Starting from Scratch Backyard Landscaping Help

clagaSeptember 3, 2013

We are looking for some help and ideas for a backyard landscape. We live in central Massachusetts in a new 2 year old development. The backyard is in full sun, southern exposure with no trees. We are basically starting with a blank slate.
There is irrigation in place for the lawn. The area is approximately a 6000 square feet,
The yard flat and almost square in shape, our neighbor to the left installed a six foot privacy fence and our other neighbors to the rear and to the right have left the space between the yards open. Our neighbor to the left has a vegetable garden pretty close to the boundary, which we would not mind hiding from our view.
So if anyone has any ideas or photos it would be appreciated. Having flowering plants throughout the season If possible would be great.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Correction :Our neighbor to the left has a vegetable garden pretty close to the boundary, which we would not mind hiding from our view.

Should read: Our neighbor to the "RIGHT" has a vegetable garden pretty close to the boundary, which we would not mind hiding from our view.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 8:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois(5b)

If you want to hide the veggies, then consider a couple of things. The first would be a row (not really a hedge) of plants that bloom in the spring and then develop berries for the birds. Serviceberry and viburnum are a couple of options. Or, you might not want the food for birds, so forsythia would do the same thing. Don't plant them too close, let them grow out, prune a bit to make them eye-appealing.

OR...A big conifer. Long-needle pine, one of the spruce varieties. It won't provide instant blockage, but in 7 years or so would block the view, provide a big of a wind break, provide shelter for birds and those look great in the winter covered with snow.

That's my starting point.

Do you want/like shade trees? You almost imply that you don't want veggies! Will you be needing open area for games? How about a walking path or a bench for reading? Lead us a bit, please!


    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 8:52AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks Jim,
Shade trees would be great. We are basically looking for tree / shrub / flower / mulch beds, along the rear property line and righthand side yard with plants that will withstand the hard winters and full summer sun, and a pretty consistant breeze
Thanks again

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 11:27AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jim_1 Zone 5B Illinois(5b)

Can you post a picture so that we can judge better what the challenge is?

Again, will you be needing a place to play games? Do you need to mow in straight lines? In my yard, no games, several flowers beds and veggies, too. Thus only three spots on the entire lot where straight line mowing is more than three passes. I don't might the turns and stops and all that.

Which way does the back of the house face? Do you have a deck or patio that you intend to use a lot? It is possible to have blooms in your yard during most of the growing season; and you can have much of it done and looking good in two years.


    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 7:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Would like to use the winter months to plan for spring/summer backyard upgrade.
We don't need room for game playing, and mowing is not an issue. The back to the house faces southeast, we do like to sit out on the deck in the early evenings during the summer. Because the deck is in the full sun with no shade it is not really useful during the morning and afternoon (unless of course there is a way to add shade). We'd like to have several shrubs or bushes that would bloom at different times from spring to early fall.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 9:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

claga, while you can get recommendations here, if you're going to do the planning part of the project, you'll need to develop a to-scale PLAN, so that you know where everything goes and how it fits together. (The alternative is to hire a professional designer.) You might be able to create a garden or plant collection from a list of plants you like, but in order to create a landscape, you'd need to determine how space is organized and how the functions (screening, circulation, shade, recreational needs, etc. are to be resolved. Then, you'd select the best plants to accomplish those jobs. While you can get help for any part of the design process here, it will not get you out of doing the planning work.

The place to start would be to make a to-scale (meaning that it is accurately measured) map/plan of your property that shows the property boundaries, house footprint, existing paving, accessory buildings, fencing, etc.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 9:50AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

The Arnold Arboretum located in Massachusetts has a good list of shrubs and trees with their blooming times noted that may help you with choice selection of your shrubs and trees by blooming times but the plant list won't help you with the actual design layout of the plantscape.

There is an old saying that form follows function.

Define your needs and function ( privacy, shade vs shade, maintenance desires, water usage, strolling paths , patios) and then add to the mix your artistic desires ( formal, informal, linear, curvaceous, elevation augmentation, sculpture ) .

