Need Help with Garden Beds and Patio Deisgn Layout - Pics Incl

newhomeowner2011aMay 8, 2012

Backyard beds don't match. Patio is being replaced and now need to determine what makes the sense as far as patio shape and garden bed shape. Also, if you wish, pls comment on suggested brick paver layout - running bond or change to herringbone? (plan to do some sort of a border around it too)

Disclosures: Door color and deck stain color will be changed - final color tbd. Fences all to be replaced. Second back door (leading to no where) to be replaced as well as house to be painted. Bench will be updated and moved elsewhere. Obviously we also need to sod yard - this is the next step after we determine layout and set patio - I promise! Please ignore all of these eye sores!!! ;)

The left side of our backyard has a boxy raised bed that is lined with wood (cedar tree and some sort of hydrangea bush is inside). The right side has a diagonal line and isn't raised (lots of different plants - need to add tree to add height)

1. Should we slightly curve the edge of the patio vs. have it come to a sharp corner - house is boxy (pls refer to bricks laid out in pics and will see slight curve I was leaning towards)

2. What would you do with the garden beds? Flatten the box around the cedar (if possible?) or take out all plants in the flat bed and raise it (then replant)? I'm not "married to" any of the plants in the garden beds - this is how it was when we purchased the home. Figured we should figure out the layout/design before adding/changing out plants...

3. If we flattened the beds, would you use simple edging (basically in the ground) as a border or bricks to match the patio?

4. Do you like the beds along the garages (one on left side is ours, one on right side is neighbors) or do you think we should cut back garden beds to the garage (and get rid of plants there - have just grass going up to side of garage)? YES, I know it is weird we have garages lining our yard... not sure we have any options other than to work with it though...

We live in zone 4 if that matters.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions you have to offer!

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Add a step sidewalk,reframe the patio

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 6:23PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

I can't give advice in your zone, just want to say your space has wonderful character and I hope you will play it to the hilt. It reminds me of places I've seen in England. Think of all those borrowed garages as stage settings. Even the dreaded ivy looks interesting, since it's on someone else's buildings...

I like the curve in the paved area as long as it can be achieved properly. I hope someone with some actual design skills will respond. You could have a lot of fun with this setting.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 1:28AM
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Before you plant anything you should consider re-configuring the whole yard now that it is almost bare. The reason I say this is because, although you want achieve some privacy or seperation from the neighbours with the flower bed and seat in that corner you have actually made their house the focal point of your garden. You could block this with a small tree as you suggest but be careful you don't close down the space.

Could you move the steps to the other door and re-orient the patio to change the perspective so that the other corner is more dominant? I don't think those pavers are the right material but you may be stuck with that.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:42AM
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Love the tree and cool to see a patio in place - thanks for the visual! We actually live in MN and the backyard is south facing - read online last night that an eastern redbud won't work for our situation :( Do you know anything about hydrangea trees (peegee)? I read that might be a good option. Was thinking white star magnolia but then found it specifically mentioned they don't do well if south facing - bummer! Oddly enough we do have a redbud on the east side of our house but it is the only one I've seen in our neighborhood so I think we are lucky it has survived as long as it has as it doesn't seem to be very common around here!

I forgot to mention the second backdoor and overhang will also be removed (it is the old door) so we won't need the patio to extend to that door - is that why you extended it or do you think it looks better like that (even if it comes at the expense of a little less grassy area for the kids)? We don't have play equip so that isn't an issue - just curious why you extended it :-)

And are you suggesting we use different patio pavers too or is that just what you had to work with in your computer program? (saw it was also an elevated patio vs. being flush w/ the grass/ground)

Thanks Catkim for the kind words - it is a bit of a mess right now which was why it was a welcome relief to see designonline6's changes (and making it b&w to eliminate my color scheme that I'm not a huge an of right now...) Lots of work ahead of us but it should be a good space for our family when we are finished if I can figure out this layout issue I'm having! :-)

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 10:43AM
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I prefer a square corner to the patio (think it looks less "gimmicky".) If the patio were larger I might consider other corner styles but it would be dependent on the outcome of the whole back yard design scheme. Would prefer a basketweave or herringbone pattern for the paving. I've used one of your pictures to illustrate three suggestions: Limb up the tree near the garage. Allow the the 3 shrubs (looks like variegated Ligustrum) to grow into a tree form with the canopy above the fence and above your head. You could grow a solid bed of Hosta or similar below. Widen the perimeter bed all around; it looks pinched.

