Last 'undeveloped' corner of the backyard

rouge21_gw(5)August 29, 2012

This is the last section of backyard not yet to be converted into perennial garden. It is almost always in shady due to that large tree above and 9 foot high cedar hedge on the right. As well there is pronounced slope towards this corner. I may just leave it alone as an area taking my composters. Just wondering if I am overlooking an obvious relatively straight forward design for this location. If you need pictures of the rest of the backyard I can oblige.

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cyn427 (zone 7)

I see hosta, ferns, hellebores, anemones, astilbe (if you water regularly or add a bird bath that you dump out and refill every day or two since they are even bigger water hogs than hosta). Since there is a slope toward it, maybe it is a damp area which everything I listed would like. Would love to see pictures of the rest of your yard!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 7:13PM
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- I want to integrate the compost bins into the design

- due to the slope I guess I will need to place at least a 12" board at the base of the chain link all the way across. And further to the slope issue I am not sure how to butt up against the cedar hedge.

- On the symmetric corner on the other side not seen I did a circle sector (arc) of drywall as the outer boundary going from fence to the other hedge

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 1:09AM
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karin_mt(4 MT)

I can imagine a small retaining wall along the two backside edges of the space, and then you can continue that same material as the border at the front of the bed, although it can be lower.

By drywall, do you mean dry stone wall? Hopefully you don't mean drywall like the stuff that house walls are made of.

Actually, I guess it doesn't matter what material you use at the back of the bed since you will never see it. So concrete landscaping blocks might fit the bill here. You would still want something more attractive for the front edge.

Certainly you'll still want easy access to the compost bins, and since they are attractive, it's no problem to integrate them into the area.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 9:07AM
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"On the symmetric corner on the other side not seen I did a circle sector (arc) of drywall as the outer boundary going from fence to the other hedge." If you're trying to get help in coordinating with an important existing element, then we could only help you if we could see what you're talking about. Your photo should show the whole portion of the scene under discussion. By "drywall", I presume you mean dry-stack stone...? (Drywall is used only inside a home.)

"due to the slope I guess I will need to place at least a 12" board at the base of the chain link" What would that be for... and why?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 9:15AM
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Thanks for your replies. Of course you need to see the other side to understand how it should go together.

Here is the 'other' back corner of the backyard with a corresponding cedar hedge. (I know many of you would suggest to take out the 'wing sections' and make one big arc but I do like what I have done or at the least I don't dislike enough to make such a change.

And with this shot you see on the far right the gate going out into a public park. This is the same gate you can see on my originally posted photo of the 'compost corner'

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 9:46AM
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Depending on how far out I start the new perennial bed there is approximately a 10" to 16" drop from the front to the back (chain link fence). This was true on the other side/corner so to keep dirt inside the garden and not to fall out the back ie fence I placed a 2 by 10 (or 2 by 12) pressure treated board on edge at the base of the fence. This has worked well but I know that it will eventually rot...not sure when.

(If I did proceed with a similar sort of wing/sector garden in the undeveloped corner the soil needed to level our the slope is a good thing as the overhead trees have lots of roots nearer the surface making it problematic to dig.)

I would like to create a garden that does mesh with the existing beds that you see. What do you think?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 10:04AM
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The new pictures are helpful in understanding the opposite corner, but the picture that is really needed is one where right and left corners show up IN THE SAME PICTURE. IF the scene is too wide that you can't photograph it in a single shot, stand in the center and take a series of overlapping photos by pivoting (not moving to a different position) so that the photos can be spliced together into a panorama. (I could help with that if you don't know how.)

I wouldn't handle the grade change as you propose as it will create an actual physical problem down the road when your retaining "wall" board deteriorates. Eventually, you'll need to deal with it in the already finished corner, but there's no need to create a matching problem to fix. Unless you were to build actual retaining walls and handle the grade in a conventional manner, it's not really that significant component of your design. You could achieve a similar effect by using the stone as a mowing strip to outline the bed in the desired shape. At this point, since you're not interested in any re-doing of the first bed, positioning the stone to MATCH what you already have would be sufficient. If you were starting anew I would recommend using the stone turned so that it would form a much wider mowing strip (soldier course.) The way you have it now, while most economical, looks like a weak-ish, skinny line. It would have a stronger effect if it formed a border of greater thickness.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:15AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I wouldn't worry too much about a treated 2"x10"/12" plank rotting out any time soon unless perhaps you do a LOT of watering there! When we moved in here in late 1999, we plunked some 2"x10" planks (left behind from being used as concrete forms during construction) against the base of the rear chainlink (and plastic mesh on the north end) fence to stop a neighbours puppy from digging under the fence. On the north half, leaves and soil were piled against it to make a raised bank along a path. I figured it was a temporary solution but, 12 years later,there has been no need to replace them - and they are untreated wood! The south end is in 'the wet corner' - there is a bit of rot evident on the bottom edge but they are still doing their job...

I'd be inclined to reverse the curve on those beds to make one smooth concave curve. Use the same curve in the other corner, connecting with a straight line across the gate area. I think that could give a nice, cozy enclosed feeling rather than the current convex bulges which look more like intrusions into the space to me.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:56AM
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Even though the sections of the bed are comprised of convex curves, they work together to form what is essentially a concave surround for the central portion of the yard. It seems that they "round out" the corners of the yard. An overall view would probably illustrate it better.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 12:27PM
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Thanks for sticking with me Yardvaark, woodyoak and karin_mt.

An overall view would probably illustrate it better.

