Any ideas on how to fill this small blank space?

shaknzmom(8b)July 23, 2013

We recently leveled and seeded our entire yard, and laid a flagstone patio. We left one small spot (to the left of the steps, approx. 6'x5') blank because it would be a nuisance to mow/edge. We had grand plans to make a little 'scene' there with a hypertufa bird bath, river rock, and rock garden plants and some grasses all around it. Sounded great. The hypertufa we made was okay but with the retaining wall the last thing we need there is more gray concrete.
Now we are at a loss how to fill this spot. I'd LOVE to have a basalt bird bath rock, but we have a steep driveway and there is no way we could get one of those heavy rocks into the back yard.

Ideas? Our neighbors hedge (in the pic) is on the north side of our house. While it's a sunny spot, we are in western Oregon so we only get hot sun a few months out of the year.

We want it to be a DIY project....we're pretty capable and willing to try most things.

Thanks for any input you may have! :)

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One idea would be the "sheltering island" ... a small multi-trunk tree (10 - 12' height) with flowering groundcover below.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 11:12AM
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I would want to do something with flowers as you have so much green and I feel you need something to contrast that.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 11:24AM
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Are you a person who plants seasonal color annuals?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 4:03PM
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How about trying the hypertufa again but dyeing it this time - onyx maybe, or a brown stone color to complement your bistro set?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 5:21PM
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an oversized ceramic planter in a contrasting color. With plants, of course.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 10:15PM
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How about a water feature like a fountain or large tall pot with water bubbling up and recycling thru river rocks underneath. I just love my fountain and so do the birds. Of course you could plant around either type of water feature or put a grouping of different size beautiful glazed pots around it, where you could change the plantings if you wanted to.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 11:30PM
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Disclaimer: I am not a garden designer. But I do, like you, live in the Pacific Northwest (WA).

When you were developing your garden, it sounds like you were thinking of the new area as a place to experiment/be creative/have some fun.

I understand why you want a basalt birdbath, they are beautiful. Would you consider instead a ceramic birdbath?. When I searched for "birdbath ceramic garden" at, some stunning examples came up, including one made out of two pails and a garbage can lid.

A rock garden can be quite easy to maintain. I helped my neighbor build his 5 years ago, but have not yet built one for myself. Here are some suggestions to think about:

1. Consider making the garden larger than 6' x 5'.

2. Dig out some of the soil, and mound sand at LEASt 18" deep. Alpine and rock garden plants do well in our area in sand beds. (My neighbor's large rock garden is up to 5 ft deep!)

3. Add whatever kind of rocks you like and can manage, but be sure they are partially buried and look like something you could imagine seeing when you are hiking in the mountains. A garden near here has rocks small enough for one person to move, but looks natural, as the rocks were placed with thought and sufficiently buried.

4. After planting, add a couple of inches of grit as mulch. You may have to look around to find the kind of rock mulch that'll give you a color that you like. For example, my neighbor uses granite mulch (white/black), but he is red/green colorblind, so this increases the contrast for him. (I've seen brownish 3/8" crushed basalt that I'd like to use for my garden.)

5. Start with some woody plants to add structure and winter interest. Locals love 'Chief Joseph' ponderosa pine, as it turns a beautiful yellow in the winter, and grows quite slowly. Or how about a sculptural manzanita? Add miniature conifers (growing not more than 1" per year) in blues and golds and greens, and little shrubs like Kalmiopsis.

6. Plant ground covering subshrubs like crowberry, shrubby penstemons (e.g. Penstemon davidsonii or P. cardwellii) and dryas. These can add masses of texture or color and look decent in the winter.

6. Add perennials for summer color. Lewisia cotyledon hybrids are beautiful! How about columbines? Pacific coast irises? We found that the beargrass that grows in our mountains does well for us; it has shiny green leaves year round and sends up those dramatic blooms.

7. Add bulbs for spring color. There are quite a few natives that are beautiful but underused. Camas? Brodiaea? Erythronium (fawn lilies)?

I like to grow west coast natives, as they relate to my environment, but others like to grow plants from the Alps or the Mediterranean or from South Africa or the Himalayas. Whatever is used, plant in groups or use mat-forming plants so that there are blocks of color and texture.

Well, you may already know lots about growing alpine and rock garden plants, or you may want to do something quite different from what I'm describing.

Here is a link that might be useful: This OR nursery has links to their How-To Pages on rock gardening

This post was edited by IshCountryGal on Wed, Jul 24, 13 at 3:56

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 3:52AM
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Thanks for the suggestions. What you couldn't see in the picture is that we have a trumpet vine on one side of the steps and a wisteria on the other. So we wanted to avoid another tall plant/tree that would compete with those.

My husband and I had our heart set on a basalt dish rock, and were finally able to find one a couple of hours away. And, after a couple more hours, some plywood, dowels, and a lot of sweat, we were able to get it up the steps and in place.

I tried to locate some of the plants that were suggested but didn't have any luck. So this is what we ended up with. We placed the bath toward the back of the space and transplanted some of our current Lucifers and Day lilies behind it(they are suffering transplant shock right now and look droopy). Then we got some Wormwood, Mini Sweet Flag, Garnet Delosperma, Birds Foot Trefoil, Black Brass Buttons, Bellflower, and Blanket flower. A bunch of low growing and/or spreading plants so they won't over power the bird bath.

We added some local river rock and some Montana river rock for color. Living in Oregon, with all of our rain, we will get to see the color of the rock pretty often! We temporarily put some bigger rocks throughout the bed to keep our dogs out of it. Once the plants start to mature/fill out, we'll remove those.

It's very basic, but we're happy with it. Thanks again for everyone's time and input. :)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 7:44PM
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thanks for posting your solution. Looks nice.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 11:53AM
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if you like the original garden visiting this blog you will find Variety of pots very nice and original:

Here is a link that might be useful: BEAUTY POTS

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 5:37PM
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