Thinking about the possible patio uses, it looks like you're shrinking it too small. Add a barbecue grill, an outdoor furniture conversation grouping, a few people standing around and it's too small.

The existing raised bed seems pointless and is an eyesore. Better to have a single perimeter bed that has unified flow. Having the bed wrap the patio and flank the garages is a big plus (presuming the beds get good planting design.) The bench in the bed is another "gimmicky" looking thing to me... not really functional, just a "mini-golf" attraction. Better for seating to be at the patio. A brick or paver soldier course bed edging/paving strip, set flush, would look good.

If the patio was a little larger and the landscape bed was expanded to a more realistic size, I'd consider removing what grass was left and opting for a lawn substitute. The meager size lawn would not be as useful for child play as would be an expanded patio.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 11:37AM
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It are your pavers.Different size are our wrong feeling from different angle and distance.Computer program follow the feeling.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 12:24PM
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I see on another thread that you've identified the variegated shrubs as dogwood and question replacing them with Arborvitae. Arborvitae would eventually overwhelm. I would keep the Dogwoods, turn them into multi-trunk trees (as I've already suggested) and then play up their winter appearance by pollarding them annually (at the tree canopy height) to maximize their red twigs. That way they are just as interesting in the winter. People seem to only know that they can be pollarded as a shrub, but obvious to the fact that they can be done that way as a small tree form.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2012 at 1:32PM
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What are your thoughts on totally reconfig the patio so that when you walk out of our new backdoor that you go straight to the table/chairs (so that the patio is the left side of our yard)? If so, wouldn't that change the focus to the side of the yard as opposed to the back (where the neighbors that have the high deck are...)? If so, what would you do w/ the garden beds for the blackberry bushes (against our garage) and surrounding the tree/hydrangea shrubs (currently the boxy bed in the back left corner of the yard)? May not make any sense and seem odd but trying to think outside the box since we do have the chance now to reconfig everything...

lawn substitute - are you referring to ground cover? We definitely want some grass in our backyard as we have young kids that like to throw the ball, play in the sprinklers, etc.

inkognito - what material would you use other than these pavers? I did a forum posting a few weeks ago about whether to reuse the pavers or get new ones and almost everyone voted that we reuse what we had but change the deck stain and door color. Knowing these colors will change, would you change your mind and say to reuse them (was that the issue?) or do you think we should consider another material?

And I agree, the last homeowner made the back corner the focal point of the yard (which as you said, emphasizes the neighbor's house - but it was even worse as most of the yard used to be a deck 3 steps up so you totally could see the neighbors (and they could see you)! Eek!

The bench was only there temporarily - I promise! Maybe I can find a place for it on the patio ;)

And no, we can't move the steps to the other door as that door will be sealed (and overhang removed) - it is where our refrigerator will soon be located on the opposite side of! :-)

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 12:02AM
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Design aesthetics aside, the lack of privacy here would be intolerable for me, and I have doubts about how long it would take to train the dogwoods into an effective screen. Isn't there a cultivar of arborvitae that only gets 3 ft. or so wide?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 2:19AM
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If your question about re-configuring patio means to do away with the planting space alongside the garage, I'd vote against. It would look better for the yard for you to have the ability to plant in front of the garage wall. The minimum depth of all of the planting beds along walls and fences should be no less than 4'. It would be better if they were 5', 6' or more.