I hope this 'stitched' picture connects the 2 sides of the backyard (divided by the gate of the chain link fence across the back)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 1:41PM
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It's a surprise. I thought the "developed" corner was the back right and the "undeveloped" one was the back left... the reverse of what it is. The form of the existing garden bed is primarily created by plant material masses and the stone edging outline. I don't see the need to add height to the grade at the back of the bed. All you need to do in order to compensate for the grade drop is to place taller plant material toward the back of the bed and the shorter material toward the front, and taller material near the yard corners and shorter material near the gate. Once the area is covered with plants, no one can actually tell what the grade is doing... except for at the gate itself, where the slightly lower elevation looks fine, seems normal and is almost a bit of an "invitation" as the place to pass. Seems like if you made the new bed mirror image shape of the existing one, the yard would work. But can't you hide the compost bins somewhere rather than making them a feature of the bed? on the other side of the fence, to be screened by what you plant? It would be better for them to be in a utility area rather than featured in the garden bed, for access as well as appearance.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 7:34PM
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Thanks for the input Yardvaark. The compost bins cannot be moved anywhere else on our small residential property. Having said that I dont mind having them be part of any possible garden 'reno' in this corner.

Yardvaark. your comment about not needing to level the grade (as I did on the other side) this just to make it easier or less trouble setting up this possible new garden?

If I did as I did on the other side i.e. 2x10 against the back then this allows me to add quality soil (able to keep in inside the fence), at the least making it easier to plant in otherwise root filled ground (due to closely surrounding mature trees).

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 7:03AM
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Well, we do what we must. If the compost bins must be part of the garden, then that's how it'll be. It would be good to arrange them in such a way that they are readily accessible. Maybe putting them at one end-- the less visible end of the main view--is a possibility.

Not changing the grade is advice intended to make creation of the bed easier and to avoid creating a problem (eventual dirt piled up against fence when board rots) in the future. However, since adding soil is easier than digging amongst tree roots, and as Woody points out it could be quite some time before the board rots, I'm sure it's the preferred solution for you. I would just note that below trees or near a hedge is usually not a good place for annuals mainly because of the incessant tree root growth. But that's what you have so you work with it. I'm sure you know if you go for a year or two without "fluffing" the soil for annuals, tree roots will invade the newly raised grade.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:26AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I would also suggest that woodland/shade perennials might be a better choice than annuals for planting in those beds. Use ones with colorful foliage to provide any color you need. Things like heucheras, colorful ferns like Japanese Painted Ferns (which make an excellent combination with purple heuchereas...)or 'Ghost' or 'Branford Beauty' ferns, and 'Jack Frost' brunnera would satisfy any desire for colorful edging and would tolerate the tree competion better than annuals. Chop your fallen leaves with the lawn mover and mulch the beds with the chopped leaves.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:45AM
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Yes it would be a perennial bed. I love mulling over possible plant choices over the usually long winter!

I think it is possible with time and with the right selection of plants to somewhat hide the wooden compost bins. For example I am looking for some way to add a Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' to my property. This new garden could take such a tree and it and something like a Rodgersia pinnata 'Elegans' could go a long way to obscure the composters as they mature.

What do you think?

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 5:50PM
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Other than your Jap. Maple tree choice seeming like it might dominate the whole bed as it grows, how you fit everything together and what you use seems like you are capable of sorting through. I wouldn't sacrifice function for the perception of beauty, so wherever the compost bins go, they should be easy to use and appear stable. As it is, they are on the slope and look a bit cattywampus. If they were level and square, I think it would be fine for them to be visible.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 11:31AM
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As this particular JM is so slow growing i.e. maybe 6 feet after 15 years I am willing to take a chance putting it in even a smaller garden plot!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 12:39AM
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About 150 square feet of expropriated lawn, filled in with about 2.5 cubic yards of 'garden soil' and many many bags of leaf mulch and grass clippings and then outlined around the front edge with a single row and layer of stone.

All should be ready for planting spring 2013.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 7:12PM
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rouge, looks amazingly great. Anything you plant there will thrive.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 6:52AM
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You are too kind rosiew. I always think (hope?) that most errors one makes in the basic bone's construction of a new garden plot (i.e. before plants go in) can be (more than) offset by the perfect selection placement of plant materials. And it is exciting pondering over the winter months of all the permutations and combinations of plants to go into this somewhat problematic location.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 6:46AM
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rouge, looking again at your photo, want to ask if you are root pruning the cedar hedge along your new bed. That might be a good idea, done annually, to reduce root competition in your new garden.

If you plant that wonderful maple, maybe consider something lower growing than the Rodgersia pinnata 'Elegans'. I'm in zone 8 and would plant hellebores for winter interest. Know little about your growing conditions.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 7:39AM
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Where are the compost bins????
I just started reading this thread, so couldn't contribute earlier. But, my compost/potting area is behind a small section of picket fence, which I think is so pretty as a backdrop to a garden. How did you decide to hide/relocate your bins?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 10:57AM
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'lgal', I was able to relocate one of them very close (too close?) to the side door, on top of a section of interlock. Definitely not optimal but it is in operation. I think there is just enough space to put the other right next to it but right now it is dissembled until spring.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 2:32PM
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Here is that same space as of today. For sure it looks a bit bare and somewhat piecemeal in term of plantings but I trust it will all come together as it matures. Thanks for your advice.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 1:03PM
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You've done a wonderful job. Know you're enjoying it!!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 1:40PM
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Thank you for remembering to post results.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 4:35PM
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