are in that overgrown yard. Plants cost money so you don't want to throw out valuable items you can use. Draw a site plan of the area showing these plants for when you will move them to a more appropriate area.

If the slope is not to your liking you will have to terrace and using rocks as you suggest may work better. To keep the budget in line you may have to do this yourself - are you up for rock work? Not difficult but very labor intensive. Read up on 'how-to' - lots of info on the net.

One thing I've learned from my research on landscaping is to look out each window of your home and plan the landscape to provide a good balanced view. I suggest looking at many pics so you will learn what your preferences are. You can then incorporate these ideas into your plan. You might google landscape design for ideas if you don't get satisfaction on this forum. There is a lot of info out there but only sometimes is there help on this forum.

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is owner-built landscaping. Do the things that annoy you the most first and finish one area close to your house ASAP so you can sit and enjoy your work and plan what to do next. Try to have fun with this because when it's all done you will have a lot of satisfaction from your planning and work.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 10:34PM
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Thank you both for these tips. I am already getting rid of 'the ugly' and moving the odds and ends paving materials off to the side. There are numerous fun 'volunteer' plants that I want to preserve. Most of the ferns have been transplanted to a shady area under a hedge. Very nice! It will take time. I'm keeping a photo diary so one day I can share the before-and-afters.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 2:11PM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Drainage is a tricky thing, especially when the backyard is draining towards your house. You'll want to be very careful that you don't do something which in 'wet' years will cause problems for your foundation.

You say the right side is all concrete? But in your "from the bedroom" photo it looks as if theres grass and dirt past those iris leaves. IÂll assume if that is concrete, thereÂs only a thin covering of dirt and grass, so you could build a basic raised bed for planting. This will even things out, and allow some height so you can have a much prettier view outside your bedroom window, with complete privacy as new plants grow in.

Using the link below to a collage I made, what would you think about looking out at this instead? Think moderate height, interesting foliage, partial shade shrubs. This doesnÂt look like a large area, which helps keeps costs down.

Your costs would be mulch, some pressure-treated lumber, soil, and 3 to 6 shrubs from container, depending on the size of the bed. I donÂt know if youÂre East Cst zone 9 or West Cst zone 9. IÂm the latter, so what I used (all evergreen, BTW) was:

Top left: Pink cestrum. This grows very fast, vase-shaped at maturity, flowers almost continuously, hummers love it. About 6-8Â H at maturity, 4Â across but takes pruning very well.

Right side: Tibouchina heteromalla. This can be a tricky plant to find and grow, but once correctly sited itÂs stunning and grows fast. ItÂs a tropical understory plant, so canÂt take too much sun but is somewhat frost-tender. 5Â T and at least 6Â across at maturity. The leaves are an amazing fuzzy, silvery gray-green that stops people in their tracks. I have had more people ask me what this shrub is, than any other I have. Once a year it puts up tall spikes of brilliant purple flowers, simply gorgeous. Do not get T. urvilleana, which is more common but a much more scraggly, leggy shrub.

(If this wouldnÂt work in your zone, something like a variegated rhododendron, or even an Aucuba japonica 'Mr. Goldstrike' or ÂGold Dust would add year-long interest and foliage contrast.)

I added a couple of ferns just to fill in the space. But IÂd prefer to add something more interesting, such as Abutilon ÂSavitzi or even ÂThompsonii if thereÂs room. A dwarf camellia would work, but they grow very slowly.

The jade plant thatÂs there seems to be leaning into the walkway. You might want to move it  they can get quite large across at maturity so they may outgrow that space theyÂre in.

Fill in with smaller plants that youÂll see when youÂre outside  dwarf hydrangeas, fuchsias, liriope, or even shade annuals from a six-pak. The brunnera ÂJack Frost has been a great performer in my shady bed, and the baby-blue flower spikes are charming.

The seating area with the fountain as shown, is just leveled with mulch as a temporary measure until you work out your fencing and terracing solutions.

Anyway, HTH spur some ideas for you! Good luck, itÂs always very exciting to consider possibilities for new landscaping.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 6:58PM
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