Back Yard Design by a Newbie

danell(7)August 27, 2010

Greetings, I posted this in the conifer forum and am waiting to hear back from Dax. Just thought I'd ask if anyone here would be willing to give me their feedback. I've never had a yard before and I've made one $15K mistake already (LOL some folks learn the hard way!)

In the diagram (sorry I don't know how to make it appear here so I added a link to photobucket) I decided to use Styrax Japonicus for both trees, of course I'd want them to be least 10 feet since they are slow growing. For question marks on left, a Thuja O. Holmstrup and Thuja O. Smaragd. For question mark on the right a Chamecyparis P. Boulevard Cypress and move Russian Sage farther down the creek bed.

My yard faces West, North facing arrow would point down toward the dry creek bed, summers range in the 90s with triple digits common, winters mild, clay soil, Ph 7-7.5, I'm looking for a relaxing environment that I, at a beginners level of skill, can care for.

I'm also thinking of using a fence fabric. Are any of you familiar with this product and it's longevity? I have an 8' x 6' sample on my fence now and it is so nice to look out and see what looks like a beautiful hedge rather than chain link. Copy and past the link below then go to Our products > Design Options. My sample is of the Morning Glories but I'm thinking of using the Ficus Planting.


Here is a link that might be useful:

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Juniper,conifer,japanese maple are ok,but tree's shape must match your house.I like shrub fence.

Here is a link that might be useful: if need pic designing

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 6:22AM
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Wow, first off I have to give you credit for:
Making a master plan as opposed to plunking plants in little 'islands of interest' here and there
allowing space for the dog to patrol the fence, because you know it will have to be done (in the dog's mind) and it's only going to lead to trampling if you put plants there

Now, about the fence fabric ... It looks GREAT in the close ups of the shots. But when I look at the Before and After images on their site, it looks less great. It looks kind of fake. Have you considered the inserts that look like artificial Christmas tree branches? They are pricey, about $10-$14 per linear foot (depending where you buy), but because they have some texture they are a little bit more realistic when you have other plants in front of them. To be honest, a whole wall-o-uniform green is going to look pretty fake no matter what. But, if there is some depth and texture, and it's hidden by other plants in some areas, it can look more realistic.

My last thought is ... do you have anything in the plan that provides food for native wildlife (like birds or even chipmunks)? Some rosa rugosa (if you have dry soil) or winterberry holly (moist or even wet soil) would offer red berries to contrast the deep green evergreens in the winter, and are a good source of food for local critters.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hedge Slats for Chain Link

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 8:15AM
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Thanks for the link Ideashare, I'll look into it some more when I'm not at work. Tell me, how does one go about figuring out if tree's shape matches the house? It may seem like a silly question but I just don't know. I have seen similar comments elsewhere in this forum about trees and houses matching, makes sense but how?

Thanks Pam29011 for the credit. The yard was designed around the dogs, I call it "Dogscaping" The dry creek is already in and dogs love it. They roll in the sand, pop into the hollow log (especially if I hide a treat there) and explore the tall grasses (my dogs are only 12-15 pounders). Don't the birds like Juniperus Virginia? I have to be careful with berries around the dogs and anything on the ASPCA toxic list. Shucks that means no Hostas too. Oh wait, I do leave up coneflowers in winter for the birds.

Any suggestions for which ornamental grass to use at back of border? I was thinking something that would take over the show when Joe Pye dies down around Aug or Sep. would be nice.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 11:52AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Don't encourage Ideasshare, our Chinese annoyance with exotic ideas of what a garden is, who unfortunately gets into every thread first due, I suppose, to the time zone.

Other than this I'll have to check in later myself.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2010 at 12:31PM
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Oh cute! You have a great size of dog (big enough to bark, small enough not to kill a shrub by sitting on it).

As for ornamental grasses, I have no clue there. I am still learning about them. The place where I work has several and some look great (I think they are fountain grasses) but others look mangy halfway through summer. Fountain grass is the only good-looking gras I know of that doesn't get huge like Pampas grass. But again, that's b/c I know almost nothing about grasses ;)

I'm glad to hear you have coneflower that goes to seed. It's fun to see birds balancing on swaying stalks while eating. It always reminds me how light those little birds must be.

You asked about knowing if a tree matches the shape of a house ... that's a design goal I'm not familiar with. I tend to look for trees that have the same kind of aesthetic as a house. Formal trees (lollipop and pyramid shapes) for formal houses like center entrance colonials, georgian revival, etc. I look for more flowing, fountain shaped things for Victorians and contemporary weeping evergreens for modern houses. Our last house was a ranch, so I looked for trees that grew with a wide crown to mimic the horizontal lines of the house (a tall, poky thing just makes the house look more squat and low, IMHO). And now we live in a cape, but we have enough trees (I had to stop myself from typing "friggin trees"). They are primarily white oaks with massive acorn harvests that rain down like golf balls all fall. But, they do add some drama so I try to be grateful ...

