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add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

Posted by elixir75 7 (My Page) on
Tue, May 1, 12 at 21:54

Here's what I started with:

Here's where I'm at now:

There's no gate in/out but the size of this yard for a town home in this area made this place irresistible. So with that in mind, my goal was:
1) Add privacy shrubs
2) Keep it very low maintenance.

I had a zen look in mind, but my wife's reaction is that it feels like too much rock. I think the left side (with the pavers) needs more work to break up the monotony and the rocks won't be as noticeable. Any ideas for plants or garden accessories that can dress this up more? Maybe some shapes with a contrasting colored rock?

BTW, I'm not familiar with arborvitae but can anyone give me a visual confirmation that those shrubs along the back fence are arborvitae? Are they really going to grow 20-30 feet tall?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

Sky pencil holly and bamboo work too.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

It looks sterile and exposed. Why not put in things that will grow tall right away? Stick some really big cannas in planters in between the arborvitae (and it really depends on which types as to how fast it grows) and dig up the roots in winter for a VERY fast screen. If you don't like tropical, then English ivy will soften the fence enormously.

You have the right impulse with the pavilion, but what it's begging for is a pergola covered with something dense--whatever your poison, really. Choose big leaves for a more tropical feel. Choose climbing roses to be more traditional. Wisteria can have an Asian feel on the right arbor.

This landscape will never be zen because the idea of a zen garden is that it is an abstraction of a natural landscape in miniature. You want too much function to the space to turn it into that, and the backing of the fence ruins the illusion. If you hauled out all the furniture and put in only rocks and possibly some bonsai and had a stuccoed wall behind it, it could be Zen. But then it would not be functional.

You should fill those beds to overflowing and bring out more pots onto the patio--BIG ones. This will paradoxically give an illusion of space and depth.


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Whoa...

OMG, I actually agree with designonline6 for once. There's enough sun for sky pencil if there's enough for arbs. If you go that way, the bamboo should still be in a massive planter.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

A positive ID could not be made from such a blurry picture, but, in general, it could easily be Arborvitae. Here's a picture of some half grown. They'll easily get double, triple or more the size of those in the picture so will work here long-term only as a clipped hedge.

Will the palm survive zone 7 winters?

While I like that it looks neat and tidy compared to the "before" pictures, I agree with the wife that it looks like too much rock... sterile. It also looks like it will be a hot little oven in the summer. Even the pavilion will want some shade so it seems that something small, tree-like would be useful. I like the idea of bamboo, but having some experience with this would recommend a root-contained running kind. It must be securely contained or will backfire and make you regret it as a choice. The clumping kind will not be the low maintenance solution that it at first seems. (If you like, I can point you to a further explanation of this by bamboo experts.) Also, the bamboo does a fair amount of shedding that would not exactly correlate to having rock mulch.

You might consider the addition of something tree-like such as P.G. Hydrangea. It could be grown so that it is above your head, but would not get so large as to overwhelm. Its main features are relatively fast growth, its ability to be controlled and the long-lasting mass of summer bloom. Most pictures of this plant in the "tree form" will show it branched low so that it's in your face. This is entirely the choice and product of the person doing the pruning and there's no reason that it can't be pruned so that it branches higher...like 8' in order to be above one's head.

At the ground level, it would be nice to incorporate a sumptuous heap(s) of flowering color. This could be in large pots as suggested by reyesuela or via shrubs, perennials or annuals. Some possible perennial contenders would be the 'Stella' type of daylily for recurrent bloom, a clump of fountain grass or Callimagrostis, and blue-flowering Siberian Iris. Big leaf Hydrangea would make a nice shrub here because of the long bloom, but it'd need some partial shade protection. The bold leaves of canna, as suggested by reyesuela could create a nice tropical feel.

As much as I love English ivy for it's potential to solve all kinds of problems, I'd not want it growing on a fence. However, my reaction is not violent opposition, but just the caveat that it would shorten the life of the fence and would be an added maintenance chore to keep it off of the building. It will be interesting to see if this generates the storm of criticism--claims rivaling the end of life as we know it--as it did earlier.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

All - The ideas posted are sparking visions of possibilities! I'll be using most of the plants mentioned here in some way or another.

I decided on arborvitae instead of skypencil holly because the arbs get a lot taller. I believe the skypencil holly maxes at 10-15 feet. Are the suggestions for this plant to supplement or replace the arborvitae along the back fence?

First question: Cannas will do fine in planters in between the arborvitae? How will digging up the roots in winter result in a faster screen?

For a medium sized "tree-like thing": I love crepe myrtle and the PG Hydrangea looks very similar but I wanted to avoid anything that drops leaves or other crap in the fall. What about a Japanese Maple in that negative space on the left? I'm sure it would drop leaves but the leaves would be easier to clean than the blooming veg that crepe myrtles drop.