The dogwoods are already to the top of the fence and they look like they've been cut back before and would be happier being larger. Put some fertilizer on them and trim them--not the top, but the sides--into a "V"-shape in preparation for making them into trees. (The trimming will help re-direct growth into more height) and you'll have your answer very quickly as to their ability to add screening above the fence.

One way to add screening to the height of the fence--and this could be the quickest way--is to create a means (a "structure") for an annual twining vine to grow above it. Or create a means for the already existing Boston ivy to grow higher.

I can't tell what Hydrangea you have, but if it's a paniculata cultivar with any possibility of becoming a small tree, I'd move it to a place where it could grow like that... such as in front of the vacant part of the fence.

Whitecap, I don't believe there is any cultivar of Arborvitae that would stay close to 3' wide. Their height would be overwhelming, too. But if such were available, unless they were installed as 6' ht. plants, chances are the Dogwoods--if properly trimmed and fertilized--would get above the fence sooner. The dogwoods would be much easier to maintain over the long haul.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 8:29AM
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You're gonna properly prep the surface underneath those pavers before you set them permanently..... right?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 8:40AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

The obvious layout of the patio would be parallel to the house but if you think outside the box you might consider skewing the patio to the diagonal.
If you tried this and built a nicely detailed narrow arbor type screen at the end of the patio you could solve some of your privacy issues.
Beef up the corner edges of the patio with your two matching variegate dogwoods and run a hedge of semi- dwarf Arborvitae occ. Deep Green ( 10 - 14 feet at maturity) along the fence.
This will give you deeper planting beds and break you out of the box.
I would have configured the stairs a bit differently- taking the landing all the way to the jog in the corner so that you could have a little extra space for a few pots or a chair or whatever just outside the door. From Last Import

    Bookmark   May 10, 2012 at 1:06PM
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Yes cearbhaill, we are going to prep the surface under the pavers :-)

Attached you can see pics of what is in the back right corner of the yard - these are pics from last year before we moved in...

Ivy on fence (and house) doesn't look great for most of the year but in the summer, it sure does help blend the house/fence and make it not as noticeable :-) Thing is - not many people spend a lot of time in their backyards when it does look bad as it is too cold so maybe nothing to fret about and I should keep encouraging the ivy to grow along the fence (and garage?)??

In the pic below you can see I pruned the variegated dogwoods today with hopes that they will grow more vertically - figure it doesn't hurt to try as my other alternative is to start fresh with something else (that might not grow high enough during the time we are in the house to make much of a difference).

What would you plant below the variegated dogwoods? I have several (solid green) hostas I could put in front with something else - and/or maybe just a ground cover like a juniper?

Is there a way to determine what kind of hydrangea we have? The flowers are not that exciting and I think it is b/c it is under a tree (not enough sunlight). Read online I can't move it until winter so it will have to stay put at least for now.

I also boxed off the layout of the patio pavers and "grew" the landscaping beds 5' along the back fence and 4' along the garages - do you think it is going to be too boxy (having both the landscaping beds boxed off as well as the patio)?

Was going to add a large potted plant to each side of the bump out (of the house) so there would be some color on the patio (perhaps with mosquito-repelling plants - Our other alternative is to not put the pavers up against the house and instead have a landscaping bed there too but the pots give us more flexibility I believe...

Pics taken today -

The big hiccup with relying on the ivy to help hide the fence (and house) is that we plan to replace the fence back there in the next few years - maybe we can hold off for a while longer?

Thoughts on adding a big squared off piece of lattice for the morning glory to grow up to each garage (between the two windows) - would repl her two smaller lattice pieces on that one garage.

And what would you put in front of the raspberry bushes if we do extend the landscaping bed to 4' (see pic to see how much extra room in front of these bushes)?

Would you make the sides of the garages both symmetrical (plant same plans on both sides)?

Thanks again for all of your help with information, suggestions and pictures - my husband is leaving this 100% up to me to design (!!!) so your help (and expertise!) is truly valuable and makes me feel like I can make something out of this yard after all! :-)

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 6:03PM
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Taking one bit at a time, I like the can can dogwoods. Take out the lump of wood at the edge of the bed and that looks quite elegant. Does this work for you?

