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Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Posted by pmsmith2032 5 (My Page) on
Tue, Jan 10, 12 at 9:23

I am trying to plan a design for our backyard and am hoping for some suggestions. We are ideally looking to plant trees, shrubs and grasses along the perimiter of the yard (15' or so on each lot line) to mainly create some privacy from neighbors, but also attract wildlife and create viewing interest. Ideally, we'd like it to have a "northwoods" feel. The yard is bordered by a 4' picket fence and there is a 27' above ground pool in the back corner. I will post some picture when I get a chance. Thanks in advance!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

The first step is to measure your back yard and then transfer dimenstions to graph paper. Place the pool on the graph paper as well. Measure how much space you are willing to allow for planting beds. 5 ft wide is a nice width but wider allows for more plants. Birds like food ( berries) cover ( maybe evergreens) trees to build nests, and water.
Google Creating a wildlife habitat.

What ever trees, shrubs, perennials you choose,(learn about their growing requirements and size) You will get lots of ideas here. Once you decide, then place a circle on the graph paper - represnting their mature size. (for example one block on the graph might equal 1ft. ) If for example you like viburmum and the one you pick grows to 8'H x 6' w then allow for about that much room on the plan. BTW Viburnums are great bird plants becasue of the berries- but it is best to have at least 2 so that there is the best display of berries.

Planning on paper is good because it prevents you from overplanting (saves $$) . When you know how much space you have to work with then you will know if there is enough room for all the plants you would like to plant.

Also for a habitat dont forget a source of clean drinking water, and maybe a bird house and a bird feeder.

Hope this gets you started. -

Here is a link that might be useful: More to read


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks for the advice plantman56!

Attached below are links to some photos of the backyard:

Off of back deck looking at back left corner of backyard:
[URL=http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1326252153]1354.JPG[/URL]

Off back deck looking toward left front corner of backyard (house on left is a corner house so their backdoor faces our backyard):
[URL=http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1326252401]1355.JPG[/URL]

Off back deck looking at back right corner of backyard (house behind us when t is built will be un a cul-de-sac):
[URL=http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1326252709]1357.JPG[/URL]

Off back deck looking toward right front corner of backyard:
[URL=http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1326252602]1358.JPG[/URL]

Looking along back of lot line from right to left:
[URL=http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1326252844]1360.JPG[/URL]

Looking at back of our house from back right corner of lot:
[URL=http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1326252922]1361.JPG[/URL]

Looking at back of our house from back left corner of lot (in front of swing set):
[URL=http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1326253026]1364.JPG[/URL]

Picture of back deck:
[URL=http://www.uploadmb.com/dw.php?id=1326253106]1367.JPG[/URL]

Hopefully these links work! We are pretty open to any ideas/suggestions (plants, designs etc). We are planning on building a deck onto the pool this Spring over where the filter now stands. We also would like to incorporate a fire pit somewhere. Thanks!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

They don't work for me. You need the HTML code from the photohosting site, and if they don't show up in your Preview pane, they won't show up later.

I will say that "grasses" and "northwoods" don't overlap for me. At least, not in a good way :-)

Karin


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Neither do links work for me. Trying to troubleshoot, I uploaded a photo to same site and tried all 3 codes and links offered. None worked. Suggest you try another photo-hosting site. After pasting html code, make sure photos are visible when you preview message. (tinypic.com is really easy; html code is their first "sharing" offering.)


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I doubt you need a lot more than that...

I'm linking a thread below begun by a guy who has what I think is a similar set-up that you may find helpful. He's more of a flower gardener but you may find the thread helpful regarding bed shape and just visualizing things as you embark on the process recommended by Plantman above.

Since you have a fence, I would recommend you keep your plantings a good couple of feet in front of it so you can maintain it/replace it and also, this allows you to avoid encroaching on your neighbours' airspace right away when you plant trees. I actually have a pathway going right along my fence and I find it helpful for weeding and planting to be able to get at beds from the back as well. (And sometimes for storing stuff that is in my way).

If you can move your play set you can obviously be more flexible with bed design.

Make a note of exactly which sight lines you particularly want to block and at what height. Sometimes you think a tree will do it only to realize that the sight line is under the average tree canopy.

Karin L

Here is a link that might be useful: One thread by V1rtu0s1ty


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

The picture is HUGE! See if you can resize to about 30%... look for Tinypic "resize" options ("message board" or "15" screen" might work best.) But, at least, it's showing up!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

After some experimenting, I think I've figured out how to format the download links properly.

Off of back deck looking at back left corner of backyard:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Off back deck looking toward left front corner of backyard (house on left is a corner house so their backdoor faces our backyard):
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Off back deck looking at back right corner of backyard (house behind us when t is built will be un a cul-de-sac):
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Off back deck looking toward right front corner of backyard:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Looking along back of lot line from right to left:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Looking at back of our house from back right corner of lot:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Looking at back of our house from back left corner of lot (in front of swing set):
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Picture of back deck:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Thanks in advance for all and any suggestions!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

You can plant small clusters of shurbs and evergreens, or landscape the entire fence for ulimate privacy.

Do you have a budget?
How much time do you have to care for the plants?
Will you be able to go out on a regualr basis and:
Water, fertilize, mulch, ocassional pruning?

Will the dog want to dig in the beds?

Just some things to think about.

Some of my favorite trees and shrubs for wildlife:
Viburnum ( any cultivar) will need more than one.
Juniper virgianna (for cover and berries)
Dogwoods ( berries for food)
Acer rubrum (red maple) it may get a little large in time.
Ilex - Holly - Evergreen and decidious ( smaller cultivars)
Echinacia, and Rudibeckia
I think that you could include some ornamental grass. They grow fast and would fill in nicely along the fence.

Maybe include a bed around the pool. Fit it into the design , as apposed to it being all alone out in the corner of your yard.

You may need to move the playset, or soemhow include in the design

Finally, have you considered hiring a landscape designer to draw a plan. You plant as you can afford and have time, the plan keeps you on track. And the designer knows how to arrange or combine plants in your yard so it looks good togehter, and has enough space to grow and does not crowd the fence.

Mike


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Smith...congrats on getting the pictures linked.

What is a "northwoods 'feel'" to you?

Your yard looks very 'Northern Illinois.' Where is?

Does your back door face primarily east?

As I see your pictures now, I can't help but projecting some of the issues I would want resolved were I living there. #1 is the complete lack of privacy. Is it a requirement that the fence be so short? And the fact that it's not a privacy fence makes it useless for screening. You indicate a desire for privacy, but if your fence doesn't help, achieving it requires planting solid. That's a lot of plants! So you won't be saving money by using the wrong fence. And even that might not be adequate. In such a small space (suburban yard) sometimes trees, shrubs and grasses have battles to wage with one another. Were it mine, I'd begin by replacing the fence with 6' ht. privacy fence along the sides. The fence at the back isn't needed due to the neighbor's existing fence. (Craigslist makes it possible for you to sell the fence you already have so that it would not be a complete loss. Where I am, fence seems always in demand.) It would allow you to use fewer plants with greater effect.

Are you interested in expanding the outdoor "floor space" by adding patio space (with fire pit?) at the foot of the deck steps?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

This was very much the same goal that I had when I moved from the country to a new small suburban development. And from the pictures, you have many of the same challenges. Happily though, it looks as if you have lots more room in which to play.

As Plantmaven suggested before, drawing up a scaled plan is absolutely the best way to go, layered in the following order -

1) Identify the unique site consideration for your property - soil quality, drainage, compass direction, prevailing winds, personal wishes for view enhancement or screening. Correct elevation problems now.

2) Zone accordingly for current and future structures, play spaces, utility areas, garden. Don't forget natural boulders, rock and stone. What hardscape elements and electrical/gas/plumbing lines should you add now before you start planting?

3) Which native trees (both heritage and faster growing varieties), understory trees and bushes do you and the birds like? A woody mix of deciduous and coniferous is needed for wildlife. Experiment with placement on paper using mature heights and widths - avoid "perimeteritis" like the plague. Then walk around outside, muttering to yourself as you debate the pros and cons of your plan.
It not only amuses the neighbours, brainstorming is good for the soul.

4) Add perennials as desired. As things grow, they can be transplanted and divided. Maintain a clean divide between the lawn and the garden, then mulch heavily. Creeping grass will become your enemy, round-up will be your best friend.

This all worked well for me. I'm now entering my sixth year here and things are slowly unfolding just as I had hoped. And as a bonus, as my little nature garden matures, there is less work and more viewing pleasure. Which is good because I'm maturing too :)
Young suburban yard Front side garden, August 2011 Looking NE from side garden entrance Looking NW from back corner of my house Looking NW from side backyard.  Pond in curve before plinth. 10 x 12' pond with fish, snails and frogs The 12 x 12' enclosed cat kennel with connecting bridge via all weather doorflap in guest bedroom Looking west from within the garden Looking back at house Back deck with pergola leading to patio Neighbourhood kids helping to release ladybugs in the back yard Pergola with baby birds Bird bath


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 11, 12 at 17:10

I can't imagine having that large a lot to be able to landcape, it would be over 2 million dollars here in my part of the country! I was also under the impression that Tennessee was one big forest, where are all the trees? You've been given good advice on how to start the process of designing, and are you thinking that you'd prefer evergreen trees or deciduous for that forest look?

Adrienne, nice garden, but sadly lacking in anything vaguely triffid-like. A lot lusher and greener looking than what I visualize so far up north in the frigid zones...


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

pmsmith, let me add this to the list of preliminary tasks: Consider where you'll want sun (any plans to grow veggies?) and shade, then make sure your trees and shrubs are positioned to give you that.

Bahia, I think it's a different thread where the poster lives in TN. [No zone 5 in TN.] Having spent half my life in various parts of Northern IL, I agree with Yardvaark that it looks awfully familiar!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thank you everyone for all the great suggestions/advice. You've given me a lot to think about. Adriennemb....your yard looks amazing!

To help clarify, we are looking for a central grass area for the kids to play and a border made up of trees/shrubs/grasses to provide privacy. We aren't opposed to moving the swingset but not sure where else we'd place it.

The fence idea is a good one but we just aren't sure we want a solid fence around the yard. Plus, even a 6' fence won't provide all that much privacy since all the surrounding houses slope upward toward the backdoors.

We are indeed in northern Illinois (suburbs of Chicago). It is mainly famland and VERY flat. Ideally, we'd like more contour but our subdivision isn't hilly.

We really don't have a budget yet (are planning on ordering bare root trees from places like Coldstream Nursery). We do have the time to take care of the plants/trees once they are planted. The dog is not a problem as she does not dig.

We really don't need added floor space.....the firepit idea is more because we enjoy a fire in the evening. Plus, with the deck we already have, and a future deck on the pool, we should have plenty of space.

The soil here is mostly clay below the topsoil. Our lot slopes down toward the back right corner (storm drain in neighbors lot there), and to the left front (storm drain in corner neighbors lot). We've never had flodding problems.

Does anyone have any idea how much a landscape designer charges?

Thanks again for all the help! Keep the suggestions coming!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

You are in the fun part right now - the research and planning phase. I would however strongly suggest against incorporating invasive grasses into a woodland border. It doesn't happen naturally and trying to keep them from running rampant amongst the trees will bring you to tears. If you really want the grasses in your life, perhaps create a contained collar around the raised swimming pool of various species.

Thank you both for the compliment. David, I figure that I'm safe here from triffids as long as no-one invents parkas for palm trees :)


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

You can expect a wide range of fees charged by landscape designers because there are so many variables. How much yard? Hardscape? Planting only? A concept plan only? Construction documents? Plant material selection? Supervision of the work? Demand for designer's reputation? Locality? Owner provides some data? $250 to $2500...or higher. For what you probably need, somewhere between $350 to $700. You will find "free" landscape design, too. But if will be rife with conditions (so that all the design fees are hidden in construction costs) and so it's not really free. Big surprise there. (I hope some others chime in on this. I'm interested in the comparison.)

FYI, a 6' privacy fence is expected to give privacy only at the ground level. It is the taller plant material that extends that privacy upward. But taller plant material alone cannot extend privacy downward (in a practical way.) That's why I say obtaining privacy without the privacy fence would require a lot of plants...and still be a little tricky. Why not consider the combination of privacy fence (or some type of screen devices) and plantings near the house where privacy is most desired... and 4' picket fence for the further away areas?

What do people sit on at the fire pit?

I noticed the neighbor's trampoline so close to your property. Hopefully, no one ever jumps on it without the sidescreen attached. Landing on top of a picket can really hurt... and it attracts lawyers! (A cousin of mine once fell off a roof and landed on the dull end of a wooden tomato stake! Ouch!)

And per mto question, will there be a veggie/flower garden?

[Mto, I am originally from DeKalb, Ill. Ever heard of it?]


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks Yardvaark! We actually live about a half hour away from Dekalb so I am quite familiar with the area.

After seeing the prices landscape designers charge, I think we will work on a design ourself and put the money saved toward quality plants. By the way, does anyone know of a good book(s) or websites where we can learn the basics of landscape design?

I can see your point on the higher fence. Won't it look rather odd though to have part of the fence as a 6' privacy and the other part as the 4' picket? The neighbors fence actually runs along a large portion of the left side of our lot (when facing towards the back) so we could use that. We installed the picket fence ourselves and would like to do the same for the privacy (I was thinking maybe half this spring and the other half next spring). How difficult is it to remove the old fence (about a third of the old post have concrete around them)?

Right now we have a store bought firepit (you can see it in some of the pictures above). In the past we've just brought a couple of resin chairs over to sit on when we have a fire, and then stack them in a corner afterwards. Ideally I'd like a firepit dug into the ground and somehow incorporated into the landscaping. We'd probably then surround the area in mulch and have Adirondack chairs around it. We really like the design of the fire pit in the link below on a smaller scale:

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/stone/msg0519095013691.html

The trampoline in the picture normally has sides around it (they took them down for the winter) and is not quite so close to the fence.

We don't plan on a vegetable garden at this time, but would like to incorporate flowers along the edge of the beds (not sure if that is a good idea or not).

I gave some more thought on the type of tress/shrubs we are looking for and know we want something that looks natural. We definitely don't want a hedge of all the same tree/shrubs, but rather clumps of the same trees/shrubs or random plantings. We'd also like a mix of both evergreens and decidious trees/shrubs.

We are both pretty handy and aren't afraid of hard work. I've built the deck on the back of the house and also installed a retaining wall arount the front bed of the house.

Hope this all makes sense. I've already learned a lot from this thread!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

You know, I really like your picket fence. It was actually a relief to see a yard without a privacy fence for a change. There are a lot of advantages. First, it allows air and light to get at your plants so they will grow more evenly than in front of a privacy fence (which they will lean away from). Second, it is friendly; assuming you want some human contact. Third, it gives you some more borrowed landscape. You may not realize the value in this (and it isn't always welcome) until your view consists only of fence boards. Finally, I think your instinct is quite right that it will not do a lot more for you in terms of privacy. It will shield you better from the grass right beside the fence, but that is not your main concern most of the time.

The thing is, privacy means different things to different people, and maybe even at different parts of your yard. That is why I recommended that you identify sight lines that you particularly want to block. And put that together with MTO's advice to figure out where you want sun and shade, and that is the beginning of your plan. It will tell you whether and where you want trees or major shrubs. It will tell you where you want evergreen vs. deciduous material (for example, the sight line from a neighbour's window to the pool only needs to be blocked in summer and can be deciduous. Having some light and view coming in through the fence at spots where no one will be looking from might be fine, and might help preserve a more open feeling.

The art of getting advice on a forum is to put together everything you hear into a cohesive whole without letting yourself get talked into doing things that you don't want to do. As advice-givers, we all function a little differently; some of try to coach while others try to design from a distance. It is up to you what you come away with!