For ground color in the back corners, I like the idea of Stella daylily. On the right side planting bed, I'm thinking fountain grass and coral honeysuckle, which should add heaps of color and block some line of sight over the neighbors fence.

I plan to put a lot of large planters scattered around with perennials for more color and to break up the sterility.

I do plan to put some English ivy on the little fence I put up around the A/C units. Planning for a criss-cross pattern using twine to make that happen.

A pergola will go up eventually too :)


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

With the arborvitaes, you have not avoided dropped crap. Conifers don't hold their needles forever, and it's part of the natural cycle for arbs to get some interior browning resulting in needle drop. A hand vac would clean up the rocks underneath.

I do plan to put some English ivy on the little fence I put up around the A/C units. Planning for a criss-cross pattern using twine to make that happen.

My intention is not to start anything, people, but the OP's space is going to be just too easy to overwhelm without constant vigilance.

Here is a link that might be useful: Think twice


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

While the 50 or 60' that Arborvitae would eventually get would be too tall for me, it sounds like what you're after. Good luck on this down the road. Unless regularly clipping its width, you will be forced at some point, as it broadens out, to limb it up into the tree form.

The plants I mentioned are supplemental. Though the tree-like one's could be an alternative instead of being only supplemental.

Because Cannas NOT dug for the winter will probably be DEAD, therefore, not producing a screen very quickly. Personally, I view Cannas more for interest than for their screening ability. With height comes bulk so there are limits to what they can achieve as a screen. An ornamental banana in a whiskey barrel-sized planter could be nice for you, too.

The Jap. Maple makes a great patio tree. The concern I would have is whether or not the heat (that it looks like this patio will generate) will allow a Jap Maple to prosper. You'd need to determine locally if it could/would.

The Honeysuckle would need string-like structure to climb on I presume you know. A pink Mandevilla as an annual could be outstanding, too, during the summer months. (It's not winter hardy.)

If E. Ivy on the A.C. screen, I'd go for the diminutive, fancy-leaved variety (usually sold as house plants) and be aware that it will require that you fuss over it, keep it controlled and don't let it escape. But, as that, it could be cute and fun.

A Pergola would be perfect for the coral honeysuckle. Even better for Bignonia capreolata 'Tangerine Beauty' or similar. However--and this is true for all the flowers you produce in the patio--they will eventually end up on the floor. This is one of the reasons, personally, I find rock mulch so difficult to deal with. It's too much like having to clean inside the house. Regular, biodegradable mulch is easier as it can be top dressed and freshened. Or better, covered entirely with groundcover plants that "eat" dropped leaves and flowers.


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Ivy

duluthinblooms, For the sake of accuracy, I note that the link you offered labeled "think twice" takes us to a picture not of English ivy, but Boston ivy... the one most commonly grown on buildings (though still not without its drawbacks.) One of the California websites I ran across during the "big discussion" of English ivy, showed a picture of Kudzu "eating" an abandoned car and warning of the dangers of English ivy! Now THAT really was misleading. This one isn't quite to that level.


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RE: adding some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

Okay. Stuff happens and I'll own it.

Surely we can agree that it wouldn't be a giant leap to overwhelm a small space. Maybe something easily managed for a string trellis would be a sweet potato vine.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

We can agree. Not a giant leap. But not much to fear either especially with the fancy-leaved varieties. Part depends on specific ivy chosen. Part depends on interest level and dedication of homeowner.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

  • Posted by catkim San Diego 10/24 (My Page) on
    Wed, May 2, 12 at 18:16

The palm looks like a Trachycarpus, which will survive in zone 7, amazingly. It is native to the Himalaya Mountain regions of Asia, growing to an altitude of nearly 8000 ft.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

"...which will survive in zone 7..." But will it LOOK GOOD and BE HAPPY I wonder? As many people in Atlanta (on the verge of zone 7/8) who would love the idea of an outdoor palm tree, in 20 years I never saw or heard of the possibility of one from any of my more knowledgeable brethren. The only cold-hardy-like-thing I heard of was a rare palmetto... which almost no one wanted.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

  • Posted by catkim San Diego 10/24 (My Page) on
    Wed, May 2, 12 at 22:23

Yard -- it could, but as with many things, "it depends". That sheltered courtyard might be just the ticket for a happy palm. If it is wagnerianus, they are supposedly hardy to 5F. I have no personal experience with zone 7, much to my delight, but the only palm on earth said to be hardier is Rhapidophyllum hystrix which even "outperforms" your belittled Sabal palmetto. At least the Trachy is a decent looking palm. Give it a chance, it's worth a try. And will never become the monstrosity the Arborvitae will. I'm just sayin'...


