X-Post: Moving S of Tucson - need dog friendly yard.

beepsAugust 25, 2012

Cross-posting from Arizona Gardening.

I'm not even sure where/how to start. I've never landscaped a backyard from scratch before. Much less in the desert - I will be in zone 8b/9a - south of Tucson. There is exactly nothing on the lot right now so this is a completely blank canvas.

Here is the lot (the house won't be canted as shown, will be set straight on lot)...

The backyard area to be landscaped is about 70 feet deep by 80 feet wide at the widest. It is oddly shaped - a cul-de-sac runs along the east side so there is a curve in the property at the one point and then my lot extends all the way past the apex of the cul-de-sac. I have turned some of that area (about 40') over to the HOA to landscape and maintain because it is useless as far as I'm concerned. I'll be walling my property off where the longer line is along the back property line.

The view is toward the east, with not bad views south and north.


1. I have dogs and they are the priority as far as the backyard goes - so no cactus or spiny plants, and no poisonous plants. I don't want any gravel that's at all big because it hurts their feet.

2. I will extend the patio a bit and probably add some type of patio cover (hopefully the HOA allows that!) as I do face south and would like to cut some sun.

3. I'd like a little bit of grass for the dogs, but don't plan to do the entire yard in grass. My impression is the synthetic grass gets way too hot. I'm considering putting it along the west side of the house as it will be shaded somewhat and would be a small, contained area. I think I'd like more than just that, however.

4. I'd like a water feature of some sort - whether a fountain or a waterfall. I like the sound. But, I worry about whether that will encourage those poisonous Colorado frogs. My sister gets several a year in her yard a few miles south of where I'm building. I so don't want to ever see one in person. (Not to mention the rattlesnakes, scorpions, and tarantulas I also don't want to run into!)

5. Don't laugh on this one, but the more lush the better. =) Shade trees. Green plants. Purple flowers.

6. Yes, it will be irrigated but I don't want to waste water either.

So, what do I do? Any suggestions on where to start will be appreciated. Thanks in advance. - California Native

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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

Have you considered working in collaboration with a landscape designer ?

With so many different elements to tackle, a professional can work through the various elements in a time efficient manner and pull the whole project together into one cohesive client/ site specific design.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 12:23PM
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With a big project like a whole yard, it's either hiring a design pro as already suggested... or doing it yourself. To do that, you'd start by drawing a "to scale" base plan which shows all the main permanent features. (like what you've shown above, but accurate and with all the unnecessary lines removed. To get help here, then you'd need to show house elevations and photos of various parts of the lot. As it is now, it's not possible for anyone here to grasp the context which surrounds the house. We wouldn't have any idea if there are views outside of your lot that need to be screened. We also wouldn't know where you need screening from the outside. You'd need to come forth with much more detailed information about what's there, or will be there, in order to get assistance.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 1:34PM
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OK. Thanks. I thought maybe I gave enough info - clearly not. I don't have more detailed info at this time, such as pictures that would really help - it is difficult to see the lot lines in the pics I do have. So, I guess I will need to wait until landscape walls are up, the foundation is poured, and the house framed in.

I ordered 3 books yesterday on AZ gardening so will digest those some. I will probably hire someone, but I prefer to go into meetings like that with some prior knowledge and ideas so that the meetings are efficient and productive.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 2:57PM
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It's a good idea to become acquainted with your own project before you pay money for help. "Landscape walls" sound like part of the design, but I don't think you mentioned them earlier. It might be good to bring them into the conversation, too. As far as helping us see lot lines. You might mark their corners on site in some way that's obvious (rocks maybe) before you take pictures. You could also mark house corners in the picture so you don't need to wait for it to be built to start the discussion. If you have drawings of the elevations, include those, too.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 7:04PM
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Thanks for checking back in Yardvaark and for letting me know what will be helpful. "Landscape walls" are basically what they use for fences in that area. Helps keep the rattlesnakes out because they apparently can't crawl over them. Seriously. What the h#$$ am I doing moving there?

