Advice for a hot fishbowl backyard

ponyboatJuly 13, 2014

Hi, I recently moved into a 60's ranch house in a very cool neighborhood of historic homes ranging from late 1800's to midcentury. I have been renovating both inside and out, and the backyard is challenging my skill set. I have a little skill with landscaping, have done great with previous homes but I've never had a yard like this. It is basically a rectangle surrounded on all three sides by other homes, and it is uphill in every direction from my house (I am also on a hill, the front of my house is beautiful and ambles down to a greenway across the road and then the river). There is zero privacy, especially on the north side, and in winter when the leaves fall I might as well not have a privacy fence at all. To top it off, the back has a W-SW exposure which means starting at about 1 pm it is sweltering out there.

I do ultimately plan to put a screen porch on the back where there is currently just a shadeless concrete pad. I need plenty of lawn as I have 3 dogs, but any ideas for making this a beautiful retreat with paths, plantings, PRIVACY and SHADE would be appreciated! I hate to just plant arborvitae or bamboo along the fence.

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ponyboat

Photo deleted

This post was edited by ponyboat on Mon, Jul 14, 14 at 10:04

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 12:54PM
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ponyboat

The "panhandle," meant to be a lot wider but the fence builders made a mistake. Dog run more or less, except the dogs never go near it! Behind you can see another of the houses that look in on my yard, as well as the path of the sun towards the west as it beats down on my house.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 1:08PM
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violetwest

It's hard to see where the house has its connections to the yard, such as the concrete pad you mention. But my thought would be to create an intimate outdoor room (or rooms) close to the house where you can hang out, using a combination of fencing, plant screens, canopies, etc. Even temporary fencing, like the rolls of bamboo, would work in the short run to provide privacy.

You've got a lot of space there, and I think sometimes by closing a little bit off, and concentrating on a small area, rather than trying to do everything at once, you can make a yard like yours move livable.

ETA: As the slope runs toward the house, do you need to consider drainage solutions?

This post was edited by Violet.West on Sun, Jul 13, 14 at 13:12

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 1:10PM
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ponyboat

This is a rough layout of the yard, yes the fenced in part does look like Oklahoma, but we are in Tennessee!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 1:13PM
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violetwest

a vegetable garden or a mini orchard in the "dog run" maybe?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 1:14PM
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ponyboat

Hi Violet, I posted a layout which might help some. Looking out the back of the house you are basically facing west. So those first two photos are more or less looking towards the north, and the last one with the panhandle is facing west. I don't think it is enough of a slope to have drainage issues, we have had a lot of rain and I don't notice standing water. It flattens out once inside my fence, most of the slope is outside of my yard where the neighbors are just looking down.

When you say an outdoor room, do you mean in addition to the screen porch that I am planning? How would you connect this without it looking disjointed?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 1:18PM
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ponyboat

Yes thought about maybe a garden in the panhandle, or a bocce court!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 1:22PM
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violetwest

Well, I wonder where are your doors to the outside. Is there only one? Is the door from your living area or kitchen out to the concrete pad? That might make a difference. When I made my screen porch, I extended it off my bedroom and made a window into the door.

If it were me, I'd probably either 1) enclose the area around the screen porch to be . . . so you could exit from your living area into the porch and into the outdoor "room" (if that is the case); or 2) extend the usable area to the north to the side of the concrete pad along the side of the house by screening or enclosing it. Take out that big bushy whatever it is.

I'm not an expert though! I'm just a random internet person, and there are more expert people on this board who might have more informed decisions.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 3:01PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

The neighbors may enjoy the river view too.

What about creating a patio with pergola and some decorative panels on the sides to shield your seating area from prying eyes and the setting sun. I've seen this done lots of times on DIY and HGTV shows. What is your design or style preference?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 11:02PM
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yardvaark

When using pictures to "explain" the overall layout of a yard, if one picture doesn't connect with another, it is basically useless for understanding the layout. Also, the pictures are mighty fuzzy so detail in the distance can't be grasped. The pictures don't convey a pronounced lack of privacy; I can't even see a neighboring house. It would be better if you stand at the patio and take SLIGHTLY overlapping pictures -- all from the exact same location -- panning the entire scene from left to right. And please have them be in focus. That way, we can see everything and how it fits together.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 12:09AM
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ponyboat

Thanks aardvark, I have never done this before. I can't do anything about the fuzziness unfortunately, it is an iPhone. But here is the view from my back door, starting at the far left and panning to the right in the next 3 pics. You cannot see the house on the southern side from this set, as it is only visible from the center of the yard, nor can you see the "panhandle" well that is at the top of the drive.

FYI my neighbors behind me don't have a view that I would be obscuring. I don't even have a river view, the land just rolls gently down towards the river, which is about 1/4 mile away. Thanks!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:52AM
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ponyboat

2nd in the new series, here you can better see one of the houses that looks into my yard.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:54AM
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ponyboat

Panning toward the right (northwest) corner from the same spot, that tree on the left of the frame is the same big tree on the right of the previous frame. Would need to be limbed up for sure.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 9:55AM
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ponyboat

Last frame, back to the other corner of the house where you can see the third neighbor house looking in and down.

My style is vintage funky, I like reclaimed materials and folk art. Very casual. For example the screened porch I am thinking about might have a corrugated metal roof that might rust (if I can find a way to insulate it where the roof won't heat up the porch).

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 10:00AM
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violetwest

well, I certainly do think a nice covered patio, screen porch, or fenced in area close to the house for privacy and shade would be the way to go. There are many ways you could do it, depending on your budget and the way you want to use the space.

my iphone takes perfect pics, including all mine here. Maybe you need an upgrade, lol!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:55AM
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yardvaark

I agree that you need some shade over the patio. It helps greatly in producing a sense of privacy. It could be a tree, screened porch, arbor or along those lines.

It looks like a few small trees (small as lilac would work) and a few large shrubs that tolerate some shade could give you a great deal of privacy. At the corner where I show large shrubs, don't count on any performing well unless you remove some of the tree limbs overhanging the area. Even the shade tolerant shrubs need some light in order to do well ... especially if there's bloom involved. For that area you might consider oak leaf hydrangea or bottlebrush buckeye. Maybe someone else would know something good.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 5:16PM
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