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

Cat, thanks for info. Have not been in Zone 7/8 for quite a while so cannot try any palms there. You know how gardeners always want something new and different, so if there was the possibility of a Palm growing there, I'd think it would have long ago been tried and made the circuit. After a quick Wikilook, I see that the cooler zones where Trachycarpusis is known to grow are places that do not have intense summer heat, which makes Atlanta seem like not a likely contender for its growing and marketing as it's hot as blazes there.

Btw... not Sabal palmetto I'm belittling, but Sabal minor. It has its place, but rarely in yards... too big and ratty looking.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

It's a Mexican fan palm (Washingtonia robusta). I see many mature ones around town (Dallas) so I'm sure they're fine in our climate. They do get quite tall.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

Somewhere along the line I lost track of your location and thought it was Tennessee or similar. New zone map shows you in 8a. Mexican Fan is too close to the fence... should move it to center of the bed. They're fast growing, too.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

looks like a Trachycarpus fortunei to me. If it was a Washingtonia the branches would be wider and slightly cupped. The frond shape is somewhat similar but the Trachy is finer and more deeply cut, .. like the one in the photo.

how to add pizzazz - to my eye the arborvitae are too static and ultimately too large for the space unless they are a semi dwarf variety.
They require some foreground softening with a contrasting softer textured plant like an ornamental grass, billowly perennial or open natural shaped small shurb, perferably a variegated foliage color to contrast with the dark somber green of the arbs.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

That pic was one of the reasons I was sold on arborvitae as a screen, but in my setup it's definitely too sterile so I'm sold on replacing the rock along the back fence with a mulch bed, (which was the original direction given to my landscaper). I'm going to have a stone border extend the bed a bit farther in to the current negative space in a big curve.

BTW the variety of arborvitae I seem to have are "Emerald Green" and they grow in the 10-15 foot range. I was actually hoping for taller. The pic shows the desired effect.

I'm still lost on what to plant between the arborvitae for now though. I'd like something flowering and compatible with the arborvitae for at least 5 years - after which it would be mostly crowded out right?

The link below shows more of what I want to achieve long term.

Here is a link that might be useful: More of the inspirations for my future garden


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

  • Posted by catkim San Diego 10/24 (My Page) on
    Fri, May 4, 12 at 0:16

From your link, I think you are on your way to your vision, just need some softening with "detail plants" and some growth on the new stuff. It's a definite improvement over the "before" photos.

If the palm has thorny leaf stems then you are correct, it would be Washingtonia robusta. And if you see them growing where you live, no worries. But for appropriate size and beauty, a Trachycarpus would be a finer palm, imo.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

>As much as I love English ivy for it's potential to solve all kinds of problems, I'd not want it growing on a fence. However, my reaction is not violent opposition, but just the caveat that it would shorten the life of the fence and would be an added maintenance chore to keep it off of the building.

I figured that in this situation, it'd be pretty easy to keep off the house, and the shortening of the life of the fence would be pretty minimal. Around the AC unit, you'll just have to hack it back once a year or so--it will be a dense wall, so no pattern very soon!

Boston ivy would do no damage. It isn't evergreen, though!

>First question: Cannas will do fine in planters in between the arborvitae? How will digging up the roots in winter result in a faster screen?

Cannas often die in zone 7 over the winter...do they in Dallas? Can't remember, but I tihnk they might be fine, as that's edging into zone 8 there. If you don't dig them up here, they would likely croak and you would have to start over with new roots. Usually, the roots sold will only result in 3-4' cannas in one season. To get 6'+ cannas, you will likely need 2-yr-old-plus roots. So, anyhow, if cannas do fine there in the soil, no pots or digging needed.

But with that "inspiration picture," scratch the cannas there!

-Boston ivy behind the arbs.

-Vinca minor at their feet (yeah, it's invasive, bt it's not going ANYTHERE from there), or helleborus, or mixed sedums or a great euphorbia--my fave idea is actually the euphorbia, in a great, unexpected chartruese...

I'm just not quite seeing how the palm ties into what you want from the space, though....

How does it fit into your inspiration? Do you like the spiky leaves, not the tropical ambiance?

I'm at a bit of a loss as to what the other two sides should really be because I still don't have a clear image of what you want. Clearly, you like grasses, so maybe some Karl Foerester up against the bare side wall. You like spiky forms, so in front of it can be some veronica, salvia, or lavender. (I just finished reccing these a second ago...heheh...) Liatris, too. The veronica and salvia will bloom just about forever, which, when you have such limited space, is a big boon.

Also, I'm not sure how much sun much of that space gets. I would not have tried arbs there, because there just doesn't seem to be that much sunlight...but then again, you're in Dallas!

Hydrangeas aren't all that fond of Dallas sun, so yeah, you'd need shade! You're probably closer to 8a than 7b, if you're in Dallas proper. We can grow hydrangeas in full sun up here.


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Duluth---English ivy in Dallas is easily tamed.