I'll get more details, some better pictures, and post again. I just today got a pic of the back elevation. I don't live in the area but my sister does so I'll try to have her get some pics that will be more helpful than anything I have now. I'll be back...

    Bookmark   August 26, 2012 at 8:25PM
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I know what landscape walls are. It's just that none are shown on the plan or mentioned until later and then as if they were "a given." I'm just saying that to get help working through a project, it can't be a mind reading exercise. You must share your goals, intentions, expectations and reasoning, etc. I think you're on track for that now so we'll wait for more info. to come.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2012 at 12:00PM
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Hi beeps,

You might find inspiration for your garden in the book "The Secret Gardens of Santa Fe" by Sidney LeBlanc with photos by Charles Mann. These gardens, enclosed by adobe walls, are colorful and exuberant with paths, stones, walls, doors, trellises, art and artifacts contributing to the overall effect. Lush, with a Southwest flavor?

I see that the Tucson Botanical Gardens is described as "a collection of 16 residentially scaled gardens". This should be a good resource for landscape design ideas. One of the specialty gardens is an iris garden - if you like irises, here's purple flowers for you.

For more purple flowers, I went to the Plant Delights Nursery website and did an "advanced search" on:
zone: 9
culture: sun
plant type: drought-tolerant
flower color: purple/lavender
There were quite a few hits, including cultivars of Verbena, Agapanthus, Morea, Aster, Salvia, Cistus, Nierembergia, Liriope, Gaillardia, Teucrium.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tucson Botanical Gardens

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 3:40PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

A referral for a very talented and in my opinion a very financially friendly landscape designer from the Tucson area :
Scott Calhoun.
He has written a book or two about gardening in your area and planterly combinations .


    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 5:10PM
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Thanks for the references and suggestions IshCountryGal and deviant!

And I happen to love iris and was surprised to see they would grow there. Great news! Now if my dogs will just stay out of them. My sister had Morea there and recommended them to me for here in So Cal. They have done great here for me but hers have frozen there in the winter.

I have to go to down there for a pre-drywall meeting in 6-8 weeks so will try to go by the Botanical Gardens then.

The builder is working with a landscape design company out of Tucson for the front yards, so I could hire them to do the backyard as well. But Scott Calhoun does appear to know his stuff! So, I've got a few sources to check out it seems.

I think I do need to find an "inspiration garden" to help communicate my idea of what I hope to achieve in the backyard.

I still am hoping from some thoughts or ideas prior to hiring anyone so will try to post some pics tomorrow or Saturday.

Again, thanks!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 11:57PM
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OK... I'm adding a bunch of pics to see if this helps. It's the best I have for now. If they aren't good enough to allow you to provide any help or ideas then I'll just have to wait until after I go down in a few months. I appreciate the book and landscape designer suggestions. I have purchased three plant books, but no design books. Will look for something this weekend.

Just to recap-
*Dog friendly - no cactus or spines, nothing poisonous.
*Extend patio some.
*Small area just off patio of grass.
*Fine to put large trees across the back. Need to be courteous to neighbors and not put things too tall along the NW wall as people want to see the mountains and I don't want to block their view and then be asked to cut down a tree. The lots do step up about 2ft in elevation per lot, however, so that gives them some additional height. They won't even see a plant/tree until it hits the 6' mark.
*Will have a 4ft wall around the yard as shown in second diagram.
*Want an above ground fountain - maybe just on patio. Apparently given the poisonous toads I should avoid anything in-ground.
*Lot is level except a slight slope at back. Not sure if that will be within the area I wall off or not.
*All houses will be single story so no neighbors looking down from a second story window. The lot next to mine has not been sold so no house on it yet.

The plot...

Some info...

Standing at back of lot looking toward street...

Standing in middle of lot looking NW - my lot goes to that line of dirt. Next lot starts about there...

Standing near back of lot looking SE...