For learning the basics of landscape design, I think books are a great way to go - I don't happen to have many to recommend as I came to landscape design backwards through gardening! (except one good little book by Joe Eck) - but reading older threads on this forum can be amazingly useful too. Use the search function and look for words that capture what you want to do ("privacy" or "books" for example). There will also be some threads you won't find unless guided to them, like the one on bed shape that I linked to earlier. It is long, but one of the best pieces of advice in it (not to disregard any of the others!) is to figure out the major elements of your planting scheme first and then configure your bed shapes to match.

Finally, if you really do want to screen your whole fence line to the ground, that can quite easily be done with plants. You can even have some fun with it and use different plants in different places. And because you can start small, and because you can remove it at will, it will never make the kind of statement to your neighbours that putting up a privacy fence will do. But again, I'm going to bet that you don't need to do it to achieve what you want, and that the picket fence, since you built it, better reflects the feel you want than a privacy fence does. Plus, if you really want to tighten up the permeability of the fence, you could also simply add pickets, maybe even taller ones, maybe on the other side of the rails, between the ones you've already got. You don't need to put in whole new fence panels or posts.

Karin L


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Another option may be to go to a nursery or garden center and see if they offer landscape design services. Some places may draw the plan at a reduced price or free if you buy the plants from their nursery. You measure the property and bring in photos. It is not as good as having the designer come to your property, but it saves money.
There may be some designers that charge less, make a few calls.
WHatever way you choose to go - a plan is critica. Imagine if the person that built you home did it without a plan.

Finally - good landscapes add 10-15% to the value of your home, bad landscape only hurt the value.


Good Luck


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

"Won't it look rather odd though to have part of the fence as a 6' privacy and the other part as the 4' picket?"
...No. It depends entirely on how you assemble the whole package and make the transition. (What does look odd, though, is allowing your 4' picket fence to remain where your neighbor has installed a 6' privacy fence directly behind it. No one would create that intentionally.) [I see others use quotes that appear in italics. How is that done?]

KarinL. makes some valid points about the picket fence that I don't necessarily disagree with (the "friendliness" quotient. There may be places and reasons why you WANT neighbors to see into your yard.) But I can't imagine that it's everywhere. To me, it doesn't negate the need for some privacy fencing at strategic locations.

Better than books is to look around for successful landscaping that appeals to you. Start local. Also, consider a trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe. It'll be more fun on a nice spring day, but there's still much to see at any... many... all seasons! Also, a nice day trip for you would be a visit to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wi. They pack much interest in there. It was one of my favorite botanic garden trips ever. Very inspiring. Let's face it. Winter in Illinois can be downright bleak for an extended period. But seeing the botanical gardens in winter will open your eyes to spectacular bark and twig colors and plant formations that you had no idea existed. Some of the dried grasses provide great winter interest. Winter berries can be spectacular. One of the things I miss most about Illinois is the awesome potential for creating winter scenes. Don't let your yard go without some of that!

I am curious about your thoughts regarding fees charged for landscape design. What price would it have needed to be in order to interest you in hiring a landscape designer?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Below is a picture of our backyard (dimensions etc). I have not added the deck, pool, swingset yet, but will do so once the snow slows down and I can get out and measure.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Yardvaark....I really am not sure what would be an acceptable price. I'd just rather learn and do the design myself. I think I'll get more satisfaction out of designing it myself and at the same time save some money. I have no doubt that a landscape designer is well worth the money....just not right for us.

I did think of one other point....we definitely want the pool to be in full sun throughtout the day if at all possible (it doesn't get shady until after 6 or so during the summer when the house starts to block the sun).

Thanks!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

What really needs to be on your plan, since privacy is the issue at hand, are the specific sight lines you mainly want to block. This will be a bit tricky with respect to the house behind you that does not yet exist! Also factor in trees of your neighbours that are already there and will grow.

And if that sun issue on the pool is really a big factor, you may need to make some compromises to reconcile your desire for privacy with your desire for sun. But what a great orientation for your yard. Should be fun to work with.

You might also want to start researching the specific plants you want to use, as Plantman said in your first reply, to see what their mature (maybe 10-year) height and width are. Cut circles to those sizes so you can move them around on your drawing and ponder their shadows. Almost every landscape requires a rethink at ten years anyway, and I'd guess your need for the pool and playset will change by then too.

And in fact, time may be on your side here. You can plant the trees you want, and if it is the kids who mostly need the pool, they may be using it less by the time the trees are giving much shade.

So... place your trees first. And then, as Adrienne suggested, go outside and walk around and mutter to yourself imagining what it will be like when they grow in, and what you will need lower down to augment the privacy they will offer. OK, if it's snowy, maybe not yet :-)

Karin L


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks Karenl. I read the through the link you referred to from v1rtu0s1ty's thread and it was EXTREMELY helpful. Looks like we have a lot of planning ahead.

My children are still young so I know the pool will still be in use in 10 years (although playground will probably not). I can already see the need to move the playset out a bit from the back corner to create beds.

As of right now I envision a bed that borders the majority of the yard. On the left side and back left hand corner(facing toward the back of the lot) I'd imagine we'd plant a mixture of trees, evergreens and shrubs as height won't be an issue. Along the back of the lot we'll be more challenged as we won't want trees that shade the pool or drop their leaves into it (any suggestions on how to provide privacy for the pool without making a mess in the pool?). The front right hand corner could be a mixture of trees, evergreens and shrubs again as this won't pose a problem with the sun.

I will speak to my wife about the fence. If we do decide to keep it as is, how do we incorporate the neighbor on the right's 6' fence (I agree it looks bad but we built are fence first)?

Thanks again everyone for all the help!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Here is an aerial photo of our house from above. The picture is older and the pool in the picture is one of those temporary ones. It has been replace by the permanent one on the other side of the yard. The swingset, however, has not been moved. Hoefully, this will provide a better idea of how our surrounding neighbors layout.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

My favourite book for planning a woodland garden was "Best Trees and Shrubs for the Prairies" by Hugh Skinner and Sara Williams.
The authors are gods in our neck of the woods...


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Pm...the drawing looks like a good start!

I don't think you necessarily need to move the playground and have continuous beds behind it. There could be the illusion of the playground being slightly "secret" (not too much, of course!) by wrapping the bed in FRONT of the play system and creating a "gateway opening" in the bed as a fairly wide path to the playground. There could be some lesser planting BEHIND the playground in the back corner for view continuity. I would explore this on paper. My thought is that you might not want the playground to take on the role of being a MAJOR focal point as viewed from the deck. It might be better for the yard if it were tucked a little behind some plantings. If you overlay some tracing paper on your drawing, you can quickly sketch out many different schemes and walk through them mentally.

What to do where the two fences run coincidentally?... the only solution is to take the short fence--yours--out. Even though yours was there first, as soon as a neighbor puts a taller fence in, yours stops making sense. Unfortunately, this might be a problem you run into elsewhere later, too.

You'll need to keep tall plantings some distance from the pool in order to keep it clean and unshaded. That's why, (as Karin suggested) you need to identify those sight lines that need blocking for privacy... so you can make sure the tall plants are in the right places.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Clickable link to the OP's firepit inspiration thread (jugglerguy's project which is familiar to many on this forum):
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/stone/msg0519095013691.html

pmsmith, looking at the photos of your yard, I see what appears to be higher ground to what I think is the north and northwest (the unbuilt lots). Are those lots in fact higher in elevation than your backyard and the backyards of your neighbors to the north? Or am I simply seeing temporary piles of soil along those property lines? You did mention drains at one point. I'm hoping you don't have a drainage issue back there....

But if it is a bit damp back there at times, you'll want to choose plants which thrive in damp conditions -- and avoid those which dislike having "wet feet."

And thanks for posting the plan and satellite view. (Aren't computers wonderful?)

===

I don't think I ever visited DeKalb **hangs head in shame** My family moved to Western Springs when I was just out of high school; we had a bunch of relatives in Naperville; later I lived in other parts of Chicagoland.

I see others use quotes that appear in italics. How is that done?

Yardvaark, I use the free BBCodeXtra add-on with my ancient version of Firefox (I can't guarantee it works with the newer versions; however, I'm told that most of the old add-ons do still work, even if the supporting info doesn't say so). Anyway, if you have that add-on, highlight what you want to change and right-click on it. Then in the new window, click on xhtmlXtra and select whatever you want to do (italics, bolding, underlining, link, posting a photo, etc.

Failing that, just type in the following codes. Each must begin and end not with the brackets I'm using, but with the less-than and greater-than signs which are over the comma and period (I can't use those because the site assumes they're code and they won't appear).

[em] --- italics
[strong] --- bold
[ins] --- underline
[del] --- strikethrough

For the end-tags, just add a slash: [/em], etc.

As with everything else, what you see in Preview is what you'll get in the final post.

The clickable-link and image codes work differently and are more complicated.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

this is a little crude, but here's an illustration of a playground scheme as I mentioned.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Are there any specific websites that I should be looking at for good pictures and descriptions of the various trees, shrubs, evergreens, grasses and perennials I have to chose from?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

There's a page on the Chicago Botanic Garden site called "Illinois' Best Plants". It gives you a list with facts and data, but lamely, no pictures. Maybe pictures can be found elsewhere on their site. Search Google for "Illinois tree nurseries" and you will come up with some pictures. Search Midwest nurseries and other states, too as most of these trees & shrubs will grow in wide latitude.

MTO, thanks for the italics lesson, but...uh...I guess I'll just keep typing quote marks. (I tried and saw nothing in preview.) I thought it would be easier! Thanks, though.

DeKalb is a gem. Too bad you didn't see. Compared to Chicagoland it is country. Corn was our god!

Here is a link that might be useful: Illinois Best Plants


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks Yardvaark. Your illustration was very similiar to what I had roughly envisioned! I will start looking through the plants on the site you sent today.

Missinghteobvious, below is a picture of the final grading survey from our house. It shows where the three storm drains are in relation to our yard. Hopefully it will help show the grading of our yard (I don't know how to read all the numbers properly). I know we have a low spot back in the right back corner of the backyard but not to the point where we ever have standing water. The position of the pool on the survey is just an approximation by the way (I think it's more like 15' from the right hand lot line).

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Thanks again everyone for your help!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks, pmsmith, for the elevation diagram. I'll stop worrying about drainage.

The curving lines indicate elevation. The rough circle around the house and the part of the backyard immediately closest to the house shows points where the land is 646'. Inside the circle the land is higher than 646' but less than 647.

The other curved lines all show points where the land is 645'. Most of your front yard (the area closest to the street) is less than 645' but more than 644'.

So the land slopes from the north side of your house down to the drain in the neighbor's yard. And the land slopes down from the middle of your backyard into the drain at the SE corner of your lot.

But it seems to me that whoever drew the diagram omitted the 645 line which should be somewhere around the drain at the NE corner of your lot.

In addition, elevations to hundredths of an inch are given at various places.

The important thing to know is that the land slopes down from your house, and there are drains. Beyond that, you need a pro rather than a librarian 8-)

===

Though I missed DeKalb, I do remember Naperville and Warrenville in the early 70s when they were mostly farm fields. I also remember the complete and utter rurality a couple of dozen miles from Champaign-Urbana in that same era. And a few years later, when friends moved to Round Lake Beach, the area south and east of there was still almost completely agricultural.

Yardvaark, what you want to type would look like this, except the brackets would be replaced with what you get when you type shift+comma and then shift+period:

[em]whatever you want in italics[/em]

Or see these threads, which say you can also use i (easier to remember) instead of em for italics:

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/party/msg0406392829201.html
http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/legumes/msg0914342728259.html
http://www.glyphs.com/forums/load/paradise/msg022238107252.html?8


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Rats. Thanks Mto! I got it now! Just needed hand-holding; not as hard as I thought!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I've always wondered that too, so thanks for asking, Yardvaark! And thanks, MTO!

Back to landscaping:
Where I come from, if there is one fence up no one would ever build a second (and neighbours often share the cost of a single fence), but on this forum I have heard more than once of people putting up two fences like this. I can see the appeal, actually. First, it leaves you in control. The neighbours could sell their house to someone who takes their fence down, or they could let their deteriorate, and you still have yours. Second, your fence can still function as something useful even if their fence is up - since yours is picket, it can host a good-sized vine, or you can tie other plants to it that need staking or containing, something that is difficult with plank fences. Third, you have small children, and a contiguous boundary that is within your control helps keep them safe - from wandering out, or from (other) dogs and such wandering in.

But no matter what, any time someone tells you there is "only one solution," I will tend to disagree! There are always many options. It is your home, and it would be your time required to remove the fence not to mention storing or disposing of the materials. It does no harm as it is if it doesn't bother you - especially if you put plants in front of it!

I'm glad you enjoyed v1rtu0s1ty's thread; he really made it fun all around and is a very talented guy too - now don't look up his thread about his pergola unless you want to find yourself planning to build one (your deck suggests you might be vulnerable :-))! I'm also glad you found JugglerGuy's firepit - he has posted several threads, some in the Gardening with Stone forum, some with links to his albums. Worth checking out for the general landscaping as well, though he has slopes. Flat ground is its own challenges, and there are few examples of work on flat ground as good as Adrienne's!

Based on what you've told us of your needs and preferences for sun and privacy, I'd be inclined to do your bed outlines a totally different way. Looking closely at your privacy needs, and making some assumptions about where you want privacy from and to, I think your main concern is to the north. I would do a broad swath of planting all along that fence and sweeping/flaring to cut off that sharp corner at the back. This could become a woodland with a path through it and maybe a somewhat hidden place at the back that the kids might enjoy being IN. The other spot that you have a sightline issue is, I suspect, off the deck to the window of the neighbour to the south, or even into their yard, So some plants there would probably also be good, but mostly at the end closest to the house. Unless it is really their sight line to the pool that is the issue, in which case you need more there too.

The future neighbour to the east is going to require some compromise. Putting a tree or extending the woodland border there now is maybe a good idea, but it compromises your morning sun, which is among the nicest to have. If you want to avoid too much leaf fall in the pool, you might consider columnar trees and/or conifers there.

Fortunately, privacy to your direct south exposure doesn't seem to be an issue, and you can probably leave that open. Funny, that, because general wisdom has it that you should put your shade trees to the south! Your neighbour's tree will eventually shade you from there a bit.

But i is always so easy to draw a bed - remember to figure out where your plant masses need to be first. I recommended you start looking into plants only to the extent that there might be some that you are really keen to incorporate and also to start understanding your planting options. Otherwise, you can still be planning "wide tree here" and "columnar tree there" and "conifer here" and deciduous there." But you had said there is a mail order nursery from whom you plan to buy, so you could certainly start with their list of available plants and look each of them up; start picturing them as you look out the window. Learning about the plants and learning to design with them is a bit of an iterative process - you do a bit of one, a bit of the other, then back to the first. And when you actually get them and watch them grow, you find yourself back at the beginning :-)

Sorry to be so long winded - stuck inside with a cold so too much time on my hands :-)

Karin L


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Yardvaark - The "Illinois Best Plants website you recommended actually does show pictures of most plants. It's very helpful but a bit overwhelming!

Karinl - Thanks for the suggestions. I really like v1rtu0s1ty pergola but I think it may have to wait until next year (not enough time and funds). I definitely think some hardscape should be included in out plans....just not sure what and where yet. I do know that I definitely want to build a firepit similiar to JugglerGuy's but on a smaller scale (and maybe without the stone wall). I would imagine we'd want to incorporate it into the beds either on the front right or somewhere on the left side (don't want it too close to the pool).

We agree that our main privacy issue is to the north (especially at the front of the back yard). A new family just moved in to the house on the corner, and while very nice, have 4 young kids. The next house over with the 6' fence is pretty private, but we definitely need to break up the solid fence!

We are concerned about the lots behind us as it looks like their houses will sit up pretty high once built. It's hard to tell exactly so I'll take a walk back there this weekend and take a look from the future house sites and check out the lot lines. We feel pretty limited with blocking this view due to the pool. I'm just afraid that once built, are back neighbors are going to be looking right into our pool. We planted some 5' arborvitae trees purchased from a big box store along the back last summer (between the pool and fence) but they all died.

