drought resistant ground cover? Pictures

pamperedpedenMay 19, 2012

Hi, i need a suggestion for ground cover that will help stop the erosion. We have a "basement garage" with a steep entrance going into it, and some full size basement windows. Right now it is an ugly mess, which is a shame because the rest of our home is lovely, IMO. This is on the south side of the house and gets full sun. Oh, and we did not install the landscape fabric, previous owners did that. We are planning to remove the gravel and replace it with sod. (I'm open to other suggestions as far as that goes.). But, in the areas where you can see the erosion, I'd like a little landscaping.

I am completely open to any other suggestions you may about this issue/house/yard. This is technically our back yard, but we look out on it from the house as though it were the front.

I really any appreciate any help with this, we are stumped.

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mairenn(7-8 GA)

I am sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but plants are not going to control that slope. If you try to do it just with plants, you will end up with:
1. constantly battling water coming into the house.
2. the hill crawling into your basement, either gradually over time or all at once in inclement conditions, and possibly taking out the basement wall and windows on its way in.

You need one of three things:
1. retaining walls at a bare minimum for safety. Get a professional landscape architect to design them.
2. You could have the whole back lot re-graded or dug out so that it is level with, below, or sloping away from your basement floor.
3. At a maximum you can replace the basement windows and garage door with safe walls and fill in the soil to level.

I know these are not cheap alternatives, but they are MUCH cheaper than what you could end up spending in repairs if you don't get that grade going AWAY from your house ASAP.

The retaining wall option is not that expensive, relatively speaking, and you could end up with a really beautiful patio.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 5:56PM
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Actually, our basement is very dry...pretty good considering the house was built in 1998. Regrading the backyard is not an option as there is an acre pond behind where I was standing when I took the first picture. The water level is higher than the basement windows. There was much engineering involved when this house was built, I don't want to mess around with the drainage around the house...except for this erosion issue.

We have considered retaining walls and have gotten three proposals, just haven't found the right one. So for now, I'd like to try to control the erosion if possible.

Thanks for your thought and willingness to share, that's why I came here....to get opinions and advice. :)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 6:40PM
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mairenn(7-8 GA)

that pond behind you makes it considerably more urgent to get some protection from the slope. How long have you been in this house? It does look like some thought went into the drainage right along the wall, but that slope just makes my nerves buzz.

I'd put a hurry on getting the retaining walls, truthfully, and not spend the money on plants you'd just have to replace when the walls went in.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 6:46PM
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What about a combination of retaining walls and rock gardens?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 7:02PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

There are times when a professional is needed. This is one of them.
You'll probably receive some modestly mediocre mc-paint computer sketches on these types of public forums, but what you really need is a landscape architect who can come out to your site and do a full site investigative analysis.
There are too many site specific variables that one can see in these cursory photographs.
To think that planting alone is going to solve these problems is a misunderstanding and it would be contrary to the profession of landscape design/ architecture to even suggest that a plantscape would address your site issues.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 7:11PM
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mairenn(7-8 GA)

You can do some lovely terrace beds, plant whatever you like in them and easy access too. Plus seating. and really make that beautiful as well as safe.

if it were me, I would even take cheaper, less attractive retaining walls until I could afford really nice stacked stone, but I wouldn't take the risk of not getting a professional assessment and protecting the structural integrity of my home.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 7:38PM
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Rosemary work.You could interplant other plants too,such as hosta...

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 7:52PM
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You may have a dry basement now and no real drainage issues at present. But as a landscape architect, I can tell you that you are treading on thin ice. Drainage systems have a way of misbehaving after a period of time because they silt up or strange things happen underground. If soil has an opportunity, it's like a slow moving glacier always seeking a lower elevation. You can't see it move, but over time it can exert impressive strength with destructive results. Drainage at the top side here is precarious, at best.

An erosion control groundcover for you might be Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus' or one of it's similar sisters. But this plant will not solve the problems you eventually will have.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 8:18PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

OK, let's say you do just want to do some planting for now. Your options are perennial creeping plant types like sedums and dianthus, sub-shrubs like Hypericum calycinum, or actual shrubs like juniper or microbiota.

My guess is that the amount of root-hold of soil you'll get with the junipers is the most significant.