Standing near where back of house will be looking SE (there will be one more house next to the one in the pic)...

Cul-de-sac retaining wall - back of my lot to the left before the row of trees. Dirt has been leveled...

My lot goes past the drains you can see at the back of the cul-de-sac but I will be turning some of it over to HOA as it isn't useable.

You can see in the background retaining wall that is on property line with neighbor house.

Does this help at all? Any questions I can answer that I've missed?

Oh, and just for info - front yard will be landscaped with rock and an ocotillo, ruella, desert spoon, lantana, barrel cactus, pink cactus, prickly pear, emerald palo verde, and a mexican red bird of paradise. Those are inlcuded in the purchase of the home. Backyard will have a completely different feel as most of those plants can't go in the back because of the dogs.

Thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 10:55PM
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Just wanted to say that we have a couple of very active dogs and a lot of spiny things in our yard and they have never been a problem. We also live in the desert and although I wouldn't want a whole yard filled with spines if you take everything with thorns or spines out you take out a lot of really great plants that really thrive in the very hot and very dry conditions we have here.

We also have no lawn whatsoever and this is not a problem for the dogs either. They run just fine on the gravel and paths and even through the bigger rock mulch we have - in fact I wish they didn't as they have there own paths made through them. Some people think you have to have a lawn with dogs but they are such big time water users they aren't such a great idea in the desert.

Good luck with your project, your lot looks nice and big with great views.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 10:19AM
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Do you have a photo taken from standing in the vicinity of center of the house looking straight to the back lot line? It would show the basic central view of the back yard that one might see from the house/patio. Please post if you have. The other photos help to get a sense of the surrounds.

Will there be a walkway from the garage side door to the back yard?

How much larger will the patio be? Double?

Having no tall trees at the right lot line (as facing property from front street) does not seem like a practical solution for solving the problem of also needing shade, balanced planting and landscape interest. You'll note that in the views of the distant mountains, they appear no--or barely any--higher than nearby houses or other buildings. It would be much easier to maintain a view of mountains by having taller trees that are limbed up high in order that one could view distance from below the tree canopy. This would allow easier long term maintenance than trying to keep plantings short. (This is the same situation frequently faced by retail property developers... maintaining a view beyond perimeter trees to make sure that customers can see stores and signs in the background. It's also the same for street trees where people want their houses to be visible.) Trying to keep plantings LOW ENOUGH not to block a distant view would be very difficult to maintain or seriously encumber the design. Unless there are covenants preventing homeowners from blocking views (which would eventually backfire anyway) it's likely that home buyers will account for how much view they must have when they purchase their home/lot and not rely on the good will of neighbors to provide it. A big chunk of the view of mountains may disappear for you and your next door neighbors when the home goes in across the cul-de-sac.

Do you want to increase privacy from the street? If so, to what degree?

After the neighborhood becomes developed and occupied and you adjust to your new surroundings, it's likely that fear of dangerous wildlife will be removed from daily thought rather than become a regular threat. Even if your yard was just dirt and had no plants at all, I doubt it would be a guaranty of never being visited by "undesirables." As long as you don't allow unkempt areas of the yard where things are just let to go wild, I think you would be able to manage having planted and groundcover areas while still minimizing the threat of unwanted critters.

Hmmmmm... are these toads the ones that teenagers licked on an episode of Family Guy?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 10:43AM
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Maria - Thanks for the info. I'm leery of the "spines" because I took two of my dogs down with me last year at Xmas to visit family and one of my dogs brushed against a cactus the first time out into the yard so we got to pull out the spines. No damage done, but it happened to be my greyhound and their skin is very thin and rips easily so even roses are a hazard for them. Sadly my guy has bone cancer and may never see his new lot, but I'm sure I'll get another greyhound. They are an awesome dog. But, they are also hard on a yard if they decide to air it out once in a while. Luckily I'll be close to a big dog park where they can run a bit.