The neighbors on the right are an older couple and are rarely out. We'd like some landscaping/privacy along that site, but not to the extent as the left and back.

We definitelly need a fairly large grass area in the middle of the yard for the kids to play baseball/catch, for the dog to run, and for us to play bags.

The one last thing I've failed to mention is we also want to do some landscaping around the deck. My wife hates the fact that you can see under it, and I hate trying to control the grass and weeds that grow around it.

Thanks as always!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

[the duplicate fence] ...especially if you put plants in front of it!... making it even more useless, I might add.

I forgot to mention one technique that may be helpful to you, Mr. Smith, in the beginning as you scheme out landscape. Trying to learn plants at this stage will probably bog you down for actually solving landscape problems. Rather than being concerned with plants at all, work out the forms that you can use to accomplish goals and resolve issues in the yard. Think of landscape planning as being a sculptor of your yard. You can add material in any shape and size. And you can carve away material from anything you've already added. What worked for me in thinking about my "sculpting medium" was thinking that I had an endless supply of bread dough because there is similarity between it and plants. For the most part, shrubs are just balls of green. They start out small and swell up just like bread dough rising. I could make any shape out of it. A tree is bread dough on a pole. A conifer might be french bread dough but standing on end. (You still have to use a little imagination.) Keep the forms you use simple. Once you have the forms and shapes figured out, it's much easier to discover, what plants can best accomplish those forms. Hope it helps.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

By the way, someone had asked what I meant by "northwoods feel". I did some searching and found a couple of pictures:

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These pictures don't represent exactly what we are looking for, rather, the "flavor" we are looking for.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Those are lovely. Incidentally, I meant to ask you have a need to incorporate a storage shed? You WILL have gardening implements! And a compost bin?

About the deck, sometimes a piece of lattice is really the right thing vs. a whole bunch of landscaping. I wondered about both maintenance and critter habitat under there. You can even do solid wood since the lattice might still permit grass growth.

You can see the problem with the woodland concept for privacy in these photos, where the view through the trunks is unimpeded. The difficulty is that the root competition (and shade) from all those trees makes it hard to grow shrubbery underneath. It can be done though, with proper tree and shrub selection, and perhaps worth mentioning already, with the regular culling and replacement of plants. You might be best off with trees between 5-10 years old; much older than that they may become a problem rather than a solution. If you grow your own Christmas trees you will have built-in rotation! Harvest one and plant one every year!

But one feature you could look for in trees is deep-rooted ones. Not sure of an information source that mentions this; I just have one very old tree book that does.

One point that is also eloquently made by your inspiration photos is the potentially integral role of a pathway. You could design your path first.

Karin L
PS: I like upright junipers better than arborvitae anyway!
PPS for the back lot line, your best bet might be a bunch of rangy deciduous shrubs like Philadelphus and so on, or with a few evergreens (rhodos?) mixed in. They will never attain a height that can be problematic leaf-wise for the pool, and will always offer screening at about the right height. Or small tree stock like a smoke bush - Cotinus.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Now, Smitty, if you just buy up all the lots surrounding your back yard, it will be no problem for you to install forests and get that "north woods " look you're after!


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I was able to get out this past weekend and do some measuring. Attached is an updated drawing along with an estimate of the proposed beds.

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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

One key element of your northwoods feel comes from depth; being able to look through or maybe walk through a group (vs a row) of trees.

So my feeling would be that you could use that sharp angle at the back to get one area where you can create that depth. If you make a line that creates basically an Isoceles triangle in the back corner, as big a one as you can, that would create such an area. It would quite conveniently block view lines to a several houses on that side.

You can balance that with another area closer to your house on the north side where you also create a very deep planted area to block the yard with four kids. You would then extend the bed along the north fence with a fair bit of depth. I am not talking geometric straight lines here, just to get the dimensions and shapes basically right.

Karin L


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I am in agreement with KarinL that the "north woods feel" you desire must come from groups of trees, not a row.

I commend your efforts thus far. I'm not trying to hurt your feelings, but believe that your proposed bed lines are committing a multitude of sins. Find beds that you can visit and inspect where the ends fade in to the backdrop at sharply acute angles and see what you think. Plants will not fit in these spaces. It would be much better to tie in at 90*

The lines suffer from Purpuslus wigglyitis. It gives a "busy" appearance and has a distracting quality about it. You can have variation, but it needs to be smooth and flowing, distinct and purposeful.

I would site the play equipment before creating beds.(With beds in mind, of course.)


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

pmsmith, based on the bed line you drew, I re-drew the line (in red) to give you an idea how the same basic shape could be refined to fit better with the surroundings and accommodate plants. Of course, not knowing where the play equipment is makes this not very useful yet. It could still be "massaged" any number of ways from here to Sunday, but when finished it should look somewhat "smooth."


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

The lines that Yardvaark and you have drawn on paper look nice, but I would urge you to think about what they really mean, both in terms of workload and expenditure and implications for the space, and in terms of matching the objectives you've given here. Not that you can't do anything different than what you've told us you'll do (it's your yard!) but if those really are your objectives, you're heading in the wrong direction.

Primary question: how much gardening do you really want to do? I'm a rabid gardener, and I would hesitate to put in this bed configuration. There is a lot of edging involved, and also, a lot of narrow bed that is not going to look like a northwoods but rather like a perennial garden. It's also not very accessible area for weeding. Furthermore, how are your kids going to get to and from the pool if it surrounded by beds? You know best how they really use the pool - are balls flying out of the pool all the time and being retrieved, for instance? How does surrounding it with plant matter really help?

Finally, and again, beds around your deck are not going to solve most of the problems associated with having the underneath of it open. In fact, if you start watering and adding good topsoil nearby, you'll have more weed growth under there, not less. If you want to reduce weed growth and critter habitat and lost balls and toys going there - honestly, lattice. You can add beds after that if you want them for some other reason (extra work? something to yell at the kids not to get into? :-)), but they won't help with the problems you've identified.

One thing that homeowners have is the luxury of partial implementation, and I would urge you to use that. Identify what you are certain you want, and as far as I can tell, that is screening from three directions in particular. See how it goes from there. Maybe you want to add more beds around the pool once you've built your deck at it, but see first how the activity around the pool really plays out. Sometimes, for kids especially, grass is the best thing there is.

If I were trying to meet the objectives you've shared, here is how I would do it. Just one long J-shaped line. It can even go all the way across the back fence line if you start the bend sooner, but I didn't have the pool location on this drawing. Yardvaark will no doubt call this artistically bereft, but where there is a big function to a design, art might have to take a back seat. And you can always add to it if you want. I think the back fence line should mostly be shrubs, as I've stated before, and your corner can be your woods.

Karin L

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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Karen, you're suggesting R side is grass only? I'm seeing the need for screening more or less 360*... not necessarily solid, but judiciously. In my last suggestion, I'm only showing OP how he could improve upon HIS line, but it's his and I'm not suggesting it's the "correct" solution. My first suggestion of a bed line was only to get the ball rolling and show one possibility for handling beds around the playground equipment. (Btw, I was happy with where the playground was and didn't think it needed to be moved.) If I knew the playground would stay put, and if I knew where the screening was needed, I would probably propose a line different than either I have drawn so far. (At this stage of the game, I only see the line as a division between grass and mulch... without presumption of exactly WHAT IS PLANTED, AND WHERE, IN the mulched area.)

Karen, here I'm not criticizing your analysis, but am acknowledging that our "gardening vs. landscape" perspectives are different regarding two issues you raise. With weeds under the deck, my experience says that the light source providing their growth energy comes from the open sides, not so much from the above spaces between the deck boards. Once plantings at the sides block this light, weeds growing below are not much of an issue. As far as weeding a lengthy bed line goes, I'm not envisioning this as a "perennial border". (Which is not to say that part of it couldn't be.) As a "landscape bed," the edge could be periodically routine weeded in a minute or two with a sprayer of Round-up. After establishment, and with a good mulch layer, weeds wouldn't be much of a problem. Also, at this point, even though I don't know what's yet IN the bed, I don't envision things as being planted so solidly that accessibility disappears. It just needs to be worked out as the planting scheme develops.

Smitty, in order to proceed further, I'd figure out where the tall (8' and above) and medium (4 - 8') screening is needed. (I'd think of them as separate things that could be combined where necessary.) If you stood in various parts of your yard and examined what views needed to be blocked, you could mark the locations on a copy of the plan. I'd commit to a playground location (which, again, I was happy with what you had.) It looks like you have the deck to the pool and just need a walkway to it. Then the bed line(s) could be created with some surety of its/their being reasonable.

As a reminder, and I'm in complete agreement with Karin (Karen, do you hear that??) in order to get the "woods" feel you'll need groves of trees, not just singles or a line of them. To accommodate this need means that some portion(s) of your landscape bed should be fairly deep... 15' to 20', or so. Somewhere. It's very do-able. I'm thinking you can likely pull this off, to some degree, in 3 areas. I also acknowledge that you'll probably want to incorporate some conifers with skirts full to the ground.

When you get to the point of creating a bed line, the best tool for visualizing and appraising it on site is landscape marking paint. I can give you some tips about that later.


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I'm late to the party here... :-) It's very difficult to read when the text extends beyond the sides of the screen! A couple of comments prompted by what I've read:

- I agree with the need for deep beds and multiple trees - and shrubs - to get the woodsy feel.

- I agree that limiting light helps reduce weed issues - that was the first lesson I learned here when setting up my woodland garden! Foolishly, I 'tidied up' and removed existing leaf litter - and spent the next summer endlessly weeding!

- And that brings me to a comment on the 'how much gardening do you want to do' maintenance issue. There are ways to have deep, woodsy beds without excessive maintenance. My woodland garden backyard took a bit of work to set up but now requires very little routine maintenance. Key factors in that include: vigorous (but easy to remove if necessary) groundcover; maintenance paths in the beds and a border path between the bed and the lawn - which virtually eliminates the edging issue; leaving leaf/needle litter to accumulate on the ground - woodland plants need it - and it reduces your maintenance; do a regular - every few days - walkabout to remove weeds (and tree seedlings) as they appear. I'll be updating the maintenance manual for my garden in the next few weeks. The backyard portion might be of interest to the OP (click on the My Page to find the link to it).

One thing I always focus on is the shape of the lawn. I find that as important as the shape of the beds. I used Yard's last drawing to look at the lawn. I changed things a bit, trying to improve the sweep of the grass. I'd likely make more changes to fine-tune it, but this is what I see/look for when I look at plan views of a garden:
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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Smitty, there is an overhead picture posted earlier in the thread where you can see that one of your neighbours to the north has already planted a triangle of three large heritage-type trees. If you follow the sightline from the back of their house, their view is screened from your house, the playground equipment and another of the neighbour's large house.

I think that I would use a similar approach during the planning phase - screen my views on paper first with my preferred large trees and then use the mature height and width of those as anchors in deciding the ultimate shape of my garden beds. So much easier that way than the other way. Again, if you look at that same neighbour's yard, you can see how you could now experiment with different bed shapes to create the effect that you're after. Straight lines? Voila, it's formal. A centre stone walled pond? Meditative European courtyard. Gently curved and mulched sweep with buried boulders? Naturalistic. Ta da...magical, eh?

Remember too that eventually your tall tree canopy is likely going to merge with the neighbours'. That might be a consideration when you decide what trees you're going to place where. For example, if someone has planted oaks, you probably should reference those in your yard as well to create a natural woodland feel that extends beyond your personal fence line. Go and snoop around to see what others have already started.

Especially at first, it's the faster growing understory trees, bushes and conifers that will give you the most privacy when you are in the yard itself. The only area that I would be tempted to veer away from the more naturalistic setting would be at the proximal corners of the yard on either side of the house. The neighbour's near windows look right at your back deck - I might have trouble eating my BBQ if I felt someone could be secretly watching me :) Maybe a row of narrow cedar along the fence line there? And echo it on the other side too?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Adrienne's right that the tree canopy of the neighbourhood will be an aggregate of what everyone plants. At the same time, you don't want to be dependent on them to plant where it works for you.

On the north side, you've said there's a neighbour with 4 kids that you'd particularly like some protection from. I'm actually noticing that your fence doesn't protect what seems to be your sideyard over there. Do you have plans there? That's actually a place you could use your picket fencing if you decide to replace any of it with privacy fencing, say along the back lot line. Depending on just how the sight lines line up on the ground, you might also get some privacy benefit (to the deck or pool) from planting up the fence line there.

In the diagram below, I've shown that area planted up a bit along with a pathway through the gate. It takes a jog so that the planting provides screening of the path area beside the house. I also put a bed by the deck for a shrub or two, although I'm not a fan of planting at the house wall if you don't have to... but some shrubbery there might cover a sight line to the deck from that neighbour.

I've also adapted my J-line to go right across the yard at the back, and, mindful again of Laag's advice to plan the plants first, and then the beds, I've shown an approximation of the plants (at a young stage, but if you pick different shapes and heights they can mingle and co-exist for much longer). T= tree, S and Sh = shrub. Whenever I show a drawing it makes it obvious I don't do this professionally - I can make a stab at planning but not at drawing :-)

Not that I don't see the merits of the wavier shapes, but I'm trying to find a way to accomplish what you said was important. For example, limiting leaves in the pool, limiting shade on the pool...

I actually hate designing FOR people and so I apologize if I'm robbing you of that part of the process, but I just want to make it clear that there are completely different ways to approach this. Sometimes, once one diagram is drawn everyone gets hung up on it.

Regarding the deck, Yard, I didn't say the light would be adequate for weed growth or coming in from above. Just that it would still be open and thus a variety of unforeseen things could happen. Including weed growth, since sometimes the weeds start to grow in spring before the perennials do. Trust me, been in all kinds of awkward corners and undignified positions arguing with stubborn buttercups that shouldn't be growing where they are...

And Woody, for "work" I was thinking mostly of edging issue, and you're right that a path is one of the best ways to beat that. I'm not sure it's wanted here, but it would work. I've actually sketched a little pathway in the "woods" at the back that might be helpful for maintaining such an area and also for giving exploring children a route.

And again, Adrienne is so right that in terms of how any of these options or another will actually look, it is about the aesthetic approach you take to implementing whatever plan you've got.

Sorry I didn't darken the original elements of your drawing, but you know those :-)

Karin L

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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thank you everyone for all the advice and suggestions! I feel like I've already learned! Reading through the last posts a few things came to mind:

1. The pool deck is not built yet and therefore can be moved and/or modified as needed. Ideally we'd like the filter to be under it but that can be moved somewhat too. We plan on making it have solid wood walls so that we can store garden equipment there too (we currently have a large storage area in our garage).

2. After further discussion, we now plan on adding solar heating panels for the pool. These need southern exposure, so we envision them along the south side of the pool (I plan on building a rack for them). In this way, the pool deck should provide some cover.

3. We never really gave the neighbor's trees much thought but I can see how they might blend into our yard when larger.

4. The neighbor with the four kids (corner lot) just moved in last summer, so they very well may add trees/shrubs in coming years. There is also the possibility they might put up a fence too.

5. Tentatively I plan on rebuilding the fence along the north side (up to the neighbor's) this year. The old fence isn't holding up that well and needs to be stained anyway. I'm planning on a five or six foot fence with space between the pickets. In this way we will gain some privacy but still have a more open air feel.

6. I think we'll probably go the lattice route around the house deck with a few shrubs planed around it to offer some contrast.

7. We like the idea of a variety of trees. Ideally we'd have a mix of evergreens, trees and shrubs. In this way we'll gain some privacy now while the trees grow. We also like the idea of planting firs as future christmas trees. We have a tradition of a 12' christmas tree (cathedral ceilings) with a 10' spread every year.

8. When planting trees, how close to the fence can we plant them? We just want to be sure there is enough grassy area for the kids and dog to play. We specifically purchased a larger lot so that kids would have room.

9. There was mention of leaving room between the fence and beds...how much room is needed? Would this space be grass or mulch?