My grandparents let it wander across the back of their house for years before someone warned them of how it can damage brick, so they turned it into a groundcover on a 3'-6' deep bed. It just took an occasional trimming to keep it off the house.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVED the stuff in New Mexico. It was a beautifully well-behaved groundcover for dry shade. In the sun, it burnt to a crisp. In the shade, it looked effortless and beautiful.

Even here, with a yard with patches of English ivy, it's really never been an issue. It grows slowly and is easily uprooted. It has not spread into the woods around here, though I bet it's been here for 30+ years.

Honesysuckle, OTOH, is an ongoing nightmare, and don't even ask what it along with the previous neighbor's seeded grapes did to an 80' woodline....

I just don't get that English ivy fear. It seems to be a very leisurely invader. Just don't let it grow in the house!!!!


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

Whoa! Reyesuela, those pro-English ivy comments are treading on some dangerous ground. I and others made such comments once and then we found ourselves on trial at the Hague.

"Boston ivy would do no damage." It depends on how you define "damage." If pulled off of a surface, Boston Ivy leaves it's "feet" behind which can look unsightly. It may or may not matter, depending on what and where the surface is.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

>Whoa! Reyesuela, those pro-English ivy comments are treading on some dangerous ground. I and others made such comments once and then we found ourselves on trial at the Hague.

Yeah, I did it years ago and got jumped on by practically everyone. I don't care. :-) I'm an English ivy REBEL!

You should have see what happened when I was a new gardener and said I really disliked the gardens of most "gardener's gardeners," which are so often focused on the delights of individual plants that they often have a deaf ear to the entire composition that's presented.

I probably said it differently nearly 10 years ago, but boy, forget the Hague, people were looking for a rope and a handy branch....

>It depends on how you define "damage." If pulled off of a surface, Boston Ivy leaves it's "feet" behind which can look unsightly. It may or may not matter, depending on what and where the surface is.

You can power wash it off, though! Right? So it's not really damage if you can remove it....

I suddenly realized that helleborus may not work in Dallas. You'll have to check. Vinca minor does great.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

"You can power wash it [Boston ivy root pads] off, though! Right?

Where I faced this once was on a porch foundation that was painted brick. The root pads seemed like they were "one with" the brick and seemed as though they couldn't be power washed off. I didn't try, though, so can't confirm whether it's possible, or not. They ended up getting painted over... just adding a little more texture.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

Paul James did a show where he power washed all the little feet off brick. I thought it was too much work for too little reward, but they looked pretty darned connected, and it worked. :-P I wouldn't have thought of it, myself.


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trying to complete this!

I'm determined to turn this patio into something great this summer. A pergola and some colorful flowers are planned for the spring planting season. Here's where I'm at:

I had to replace the arbs because they died. The washingtonia died too. It's all my fault :( I had sprayed the area with vegetation killers a few months prior. I ignored the description that the product worked for the entire season. I suspect the arbs and the washingtonia were susceptible, but the cypress wasn't. Last weekend, I replaced the long since dead arbs with more cypress which I think is going to grow into a great privacy hedge.

In any case, I redid the back section to eat up some of the cold voids caused by the excessive river rock. This config let me switch out a lot of rock for mulch. I think it worked out nicely and gives me a good size area for a flower bed.

I'd love to hear some suggestions on replacing the palm tree. If I have to move the bed to the right, I will but I'd rather not. Any suggestions on a tree or treelike shrub that can grow up and out asymmetrically?


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

I repeat my suggestion of PG Hydrangea.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

Yaardvark, it's a strong contender. Ever since your initial suggestion, I've been leaning towards that! Do you think I need to move the round bed to the right or will the asymmetry work out?

The neighbors behind me are in a mirror image layout. The fence stops just below eye level, so I want to make sure that whatever I do, blocks the line of site between our views.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

A couple of questions about my soil and the Italian cypress. In this part of N. Texas the ground underneath is nearly all clay. I'm a bit worried about drainage, although my original two cypress tree are thriving. From the pic, you can see that the one in the left corner - which was planted last year and was about the size of the new guys at that time.

The only difference is that I don't know how much soil my landscaper excavated when he planted those last year. When I put in the new guys, I left only a little room and filled in with loamy mix. Our last rain was 1-2 weeks ago and the clay was still very wet.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

"Do you think I need to move the round bed to the right or will the asymmetry work out?" I always strive for whatever is my idea of perfection, but if it becomes too difficult, that's the beauty of plants ... you can MAKE them work out. They're very malleable, forgiving and barely complain.


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RE: add some pizzazz to complete this transformation?

Love all the suggestion you are receiving! I would add a water feature. Maybe in the round planter area put a colored pot with a bubbler or something that give you the sound of relaxing water running/flowing. I can sea bright colbalt blue or pretty turquoise tall vase/pot!
Or you could put it in the corner in front of the tall evergreen


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