Yard - Thanks for the help. Here is the closest I have to the additional photo you requested. If I lived in the area I'd be able to get more but I don't. The house "flows" if you will with a view to the SE, with the slider off the dining room and such, so that is good.

Forgot to include this earlier, sorry.The pic of the back actually needs to be flipped to make it consistent with the pics I have - if that makes any sense. I showed where the best views are so hopefully that will help. (The dining is actually on the same side of the house as the garage.)

Walkway: Yes, I plan on a walkway from the garage door to the back. I will actually try to fence that area off separately so I have a confined area I can let the dogs out at times... if someone is working in the backyard, or at night if there have been lots of javelinas around, etc. I can't light the backyard brightly because of telescopes in the area. There are restrictions on outdoor lighting because of that so I won't be able to see the back of the yard from the patio at night. I'll have to just use relatively dim solar lights for that.

Patio size: Yes, probably at least double in depth, not much more in width unless it would look good to take it below the bay windows or the width of the house. As far as depth it's pretty darn small now - well I just "measured" the drawing and it looks like it is about 7-8 ft deep now - so yes, at least double in depth.

Trees on right lot line: Excellent point. OK... forget I said that. I guess I just don't want to put up a screening hedge or anything. Not saying cypress would grow there, but not something like a line of cypress or anything to block the neighbors.

Street: No need to block anything from the street. I don't have any pics that show it reasonably well at all, but I'm actually off a small lane and there is an island between the front of my house and the street. Only the three houses to my right and I will use the lane. On the cul-de-sac side I'll be up 8ft from street level so pretty well blocked on that side too. (And I know I'll lose some view when that house goes up but I think my lot is enough higher that I'll mostly look over that house. Fingers crossed.)

Good to know about the critters. I know when my sister moved down she had critters for a while but as things grew up and developed the incidence decreased. However, last year she had a scorpion in her house, she has at least 2 rattlesnakes a year on her property, and she gets probably 5-10 of the toads a year, plus some tarantulas. I'm going into a newly developed area, as evident by the pic. I suspect I'll have critters for a while and then things will die down. The construction guys said they had seen more cows than rattlesnakes! :) I'm good with cows. But you think I could do a ground cover? My sister makes sure to keep all her plants trimmed at least a foot or so from the ground to avoid giving critters a place to hide.

Not sure about the Family Guy episode, but these babies are bad news. Here's a pic of one in my sister's yard... from just last week. If a dog licks them they can die... quickly. Story last week of a dog that died within 8 minutes of contact even with his owner's washing his mouth out with a hose.

Here is a link that might be useful: Article about Toxic Toads (slow loading page)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 11:47AM
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"On the cul-de-sac side I'll be up 8ft from street level..." I presume you're talking about the total elevation of the retaining wall and its freestanding portion above? ... which means that at the inside back yard you will see a wall of about 5'-6' ht.? Even with this wall, I'd think you would want some trees that tower above for a sense of shelter, shade and just plain visual interest (as opposed to an uninterrupted, unadorned, level wall.) Yes? No?

I'm not a dog owner but reflecting on Marias comment, I'd think that after they have had time to explore a new environment and adjust to it, dogs would learn the dangers of thorns and spines.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 12:17PM
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Yes -> 8ft = 4ft retaining wall + 4 ft freestanding wall. So I'll see 4ft of wall on the cul-de-sac side.

On the side with the neighbor -> I will see 6ft = 2ft retaining wall + 4ft freestanding wall. For keeping the dogs in the yard I could just go up 2ft on the neighbor side in addition to the 2ft retaining wall - but I think they put in a 4ft wall back 25ft anyway. Maybe I should drop it down after 25ft to just adding 2ft to the retaining wall? There won't be much wall on the neighbor's side that way but it would open things up a bit on that side. Some people will not go all the way to the back of the lot as I'm going to do. Some will just go back the 25ft that the builder puts in and leave the rest natural. Since no one has purchased the lot next to me yet I have no idea what might happen there. But if they only go back 25ft maybe only adding 2ft to the retaining wall after the 25ft would be a good idea?