I'm sure I have more questions but that's all I can think of for now. I really appreciate the diagrams and drawings and the different points of view! Thanks!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

On another note, I just started looking through the trees and shrubs offered at the nursery I will purchasing from via mail (Coldstream Nursery). They offer bare root stock so prices are a lot less than potted. My first question is what should be the maximum size I should be purchasing (sizes offered start at 6" and go up to 5' in most instances).

I also came up with a quick list of trees/shrubs. This list is in no way complete, just a few I came up with after looking over their site:

Paper Birch
River Birch (one already planted at the back of the yard about mid-way from left to right)
Cedar (Red or White)
Maples
Douglas, Balsam, and Frasier Firs
Canadian Hemlock
Dogwoods
Viburnium
Holly
Pines (Jack, Red)
Oaks
Spruce
Winterberry
Lilac
Rose of Sharon
Serviceberry
Redbud

Like I said, this is not a finished list.....just a start. Some of these species may be too large for our lot so any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!


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  • Posted by fori CA (My Page) on
    Tue, Jan 24, 12 at 19:21

Would you consider enlarging the deck to surround the pool and support a fence? Fencing the pool could offer some privacy and reduce the threat of drowned children. It isn't ideal from a beauty point of view but considering that those are family homes with low fences, I fully endorse paranoia!

I would avoid anything prickly. No spruce, no holly (unless you get the boring prickle-free types). They can ruin the outdoor experience for kids, and your kids will be IN those trees if you do it right!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

A couple of things to keep in mind. Wind block on north side. Catching prevailing breeze during summer, screen with more open limbs. Shade from west sun. Drainage is always the first issue to be addressed before deciding how the beds can be laid out.
Start with your foundation plants that will eventually screen off your neighbors and give you some privacy. You always want to be the first to plant trees to give yours the dominant role over your neighbors.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

This is where the iterations begin. If you have a layout concept in mind by now, you start researching plants in terms of their ability to perform in your setting - your climate, your specific location. You come up with a list of which ones you really want to use (there are lots of mail order nurseries, by the way, so don't limit yourself unnecessarily). Then you go back to your design concept and figure out where in it those trees would go, and if they work for the idea that you have. THEN you redraw your beds and planting plan to incorporate the plants you want to use. And so on.

At least, that's how it would work for me. Others can probably draw a plan that says "tall skinny tree here" and then go out and get the tall skinny tree. For my own use in a yard that's a constant work in progress, I find the tree in a nursery, have to have it, bring it home, then figure out where to put it :-)

To discuss the merits of specific plants, other forums may be more helpful for you - the trees forum, the conifer forum, even the shrub forum for that family of plants. There is probably also a regional forum for your area, and then there is also a woodland gardening forum, although I think your project will be smaller scale than most there - if it is even still active.

With respect to space between plants and fence, that depends on your preferences and on the type of fence. I think I was the one who said to leave space - but it depends on how deep your beds are, and on what's in them. You can plant right to the fence but maintenance is harder if, for instance, the beds are densely planted and deep. That is when I would look at putting a space behind the plants. A path, to be specific - and when you say kids playing, I really would encourage you to think beyond open space when you think of space for the kids to play.

Soccer is fine, and you may need space for that (the front can also be used by the way) but my kids also enjoyed places to dig and build stuff, run the dump trucks, make little rock creations, and also collecting leaves and cutting flowers to take inside (of course all kids are different - probably a combination of being a product of their environment and their innate personality - mine grew up in a garden and had to make do :-)).

In my sketch I had actually pictured paving stones in that back triangle as a destination - for a child to play, or maybe big enough for an adult to put a chair in the shade - and that would facilitate maintenance back there too - it could get to be a messy corner very easily. Of course you have the deck and that functions as space to be - and your planned fire pit might also function as play space or seating in daytime.

Karin L


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

In woodlands, there is a limited variety of different trees and shrubs that are found, never a hodgepodge of single specimens of disparate species. The key is coherence. It doesn't mean that there is no diversity but you do have to edit yourself sometimes.

For example, you can have paper birch or you may have river birch...but not both. And not simply one clump either. It should recur in the bed as if it were naturally seeded and growing. Same thing with viburnums and dogwoods - there are so many varieties to choose from that it's sometimes hard not to get carried away. Your enthusiasm shows elsewhere in your bucket list as well. Your conifer inventory includes pine, spruce, hemlock, fir and cedar...um, did you forget yew and juniper too? Just kidding. Sort of. More research will help you to wean down that list.

And do lilacs, holly and Rose of Sharon occur naturally in Illinois woodlands? They might be better suited to the front yard gardens.

One stunning tree that I would heartily recommend for your treescape is the Ohio Buck-eye. It's a lovely, dense, lollipop tree with an architectural interest in the winter. Hummingbirds and bees go wild for the flowers and squirrels love the fruit. So will kids too because the nuts make terrific "conkers". If kids nowadays still play conkers. Maybe I've just dated myself (little voice).


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Wed, Jan 25, 12 at 15:02

I don't offer much from a design perspective so all I wanted to say is thank you to those who take the time to mark up and suggest layouts. Surely everyone plays by their own sets of rules but seeing the total picture from multple perspectives can help the OP create a design that works best from them.

I'm just on the outside looking in to get ideas for my own design that I'm wrapping up either this spring or next.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Geez, you can find anything on YouTube, eh?
http://youtu.be/1cQ-eZOWgvI


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I'm thinking about "woodsy" and scouted down these pictures. (Sorry. I can only get thumbnails.) I think the flowering "groundcover" adds a lot of drama. I don't suppose anyone would want their yard to be blue all year long, but most spectacular floral displays only last 10 days to two weeks, which makes it special. (Christmas time would be unexciting if it was year-long.) The rest of the time, it's just nice green. Seems to me like the "woodsy" look comes from lots of tree trunks at relatively close spacing. For the most part, having good separation of what's at the ground (groundcover or mulch) and the bottom of the tree canopy is another factor that helps create the feeling of a "room" or "space" rather than if these things fade into each other. Good separation lends a cathedral-like quality to it.

Per the list of trees... back when I was in Illinois, paper birch (which everyone loved) was rapidly falling out of favor only because of birch borers and all the trouble they caused. River birch were not so affected and, therefore, coming into favor. Can't say what's come along since my being there, but there were no decent evergreen hollies then, for northern Illinois. But deciduous ones--like Winterberry--are spectacular and a "must" for winter gardens (plant in groups as plants are separate sexes.) The only thing on the list I am unenthusiastic about is Rose of Sharon. Don't hate it. Just think there are so many way better, more interesting and prettier things to have. Usually, when people "talk" conifers, they envision them grown with full skirts to the ground. This takes a tremendous amount of room as some of these babies can get HUGE. They are, therefore, very tough to fit into many landscape schemes. And so therefore, again, I can see a very limited use of these in this yard. Also, wondering why no Colorado Blue Spruce on the list. It's adored by so many and due to it's not too rambunctious growth rate, can be accommodated quite well for quite some time. Eventually, conifers that become huge may have to be limbed up so as not to eat up enormous sections of the yard. Lilacs, which I love and miss more than just about any other plant, I think are almost universally mismanaged in Illinois. They are large, tree-like shrubs that have a tendency to grow themselves into tree form. Instead of fighting their natural inclinations, I would grow them as tree forms. They make lovely "groves" which I could see fitting in nicely by the back deck... where you could really enjoy their scent. It seems that many people want to periodically chop them down to 3' or 4' stumps and try to grow them as big shrubs. Or they periodically "thin out the trunks" (as so many "professionals" advise) in an attempt to "renew" them...still trying to grow them as shrubs. When I see a nice trunk of a small tree I do NOT want it "renewed." I want it to mature further and develop stature.

I cannot second Adrienne's comments strongly enough. The way to prevent any hope of having a nice yard is to put too many disparate things into it. Then it becomes a "hodge podge." I refer to the two photos again. Each picture has only two elements in it: one species of tree and one type of groundcover. That's it. I'm not saying that's all there can ever be, but just illustrating that simplicity and visual "strength" are intertwined.

I second Karin's remark about limiting yourself to one nursery. No one nursery is going to grow all the good stuff you need. I hope you know, too, that "mail order" means small and bare root. Sometimes it can mean a few inches only. Sometimes those few inches cost quite a bit compared to a plant locally purchased that comes with roots growing in dirt. Sometimes mail order is the only way to find certain plants and sometimes the price is good. Sometimes big box stores can offer a nice price. I would not cross off ANY source.

Millions of wild hyacinth flowers in the Hallerbos woods

Fairy forest


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks all for the great responses! A couple of ideas/comments/questions:

1. Unfortunately extending the deck around all the way around the pool is not an option. We are using a synthetic/wood decking and a deck much larger than 20'x 12' is out of our price range.

2. Any thought on whether the beds should be raised at all or not? I'm assuming I will just need to order mulch but really haven't given it too much thought yet.

3. How close can we plant trees such as maples to the fence? Is there some sort of protocol or etiquete when it comes to trees growing over neighbor's lot lines?

4. I posted this question in the tree forum, but does anyone have any advice/preference on bare-root vs potted trees/shrubs (bare-root look much cheaper)? What size trees should I look at buying?

5. We have a river birch growing in the back half way between the pool and swingset (about 10' from the pool) that we purchased from Cold Stream during the Spring of 2008. It's approximately 6' tall and I transplanted it last Spring from where the pool now sits (I know I probably didn't do the best job of transplanting, but it seemed to do well last summer). I'm not sure if I can incorporate it into the landscaping or it needs to be moved again. We'd hate to lose it.

6. We also purchased a serviceberry at the same time that is planted on the left hand side of the backyard midway back(you can see it in the aerial picture just in front of the temporary pool). This tree does not seem to grow much and offshoots are constantly coming up around it from it's root system. Not sure if we should move it or get rid of it.

7. Yardvaark and Adrienne - You stated that we should not try to mix in too many species of trees. For example do you mean not mixing maples, oaks, birch, spruce, pines etc. Would it be okay to mix different varieties of maples for varying fall colors? Would it be okay to have a couple of firs, a couple of maples and a couple of cedars?

8. Is it possible to plant dwarf and smaller varieties to reduce footprint size? What are the benefits/disadvantages to dwarf?

Sorry if I am rambling! Thanks as usual for everyones help!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Smitty, if you're thinking in terms of gardening, you'll be thinking in terms of individual trees, how great their attributes, how to baby them and give them the best life, etc. There might be 10 different places in the yard you could put them. If you're thinking in terms of landscaping, you'll be thinking of the great spaces you can create... how high the "ceilings," the relationship to other spaces, how the space is "furnished," the "fabrics" used, what its character/flavor is, etc. If that particular "space" didn't get created, you might not have use for ANY of the particular plant you would have made it out of. (Inside the house, if you're doing a serious decorating job, you wouldn't start by acquiring a pretty wallpaper before you had any idea of the overall "flavor" of the room you were trying to create.) Back in the yard, you'd be thinking that you needed this great little woodsy feeling area. It would probably have a single species of trees... 6 to 12 of them arranged in a certain way (that you thought was good.) Then you'd have another area--maybe around the pool--where you wanted to pick up a little tropical flavor and use plants with lots of floral interest and tropical looking foliage...a group might be 3... or 20 of the same kind of plants, depending on how big the "object" is you are trying to create in order to make that space. I'm going to post a plan sketch showing you how you might make some groups of plants. My scanner's crapped out but will try to borrow one, get it finished and to you later tonight. If not then, tomorrow. [I am kicking myself for not always carrying a camera. Yesterday, driving down the highway in a place I rarely have been, I spotted the prettiest grove of trees on the back side of some business (kind of warehouse looking thing.) I was going to fast to study the scene but it looked like it was an area created to put picnic table(s) for employees so they could lunch in the shade. But the overall group of trees looked so fine and inviting. It would be a good example for you to see as a "woodsy" space that was intentionally created. It was quite a few trees packed in pretty tight. If I can come up with any reason to get half-way close, I will go back and get a picture. Hopefully, not too far in the future!]

For working in one's own yard, I don't think it's critical if you use bare root or container plants. Bare root tend to be a little more iffy, but done right they work fine and obviously, you've had success with them. They may help with your budget. Part of it depends on how much in a hurry for end results you are. Bare root will be smaller than what you can obtain locally. If you're happy with bare root, there's no reason not to use them.

I wouldn't worry yet about any of your existing trees. Create the "spaces" where they would be used--along with others of their kind--and they will be saved. The Serviceberry does NOT want to be a single trunk tree. Trying to make it be one is like trying to make cat into a dog. It won't work!

For what you're doing there is not purpose to having raised beds unless you just want to see your money used up faster.

You can plant right up to the edge of the lot, but the closer to the lot line the plant is, the less control you can be guaranteed of having to the total plant. Take a look at every yard in America and you'll see that nearly all have trees & bushes growing from one yard into the next. (I try to be first in planting whatever I want so that it takes dominance of the fence line... as I know most of my neighbors have barely ever cared what's at their fence line.) Some times it's irritating that plants cross the line, but a property owner's rights do not stop at the ground. You own the portion of your neighbor's plant that crosses the line (which continues up and downward in a vertical plane) and you may cut it back to the line. If you know proper pruning practices, it's usually better to cut back to some sensible point of the neighbor's plant. Plenty of times, I've asked a neighbor if I can cut off a branch back to the main trunk, on their property. If things make sense to do, usually neighbors are pretty cooperative. They have the right to cut off the backs of your plants to where they cross the line into their yard, but will you really care about what you can't see? Most of the time, people are so fearful of any cutting and waaaaaay behind on it anyway, that its barely ever a concern. No one seems to want to give up bushy privacy once it develops.

Often the horticultural term "dwarf" misleads people. A plant is "dwarf" relative to the full size original version. Maybe a full size old time apple tree will get 50' or 60' height. And a dwarf apple only gets 25' or 30'. A dwarf Burford Holly is 10' or 12' instead of 20'. So don't think of dwarfs necessarily as cute plants that stay small (though the marketing arm of horticulture uses this ploy.) To use a dwarf, you must still know what size it will grow to.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 26, 12 at 19:57

Just a word of advice...for plant selection post in the trees and conifers forum.

DO NOT limit yourself on species. If you want a monolithic/cohesive look mimic color and textures of various species.

There are many conifer cultivars that will get you the privacy and backbone you'd need without sacrificing space.

Picea glauca 'Yukon Blue' and Picea abies 'Cupressina' are just a couple selections.

Picea pungens should no longer be planted in the midwest as screening plants (same with Pinus nigra and sylvestris).

You'll want to limit it to dwarf versions. Yes dwarf is a realative term. Figure out the space you have and there are surely multiple cultivars to suit your needs.

Use cultivars of Abies concolor in lieu of Picea pungens for screening. You'll have to plant them high. Again there are narrow versions available. There are also other species that have a great blue color like Picea engelmannii 'Bush's Lace' and 'Blue Magoo'. Again select multiple species but with similar color, texture and habit to get a cohesive look.

Same for trees, you can get trees with similar habits and leaf textures but get blooms through multiple months of the year.

There are multiple nurseries I can recommend that are right on the WI / IL border but there should be a few near you. You'll want to go walking through their fields in early spring to determine what you like.

Go the extra mile (size) for your screening and specimen plants. Then you can spice it up with smaller more unique plants.

Just my 2 cents, put it in your piggy bank!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

"DO NOT limit yourself on species." Whaas, what do you see as the advantage of not limiting species?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jan 27, 12 at 10:33

The number one thing is pest and disease control.

Think Elm, Chestnut and Ash. Never know whats next.

The number two thing is diversity promotes balance with wildlife and insects.