Hey, I just had a thought! What about Hydrangea Panniculata? Do they like your area? They can grow into beautiful forms that look almost like a giant umbrella with limbs that touch the ground. I bet the dogs could play hide & seek under & around them. And it's a great spot to lie down & survey the yard in near-anonymity (if you're a dog).

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 8:48PM
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Thanks Pam, I had to chuckle when I read your comment about ("friggin trees"). I used to have 3 black walnuts when I lived elsewhere and gads I disliked cleaning that up.

The Hydrangea Panniculata sounds great but... always seems to be a but, it is on the ASPCA toxicity list: "Clinical Signs: Vomiting, depression, diarrhea. Cyanide intoxication is rare  usually produces more of a gastrointestinal disturbance."

I think I've pretty much decided on a Crape Myrtle 'Tuskegee' It is a small, tough tree that will not dwarf the single story homes and small yards. Plus it has 4 seasons of interest, I'll just use a vacuum when the petals fall (LOL - just kidding!)

Thanks Again. I may post this in the ornamental grass forum and see what those folks have to say. I'm thinking that may be what is missing, something soft and flowing. Since I posted this, I also realized some of my measurement were off and I had to re-do the design by taking out Joe Pyes and a few other minor changes.

Cheers and Blessing to you.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 2:33PM
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Danell, do your dogs chew on the plants? We've had 3 dogs in our 30+ years in this home with gardens and have never had a problem with them eating the plants. (We did have a Chesapeake bay retriever that ate mulch, however, so I had to stop using that for a while, turning to shredded leaves instead ... As if to prove my concern futile, she found and swallowed a varnished corn cob from one of the children's Halloween costume corn cob pipes; it lodged in her intestines, necessitating a $1,000 surgery to remove it and repair her intestine. Ah, well.)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 6:52PM
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I have one that may attempt to eat/sample just about anything although he is not destructive. They all like to eat grass as do most dogs. I just prefer to be on the safe side.

A cockapoo I once had ate through the top of an empty pizza box to get to the smell inside. He aspiratated on the cardboard, neccesitating a 3am emergency trip, and a $1,000 plus medical bill. So, I'm with you on the corn cob - These dang dogs, too bad we love em so much (SMILE)

    Bookmark   September 9, 2010 at 11:34AM
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If you read this pam29011, I just want to say the Hydrangea Panniculata was a great thought. It would truly be fun from a dog's perspective AND it is a gorgeous tree. Perhaps I'm overly protective.

BTW I did not repeat post this to the Ornamental Grass Forum and the design has changed quite a bit since initial post. The ol' "back to the drawing board" thingy because as I said my meausurement were off, and I may have been overly ambitious. I could re-scan but it costs $11.00 everytime as I have to go to Kinkos to do it, my computer is old.

I have photos of the back yard in my personal email but I need to figure out how to transfer those here. If I ever do - no when I do - your comments and suggestions would be helpful. Thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 5:22PM
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I'm ba-a-a-ck. I took a design class and got some help from my instructor and a landscape architect, so I'm almost there but a fresh perspective would be welcome. I put a link at the bottom which includes both the previous and new design plans as well as photos of the yard. I honestly hope this is not too much to ask.

My Concerns:

Yellow : I think I have too much yellow and was thinking of replacing the Rudbeckias for something blue, but what?

Phormium Tenax : I had wanted the Phormium Tenax by the fountain, not as a focal point, but so that I would not be looking out my slider at a bunch of dead stuff in the winter. (It is a risk as most everyone here lost theirs last winter but a risk I'm willing to take - any other suggestions?) Therefore I'd like to pull it forward, like in original drawing, and get rid of the Echinacea in front of it to right of fountain. What do you think? Will it compete too much with the fountain? I was planning on using "Pink Panther" which only gets 3-4 x 4-5. Also neither I nor my instructor thinks it necessary to have an additional Phormium at dry creek bed but architect does. What are your thoughts? I have a lot of "twosies" going on.

Juniperus S. Moonglow : I wanted something that would direct the eye and create a flow with all the blue conifers but will this make it too dark? Perhaps a Baby Blue Spruce instead (although prickly)?

Rhaphiolepis Indica Clara : The architect suggested this but I wanted something with less maintenance (I have enough trimming with the Virbs.) so was thinking perennials, Huechera, Hakonechloa or the original Lace Leaf Japanese Maple. Your thoughts?

As you can see, I've extended the dry creek bed. I had originally thought to pull everything together using Salix Purpurea Dwarf Artic Willow but after reading about its numerous foliar and insect problems decided to wait until I worked with it. Does anyone have experience with this plant and am I justified in being concerned?

Gads this was a lot of work! Thanks for your time and consideration. Happy Holidays

Here is a link that might be useful: Back Yard Design II

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 6:17PM
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Hey where is everyone, must be out wrapping Christmas presents huh? I'll try back after the Holidays but in the meantime I thought of Agastache 'Blue Fortune' to replace the Rudbeckias. Hope to hear back from you. Blessings.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 10:25PM
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