And yes, I'd rather not see unadorned wall! :) And I know I need trees for shade and such. Bouganvilla do well there. They die back in winter and so people cut them way back but they come out well again the next spring. I think they are gorgeous, but they do have major thorns. I think if I had something like that on the walls it would be ok. I really don't think I want any cactus in the back, however. Besides the dog issue, I'm not a huge fan of cactus from the visual perspective anyway. Maybe it's an acquired taste. :) I can't recall now but someone mentioned a thornless version of a tree (mesquite?) and I'd rather do that than get a thorny version if I put any of those in the yard.

Slightly OT - No offense to greyhounds or greyhound owners (after all I am one) - but they aren't the sharpest dogs in the pack. Some of the most gentle and kind, but... They are retired race dogs and are raised and trained to run all out on the track with no obstacles to think about. They actually die sometimes by running into things (glass doors, brick walls if not looking ahead) at high speed once they retire because they do have to learn about "civilian" life. I pulled out all my roses in this yard because of my greyhound. So while I think they will learn to some degree I'd rather try to avoid any unnecessary trips to the vet or ER vet from skin torn because of a spiny things. Have made one because of the corner on the piano bench. I can't avoid everything but would like to minimize the likelihood.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 1:04PM
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It's interesting that you have a greyhound because one of our dogs is a Saluki which is also a sighthound with the thin skin - right now in the summer you can see right through her coat and she does love to run. I think she just knows were the sharp stuff is because she does some serious running through the yard at breakneck speed so she has "banks" formed into the gravel on her turning spots. I just leave them because otherwise I'd be constantly redoing the rock mulch.

Of course there are some great plants for the desert that don't have spines but there are so many plants that just don't like our harsh conditions that it is a shame to have to give up on all the great agaves, cactus, and thorny desert trees that thrive in the desert. Anyway from the look of your lot you have plenty of time to decide!


    Bookmark   September 1, 2012 at 8:29PM
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Maria - A Saluki! They are so beautiful! I love the way their coats wave when they run. :)

My grey acted like the rock was killing him when I was down there with him. There were some dirt/tiny pebble paths he was ok on but the slightly bigger stuff you would have thought were hot coals! =) Which, if I used as a border around some ground cover would keep him out. Good idea! Nah, he'd just jump over it. Assuming he is still with me by then which, sadly, is unlikely.

OK.. I'll be more open-minded about things with spines. :)

They are hoping to have the house done by 12-31. Foundation isn't poured yet so we shall see.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 12:05AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Just a reply to yardvaark's comments about using taller growing trees which are limbed-up to preserve views for neighbors while also giving a balanced plan... It is helpful to know what the local desert landscape character is before suggesting such an approach. The natural vegetation and trees native to Arizona/Tucson don't include tall growers with bare lower trunks, for the very practical reason that such tree forms don't conserve sparse ground moisture. Native trees tend to be lower growing and low branched there because creating shade over their roots is a better survival strategy, as well as being more stable/less likely to blow over in high winds of storms. Tucson isn't analagous with the humid south-east, and tall canopy trees that can be limbed up aren't a generic solution that fit with desert conditions.

The trees that could be used as taller accents that won't block neighbor's views of surrounding mountains are more likely to be palms, which don't typically provide a lot of shade. One taller growing evergreen tree that might work closer to the house might include Brachychiton populneum, which thrives in desert heat, along with some of the smaller desert southwest Acacia spevies and some of the desert adapted Eucalyptus species.

I'd also agree with Maria that a lawn isn't necessarily a starting point for a back garden that is dog friendly, and some groupings of spiny plants can still be used safely if planted in raised beds or grouped with boulders or surrounded with lower growing softer-leaved plants. I probably would advise against using cactus with the less visible glochids such as many Opuntias, or very dangerous spines such as Chollas. Other cactus such as Golden Barrel cactus are less likely to be a problem, even though the spines look viscious.