Landscaping is more than just planting shrubs and trees into the ground plane , it's about providing definition and connection into the space. A plant list isn't going to inform spatial layout, but it can be helpful in one small aspect of the overall installation.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 6:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Photos will help get suggestions, especially if you have listed your needs and tastes fairly completely. An overview from Google maps or your plot plan plus views from inside the house and from outside towards the house and towards each of the four sides would be a good start.

Some additional questions I'd add to those already asked:
Do you have storage needs such as lawnmower or trash cans?
Are you an active gardener or do you want to have lower maintenance plants?
Do you want your plants to have winter interest when you look out, or do you basically not care what the yard looks like in winter?

I will second DD's suggestion of Arnold Arboretum as a resource, along with Tower Hill Botanical Garden. I've linked to a list of various MA botanic gardens. You can visit them now and in early spring and through the summer to actually see what various plants look like at different times of year, along with visits to various local garden centers (the New England forum is fairly active and so you might ask for suggestions there.) I might spend the next year planning and preparing the planting areas since I really like to actually see the plants before shelling out the time and money planting things. Soil in a new development leaves usually leaves much to be desired, often compacted from equipment or lacking topsoil, and for your plants to be successful you will want to put time into developing your beds, not just digging holes and then mulching. Amending just the planting holes isn't recommended, but improving the soil in the whole planting area will help.

Here is a link that might be useful: MA botanic gardens

    Bookmark   December 17, 2013 at 10:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ideally, it's great to have an overall plan, healthy budget and do all your hardscaping first. However many of us have to rely on an overall idea of what we want, limited budget and DIY :)

If you can afford it, I would recommend fencing in your right side and back, so you can create your own private area. This will minimize damage from dogs and other neighbor issues...and give you some screening for that vegetable garden.

If you like shrubs that bloom, it might be nice to have taller ones against the fence and shorter ones closer to the yard. You might even be able to add some bulbs for spring color, that will grow up through the mulch. If you don't want too many, even a corner or two with daffodils that have naturalized can be very pretty.

Do you want a more formal layout (rectangular) or more informal, with a few curves and rounded inside corners? Do you plan to have any shrub roses? They are beautiful and often very fragrant...and can even have few or no thorns. Many old-fashioned roses need very minimal care and bloom for four to six weeks. We have many in eastern Washington (cold winters/hot summers) and they do very nicely, even with the cold and snow.

The nice thing about shrub roses is that they look so good with butterfly bushes, clumps of lavender, spirea, forsythia, pontillia, catmint, etc. If you do decide to use lavender, munstead is a nice gray/lavender and grows fairly large...Hidcote stays smaller and is more blue/purple. Both do well with our cold winters and don't mind the extra water that Mediterranean lavenders dislike. Have fun with your garden! :)

Hidcote lavender... From Lavender's Garden

Celsiana shrub rose (wonderful rose that changes from pink to almost white) with (I believe) Excellenz von Schubert rose (smaller pink in background) daisies about to bloom under Celisana, Salvia (dark purple) and Hidcote lavender (lighter purple).... From Lavender's Garden

This post was edited by lavender_lass on Fri, Dec 20, 13 at 14:46

    Bookmark   December 20, 2013 at 2:40PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you Lavender_lass
Your garden is beautiful...
I am a beginner, I was wondering if you had another suggestions. All will be welcome.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   January 2, 2014 at 11:02AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect?
Can anyone tell me what is the difference? I am considering...
Landscape design assistance
Hello, Our home is in Connecticut (Zone 6A) and we've...
Please need help 100% blank slate both front and back
Hi guys glad I found this forum been reading alot of...
Trying to design a border in front of elevated deck
I want to plant several shrubs in front of my elevated...
On Site Calculations - Area
If you do construction as well as design, sooner or...
Sponsored Products
Smart & Green | Flatball LED Indoor Outdoor Lamp
$209.00 | YLighting
Eclipse Rattan Espresso with Orange Cushions 9-piece Outdoor Set
Monet Cafe Outdoor Lounge Chair
Grandin Road
Outdoor Gregg Floor Lamp by Foscarini
$413.00 | Lumens
Freestanding Lauan Privacy Shower Panel with Round Lauan Tray
Signature Hardware
Sunshine Bud Vase
$29.99 | Dot & Bo
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™