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 6:35PM
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If it were me, I'd be OK with Boston Ivy on the fence and OK with it OFF of the garage. It will leave feet/marks behind if you allow it to to grow and remove it later. It's been said by someone else recently that the marks can be pressure washed off, but I think it'd be too much effort for the result. It can pull off paint during removal if the paint is not tightly adhered.

If I were pruning those dogwoods, I'd use the process as an opportunity to develop consistent form for the trio. A 50 to 60 degree spread looks fairly good. I'm overlaying that on your picture to show you what else I'd prune off. Think of it as if you're shaping fat ice cream cones. The right-most one needs to be balanced better by removing a lower cane on the right side, but because the whole shrub is bent to the right, just look for a happy medium that balances it better with the other two plants.

If you want to keep your work load down, use some uniformity in bed creation. Hostas are a great plant for that. They are tough and easy. But don't forget to pop in contrasting accents where you have space and the yard needs interest. Junipers will not be a good groundcover plant in shady areas.

Submit photos of the overall plant and flower to the Hydrangea Forum and see if someone can identify it for you over there.

At the back of the bed I think the diagonal back corners are a plus, but the existing diagonal line seems too long for the small yard. You could work on it to bring it to better balance. Or you could make the inside corners radiused. (The diagonal appeals to me more, but I like both.) I'm not bothered by the square front left corner of bed because I think it'll be resolved with the planting scheme. But play with various ideas if you think something might suit your tastes better. What you're doing with mocking it out in actual bricks is the right way. It helps greatly in being able to visualize the possibilities.

My vote is to go with pavers to the house and potted plants instead of landscape space between house and patio.

One way I would consider adding height to the fence is by adding 2' decorative vertical extensions @ every few feet. (Maybe coordinate them with existing posts.) Connect these extension with couple of parallel rope run in a swag fashion. Lead twining vines like morning glory to the swagged ropes.

Rather than the two small flimsy trellis at the garage, one nice, big, squared-off one would be an improvement.

I don't think the planting needs to be symmetrical, but it needs to be balanced. And a theme should run through it rather than being different styles from left side to right.

Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 12:06AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I think your planning needs to reflect that this is a back yard, and not a front yard. It does not need curb appeal; it only needs to appeal to you. Foundation beds at the front are done for how the house looks in the distance. So a foundation bed is the last thing you need in the back yard - especially given that plants rarely grow well at the foundation given one-sided light and little rain. So yes, patio to the foundation for sure.

The rest of the beds should be determined by your space needs in the back yard. The genius of Deviant Deziner's design is that it eliminates the current features of your back yard where the previous owner got mixed up about whether they were designing a back yard or front. Those beds against the garage have no purpose unless you want space to grow plants. If it is about usable space to enjoy, I'd emphasize patio shape and lawn shape, with minimal beds. Currently you are shaping your patio to meet the expectations of the existing beds.

That may or may not be the ideal patio shape, but take the thought process that led to it: pretend those beds away in your head, draw a site plan without them in it, and let your patio shape be determined by your actual usage needs.

You are getting way ahead of yourself thinking about what plants should go where among hostas and other perennials and vines. You need to think about the quality and arrangement of the space before you get to the details. Choose the necklace AFTER the dress, except in very rare cases :-)

I would leave the bed along the back because it helps to meet your privacy needs in the short term, but in the long term you may be able to do something more attractive to shield yourself from neighbours. As Ink says, you can make the best of what you have by removing all the wood edging. Including the big box on the left.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 5:02PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Along those lines, of designing the back yard mostly for how it will be used, I've wondered about enlarging the patio back towards the fence, planting a decent size tree near the lower corner of Deviant Designers patio, and leaving the other side of the lawn for play space. Right now things are headed towards a very thin lawn space which is good for bocce and playing catch, but not a lot else.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 6:13PM
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I'd keep the Boston ivy everywhere. I looooove ivy. :-P

LOVE the dogwoods. They are AWESOME.