How you rank it could be subjective and there are many other reasons. Diverse fall color, multiple bloom periods etc.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

The monumental disease and pest issues that come along every so often are like tsunamis. There's nothing you can do but just stop using that species. I guess my quibble is that a typical landscape plan--even a simple one can have plenty of variety. Limiting the number of species to what's required in order to "consruct" the various larger elements (hedges, groves, bosques, gateways, screens, glades, meadows, etc.) allows a landscape to have great visual strength. Everything is clear, precise, organized and bold... without the competition of unnecessary clutter. But when using 30 species when 15 would do the job, the visual strength of a design diminishes. Too many different elements vie for attention and weaken the overall impact. It might seem that from a horticultural standpoint greater diversity in plants offers improved ecology. But I think it's debatable and to be sure, it does not offer greater, more powerful art and design. Less IS more. There's a degree of subjectivity to the conversation. Some people might look at my idea of "less" and think it's a little too "more." Some will think it's not enough.

pm, Here’s a plan that is primarily a general layout showing a possible hardscape and planting arrangement. Though there are some specifics, it’s mostly to illustrate concepts… how things are organized, grouped and schemed. There are caveats. I don’t know many things: locations of sight lines you are trying to block; locations of neighbors’ trees near your fence; your ideas about implementing pool solar heating apparatus…etc. All those things would need to be taken into consideration.

The plan calls for a variety of trees, shrubs, groundcover and seasonal color around a central turf area. The pool and deck are the central feature of that area. The perimeter of the yard is a backdrop for viewing from all other areas. A location for the deck at the side of the pool is better than at the front of the pool. This allows for better eye contact with people at the other deck and in other areas of the yard. The playground equipment sits outside of the central area, beyond a "gateway" of conifers, but is not out of view. A brick walk links the pool area to the house deck. Midway along that walk is a tamped aggregate area which would serve as a location for the fire pit. (Crushed brick would be a nice material to build it of.) A few "boulders" are scattered surrounding this area to incorporate a theme of “wilderness” and "nature." ”Boulders”--2 and 3 feet across (not just “big rocks") would be needed in order to make it believable. Otherwise, I would scrap the idea. The fire pit and accompanying furniture could be whatever is desired.

In total, the plan calls for eight different species of trees or tree form material. These would include large shade trees, smaller flowering trees (Redbud) … and large shrubs, grown as trees with the bottom foliage removed: Lilacs, Serviceberry, Sumac, Beautybush. I would include one or, at most, two species of conifer. 6 different species of shrubs would be of various medium heights, appropriate to what they are adjacent to. I would select material that matures at the desired height so that trimming can be minimized as much as possible. Some shrubs that would be nice to include in the mix are ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea, big leaf Hydrangea, Potentilla, various Spiraea, Viburnum and, of course, Winterberry Holly. (Myself, I would search out named cultivars of this plant in order to have the best show and control of sexes.) The turf is reduced to approximately 1/3 of its present size so there’s much less mowing. Trees would need limbing up annually. (If kept up with, this is a simple chore (I call it a Saturday of fun!) If not kept up with, it becomes exponentially more difficult and time consuming.)

The playground area would be mulch only. If landscape beds are well mulched, weed control would be minimal once control is initially gained. It would be less than mowing. I would suggest finding a source of shredded bark that tree trimmers want to get rid of, if such is available. After putting down a good layer, you could cover it with purchased mulch of your choice for a better appearance… if you want. The plan would need one to three species of groundcover. Euonymus ‘Coloratus’ is popular for good size areas as it takes sun or shade. Best winter color is in sun. There are a few places for annual or perennial color. There's plenty of flexibility. As few as one or as many as ½ dozen different varieties/species would work in their respective spaces. I would include some hybrid daylilies and blue Siberian iris among the mix as they show nice and are EASY. Their foliage looks decent through most of the growing season. I’m sure places could be found for more perennials over time. As shade develops, beds for shade loving perennials could be incorporated. I placed a large grass (could be a Miscanthus) beyond the pool deck. As I look again, I already would expand it to more of the same. (But the drawing I won't bother to change.)

There is room for LOTS of little tweaks. I’m sure there will be forum readers who think my plan is not detailed enough. I’m sure I could keep going and find more to put in it. But tweaking is also easy, later, as places needing “more” make themselves evident.

Before you get around to implementing whatever it is you decide to do, I would get a Krylon marking wand (Amazon or Ebay) and some marking paint if you want to make the process of laying things out a great deal easier. It’s the easiest way to transfer ideas from paper to the ground and visualize what’s to come. Things that need fixing can be spotted and taken care of before they become something needing to be undone.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Winter is a great time for research and planning, eh Smitty?

In response to a few of your questions, you asked about creating a raised bed garden. No, no, don't do it - that's an awful lot of work for no real benefit. If you're concerned about the division between the lawn and the woodlands, that's where edging (eg pavers, boulders, rubber curbing) and mulch come in.

I usually avoid bareroot stock mainly because I was born with a suspicious soul - a buyer never knows how long it's been since the plant was dug up or if it has been exposed to anything nasty along the way. Nor do I trust my own proficiency in trimming the roots if necessary. Instead, I go for 3' -5' trees planted for at least six months by my local trusted nurseries in the pots in which they are sold. Sometimes, sellers will plunk a bareroot or freshly dug, root-hacked tree into a pot of soil, tamp it down and brush on some moss just so the stock looks like it has been well established.

You also asked how far from the fences you should be planting trees. Well, a good neighbour would never plan to invade the property next door. That is why a scaled plan using the mature widths and height is so important, especially when you're debating where to locate the largest trees. You can always stagger smaller canopy trees and bushes behind it closer to the fence line for privacy.

My own personal preference for a moderate-sized backyard residential woodland landscape would not be for a monoculture but neither would I try to include a little bit of everything under the sun - that is why God created front gardens :) Seriously though, stick with an edited native mix for health, vigour and easy but minimal maintenance. In your yard, I could see 5 or so tall heritage trees (eg bur or pin oak on your list), understory trees (eg acer rubrum, amur maples, redbud, river birch, maybe dwarf birch on your list), bushes (eg serviceberries, nannyberries, red osier dogwood on your list) with strategic conifer plantings - there aren't many native Illinois evergreens so just go with what size, shape and colour appeals to you in your setting. Besides looking at hardy dwarf varieties, consider also columnar, spreading and trailing forms of trees as well.

Have you looked at American mountain ash (small tree) and ninebarks (large bush) for their value in attracting wildlife?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Fri, Jan 27, 12 at 17:35

But I think it's debatable and to be sure, it does not offer greater, more powerful art and design. Less IS more. There's a degree of subjectivity to the conversation. Some people might look at my idea of "less" and think it's a little too "more." Some will think it's not enough.

Couldn't agree more! Kudos to you for taking the time to map something out for the poster. I like your layout but as noted above I'd vote for more variety! Of course its Smith's call. You'd probably have a seizure if you saw what I've planted!lol!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Fri, Jan 27, 12 at 19:34

With two decks, a pool, playground etc. that would be a pretty fun yard. But I'd also have a much greater number of kinds of plants, if it were my place. I'd want there to be more plant interest present.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I would want more plant interest, too. I wouldn't want it to be created by splitting a group of plants into additional species... but by adding MORE GROUPS of plants. As soon as there is some shade, I would add Hosta, Ferns, Plumeria, etc. There must be someplace for a trellis and vine... climbing roses... and other things. But I'd get the bones and flesh in first and later add "make-up" and "tattoos."


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

That sweep of lawn leaves a sight line directly to the pool from not only the back yard of the corner house, but also from the corner itself - anyone driving on that street has a view right into the pool. Privacy fence might solve that. but depends on topography.

Maples often = surface roots.

I never repeat plants. I like too many different ones. Don't care how it looks to anyone else.

Karin L


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks so much Yardvaark for the incredible design! We are so appreciative you took the time to do that for us. I was wondering if you could tell us what software you used to create it? We wanted to play around with adding sight lines etc but aren't sure how to create it. Thanks again!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

  • Posted by picea 6A Cinci- Oh (My Page) on
    Sat, Jan 28, 12 at 0:53

Some other plants to consider: Pinus Koraiensis Silveray is a very attractive Dense narrow pine, Pinus Parviflora, there are lots of Cultivars that would meet your needs, Picea Orientalis stays more narrow than other spruces, Paper Bark maple is hard to beat and a grouping of 3 can be very attractive and has year round interest, Autumn Brilliance Service Berry is a nice tree form and again a grouping would be very attract and you get the added benefit of great tasting berries. Carpinus Carolina is a nice dense small that might work well in your landscape also. Daybreak Magnolia is a narrow form with great pink flowers


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

PM, You're welcome and I hope it helps. Lot, house, pool, deck and bed lines drawn with Home Designer Landscape and Deck. It's an inexpensive, non-pro CAD program which does some things well... but I think it's a PITA! (I'm really a pencil and paper kind of guy.) Not sure you'd find it worth your while to tackle the learning curve for a single project unless you need intense detail before implementing. Maybe you would. All plants, I drew and colored with MS Paint. (Is first time I tried using for plan graphics, but I think it worked well... though it does not lend itself to fixing mistakes or moving things.) Were I you, I'd take a print of plan to the back yard and mark sight lines needing blocked directly on it.

As I mentioned at the onset, there is still a need for some privacy or view "filtering" near the fore half of the back yard.

A nice thing about the nether reaches of a yard is that you can put plants there that may have some bad habits...like surface roots...or dropping nuts or messy flowers, etc., and still enjoy the positive attributes from a distance.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thank again! Well I braved the elements today and went out muttering to myself to check out the site lines. I started marking on the plan the site lines we would like blocked out and it ended up being almost the whole yard! Plus, it's pretty difficult to know exactly how the houses behind us will sit exactly since they aren't built yet. I do know the view to the front left of the backyard (the northwest corner) needs the most help. I could literally see my neighbor working at his kitchen table from our back deck!

Below are some pictures are some new pictures i took showing various sight lines:

Picture from our back deck facing northeast. This shows the house with the three big trees planted (secound house from the corner) and the house to the east of them.
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Picture from the back deck facing to the back left corner (north east). It shows the house in the cul-de-sac (middle of picture)
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Picture from the back deck facing back right corner (south east). It shows the empty lots behind us. I estimate there will be a house just to the left of the street light in the court, and then one to the right.
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Picture from the deck facing south. It shows the neightbor to the south of our house
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Picture from the end of our back deck facing north towards the neighbor on the corner
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Picture across pool (ground level) east towards the house in the court (far right)
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Picture from acroos the pool facing east towards empty lots
Picture from across pool facing north towards house on corner (far left), house with three big trees, and next house
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Picture across pool north west towards house on corner:

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Picture across pool south west towards neighbor on south side
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Picture from second story window of our house facing east (toward court)
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Picture from second story facing north east
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Hopefully I didn't post too many pictures and they're not confusing. Thanks again!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

It's so cold... is that whale dead?

The pictures are good and do a better job of giving a feel for the relationships of the components. For my tastes, I'd want to screen much if I lived there. The closer the neighbors are, the more they need screening. I wouldn't mind seeing a little of distant views of the neighborhood. I'm guessing that the most tricky area to screen might be on the back side of the pool. The houses that will be built nearby will be large and close. It might be an area where a green wall--the kind you make out of tall, skinny evergreens--is needed.

One thing to keep in mind is that all the neighbors face the same screening problems that you do. They'll be installing trees and shrubs so that you can't see into their yards. I'd create screening where I absolutely know it's needed. I wouldn't break my neck (or budget) trying to screen every last thing. With a little time, and seeing what neighbors plant and where, you'll know if you can get by with a little less. I'm saying this for areas where adding more screening elements might NOT be in your best interest for other reasons... like plants taking up too much space, for instance. The neighbor at the northwest corner has much better opportunities for screening than you do. Depending on what he does, you might not have to solve 100% of the problem there. Both west corners of the back yard will need special attention. I still think privacy fencing (pretty, of course) is needed at the northwest corner of back yard.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks yardvaark! Any suggestions on possible trees for the evergreen wall you refer to along the back of the pool?

Also, we did have two modifications/clarifications to the plan we had originally come up with. The first is that we would like to install a gate on the southwest corner of the backyard (mirroring in position the one on the northwest). Also, the footprint for the solar panels will be approximately 22' x 14' ( I will be building a rack to place them on).

Thanks as always!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Here's a quick scribble that shouldn't be taken as an accurate portrayal of the layout, but it GENERALLY shows some of the planting ideas I've proposed... with some growth. It might help you follow along on the plan. Don't look for detail.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks Yardvaark! Would you still recommend the Shining Sumac behind the pool or something different? It looks like they only grow to 5-7 feet so I'm not sure if that will be tall enough?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I personally love sumac in the wild where it grows really, really enthusiastically by suckers into thick and magical puffy thickets but... in a suburban backyard, I suspect that it would be too short and too high maintenance for your needs. Your neighbours as well might end up hating you for planting something so potentially invasive.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

The issue about screening that one often forgets is that it plays part of its role by distracting as opposed to actually blocking a view. You can see in Yardvaark's picture that the eye stops at those trees, although the ones drawn do not actually block the window of the house behind them. Especially the more distant neighbours will just start looking at your plants instead of through them.

All these views confirm a couple of things I have been thinking, some of which I've said, some not, so I'll condense - forgive the repetition, but this is a long thread to review!
a) a bunch of vegetation in the back sharp corner will have a big effect without taking much usable space away from you.
b) your objective of a sunny pool with no leaves in it is going to conflict with blocking the view to the pool from many neighbours. You will need to compromise on something around there!
c) the blocking you need is at approximately tall shrub height - higher than a privacy fence, but lower than many mature trees.

When you are thinking of sight lines, you should be thinking exactly the way you did regarding your corner neighbour: block from his kitchen table to (a) the pool, and (b) your deck. Put a circle on your plan for each of those. Now, the house behind you, you want to block from that window to (a) the pool, and (b) the deck. Put another circle on your plan view. Etc. You go all around the neighbourhood thinking about how those neighbours behave in summer: Joe stands right there when he barbeques, and I don't want to be looking at him while I'm reading the paper on the back deck. That is why no one can do this step for you - it's as much about behaviour, yours and theirs, as it is about windows. It's also why your views out of your windows are immaterial other than to help you locate the plant positions. (except for the neighbours who want to block YOUR view into THEIR yard!)

Yardvaark is inclined to draw for people, which I find tends to stop them from drawing for themselves. Unfortunately there are some tradeoffs to be made among the many ideal objectives you've stated. So photocopy your plan view several times, and start scribbling. One of your drafts will capture what you like about his drawing, and meet all the needs you've stated PLUS you will learn what trade-offs each decision requires.

Across the back fence, I think you do have room for something other than a wall of tall evergreens - and for info about which you should enquire at a local nursery as to what does best in your area. Again, going with what you said about a northwoods feel, I am thinking rangy shrubs like Philadelphus, Physocarpus, and others, also viburnums, big hydrangea, elderberries, forsythia, lilac... whatever grows for you. Out of zone for me. They can grow totally nutso and into each other and might not even need pruning for the bulk of foliage to stay just where you need it for a long time with minimal leaves in pool and shade on it. If they grow too tall, lop them off at the top and they will get bushier where you need it.

Along the south fence, like along the back one, I think that shrubs, not trees, will do what you need privacy-wise with the least amount of shade and leaves in the pool.

Once you draw, on your plan view, the main blocking shrubs that you need, THEN you can outline where your beds will be. Make sure you draft in your paths, including to your new gate. The paths can, as Woody said, edge your beds in part.

Luxury of being a homeowner: you can implement slowly and see how you like it in real life - and plants can be moved for the first few years.

Finally, just a "moral of the story:" next time, make your plan before you situate your pool. Not sure what drove your decision, but if you had put it further north and in the middle of the yard, you would have more room for privacy screens that would not compromise sun getting to it. Simplest option now is truly a wall of evergreen hedging along east and south fences that is kept to about 8-10 feet. It's what most people would do.

We're working so hard to do it another way because you have a different style in mind. But style is one of the things you can compromise if you decide to go in that direction. And gardens with a hedge behind is one of the nicest looks in gardening - can be classic English, Japanese, fernery, what have you - but not so much northwoods!

Karin L

Oh, and who still has a link to that varied deciduous screen planting that we've often posted as an example of what to do and what it can look like?