I bet the Tucson Botanic Garden should provide a wealth of ideas, and in general, avoiding plantings that require high irrigation and respect the climate conditions will be much easier on your wallet. I'd also remember that Tucson freezes regularly, and some more tender subtropicals seen in Phoenix such as Bougainvilla or Lantana will die back in winter unless very well protected.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 11:18AM
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It should be acknowledged that in regard to the mention of "taller trees"... at this point it's a discussion of a CONCEPT. An 8' shrub might be more effective in blocking a distant view of mountains than a limbed up 40' or 50' tall tree. In spite of the fact that the desert environment leans toward shorter, scrubby looking trees doesn't mean that there are no taller ones for specific, well-considered placement. There are a few. That "Tucson isn't analagous with the humid south-east" would be obvious to all. Trying to point it out as a relevant factor (when it's not) seems a bit viper-ish.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 12:24PM
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Thanks for all the things to think about, names of plants to look into, etc. It has been very helpful.

As I was fixing and refinishing a dresser today (that one of my dogs thought might be a chew toy one day while I was at work) I had some time to think about things. I decided I'm probably over-thinking the neighbor thing because they can't expect me not to plant trees. I think if I don't just do some type of privacy hedge I should be fine. I'm also probably over-thinking the spine issue - it was just I was pulling out spines within 5 minutes of arriving in Tucson. I blocked the area for the rest of the trip so we didn't have a repeat experience. But when we stayed at another place there, and there were cactus, we didn't have an issue. I had forgotten that. So, I think we will be ok with some spines.

Looking forward to getting to the Botanical Gardens on my next trip down.

Thanks for all the help and suggestions. Feel free to keep them coming as I do have time before I have to do anything. From what I have read, however, planting season is Fall and early Winter. Since the house is due to close the end of the year I'm hoping to put in some landscaping a.s.a.p. so I don't have to wait 9 months to get anything going.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2012 at 10:36PM
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Even if a turf lawn is small, it can add a great deal of beauty as a setting for other plantings. Keeping it "relatively" small can make it do-able. Confining it to a central location in the back yard is where it might give the most bang for the buck... being the "white space" for the plantings closer to the perimeter. (I can't speak to what greyhounds might do to it since I have no experience with them. Do they like to tear directly across open space, or use the perimeter like an oval track? The latter could be to your advantage insofar as turf goes.) An oval shape seems like it would fit the back yard nicely and if it was a pronounced, distinct, perfect shape, it could add a feeling of strength and organization to the overall design of the yard. Since the back lot line has low trees already, beefing them up with Palo Verde or Mesquite, so as not to see buildings beyond, seems like a good goal.

I agree that neighbors could not expect that you wouldn't plant trees or that you would assume responsibility for their view. (When was the last time you thought about asking anyone to alter a tree on their private property to suit your needs? Where your trees cross the property line into neighboring yards, it's the case that they own the crossing portion and can do with it as they please. It might sound like be a harsh legal reality, but plantings at yard perimeters that provide some privacy or shade USUALLY work to the advantage of both parties. Usually it's not much of a problem.) Combining some views-below-canopies with privacy, where needed, seems like it would be easily workable. Along the cul-de-sac area, you might consider breaking up the run of wall with small groupings of small tree-form shrubs with open space between the groupings. Where I live, freestanding walls and fences are frequently treated by placing a lower hedge to run alongside them. To my thinking this is a complete waste of material and effort. It does nothing to interrupt the boredom of the wall length. Just like how periodic columns add interest to a plain brick wall, periodic plantings that exceed the height of the wall add visual interest. Large flowering shrubs make good small trees for this purpose. Grouped tightly in 3s, they also add depth to the planting.

As pointed out, the TYPE of thorns that plants have make much difference. I would not think thorns on TREES would make much difference (in general) to people or pets as the thorns could easily be placed overhead and out of reach. Plants without thorns can be placed at lower levels. And in some cases with certain plants, thorns that are highly visible and obvious may be acceptable.