Also, the creeping plants like Houttuynia tend to want to move down hills following the water. It will be tough to keep them covering the crest of the hill where the most erosion likely is.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 1:59AM
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molie(z6 CT)

I'm not a landscape architect or a landscaper --- just a homeowner/gardener ---- but those photos scare me too. Kind of reminds me of the dropped backyard in my first house.

All the land slopes down to your windows and the open garage. I don't know what kind of underground drainage system you have, but it does look like the front lawn is higher than the back lawn. That's worrisome because it could mean the lowest part of your property is where the house was placed. And the fact that the water level of the pond is higher than the basement windows is another red flag.

I'm guessing that the drainage from your downspouts and any runoff goes into those drains outside the windows? If that were my house, I would not landscape on those slopes. Anything you plant there will need to be watered, which would only cause more water to flow down the hills. I agree that some kind of hardscape work is needed instead. Is it possible to have a walled patio area in front of the windows and the open garage?

Believe me when I tell you this --- water table levels can change in a neighborhood and builders can do some crazy things! In my old neighborhood, a builder put up a house in on a wet lot that was below the road level. There was a trickling steam that ran across the lot and down to a river. We watched as the basement floor was poured on the earth and the foundation walls were cemented sraight UP from the ground. Then the builder mapped out the septic field by marking about 10/12 feet up on the trunks of trees! (no lie) He hauled in 'dirt' (lots of sand) to raise up the ground to the level of the road. Granted, this was 30 years ago in a small town, but geez! We often wondered when those streams would decide to percolate up into the basement. Water can do some crazy things.


    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 7:19AM
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Rosemary interplanted with hostas......now that's a bit advice from a real plant guru :-) LOL!!

Seriously, follow Michelle's (D-D) advice. This is not a situation solved by just sticking a few plants in.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 6:54PM
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Hi Everyone, thanks for reading and responding to my post. I hope noone lost any sleep last night worrying that my backyard would come sliding into my basement. Just joking. I appreciate your concern and willingness to express it.

As pp mentioned, there are some very site specific issues here that don't really translate in the pictures I posted. I will take your advice into consideration regarding having a landscape architech out to look at the soundness of our stucture and enbankments.

And if that was my question, I wouldn't come to a public forum such as this, but I opened myself up to it when I said I was open to any input anybody had. Point taken.

Thank you to those of you that did offer suggestions to my question. I really do appreciate it. I have lurked on this forum awhile and am sometimes amazed with the solutions that arise from the collective brainstorming that takes place here. I thought I'd throw my hat in the ring.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 8:12PM
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Please tell me you have a sump pump for when the drainage system silts in!

I honestly wouldn't try to plant there. You might temporarily make a low wall of landscaping timbers to keep back some of the dirt. I don't know that any planting you did wouldn't make the situation worse, though. Then save up for that retaining wall!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 9:05PM
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Yes we have a sump pump.

I showed the same pictures to the local "gardening guru" guy that does a radio show on the weekends. He suggested purple wintercreeper. I really like the idea of the dark green next to the red brick. I've read that it climbs though, any experience with this?

I forgot to mention that these slopes are hard to mow, so part of our goal is make mowing the yard easier too. We have five acres to mow so every little bit helps, kwim?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 9:26AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

To tell you the truth, people here tend to provide whatever feedback strikes them as worth giving, whether a poster says they are open or not :-)

What is purple wintercreeper (latin name?) You could always try a plug of several different plants and see what takes, and then plant more of what works.

I get the sense you understand your site and have perhaps worked through the issues inherent in the slope and water table in the building process. I guess the message here is that if you haven't, it would be good to do so with a landscape architect.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 11:03AM
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Sorry, every time I look at that, my alarm bells go crazy. *whoop, whoop, whoop* Whew.

Don't know your zone in Ohio, but vinca minor could replace a lot of that grass.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 11:13AM
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Pampered, what I recommended earlier, Euonymus fortunei 'Coloratus', and purple wintercreeper, are one in the same. It's green during the growing season, but turns purplish (where it's received sun) during the winter. It will climb, but it's not difficult, once or twice a year, to remove its attempts-to-climb as a routine maintenance procedure. (A combination of chemical and manual control will provide a longer lasting effect than manual control alone.) Establishing beds can have a rangy appearance like "storm tossed water" so it is sometimes mowed high in order to establish a smoother finish.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 11:40AM
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