Need to add shade and entertainment area

powermuffinJuly 28, 2012

Hello. I live in zone 4 in Colorado. Our backyard is blank canvas, or in reality, boring. The area that I am asking about is between the back of our house and the garage and is approx. 22' x 27'. This is the south side and is hot, especially this year. Our neighbors to the south recently cut down an ugly tree that did provide us with some shade. Our existing deck looks good but is too small. Rather than tear it down, I would rather add to it or put in a patio. The issue is getting shade on this south side. Our house is 100+ years old and has electrical wires coming to the house on this side, so any tree we might plant would have to be I would like to add an overhead structure like a pergola or arbor big enough to cover a significant portion of a new entertainment area - table and chairs. The current deck does get shaded from trees in the area to the west.

So my questions are:

Where to put an overhead structure, how to attach it, and what would it look like?

Should we extend the deck or ??? What type of plants would work here?

We are quite handy and would enjoy doing the work ourselves.

TIA for your suggestions.


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The plan helps but please add a few photos that show the whole space taken from different viewpoints (from outer corners of space viewing across to opposite side.)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 11:58AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Where do the wires run, exactly? I have back yard wires but lots of trees; for me it just a matter of placement and shape of canopy.

You want your trees, if you would prefer those to a pergola or want them in addition, to the west and south, so since the yard actually faces west, not south, you might have room to use trees. I would start by accurately assessing tree options relative to sun and wires, and the shadows they will cast. That can tell you where best to extend your deck or put a patio. Perhaps it need not be adjacent to the existing one.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 12:44PM
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Karin, the wires run from the corner of the garage by the fence to the same corner of the house. Yes, when looking out the slider, you are looking west. But that south side is a wasteland because of the sun. The issue of placement of trees is compounded because of the access to the garage and the gate (not shown but indicated). Also, I forgot to show the elm that is at the SE corner of the garage. It is large, and although I would prefer a different tree there, it does provide some shade to the existing deck in the late afternoon.

Yardvaark,I will take some pics. If nothing else they should provide a good laugh. We are restorning the old garage and that has taken priority over the yard and our money. Excuses, excuses.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 9:00AM
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Diane, no one cares about any deficiencies your yard may have now so don't worry about that. It's about what WILL be.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 11:14AM
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Ok, here are some pictures.
Thank you so much for helping us with a vision.
Looking east along the south fence:

Looking east:

Looking south:

Looking west:

Looking north:

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 12:22PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I think I would put a patio from about the base of your stairs to the south fence, running right to the house (and extending into a path to the gate if you like). You could put a pergola over the west side of it, or a tree between it and the garage so it eventually gets shade from the southeast. If interference with the garage doors impedes good placement, maybe alter the type of garage door to a sliding door, one fixed door, or one swinging inward?

I can't quite get a sense of the wires exact placement, but carefully selecting and positioning trees based on their mature canopy is not impossible. I have lots of wires, and lots of trees. You can put a columnar tree (I just got a Tilia cordata 'Corinthian' for example) or a low spreading variety, and prune as it grows to avoid the wires.

I always think about tree succession planning if I can, and I suspect that elm may get too big to live so close to at some point - maybe root competition, too much debris, what have you, or just too big a trunk footprint. That's why I think if you can it would be good to get another tree growing now. Of course it has to be out of the way of harm when the big one gets taken down for the succession to work.

Although even a sunny patio has its moments. I like having some spots that get sun in spring and early fall, when I find I seek the sun rather than avoid it as I do in summer. I don't know if that sort of time happens in your climate. In addition, even a sunny patio is often fine to use in the evening, in case that is when you might use it.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 10:57PM
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Thanks Karin. You can barely see the wires in the Looking south photo, but it is hard to tell where they are. Would a Amur Maple be a tree that would do well in zone 4 CO and in that location. Or some kind of plum? I would love to have a plum so that I could can the fruit.

The elm by the garage has a lot of damage (which we need to prune) and I really thought that it was going to die last year. Unfortunately it is a bit improved this year probably from our Bayer treatments. But you are right about tree succession so we are really looking for something that could thrive in that location.

My husband and I designed a patio that is sited exactly as you described, but couldn't figure out where to place the arbor/pergola structure. At the corner of the house or back at the fence? Could the tree be planted within the patio area if we gave it enough room?
Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 10:44AM
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Your deck is fairly small so I'd consider expanding it as the first step. It could be nearly doubled in size and still work well with the house. A single, large set of steps--6' to 8'--width would be preferable to two small sets. If additional entertainment space was needed, it seems like stepping off the deck directly onto a patio would be fine and the natural direction inviting expansion seems as if it would be at the west side of the deck moving southward. I placed a small tree (lilac sized) at the south side of the deck for shade, but there's no reason you couldn't cover a portion of the deck with a pergola/arbor if you prefer. A simple arrangement would be preferable.

It would look better and be easier to care for if you didn't let the lawn bleed off into the shrub and garden areas. It could be better defined geometrically (arcs & lines... not wiggles) and adding a mowing strip at the edge could give it a tidier look. I would give the landscape beds wider berth. The bed near the fence looks pinched. Stuffing the planter around the tree with somthing that spills over the edge... ferns or hosta or somesuch would look good.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 12:16PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

What would help is if you could sketch the wires into the plan diagram.

If the elm is that close to going, it would be smartest to just get rid of it (at least in your head) so that it does not compromise patio design. Construction is a different story, but start with design.

Sometimes it is a good thing to ask yourself, if I were designing this yard from scratch, what would I do? And one thing that I might do is put the garage somewhere else... that won't help you, but for anyone who is trying to figure out where to put a garage, the best spot for a tree is not the best spot for the garage :-) And the best place for a tree is usually the southwest area of a yard.

Incidentally, with the deck design you've thought of and that was my first thought (and that I think upon reflection is not the best idea, sorry, but I need the wire diagram to come up with better) could be done with a triangular pergola that covers the southwest corner of that area.

You might enjoy this old thread linked below.

Karin L

Here is a link that might be useful: v1rtu0s1ty's pergola

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 1:10PM
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I've done much of what you're considering and have found it to be very functional. These are pictures from today at noon...

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Thanks to you all for the suggestions and the pictures. You given us great ideas which we will pursue.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 4:36PM
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