Because your space is so small, I would keep the patio parallel with the house. By the house, though, I'd but an AMAZING 3' deep, 2.5' high wood planter and just have it overflowing with tall and trailing plants. It would be amazing. Would also be looking to changing the steps to stone.

The biggest problem with the existing beds is that they're too small. They each need to be doubled in width.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 11:45PM
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Does anyone know anything about what to do in order to remove the bed in the back left around the tree. It is a raised bed so I'm not sure what to do with the leveling the garden bed w/o stressing the tree (and exposing too many roots). I Googled it and didn't have much luck trying to figure out what to do in order not to lose the tree. Any knowledge to share with me about this?

I hope to get rid of the landscaping timbers this week and will post a follow-up once I get them removed.

We have decided after reading all of your comments/suggestions and viewing your (awesome btw) diagrams and have decided that for us to enjoy the backyard, the patio needs to be up against the house. Thanks for exploring that idea with me! :-)

I have a relative arriving this weekend that has offered to help me with the gardening so if you have any suggestions for what to do in the back right corner of the yard or in front of (and between?) the dogwoods that are now (more) V-shaped as I have gone back to cut more away from their bases once more, I'd love to hear some suggestions! I like uniformity and simplicity - "more is less" (if that helps to know) :-)

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 12:30AM
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I thought you were going to put a little "tree" (12-15' ht.) in the back corner and then underplant with whatever.

You only need a groundcover type plant (like Hosta) below the dogwoods. Not something in front or in between them. Refer to my May 9 picture again.

You can't really remove the soil from around the Hydrangea when you remove the timbers, except near the edge. Don't mess with roots of Hydrangea. The only problem this might cause would be watering and water would tend to roll off the sides of the newly created "hill." If and when needed, watering could be done by leaving a slowly trickling hose at the plant for a length of time.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 1:02AM
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How about some helleborus under the dogwood? With pale cream blooms...

Let the ivy go crazy. If you're planning on replacing the fence, then so much the better--you'll know whether you like it by then, and if you hate it, then no harm done, right?

But once it's covered in ivy, unless it's falling down, there's no need to replace.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 1:42AM
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BTW, not to be a contrarian...but I'd love the bench in that corner if it really felt like a nook, with a small tree behind and above and tall perennials backing so that it really had that quiet, private, enclosed feel. But I love benches and nooks and things like that in a garden. :-P

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 1:47AM
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Yes, we are planning on a tree - would love suggestions! It was also suggested to transplant the hydrangeas to that corner so I still have that option but from what I read, supposedly not until the fall/winter. I think it needs to move as it isn't getting enough light under that tree so it isn't reaching its full potential (bigger blooms).

I am going to submit my pic of the hydrangea to the proper forum today to see if I can find out what it is.

And when you say to plant the hostas (ref'd to pic) under the dogwoods but not between or in front of I think you lost me - do I do a row of them like 1' in front of the dogwoods? Ours are HUGE - should I keep them this way or split them? I have enough to transplant that I wouldn't need to split them unless you think having them that large right now would hinder the dogwoods' growth...

We are still torn on the garden bed decision as far as whether or not to keep it along the garage - maybe if we keep it, can put the hydrangeas against the neighbor's garage and keep the raspberry bushes along our garage (they are approx same height). Thoughts?

Someone is coming by today to dig out and haul away the timbers - yay!

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 8:51AM
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If you want a small tree at the right end of bed (near corner) then putting in a Hydrangea that's NOT a tree, won't work. You'll need to find another place for it. Earlier I recommended PG Hydrangea which can be grown as a small tree. Burning Bush, common Lilac or Philadelphus coronaria are other large shrubs that make good small, multi-trunk trees.