The patio area is somewhat like a stage positioned to play to a 180* view. Of course, the actual viewing occurs in the opposite direction of what it would in a theater. Here, the audience sits on the stage and views the "theater seating" area, which is the back yard. After you determine the actual square footage of additional patio needed, you might consider making its distant edge to be arranged in a semi-circular, octagonal or similar, bay-window-ish shape so as to "play" to the rest of the back yard. It would need to fit with lawn shape. Setting small groups of trees to both sides (not between "stage" and "seating") could provide shade and maintain an unobstructed view to the lawn and remainder of back yard. Trees selected for what their canopy could become (as it relates to patio and house) would be important.

The discussion of wall heights surrounding the back yard can be confusing. As you refine your ideas you might submit a revised plan for the wall that only indicates what portion of the wall is ABOVE your back yard grade... as that's what really matters from back yard viewpoint. Also, for discussion purposes, I suggest that it would be easier (especially since your house is set at a diagonal to cardinal directions) to refer to right/left/fore and aft--as one would view the yard from standing at the street facing the house--as opposed to NE/SW/SE/NW, as those require one to memorize the directions or to go back and look at a previous drawing. Right, left, fore and aft is easier.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 1:21PM
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I had another thought. Would the dogs actually recognize a "track," even if it was much smaller scale than a pro track? Could their running be "massaged" to occur in a specific area if that area were provided? I'm asking cuz I don't have any idea myself. What material is a track made of?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 1:25PM
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Thanks for all the things to consider Yard! I like the small turf, maybe even in the middle of the backyard, idea! I know I'm going to put a little grass in, and I had read, as you suggested, that sometimes a little grass adds a nice touch/contrast.

My greyhound runs all out however, wherever. If something exciting might be happening at the back fence he runs straight back. But, when airing it out he generally does run in an oval/circle. In fact, when I first got him rather than cross the street he would want to follow the curve in the sidewalk. I think they race on hard-packed sand and dirt.

I notice Maria said her Saluki has banked her rock mulch indicating he is also running in an oval or circular shape most likely. And, yes, they do tear up the grass. I replaced my lawn last year with St Augustine to try and stand up to his running. Unfortunately he is now a tripawd, due to an amputation from the leg with the bone cancer, and so doesn't run in circles and exercise as much as he used to. But building in an oval track is brilliant because I totally think future greyhounds I'll have would use it and spare the rest of the yard. So oval track, circular or oval lawn, I have a curve in the wall on the left side anyway, and I was thinking of making the patio extension have a curve of some sort also.

I thought more about the wall height and will have 4' (or 5') on all sides but the right where it will be 6'. Stepping the size down would leave only 2 ft on the neighbors side and that invites critters to make their way into the yard. And, I am a little worried that a 4' fence may not be high enough for future dogs so may go up to 5'. Four ft would work for the ones I have now, but maybe not ones I may have down the road. My sister has a 4' fence and just yesterday a German Shepherd who is apparently a stray jumped into her yard and then when she tried to get him to come to her, he stood at the back and then jumped from a complete standstill right over the fence. I believe the covenants do say 5' is the max, or maybe 6, I'd have to check. I could do part brick and part view fence if I go up higher, but honestly I don't love the look of those.

Again, thanks for all your help. Your questions and suggestions certainly have me thinking about things and are helping me to visualize what the yard might be able to look like.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2012 at 3:21PM
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Maybe it will help to put a graphic image to some of the ideas that I've tossed out. I'm only addressing trees and turf in this basic concept... not other plantings at low level. It's not an attempt to be comprehensive; it's just a starting point. Obviously, I don't know if dogs would be sufficiently enticed by the "frame" around the turf oval such that they would keep off the grass to any degree. It would be interesting to know... especially if it were banked. It'd be hard to find a lawn easier to mow!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 8:49AM
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I love it. My yard will be the envy of many greyhound owners! I was messing with the oval a bit yesterday when I should have been doing other paperwork and really think something like that would work.