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I'm only suggesting some of the plants on the plan I submitted in order to get you into the "ball park" of thinking what goes where. Not trying to lock you in to specific plants or saying that the "thinking is over and no further reason to evaluate the different areas." As I see it, you are early on and in a state of flux. The plan is a "concept plan"... a first attempt. I wouldn't call it finalized.

When I first began studying horticulture I was struck by how different--and contrary--advice would be, from one book I had just finished reading, to the next. It seemed that EVERYONE had a different exact "right" opinion about everything. I learned that horticultural advice must be taken with a grain of salt. But this is not too surprising when one begins to understand the extensive variety of conditions horticulture deals with. One thing that's pretty commonly mis-stated is the ultimate size of plants. People like to hear what they want to hear and usually, people want plants that don't get too big. I think you'll find that, in reality, sumac will be higher than 7'. I've often seen it in the 10' or so range. But at the corner behind the pool, we talked about how you MIGHT need something taller (though this is somewhat at odds with the earlier mention of needing something not too tall to block sun or drop leaves into the pool.) Sumac does sucker and form lovely "palm-tree-ish" groves. But these are not unmanageable, especially if put in places like the "way back" between two yards. Along roadsides, they are commonly controlled by mowing around them. It's a lovely plant with a long season of interest and worth being used if one has the spot. The same goes for Staghorn Sumac. As the project and the conversation develop, I see a combination of plants evolving here.


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RE: Illinois back yard.

Karin, though we frequently have disagreements, I usually find your analysis to be quite good. And, dammit, your point, The issue about screening that one often forgets is that it plays part of its role by distracting as opposed to actually blocking a view." is freaking excellent! (It's frightening!)

Yardvaark is inclined to draw for people, which I find tends to stop them from drawing for themselves. Karin, I do that mostly for a couple of reasons. Graphically illustrating an idea generally makes what I'm trying to communicate much easier for the reader to understand. And frequently, the reader has not much capacity to draw in a way that will help them get to resolution of their problems with much speed. I'm just trying to spur thinking along. And I have a selfish reason, too. It helps me learn and practice graphic techniques that I hope, some day, will be of actual, practical use. (That day is not far away.)


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I started researching shrubs today and we like the lilac sensation (12' tall by 8' wide) for next to the backdoor (north). We are a little worried about bee issues though.

I was also looking at shrubs and ran across witch hazel. It looks pretty nice but are interested in other's thoughts. Any specific cultivar if it is a good option?

To clarify about the screening around the pool.....trees/shrubs can drop leaves in the fall (pool will be covered), we just would prefer not to have messy trees during the summer(lots of seeds, cotten, etc). Early morning shade is fine, we just want sun from 10 or so on.

We placed the pool where it is because we felt it left the most open area for the kids to play.

Thanks as always!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Witch hazel is nice. Better to think of it as a small tree. Here's a good info sheet about it.

(Don't forget to map out the locations of trees that are nearby in the neighbor's yards. Looks like there's only 3 or 4 of them.)

Here is a link that might be useful: Witch hazel info


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Where are you at exactly Mr. Smith? I saw 30 minutes from DeKalb--I am 20 minutes from there. I have an endless supply of most every Viburnum we could dig for you. Things seed out like mad here, so there are river birches, pagoda dogwoods, pine, spruce, etc. I have some pawpaw, bigleaf magnolias, bottlebrush buckeye, and did I mention Viburnums? :) There's a bunch of other things--I could get you a nice running start at least.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Kevin- Thanks so much! I am southeast of Dekalb (near Aurora) but would definetely be willing to drive. Are your trees seedling (growing wild)? Do you know what cultivar (not sure if it really matters a lot or not...I'm new to all this and learning)?

Yardvaark - How can I tell what my neighbor's trees are (I would guess some sort of maples) and how big they will get?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

We drive to Vaughn from Elburn several days a week. All the plants I am talking about are seedlings that have naturally germinated. Some of the plants are pretty large now. We have river birches that are 14' that I am just going to cut down. You're welcome to come by here and get an idea as to how all these plants grow. I have a vast number of different trees and shrubs here and you could get a good idea of size, growth rate, etc. You'll realize that plants grow! They end up taking up a lot more space than you envision.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Smitty, the neighbor's trees that will affect you are the big trees that are nearby. If you don't know trees, then only way to find out what they are is ask neighbor. What's important is knowing that they will get big, cast shade onto your yard and affect/compete with what you have growing. I'd be first looking to get them accurately located on the plan. Depending on where they are, you may want to add to their shade and screening... prepare to defend yourself against it...or just happily use what neighbors are giving you free of charge, as is. If you can show where they are, I'm sure you'll get recommendations. It would be nice to find out what they are, too.

You could think of seedlings similar to society in general. All people are grown from seed. Viewed from a distance, they look pretty good. But close up, one sees a lot of variation...the good, the bad, the ugly. Occasionally, there come along people who have special attributes: they are brilliant or great looking, talented or athletically endowed or something like that. If we could clone such people, we probably would. Likewise, in the world of plants, most are "run of mill" but every once and a while an outstanding specimen grows from a seed. People are so enamored of its attributes that they decide to give it a name and reproduce it asexually... so that every cutting, graft (or whatever) is an exact duplicate (like an identical twin) of the original. (It's more expensive to produce plants this way than it is to grow seedlings.) That's a cultivar. It cannot be grown from seed. The apples we eat come from trees that are cultivars. They've been selected out of thousands of seedlings because their fruit tastes especially good. But a seed from its fruit will not produce a tree exactly like the parent... no more than any of us could produce a child who is 100% exactly like us. In fact, it might produce a tree that has nasty tasting apples. Landscape plants are often selected to become cultivars because of their outstanding good looks... like brilliant and blazing fall color in maples... or sturdiness and form of a shade tree, outstanding flowers in roses, etc. Cultivars are cream of the crop. Sometimes the popularity of a cultivar endures for a long time. The cultivar Hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora'(aka P.G. Hydrangea) was discovered and introduced in the 1860's and is still one of the most popular. (I don't mean to start an argument on the thread about whether, or not it should be.)


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I would estimate (after looking at google maps and using a lot size calculator) that the tree in the middle is approximately 15' away from the fence line and the other two are approximately 35' away. These trees are already approximately 20' and grow in a more vertical fashion (their growth is more upwards than outwards). I believe they were planted 2 years ago.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Please mark locations with an "+" as accurately as possible (on the plan submitted on Jan 12) and re-submit. (I don't have any way to measure accurately as no scale. I'm just working from proportions.) Looking at pictures again, I believe those trees will grow together into solid screen. Often times, trees begin narrow and fatten as they age.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Witchazel (Hamamelis):
Forgive my neighbour's house and yard, but my Hamamelis is in bloom at the moment. My neighbour is a compulsive hoarder, and I'm not immune to clutter either, so we keep the photo frame high off the ground :-)

This cultivar is "Diane" and though pretty - I love it - it's not fragrant.
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Here is a fall picture from a couple of years ago.
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Certain plants with particular characteristics - say, January blooms, or fragrance - have to be sited so that you can enjoy those attributes when they happen. A winter-fragrant plant, for example, should be placed somewhere near where you walk in winter - not out in the back 40 where you don't go from November to March. I have an Edgeworthia planted beside the main back yard walkway that I take to get to the compost or to the garbage cans, so I enjoy it often. A Chimonanthus praecox is beside the front porch.

My red Hamamelis accidentally got situated in a perfect spot - I had no idea what I was doing and got lucky (truth is, I thought I was planting a shrub). Though not fragrant, it catches the low rays of the winter sun perfectly (on the odd day that we have sun, obviously not today!) so it positively glows right where it can be easily seen from the kitchen. The fall colour does the same. So if you get a non-fragrant one, at least be sure you will see the flowers from a window and that they will catch the sun.

Quite funny, it looks good against my neighbour's grey house, but not that good against my orange one.

Hamamelis cultivars do sucker from the base; from the rootstock. I find this annoying, but it isn't that difficult to control.

I think Yardvaark is trying to say something like "beware of seedlings." I certainly agree that you should be aware that anything you are given that has grown from seed is going to seed for you as well, although maybe not as generously if you don't have open soil or equally fertile ground, and if it seeds into grass you will mow the seedlings down. By the way this is true of trees and perennials. I have something like 500 of my neighbour's Norway maple seedlings to weed up every year in my garden, and their scarlet oak is just starting to produce copious acorns. However, as I've said before, you might want to be prepared to circulate your woody stock often - and a tree that seeds a bit and comes true from seed (ie, is a natural species) is perfect for this. When the mother plant gets too big, take it down and you'll probably have a few infill candidates already. Cultivars are the more desirable trees, but as with Diane above, sometimes there are trade-offs. And if you can get some junior trees grown from seed to give you a head start on your privacy screen, why not. They can always be taken down as your choicer stock grows in.

I can handle seeding plants way better than plants that spread by travelling root suckers. Diane has suckers right at the base, but as we were saying with Sumac, that kind of growth can wreck your landscape plan way more than some stray seedlings can.

By the way, the straight-up skinny tree to the right of the Hamamelis is a purple birch - Purple Frost perhaps? This is also a great tree - gives little shade so far, but has nice presence. I mention it to illustrate how different tree profiles can be - these two are opposites.

Karin L


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I will scan and post the updated plan first thing tomorrow morning. I was able to take photos of my neighbor's trees (not sure if anyonce can ID them):

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


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Attached is an updated copy of our backyard layout including neighbor's trees:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

I have also included the three trees we now have planted in our packyard. The River Birch is 10' away from the pool which might be too close? The spruce up by the deck is a transplant from northern Wisconsin and hasn't grown more than a foot overall over 4 years.

Thanks as always!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I can't give a positive I.D. on the neighbor trees, but they have the red maple look.

If no cultivars were used at all a person could have a lovely yard as we're not talking about the difference between cultivars and general species being extremes; the difference between them is sometimes a fine line. And there are many other factors that go into producing a handsome yard... not just plant choice. I'm not trying to say don't use seedlings. It's not every place in our yard that we need extraordinary plants... and their extra cost. Plenty of seedlings have outstanding qualities as it is, depending on the species. In the back yard, river birch, which looks best not alone, but in a grove of its peers, would be fine as a seedling. Pick the best looking seedlings. But where you need or want above average specimens, named cultivars are the way to go. For example, for street trees in the front yard.... or where I want a known, specific quantity of brilliant fall color, I'd look for cultivars.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

After I see the neighbor tree and locations, I don't believe I'd put a conifer (as I show in my plan on L. lot line) this close. The neighbor tree will provide the screening and be an asset to you. Their tree would work nicely with, and as a continuation of maples I show at back corner.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks Yardvaark! Would you just extend the Winterberry holly (or similiar bush) down furher to where the conifer originally was? Do the neighbor's trees on the south effect the plan at all?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Sorry, did not look on south side and see you have neighbor tree there. Sure, it close enough to effect... depending on what the tree is. But is probably workable. See if you can identify... or show a good picture.

Where conifer "was," ending the row of winterberry (with a little separation) with a nice trio of flowering tree form large shrub that would tolerate some shad--like Beautyberry--would add some interest.


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I believe the southside neighbor's tree is also a maple but much smaller (maybe 12'). I'll try to take photos this evening.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

If it looks the same, don't bother with photo. doesn't matter what size is today, it's where it's going to end up. Take into account that it will produce shade in your yard in that area. (Unless you trim back to lot line... would be more convenient for you to accept and plan in concert with.) I don't know how you're going to configure around the pool and , still, I can't grasp how the solar panels fit in. According to size stated, two will cover entire pool (which I meant to ask about earlier.)


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I am so not an ID expert but those trees don't look that dissimilar to mancana ash as well, a totally different beast altogether. What colour was the fall foliage? Better yet, rather than keep guessing, knock on the neighbours' door and ask what they planted - most gardeners are generous souls, more than happy to help you out. It benefits their borrowed view too to have a cohesive and sympathetic landscape beyond the fenceline. If you don't want to be so forward, post the pictures on the tree forum to ask their opinion.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

That's a very good question and I've been trying to figure out how they're going to fit in. To give you an idea of what they look like I found a couple of pictures online:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

We are looking at installing 3 panels measuring 4'x20' each. They must be slightly sloped (20 degrees or so) and be in the sun at least 6 hours a day. A lot of people mount them online but the pool is pretty far from the house and I am not comfortable going up on a second story roof.

Thanks as always!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

As to seedlings or cultivars, on many plants it makes no difference. The redbud seedlings here are actually preferable--they are hardy! That is all we seek in Northern Illinois from the redbud. Pagoda dogwoods will all be similar. Having every nice cultivar of arrowwood Viburnum here,for instance, the seedlings are all decent berry producers with red fall color. Same goes for things like Viburnum nudum or Viburnum plicatum tomentosum. Bur oak, swamp white, pawpaw, magnolia macrophylla, etc. One is as good as another. One I am waiting on seedling results with are the tree peonies. I have a ton of seedlings coming up under and around the parents--might be interesting.

As you folks suggest plantings, remember where he lives. Winterberry, for instance, are great, but they do prefer acidic moist soil. He'll have to provide that if they are to thrive. Beautyberry is not a beauty here. Ash are essentially extinct. Witchhazel is great, but winter sucks here, and the flowering just doesn't have as much impact as it does in milder climes. Japanese beetles are abundant, especially in that kind of neighborhood with lots of grass. That means roses are out, Lindens are out. Keep the ideas flowing though--the design looks interesting!

Smitty, your serviceberry will spread indefinitely, suckering its way outward forevermore, so plan accordingly. The neighbor trees look like classic red maple or red/silver crosses that litter the landscape in Chicago suburbia. Be different! Plant some variety! I have some Kentucky Coffeetrees you could have--those are different, hardy, beautiful. Try a Cladastris lutea(Yellowwood) or Cotinus obovatus(American Smoketree), look at Aesculus japonica(the native horsechestnut is riddled with leaf disease by August here), Tuliptree, small maples like the paperbark maple, Stewartia--your options are endless. But realize things grow. I always show people the 40 year old river birches here--they are as big as any old oak with a huge spread, and they rain branches down constantly. Two grow in our pond--that's the perfect spot for them.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks Kevin! I tried to send you an email through your profile a couple of days ago....not sure if you got it. My parents actually live in Elburn and we would definitely be interested in trees!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Kevin, if I were still up there, I'd be paying you a visit! You have practical plant experience and good advice... and a lot of plants! I'll take exception to your comment on Beautybush. I'm from DeKalb and there were certainly some beautiful ones there--where people grew them correctly--so it can happen. And I echo the point by saying that if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have a baby...it would be a seedling!

pm, that pool heater presents some tough problems because of its size & light requirements. Seems like it could turn the nearby planting into a barren area. If you didn't mind your yard looking like a government project, no sweat. What are your thoughts about elevation of the unit(s)?...at ground level? Or high up and used to make some shade on part of the deck?

I came across a "buried pipe" solar heater that uses paving (sidewalk, deck, etc.) as the solar collector. Link included. I recall seeing once a raised concrete deck where the concrete was poured over corrugated metal (like for roofing, but stronger) that was built on a wood frame structure. It was an inexpensive way to get concrete above ground. Not recommending or suggesting. Just brainstorming about the deck, itself, being the solar heater. How are you thinking you will steer this aspect of the project?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Kevin- I forgot to say that you are correct about the Japanese beetles in the area....they are brutal!!! Last year they seemed to not be quite as bad, but they still reaked havoc on our wheeping cherry and river birch.

Yardvaark- I actually like you idea of elevating the solar panels and creating some shade for the deck. We wouldn't want a roof over all of it....but maybe half.


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Yardvaark--I have failed with a few beautyberries, so maybe I have put them in the wrong spots. It's good to know they can work here!

The solar is really a tough thing to hide. The funny thing is that the township wanted me to "landscape around the solar panels to hide them from the neighbors". An understanding board member laughed at that statement from the president and said, "It's solar. Powered by THE SUN. How much do you think the guy can hide them, FROM THE SUN."