For planting a large groundcover bed, you'd want to arrange plants in rows with the leading row in line with the front edge of the bed, but set back a uniform distance from it. Usually, the same spacing between plants works well as the front set back distance... so let's say for Hosta, 18". Then space them 18" apart in the row. 18" Behind that row is another row laid out in the same manner, except that you would place these plants not directly behind the first row, but offset them so that they are staggered relative to it. Continue the process until you have reached the back of the bed and filled it up. Since you are planting around trees, just don't place a Hosta where the tree is. You can come close, but not so close that you are struggling with tree roots (the tree being the Dogwood) as you don't want to disturb its ability to grow. When the Hosta grow, they will nestle around the tree trunks just fine. Though you PLAN the planting beginning with the first row, you'd actually install plants beginning with the last and work your way backward so you are not crushing installed Hosta as you plant more.

That's the manner in which you'd approach laying out a normal large bed. Now let me contradict that. If your bed is only 4' deep from front to back, the above instructions would only allow you to place 2 rows in the bed. That'd work OK, but if you have sufficient Hosta and want a full look more quickly, keep the plant spacing the same, but adjust the row spacing so that you can fit in 3 rows...say each being 12" apart. (Spacing would now be 18" o.c. x 12" rows.)

Whether you install whole Hosta clumps or split them up is a factor of How many you need vs. how many you have available. Split them if you're going to need a lot of Hosta or if the clumps are so huge they just need splitting.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 10:33AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

You have to be careful once you start getting advice from the forum not to let your own decision-making apparatus to stall. The selection and arrangement of plants IN A BACK YARD is very personal... it really depends on what you want to see and do out there. The back yard is like a room in your house, and while there can always be a "decorator" version, you would not let a decorator override your functional needs in the room.

So when you are torn about the beds along the garage, for example, you need to think about what your needs are for the space as much as about what "would look good." This is a pretty small yard, and if you want to use the space to host a hydrangea because you enjoy looking at them (which I do!), by all means do so. But if you want play space, shaded seating space, or just a lack of pruning work, then follow those needs.

You probably will want to plant a clump of hostas that you won't necessarily have to divide again for a few years. Many hostas also benefit from division. Plant them where it makes sense to you. They are tough plants that will grow anywhere, often even in quite a lot of sun.

I concur with Yardvaark about the danger of water rolling off the rootball of the plants in the box. The root ends that have been shaded will now be exposed, unfortunately with summer coming. Personally, I might do that job in fall - sorry not to have mentioned that before. If you go ahead with the job now, it might be good to scrape the loose surface material over to cover those newly exposed roots and soften the slope, and then water thoroughly and mulch the whole thing. Definitely water with the slow-running hose method. If you have any rocks or spare pavers, putting them on/around the bed for the summer would be good.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 12:34PM
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I like the idea of a burning bush in that back corner, personally. The dark color of the leaves will make it visually recede and feel cooler. It will make the corner seem deeper.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 10:11PM
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We purchased a dwarf burning bush, a globe blue spruce and a chartreuse barberry shrub that we are going to plant in the back right corner. They are all SUPER small right now and will be planted pretty far apart to allow for growth but with time, I think the colors will be stunning. (all of the plants that are currently there will eventually be moved to the side yard... that is another story/forum posting in the making - ha ha!)

Thanks for the burning bush suggestion, I looked it up and found this inspiration picture -
(we will have the chartreuse barberry in front vs. the yew/juniper-looking plant in the background of this pic)

We are going to put the pee gee in the front of the house - can't wait to see how it looks in a few years!

Also, put the hostas around the "tree" dogwoods and I love it. I have decided to keep the hydrangea bush under the tree for now but may later change it out with some hostas (maybe a variety of them incl. one with chartruse to offset the other side of the yard...). Want to watch the blooms this year and see how I feel about it. The bush might be nice to offset the balance in height from the other side of the yard... we'll see!

Will share pics at end of summer of our backyard!

We started the patio yesterday too.

Thanks to everyone for your amazing and super helpful input - I am so excited about finally having a plan and it all coming together!!! :-)

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 6:52PM
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