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What would you do with a flat blank slate?

Posted by amalgamate 7 (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 30, 11 at 0:16

There is an empty section of yard to the side of our home that is never used. It's approximately 145'x132' and is a flat blank slate. So creative people, gardeners, and designers: What would you do with it...on a shoestring budget?

Wildflowers are allowed to grow through Spring, and then my husband mows it when it gets out of hand. I've gotten permission to do whatever I want with this section, as long as there's not a bunch of stuff he has to mow around. I suppose that means a short groundcover or some type of walkway around other plantings or structures.

Aside from the budget, the skies the limit! I love ideas that push past "normal," but also don't won't high-maintenance. I'm in zone 7 with hot, humid summers and mildly cool winters with the occasional snow. I want an area with interesting colors and textures all year instead of just in the "growing season."

As for the area, it's in front of an unsightly dirt plot that's tilled for the vegetable garden and goes to the road. On both sides of the area are trees - one side is a wooded area and small trench. The other side is a line of baby fruit trees. (I know a picture would be helpful, but I'm still looking for my poor lost camera.)

I have a short metal table (~1.5' high and 3' long) and a large wooden arch (10'x10') currently in storage that I'd love to include. All I really know though is that I want a place to sit somewhere.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Fri, Apr 1, 11 at 7:15

There is no such thing as a blank slate when it comes to a landscape.
It physically has topography (flat is also topography), it has surroundings, it has influences upon it (such as water drining into it, or a dusty driveway,...), it has a climate,...
It has activities attached to or detatched from it as well. There is, or should be, a program how ever simple or complex, that goes with it.
Ignoring those does not take away from the fact that they do exist. The slate is not blank.

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

Hard to imagine what the place looks like (is the fourth side a house, is there a door opening to this yard, how tall are the trees and where does their shade fall) - I'll just suggest the "designing with your butt" approach; that is, taking a chair and dragging it around until you find a place where you enjoy sitting; then sit there for a while and ask yourself what's still missing from your perfect sitting experience. Long views? Scents? Sun? Shade? Silence? Being protected from behind? Disguising unsightly objects? Less mosquitoes? etc. and you may find some answers - or more questions. Good luck, hope you neighbors won't stare.

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

laag, I stand corrected. I have a spot of land that is grass and weeds, and I would like to transform it into a gardened area to relax in.

I finally borrowed a camera and linked to a couple of pics. The dirt plot in the back is the area tilled for the veggie garden. When standing on the road, the line of trees that marks the end of our land is on the right. More empty yard is on the left, which is not pictured. The square of land is actually the side of the front yard.

timbu, I love it and my neighbors already think I'm a little crazy! I can't wait for the next sunny day to drag a chair around my yard.

Here is a link that might be useful: Side yard

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

What would you do with a flat blank slate? make a billiard table.

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

145x132 is huge in my world of city lots. You could do tons of things except for the rule that your husband doesn't want to mow around it. How strict is that rule? If it's just a gazing ball plonked down, is that out? What if it's a 20x20 seating area?

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

Its hard to have such a wide open area to start with - a opposed to having the landscape dictate certain aspects of how land can be used.

I would probably start by figuring out a sitting area, then by adding paths in the areas that you need to pass through. Then I would add planting areas around the paths and sitting area.

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

Thanks for all of the replies!

inkognito - I keep seeing your comments in various threads, and they always crack me up.

When I first measured it out, I though "wow, it's really that big?!" It's usually overgrown, so I guess I didn't pay too much attention to the size of it. I am a bit overwhelmed, so I like the suggestions of beginning with a sitting area. Since that's the main thing I want anyways, it seems like a great place to start.

I think my husband would be ok with mowing around a 20x20 seating area or something similar. A gazing ball plonked down...probably not so much so.

I'll start with the square arch - 10' wide and 10' long - and put some outdoor furniture underneath it. But I'll have to decide on some kind of "flooring" besides grass.

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

Here's a style your husband might enjoy... OK, maybe not! Couldn't resist. You might find you get more creative, though, if you allow the options to include shapes to mow within or between as well as around... you could put trees in some beds to create shade on the area you want to sit in.

The image is from an old issue of The English Garden, and the garden the parterre is in is called Audley End.



RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

You have the space, but are you into the game? You have the choice of 8 or 16 holes. ;o)

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

LOL! Lovin' it.

Too bad April Fools is already past - I could show hubby the pic and say "This is what I want!" Thanks for the extra perspective though. All this time, I had been thinking of ways to AVOID mowing the lawn. I hadn't yet considered shapes that are easier to mow around.

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

Had to chuckle at Audley End - especially thinking back on The Small English Garden book a friend gave me for Christmas many years ago. The English idea of "small" must have be just slightly less than a Con Agra member farm. But I digress since AE makes no pretentions to small. :-)

If you have access to the March 2011 issue of Architectural Digest - see pp. 106-7 and the irregular pentagonal planter areas around the circular fountain. Boxwood border with one blooming tree makes a statement. An adaption of the design could be made to fit a limited budget and mowing requirements - would give you a tamed space for a spot to sit and look out over a wildflower meadow or whatever vistas you have.

I have rarely, if ever, kept inspiration pictures always quickly arriving at the "fat chance I'll do this" stage. But I have a large lot with a much too big side yard island garden that I've been racking my brain to retool for ease of maintainance since I'm not getting any younger or any more able. Not interested in a water feature, but a lone flowering ornamental tree in a divided bordered bed interests me. And many of my dabblings in perennials can be transplanted in other garden areas or get kicked to the curb with a free sign.

RE: What would you do with a flat blank slate?

Some type of rock garden/Japanese garden with weed fabric underneath might be a lower maintenance alternative.

You might want to leave some open space/grass for a feeling of openness while you are in your comfortable seating area.

A couple of thoughts on your trees could be Yoshino Cherries, or Autumn Flowering Cherry trees. The Yoshino is flowering now and makes a wonderful specimen/shade tree.

And finally, to plant on a shoestring budget, you may want to contact your local cooperative extension agency, they usually have something called a plant rescue team that finds plants from construction sites that would have been thrown away and looks for a good new home for an established plant or plants.

What do you think?

RE: Follow Up Addition

Follow up:

After looking at your link again with the picture, have you thought about making a grove-like approach with some trees, or because of the size of your property, or using ornamental grasses to create a flowing, lush and easily maintained look?

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