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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Kevin, is that YOUR solar panel? It's huge! But nice looking... like NASA mfg! Are you in nursery biz or just have your own botanical garden? How is it you're "into" all these plants? Looks like you got room for them.

pm, this is kind of what I was thinking about with the elevated version. Maybe shift panels more toward pool and cover half of deck. Best to check on what screening issues you face as it's so close to lot line. Wood is easiest to build with, but heavy. A possibility would be tubular framing along the lines of chain link post and rail material. It's pretty strong and light weight and easy to cut with tubing cutter. I would be thinking of using vines and screening on it to pretty it up. Again, just brainstorming.


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Yep--that's my solar array. It is placed at the only spot where sun shines--to the right is the septic field prairie(south is to the right).

I am a plant hoarder, a hobbyist gone wild. Years ago when I was in the same boat as Mr. Smith, I got this little pamphlet from the Morton Arboretum that said that 89% of trees planted in Illinois consisted of something like 7 species. I thought that was crazy. I thought back to the yellow painted X's on the elms on my street where I grew up. The canopy had covered the street for miles and they were all cut down. I never wanted to see that, so I went nuts in the other direction. Diversity. It has paid off as the loss of 9 Ash trees hasn't really been a problem at all.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Yardvaark - I really like the roof design you sent....thanks for taking the time to create it! Hoepfully we'll have enough room to fit it between the pool and the fence (there is about 14').

Kevin - Thanks for all your help! Your solar panels are huge!


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Any ideas on where/how I can incorporate/substitute some of the following list of trees and shrubs into the backyard plan:

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum
V. lantana(variegated and regular)
V. dentatum
V. dilitatum
V. rufidulum
V. sieboldii
Bur Oak
Kentucky Coffeetree
River Birch
White Pine
Spruce
Various grasses
Redbud
Pagoda dogwood
Red oak
Bitternut hickory
Chionanthus virginicus
Bottlebrush buckeye
Pawpaw
Magnolia
Calycanthus
Japanese maples
Oakleaf hydrangeas

Thanks!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

"Hopefully we'll have enough room to fit it between the pool and..." I can scheme it, but you have to figure out how to make it work! :)

That is a mighty ambitious list of some great plants. Let me remind you that of the pictures you included to illustrate the "northwoods" feel, two have only a single species of tree. One has a predominant species as the backdrop and a couple of individual trees added as landscape items. In other words, they are very species limited. Yet I sense you are willing to include much more. I would be, too, as much more beauty can be created than what just "woods" alone would allow. Let me offer the observation that it is easy--very easy--to add more kinds of plants in the future if one feels there is not enough variety. To the contrary, it is difficult to part with plants that one has either "paid good money for" or invested sweat over or grown emotionally attached to or can't bear to kill. I see many yards and I would say that they tend to fall into one of two camps: there are almost no plants and no variety. These belong to people who never spend time in their yard. In the other camp is far too many things either variety of plants or too many individual plants (that are not team players.) The overall picture tends to look busy... if it's severe, even junky. I know there have been contributors to this thread encouraging you toward more variety, but I suggest you should ask each for a picture--examples--of what more variety looks like. See if it's what interests you. You might need to be looking for pictures to update the photo examples of where you are trying to take the yard so it's easier to help you get there. First, get all those hardscape features (walk, deck, fire pit area, utility area) figured out and committed to a drawing. And then begin working out the plantings. You might want to scheme up a planting layout so we can see what's on your mind.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Yardvaark - I apologize on not being more clear on my earlier post.....in no way are we looking to use all these trees and shrubs. Rather, we were looking for ideas and suggestions on where we could substitute some of the items on the list for what your plan had showed. I did some research but am having a hard time determining which are substitutes.

I have been brainstorming about the solar panels. I was wondering if the panels could be situated on a deck roof similiar to your drawing, but rather than have them stationary, have them pivit (or swing) out of the way when wanted. I don't believe the panels are very heavy , but I'm not sure how the plumbing would work.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Given the myriad of decisions to be made in a landscaping installation, at some point it becomes unnecessarily cumbersome for the DIY designer/homeowner to consult as things get close to actually making decisions.

You will make trade-offs, and you may even change the initial vision that you suggested to us. What trade-offs you decide to make will become clear as you start doing things like drafting up your plant order, designing the actual deck, and of course determining the solar array placement. As you make them, you aren't accountable to anyone for what changes you make or how well you implement the vision or the advice you've been given.

Having the freedom not to discuss each of those changes with a consultant is one of the benefits of DIY. You can take whatever attribute you liked out of those inspiration photos to implement. The idea of a woods backdrop can be as diverse as you want to make it.

I hope you do go to see Kevin - there's obviously a wealth of local knowledge to tap into, and starting with some seedlings would be great way to kick off.

Karin L

PS Actually, I think you might be able to meet some of your privacy needs with the array, if you plan it that way.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

There's an incredible amount of inspiration to be found on the Canadian Wildlife Federation website, "wild about gardening" page.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Here's a thought about a pivoting solar heater arrangement that would require a more stout main support pole and weight balance of the collector units. I'm sure a flexible hose connection near the pivot point could be devised. An advantage is that you could adjust to the seasonal angle of the sun.

I'll try to help you with some of the plants issues tomorrow.


href='http://imageshack.us'>ImageShack.us


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks Yaardvaark. I know that there may not be substitutes for everything on your plan, just where it makes sense.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

pm, you might work out and communicate the sight line line issues with a sketch such as what follows. That way, it'd be easy to see what height was needed where.

Toying with your latest list, I've changed a few things around. But honestly, until the sight line issues are made clear and the hardscape issues worked out, the planting is just theoretical. I hope it helps you think of how it might look when worked out, but as it is, it's just a sample planting scheme.

I conjured up a reason to return and take a picture of the group of trees that I spotted the other morning. When I first passed it (at highway speed) I wasn't able to see it for more than 3 seconds. In that time it struck me as a very strong element. It was early in the morning and there was a foggy haze about. The haze obscured the background and made the bosque of trees stand out. When I went back, it was afternoon with bright sun. In my picture, it was not possible to distinguish the foreground trees from the background trees. Therefore, I'm taking the liberty to "paint" fake fog into the picture in an attempt to halfway recreate the scene. (Overlook that the fog looks faked. The points can still be made.) Btw, I mentioned that it might be a place for picnic tables (as it was in back of a commercial building) however, there was not a table within it or nearby, nor were the trees even accessible from the building. They were separated by a chain link fence. (But that' an example of how quickly landscape spaces are perceived and "read.")

The trees were a group of live oaks--twenty-one of them--planted in a circle 30' across. (That would put the canopy at about 75'... half the length of Smitty's yard.) Would this circle of trees be improved by splitting it up with additional species? To me, the answer is that it would have been destroyed by incorporating additional species. Is is a single object. It is not 21 different objects. It would be analogous to changing the left arm of couch to a completely different style, color, material than the rest of it. It would look bizarre. I don't see this bosque of trees differently.

This bosque could have probably been created with as few as 7 trees. But it would have had a very different character at its bottom half... being much more open and less of a screen/ "view filter." Or it could have been created of 7 trees in the same tight spacing in a 10' circle... keeping the same "flavor" as it has now, but in a smaller size.

Note also that if these trees were being grown for horticultural purposes (such as in a nursery for eventual sale) they would never be grown at a tight spacing like this. But here, that's not at all the purpose. Here, they're being grown to be a living "shelter" and artistic/ architectural/ sculptural statement.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thank again Yardvaark! I took some time and tried to determine the sight lines we would like blocked:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

It looks like we really have nothing over 15' that needs to be blocked (although second story windows would still be able to see into our yard).

I did have a couple of new questions:

1. On your drawings you have a shrub/tree marked as "S.B." on the northwest corner of our backyard....what does this stand for?

2. The redbud grove is comprised of about nine trees. It looks like they can get to be about 25' wide. The area btween the fence and deck is only about 25' wide. Do they just grow into each other? I was trying to map them on the plan but obviously can't enter them at their full grown size.

3. The way the winter is going, I can probably start cutting the beds in a month or so. After I remove the sod, do I need a load of dirt or will the mulch just fill in the difference from the sod removal? I have access to a rotor-tiller.....should I use it to loosen up the soil? Add fertilizer?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

S.B=Serviceberry?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 7, 12 at 22:21

I'm liking some of your selections.

Here is a Chimney Fire Oak. You have to have this tree.
Photobucket

Here is my 'Girard's Purple' Witchazel. The fall color was so fluorescent my camera didn't know how to capture the color!
Photobucket

My Oakleaf Hydrangea I believe its 'Alice'
Photobucket

Be sure to work in Fothergilla. This is gardenii
Photobucket

Its good to see you are getting great advice on sight lines. I spent several months determining which plants to place where.


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Whoa,whass...now I have to find a chimney fire oak for myself! And room for it too...


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Smitty, that's a good job on the sight lines. Easier for us to understand. Looks like you need tall,skinny screen at back side of pool. The rest is easier as you have plenty of space. Though I like the way my deck location relates to rest of yard, where you first put deck may work better for you with all the constraints that come into play.

Kevin is correct... S.B = serviceberry.

Per Redbuds, river birch, etc....they will grow together (like the live oaks I posted pic of, above, but not that drastic.) It is their group that gives the "woodsy" feel. Remember, you are creating spaces, not individual objects. They are shelter and ceiling. Also, don't think of them as foliage in your face. You will limb up to create the "room" below. You control their trunk and branching character...whether single or multi-trunk and trunk angle and how low/high branched. Where trees would contact buildings, their back side is cut off. It is unnoticed. Also, you could take the same space I've devoted to nine redbuds and cut it back to 3 or 4. It won't have as "woodsy" a feel. That comes from the quantity of trunks. But maybe you want more space with a wider, multi-trunk tree. There is lots of flexibility in what you're creating. But making some great and grand "statements" with your space will outweigh having a greater quantity of individual plants.

Mulch will make up the difference in elevation where you remove sod. Fertilizer at planting very good idea. No need to rototill for landscape plants. Just dig wide hole. Perennials and annuals would like amendments and you could use roto-tiller for them. But if those spaces end up being small you could do it pretty easily by hand, too.

Whaas, those are some great looking plants. It's so easy to see why people get crazy for great plants when they see how beautiful they can be. That Chimney Fire oak is awesome. Heck, they all are!


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  • Posted by whaas 5a SE WI (My Page) on
    Wed, Feb 8, 12 at 12:16

Its quite contagious isn't it!?!

Quercus xreilff var. warei x Q. alba 'Chimney Fire' was introduced by Guy Sternberg. That photo is courtesy of him. This plant is similar to Crimson Spire but this one is reported to have better fall color and will hang on to its leaves through winter. Some like this, others don't. I do as it gives more winter interest and screens practically year long.

Quercus xreilff var. warei x Q. alba 'Birthday Candle' is another intorduction of his but its a bit more narrow and more gold to rusty yellow in fall. Its the one to the back left in the pic.

I will be planting both of these this spring. They are grafted by a few individuals in the US but they finally went into commercial production in the US this year.
Sooner Plant Farm is the only "online" retail outlet I know of. Green Leaf Nursery is the wholesaler.

Yardvarrk,
What do you think about using Taxodium distichum 'Mickelson' in lieu of the Riverbirch? Still has an informal look and well suited for groves. Little less common, better fall color and better winter silhouette. Almost as fast growing as Riverbirch.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

whaas, I like river birch, but only went there because Smitty already had the start... and multi-trunks examples in a grove is a pretty grove with all that beautiful peeling bark. So I can't disagree. But to me personally, it doesn't matter. I love Taxodium d. for it's great winter silhouette, too. Each tree has its feature. I just pray to God that Smitty doesn't go to an arboretum and start falling in love with all the great trees and shrubs and then insist on squeezing a pair of each in his yard... like Noah's Ark.


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We're pretty happy with the trees we've picked out so far. Posting on here and in the tree forum has made us realize, however, that out front yard was planned very poorly. Should I post on here or start a new thread?


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

A new thread.

When it comes to plants & plantings... especially things woody, if there's something to be fixed, the sooner it's done the easier, cheaper and better.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks Yardvaark! I created a new thread titled "Help my dull/poorly planned front yard!".


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I wanted to check in quick and weigh in on a couple of things:

We have been busy lately and haven't had much time to work on the landscape design. I plan on spending some time over the next few days researching specific trees/shrubs (pictures, widths, heights, etc) and start plotting locations on our backyard plan).

We still like the idea of positioning the deck along the south (right side) of the pool. This does pose a couple of problems (we wanted to cover the filter with the deck; solar panel positioning). We have been using a deck design program at Menareds so it's a work in progress.

It seems that this thread has created some debate on another thread. First, I want to apolgize for creating any controversy. I started the post hoping for some basic advice and, thanks to some of the great people on here, we have far exceeded our expectations. I would especially like to thank Yardvaark, Kevin 5, and whaas for their extremely generous donations of time, ideas and plants! We have learned A LOT and I plan on creating a "Things Learned" thread once our project are completed.

Thanks again everyone!


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I have not completed reading this thread, but have to make a comment about ordering bareroot trees - DON'T DO IT! I cannot tell you how many trees I ordered and how much money I spent and all of the trees died (and they were extremely small). Finally, I wizened up and bought 15' potted trees from a local nursery and had them planted. They have all thrived and flourished. So please, buy your trees locally in pots.


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Need to add to the above, the trees not only thrived, but grew wonderfully well, and are still flourishing.


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PM, you were in absolutely no way to blame for the controversy that erupted. What happened on this thread mirrored what had happened on several before it, and was only the final stimulus for me to say what I did on the thread that has since been removed. And what happened on that thread would possibly have been quite different if several uninvolved individuals from the Home Decorating Forum had not decided that this forum needed their help to discuss its dynamics.

You did get a lot of good advice here, but my observation was that you actually missed the best of it early on - it came from Adrienne, in part, and Plantman56 - because someone came along on a flashier horse and you got whisked past the stage Adrienne described of really seriously pondering your needs on the site YOURSELF as opposed to listening to others ponder them with more expertise but inadequate information.

What I think you've now gotten kind of tied to is a plan that does not really meet your needs, and that is what concerns me. It's a nice plan if there are no competing needs in the yard, and it has some ideas you will no doubt incorporate, and I think you learned a lot about planning, but as you now start to digest and sketch on your own I think you will amend it considerably - indeed, I hope you will.

My only interest is in seeing OPs get advice here that meets their needs. I think you needed the first half of this thread, and then to be left alone to do the planning steps that were suggested, perhaps coming back for further input once you had put some thought into the steps that were suggested. Of course, there's always a silver lining, in that the thread eventually got Kevin's attention, and he is obviously an excellent resource. It remains to be seen whether your interests in landscaping and gardening follow the style of Kevin and Whaas, or Yardvaark, but that is your journey, and I wish you all the best on it.

Karin L


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  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Tue, Feb 21, 12 at 17:06

Pmsmith, what a major undertaking! Good luck with all of it. My canvas wasn't blank when we bought this house 31 years ago, but it's definitely changed through the years and I've enjoyed being a big part of it.

Karin, last time I checked Garden Web was open to everyone. Don't know why you feel the need to demean other posters as you did once again in your last post.


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Sorry I haven't check in in awhile but things have been hectic with family obligations etc. Tomorrow I am going to start planning further and plan on transplanting the serviceberry. How far should I plant it from the house? I see that it can grow up to 20' wide so should I plant it 10' from the house (further than I'd like). Thanks as always!


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Good to "see" you again! Tell where near the house you are planting it. Many times, trees that grow near houses are really just 1/2 trees. Where the canopy meets the wall, it's chopped off on the back side (hich goes unnoticed from the front.) Also, the lack of light where it meets the wall usually discourages new growth in that direction (but that varies from plant to plant depending on how shade tolerant they are.) Depending on how you intend to shape it, it might be as little as 4' to 6'.

