Over the last few weeks, I've spent a lot of time dreaming about how I want our garden to look. I started scratching around sketching things out on paper, but then, being me, I decided to digitize it in Photoshop :-)
Here's what we have right now. I'm concentrating on the back yard here, so I haven't filled in any detail in the front yard yet.
Figure 1 - What we have now
Our problems include drainage issues and utility boxes that need to be hidden. In addition, I decided, right after my husband laid the stones, that the border that we put in last year is just too shallow to accomodate the plants I want in there.
Another problem is shade. The patio faces north and so only gets sun in the late afternoon. That makes it a wonderful and shady place to sit most of the day, even in the heat of summer, but the lawn along the back of the house has really been struggling.
I think that shade, combined with a downspout that dumps gallons of water in the area every time it rains, are probably the cause of the poor lawn performance.
The first thing on the agenda (much to my husband's chagrin) is to expand the border. There's a utility easement containing the telephone and cable lines (electricity comes in overhead) We have a pretty good idea where the cables are because there is a trench across the yard where the soil has sunk and it lines up neatly with the telephone utility box. However, a reader who read my blog on HoustonGrows.com suggested I call 811 and have the utilities come out a mark their lines, so I did that at the weekend and they should be out this week.
Since we're also dealing with fence-to-fence sod, courtesy of our builder, I discovered the easiest way to create beds and borders was to outline them with whatever material we're using (stone left over from the builder in this case), dig planting holes if we have anything to go in the ground when we're at this stage and then lay down landscape fabric (or sheets of newspaper) and a hefty layer of mulch over the whole thing.
Over time, this kills off the sod underneath and next year we'll be able to dig, add soil amendments and add plantings.
To solve the problem of the area that doesn't get much sun, we're going to put in another border on the back of the house. Again, we'll edge it and cover the sod with landscape fabric and mulch to kill off the grass. Eventually the area can be planted with some low-growing plants and groundcovers that can handle a combination of shade for most of the day with late afternoon sunlight - hostas perhaps. We also want to put a rainbarrel under the downspout that dumps into this area, with an overflow pipe to run any excess water to the shallow swale that is supposed to drain water off the property. we'll be able to get fresh rain water from the barrel to water the plants on the patio.
Figure 3 - Placement of the Rainbarrel and Arbor/Bench
I've added the rainbarrel in the above image, as well as my solution for the utility box eyesore. The builder put in some bushes to hide the boxes, but they're just not doing a great job. I thought we could add a bench and arbor on a small paved area. The bench will hide the boxes from view when we're sitting on the back patio, and when we're sitting on the bench, we'll be facing the other way - problem solved!
The expanded border there will allow us to surround the area with flowers - perennials, annuals, maybe a flowering shrub or two. I can just imagine sittng there watching the butterflies!
Figure 4 - The Final Plan for the Back Garden
So here's the final plan. Please excuse my very vague representations of the actual plants! I'm holding off on making any plant purchases until we have the border ready for them.
I'm hoping that this plan will give us the Green and Serene retreat that we have been looking for. My husband freely admits to being a "Non-Gardener" and has given me full rein to go ahead with the planning process. Although I've noticed recently he's started to roll his eyes when I suddenly jump up from my computer and say "You know what else we could do?"