As long as the soft-paving is right (and they aren't all that picky but you do have to be careful so they don't injure themselves on something to hard or too soft) I'm sure they would use it. My guy used to make circles around the perimeter of my current grass which is in sort of a curvy square shape and not quite as big as the new yard will be. He would do that 10 or so times and then come in and collapse for a day or two. That's normal behavior for them. They race every 3-4 days during their career.

And thanks for understanding the priority in my life that dogs hold. I've insisted on single story houses when almost all were two story because of dachshunds with bad backs, and so incorporating house and yard features into my life to accommodate my dogs is nothing new for me. I will want to have the track look a tad less "track-like" but I realize that's a rough to let me get a feel for what we have been discussing. And it helps. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:23AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Take my comments about limbing up trees in the desert versus the southeast as you will, but I think it does address a legitimate point that seemed to be missed on how desert trees and climate affect their health, survival and tree stability. Most often limbing up desert trees is done so they can be walked under, not so high to give longer distance views. Keeping shade of higher branches to shade the tree trunk and ground below is a great benefit to almost any tree planted in the desert areas of Arizona, minimizing water use and ground moisture loss; critical concerns in a desert landscape. Before dismissing the necessity of maintaining neighbor's views with judicious tree placement, it might help to know what the local ordinances are relative to retaining views. Here in my area, neighbor's have the right to maintain unobstructed views as they occur at the time the purchase a property, and homeowner's who ignore this can be taken to court to enforce the view ordinances. Also, it is just common courtesy to try and work with neighbors and maintained views if it doesn't hurt you to do so, don't you think?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 2:04PM
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Here's a pic of Daze when she was a puppy, big spine in mouth and little spines above her. I kind of doubt your dog will keep to your oval, I know ours likes to use every bit of our 3/4 acre, in fact I'm sometimes sure she will hit the fences she goes so fast and so close to them but she knows what she's doing.

I used to have a small piece of grass, it was buffalo grass and it was low care and low water use if you don't mind something that goes dormant in the winter and is a little grayer than your average fescue or bermuda lawn. you can not mow it and it doesn't get outrageously tall and it fills in gently, not like bermuda that wants to take over the world.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 2:10PM
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I think nice green lawn next to contrasting color track material can look pretty good. This happens to be crushed brick. Maybe it will be helpful for envisioning a large oval of turf surrounded by track.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:10PM
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Bahai - it's a completely new development with no vegetation whatsoever as you can see from the pics. I'm sure they don't expect us not to plant any trees or have anything grow over 4ft tall. And it's not like it's a view of the SF Bay or Golden Gate or anything! :) I've never heard of having to keep the view as it was upon purchase. Those are tough regulations! Anyway, I plan to be courteous as I think I've indicated.

Maria - Daze is beautiful!! I think a big difference is that greys are raised on the track and are raised to race in an oval, counter-clockwise I believe it is. So, I think they may be more inclined to stay on the path. Not to say they won't wander around the rest of the yard, but for a quick high speed sprint I think if there is a soft area in which to do it they will do so. I'll try to make it look rather like a walking path maybe, with branches off to various parts of the yard, but I know when we stayed at a house with a path in the back my grey stuck to it when going any type of speed. If just sniffing around he would tip-toe through the owie rock mulch. Thanks for the tip on buffalo grass. I looked it up and one place said it was the same as St Augustine, which I went to here last summer, but another indicated it wasn't the same. From your description it doesn't sound like it is the same.

Yard - that does help. Thanks. I think that looks nice. I know they sell crushed rock in all kinds of colors in AZ so I could get some that color if I wanted to. My house will be tan with brown trim so that type of color would be fine.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:29PM
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Oh, and I may be adding a small greenhouse with a fan and misting system to try and keep my cymbidiums in during the hot summer months. Have to see if the HOA will allow a small, not very tall, greenhouse.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:41PM
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