I'd be laying out bedlines before you do much planting and visualizing their shape and placement so you can be sure that you get what you want. I think I told you about marking wand. Great tool for that.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks Yardvaark. The seviceberry I am referring to would be planted at the north west corner of the house (per the plan you had posted above). I like the idea of providing some privacy from the deck with it but don't want to plant it too close to the house.

As I am working on our plan, a few new questions have come up:

1. I am skeptical planting a tree between the stairs and deck due to space. There is probably only a 2-3' space there and the railing on the deck is about 5' above ground level. Is this enogh space?

2. We like redbuds but not sure if we want that many planted together in one area. Is it possible to substitute another shrub/tree for half of them? Maybe create a white/pink checkboard affect during spring blossom?

3. We've decided to place the deck at the southwest corner of the deck. That will leave the areas to the south and the east of the deck open to landscaping ideas.

Thanks as always!


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Serviceberry ...4 - 5' from wall seems decent. You can always chop off back side of it as much as you desire (the trunk(s) being your limit. The other constraint is the bed/lawn relationship. I wouldn't want the S.B too close to the edge of bed or for the adjacent grass path to get too skinny. But you can always work with massaging the bed on the other side of that path, too. Much of the fine tuning of landscaping happens directly on the site, not on a piece of paper. Don't hesitate to post photos of problems as they come up and you can probably get help that way, too.

Tree between stairs and deck... There's enough room for small type tree if you grow a standard or control a multi-trunk the way you want and need it. (Don't let it grow a trunk too close to railing.) You'd do this if you want shade at deck, but if you don't, then it wouldn't be necessary.

I drew the plan to give you an idea of what it is you were shooting for in trying to draw a plan. There are lots and lots of ways you could reconfigure what the plan shows in order to fit it to your needs. In regard to the redbud, as I look at it now, I see no less than 6 easy ways is could be reconfigured to use less trees. I see three different groups of 3, 2 different groups of 4 and and a group of 5 that would make ready sense. You could also space them somewhat wider, but doing so lessens the "woodsy" feel. Then, there's no reason you can't change your mind about that either. However, I would avoid mixing colors or mixing in similar sized trees of another species. I think it's better to have distinct arrangements to keep things from looking busy or messy (which saps strength of design.) I have a horror story I could later share about mixing shrub bloom colors but it'd be material for another thread... maybe titled, "OMG I can't believe they (I) did this".

Because your project is sizable and there's a lot to consider and install, an idea you might toy with is that of installing the largest, most important elements (including establishing the beds) that you feel very confident about, and letting some of the lesser elements go under review for later installation. You could do this over time and be continuously appraising what's there against what's needed. That way, you wouldn't have the feeling you are putting in more than you really want. Installation could take place over 2 or three years or even more.

De nada as always!


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

Thanks Yardvaark. A couple more quick questions:

1. To clarify....in the area in the southeast corner of the backyard, we could do a group of 3 or 4 redbuds and then a group of 3 or 4 of a different tree? Do you have any suggestions on what else might look good there?

2. For the river birch grove, would each tree consist of 3 trunks? For example 7 trees (per your plan above) would actually be 21 trunks or shoots, correct?

3. Would red oaks work in the northeast corner (behind the swingset)?

4. Any more suggestions on what we can plant behind the pool? Like I said, the deck is going to be at the southwest corner of the deck (10'x15') and we'll leave the area to the south of the pool open for now (future site for solar panels).

We are planning on just planting major trees and shrubs this year and then filling in groundcover etc next year. I think I'd break my back trying to do everything at once! Thanks as always!


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In your question #1 are you talking about the south-west corner of back yard... where there are redbuds? How many feet away would trees in one group be from those of the other group... the separation between the groups?

Sometimes River birch have 3 trunks. Sometimes more. I would try to find trees that are matched in form as much as possible. Given that the bark is what's providing a great deal of the interest and beauty, more trunks is good. You could cut the group to 5 trees instead of 7, if you like.

Sure, red oaks would work behind swingset.

Behind pool... that's where you need tall, skinny 15' ht? If Kevin is still visiting, this might be a good question for him. Possibilities that come to mind for me are 'Skyrocket' Juniper (evergreen, but slower growing), Tallhedge buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica 'Columnaris'...deciduous) and even Lilac (would be the widest spreading, but manageable.) Learn to trim hedges narrower at top and wider at bottom to keep from losing lower foliage (and turning these plants into trees.)

If you create beds, mulch them and keep them weed free, it will be much easier to keep weeds controlled next year after the little plants are in.


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Yardvaark....yes, in question number 1 I am refering to the south-west corner. Not sure if I should use more than one species there or keep it just one. Maybe I'm just skeptical because the redbud in our front yard looks so sad (Home Depot special).

By the way, what are your opinion on the magnolia? Any place in this plan (or in our front yard if you remember the post) where we could incorporate it?


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"Maybe I'm just skeptical because the redbud in our front yard looks so sad..." When plants are planted by themselves as just one, they usually ARE sad! They almost always look better in groups. In Illinois I have seen many excellent specimens of Redbud so I know it CAN grow there and prosper. If one example looks under the weather, it probably has more to do with conditions of establishment. New plants especially tend to lag if they suffer through any dry periods. If a person goes without water for only one week, how will that person look one year later? Not that good! If a plant suffers (for any reason) it takes time to get past it. Extra water in the first two years makes a huge difference. As I don't know the history I'm just guessing, but I'm certain Redbuds can do well.

Another possibility behind the pool is Hick's Yew (Columnar yew)... evergreen, but slower growing

As always, I prefer keeping just the one species in the group. I don't look at it too much differently than if a person was selecting chairs for a dining room table. It's not likely that two (or more) different styles of chairs will look better that a matched set of 6. I'm attaching some pictures of tree groupings. Which picture would be improved, by replacing part of the trees with another species? In the center row far left, do the two bloom colors add greater impact... or reduce it? In the bottom row far right there are mixed species of trees and shrubs...is it stronger visual impact, or less? Note the b & w photo bottom left there are different species in different groups. I think this works because each is distinct. So that's a general rule of thumb I'd offer, If the groups won't be touching, they could be a different species.


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I think we are leaning towards junipers for behind the pool but aren't real excited about the bluish-green color of the Skyrocket. Any other variations of junipers that are darker green that would fit in this area?


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"In the center row far left, do the two bloom colors add greater impact... or reduce it?"

I misspoke but I guess everyone could figure I meant center row far RIGHT, not left.

Maybe someone else can come up with another juniper, but I only know other ones that are too big and fat. 'Sky pencil' Holly sounds good on paper, but I don't how it does there in real life. Maybe someone else knows. It's a tall, narrow broad-leaved evergreen rated for zone 5.


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Well I made my first attempt at transplanting one of the trees tonight. I moved the serviceberry that was loacted in the middle of the backyard to the northwest corner of the backyard. Here are my observations concerns:

1. I dug around the serviceberry with a drainage shovel (24' circle) like you instructed Yardvaark in another thread. The tree came loose easily, but the majority of the soil around the root ball fell off (I was careful not to disturb it when I dug). The soil is fairly wet so I'm not sure why this happened.

2. When I planted the tree, I remove a 6' circle of sod. I then removed the soil creating a saucer shape (gradual tapering, not a steep hole). I places what was left of the root ball in the middle of the hole so that the top of the highest roots are about even with the top of the soil. The entire circle of soil is about an inch below the sod around it now. I'm assuming I just fill the area level with mulch?

3. I watered the tree with about 2 gallons of water. Going forward, how often and much should I want transplaned trees?

4. There are lots of shoots coming up 6" to a foot from the main trunk (which I have trimmed down in the past). Now that I realize this is a shrub, I should just let any shoots grow as they want, correct?

5. What mistakes, improvements can I make in the transplanting process?

6. The weeping cherry in the front that I want to transplant is already showing signs of blossoming. I can see the pink of the flowers (still in roundish buds). I was going to transplant this tree tomorrow evening, but it very well may blossom before then (it's suppose to be 75 here again tomorrow). Can I still transplant it (this weather is crazy!)?

Thank as always for your help!


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When transplanting, sometimes it happens, in spite of the precautions one takes, that the soil wants to fall off because the root system is not fibrous enough within the rootball area. This depends somewhat on the plant's history. Your chances are still probably pretty good based on karma alone! Add to that that it's still early in the season. If it had little or no foliage that's a big plus. Give the plant some water every day (or every other day... well, just don't let the soil become too dry) until you see sustained growth. Once newly transplanted material shows good growth, you can back off on the water. The main thing is don't let the soil become drier than damp-dry. Then treat it like any new planting. As you pry/lift the plant out of the hole it's good to have help in order to place two or three shovels equidistant around the perimeter to even out the pressure that's applied in lifting. Also, treat the rootball carefully and once it's out of the hole, lift and transport it with a sling of fabric. Dragging it across bumpy ground can shake soil loose. Just be as careful as you can. This is not likely, but if the soil fell off because it was too wet and couldn't sustain it's own integrity, then dig when a little drier.

Just place mulch atop the new planting to fill in the 1" depression. It's not necessary to remove 6' dia. sod, but no harm either. Dig a hole that's approx. double the width of the rootball. The sides can be straight or somewhat tapered. Same depth as rootball or just a little deeper and backfill depth to correct level before putting in the plant.

@ question #4. The answer is probably mostly "yes." please post a photo of the lower half of trunk system showing the sprouts, if you can.

I would transplant cherry asap. You especially would want to do it before foliage sprouts. If you take as much care as you can, it will probably come through unscathed. It's possible the flowering could stall a little, but I doubt it. Especially if you give extra water for a while after moving.


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I was able to make some significant progress over the weekend on our backyard plan (thank you Kevin!). Here are a few pictures of what I was able to accomplish:

Along north side of backyard:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Northeast corner of backyard facing east:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Northeast corner of backyard facing north:
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Viburnim plicatum tomentosum planted along back of yard (east side):
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Redbud planted on southwest corner of backyard (more redbuds being ordered tomorrow):

A couple of questions have come up as I have planted:

1. How close can I plant next to the fenceline. How close can I plant the river birch, oaks, pagoda dogwood, japanese maples, oakleaf hydrangea, and viburnum from the fence?

2. How close can I plant the redbuds next to each other?

3. When I finish the beds and lay down mulch, how deep shoulde I make it? What about in the areas where we plan on planting groundcover next year?

4. How big should the beds be (width)? Should they come out to the future mature width of the trees?

Thanks as always for everyone's help!


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1. Closeness to fence depends on the plant and the form you'll grow it in. On the average 3'- 4' is about the closest for smaller trees and shrubs. 4'- 5' for trees. Again, depending on what and how, expect that the plant will cross the line. (As discussed in your front yard thread.) What you show in the pictures look fine.

2. How close can I plant the redbuds next to each other? Depends on woodsy-ness desired, as close as 6'. But I think you'd probably want to go more like 8' to 12'. Much of what you're asking about has to do with the effect that you're trying to produce. I'm not certain of your intent there. To a certain extent, it's arbitrary. You might Google images of the specific plant names, looking for photo of a similar effect that you're after. Then, try to ascertain from the photo the distance (or at least a guess of the range) that the plants are spaced at.

3. When I finish the beds and lay down mulch, how deep should I make it? What about in the areas where we plan on planting groundcover next year? 2" everywhere. (I'm sure you know you'll need to kill grass first and prepare the bed edge.)

4. The bed depth/width will vary. You don't want a large plant to be right at, or too close, to a bed's edge. Bigger plants need more bed around them. If you imagined that large plants were in a display flower pot (as opposed to a grower's) instead of the ground, and that they had room to grow in the pot before needing to be moved to a larger one, how big would the pot need to be? That size flower pot would be the absolute minimum that I would consider making the bed. Since the plants will continue to grow, plan ahead and widen the bed to accommodate that future growth. But there's lots of massaging and tweaking that can happen to a bed's edge. It's common to widen and re-shape a bed after several years of plant growth to accommodate what the plants have become. I would work out what the shape and size of the bed is to be before doing too much more planting. Otherwise you stand the risk of putting things in the wrong place.


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Thanks Yardvaark! Any idea where I could incorporate a hibiscus tree into either the front or back yard (my wife loves them and I just ordered one). Also, I am seeing a lot of shrubs with bright yellow flowers on them. Any idea what they are and where I could incorporate one? Maybe just west of the river birches if I keep it trimmed (it would provide a little more screening from neighbors on corner. Thanks as always!


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If shrubs with bright yellow flowers are big, they're probably Forsythia. Where to "incorporate one"...? Hmmm... I'm sensing an ominous wind blowing. You should be thinking of where to incorporate a group of something, not just one. Too much of "just one" and your yard will be looking disorganized and haphazard. Also, I don't feel in control of what you're doing. The plan I offered was as an example to show you what it would look like when you start to work things out, but it certainly needs refinement given that you have needs and desires that I know nothing of. (And more cropping up with every blooming day!) I would work out some of the details of that plan (especially the bed lines) before acquiring much more plant material. For that "Hibiscus tree" do you have a botanical name as there are several plants that would qualify for that title?


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Thanks Yardvaark! The hibiscus is named 'Hibiscus Fireball - Perennial Hibiscus'. As for the planning aspect of the project, as I've planted I've kept in mind the size of each tree/shrub (referring to the internet for mature size). I've also been checking site lines from various points in the yard as I plant. I did buy marking paint recently and plan on marking all bed edges tomorrow before I plant further.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I don't remember if I told you, but make a skimpy dashed line with the paint with the first walk through. Appraise the results and make corrections with a heavier dashed line. Appraise again and when you think it's right, go over it with a solid line. Depending how good you are about it, it can be fairly straightforward... or it can get messy. So take your time appraising it from many angles before making the corrections. If it gets really messy, a second, different paint color is useful. Once you get the line as you want it, mark it in some permanent way (cut with shovel?) as the paint will not last long. After a couple of weeks of weathering and mowings it may be so faded you can barely make it out. If you want the line reviewed, post a picture taken from a high elevation.

I know you're making changes to the concept plan I showed you so I just want you to be thinking through the planting arrangements as you make the changes. Since you're doing this work yourself, I have the feeling you're going to become good at evaluating what you've done and the way things are fitting together... especially after you see a year's growth. Now that you're a transplant expert, you'll be able to make adjustments when you see some are needed.

The hibiscus is more a shrub than "tree." It looks like something that should be within easy view of deck or pool area.

Since you're new to so many plants and trying to save some $ by doing the work and putting this together over time, you might consider creating a temporary place where you plant various perennials that are under consideration...a regular perennial garden. You could collect plants with zero worry about what goes where, just stick them in. See how they do. Get to know them. You could place such a garden in any place that's not ready yet to be landscaped (so it's not in the way for a while.) As you evaluate plants, you can increase the stock of those you like. Some perennials multiply so rapidly that if you buy one, from it you can make all the others of that kind you need. If you do it, add 1/3 volume of peat moss to the planting soil so it is better to work in and better to grow things.

Another thing I meant to mention, where you have like groups of plants (say River Birch) when it's all said and done you'll want these plants to match as though they came from the same family. It will not be pretty if one is a 5-trunk multi and another is a single trunker... and one branches as 8' above the ground, and another at 12 feet. They need to look like they're all from the same planet and got their hair cut at the same salon. What to do about it? This year, nothing. Just see what they do and try to make them as healthy and fast growing as possible. At the end of next winter, you'll want to do whatever pruning (before spring growth occurs) that's required to make them be matched. But never fear, even if it has to be severe, as long as they're healthy they'll bounce back and keep going.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I received the hibiscu yesterday and it's just a bulb (no growth above the roots). Not sure if this is correct or I should contact the nursery.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I believe these come up quite late. Plant somewhere you'll remember where is and have faith that it will become something. Maybe not for several more weeks.


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RE: Landscaping Ideas for Backyard - Privacy

I have a questions concerning mulching the beds....I'm assuming I need to remove the sod from the beds and then lay mulch, correct? How do we handle the transition between the redbuds and beauty bushes and the firepit area (mulch to stone/crushed brick)? Any other tips when it comes to mulching?


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