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Sunday, April 11, 2010

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Slowly, but surely, I'm making some progress on the garden plan that I envisioned for our back garden in my January post, So Here's the Plan

One of the features I wanted to add was a rainbarrel, to help with a drainage problem we have and also to give me some good water with which to water the patio plants and any other plants in times of drought.

Rainbarrel - check.

You might notice that the rainbarrel is not centered on the little pad we built for it and also that it overhangs the edge of the house wall.

For some reason, it seems like everything we try and do in this garden is a challenge. Every project seems to involve a lot of problem solving before it can go into effect. The rain barrel was no different.

In this case, we couldn't line the barrel up with the corner on the wall because the downspout is right on the corner and, as you can see, in order for it to drain into the barrel, we had to move it further right that we would have liked to.  And we couldn't center the rainbarrel on it's pad because there's a sprinkler head just to the left of the pad so we had to move the pad over to the right even more.

On a more cheerful note, remember those utility boxes in the corner that I wanted to hide?  (Ignore the really lousy grass, that will have to be the subject of a separate post, when I have the heart for it)

Anyway, back to the subject, I had originally planned to put an arbor and bench there to hide the boxes.  But we started thinking about it and came to the decision that  because the area is in full sun, we realized we wouldn't actually sit there, so I started thinking about alternatives.

Last weekend, we were in Lowe's and I happened to catch sight of something I thought would be ideal for hiding the utility boxes.  I had actually wanted something like it before but didn't know such a thing existed. I was really excited when I saw it and, since it was reasonably priced, I grabbed it right there and put it in our cart.

It's a little vinyl lattice fence, four feet wide and three feet tall. It has stakes on the bottom, so I was able to stake it directly into the ground in front of the boxes. It hides the utility boxes from most angles. There's a holly bush on either side and a couple of plants in front of it, but I'm going plant behind it also and add some containers in front, including a vine, and create a butterfly garden. I moved the stones out a little bit to make room.

Continuing the good news -- the Mars grape vine my husband chose is doing very well and appears to be covered in bunches of grapes! 

And now for the project that is giving me sleepless nights -- the shady area on the north side of the house, by the patio.

 As you can see, it gets deep shade most of the day (but not all of the day, it does get sun in the late afternoon.) In addition, a lot of the grass died from root rot at the end of last year.  So now it's basically a mass of weeds - very depressing to look out at.

So next on my list of projects is to do something with this area.  On my original plan,  I drew a curved border along the back of the house, but left the details "to be determined."  

I thought vaguely about a mulched area with "low growing plants."  They would have to be low-growing because of one of those challenges I mentioned earlier -- there's a row of sprinkler heads across the back and I don't want to block them by planting shrubs right in front of them. And then there's the choice of plant -- the area is in deep shade most of the day, but in summer, with the sun more or less directly overhead, part of the area would be in blazing sunlight, and it would also get direct sun in the afternoon.

I've been reading up on possibles but really am clueless at this point.  I had considered dwarf lily turf as a ground cover, also known as mondo grass, because I saw an area at Mercer Arboretum like that and thought it looked really nice.  But then I learned that real gardeners frown on mondo grass. 

We may just go ahead and create the mulched border (so I don't have to look at the weeds) and wait for a while before putting anything in it. Or heck, maybe we should haul in some river rock in and dump it there.  

To be honest, the damaged lawn and this shady area have me pretty depressed, even overshadowing the pleasant weekend I had, planting some flowers in the front flowerbed.

If we had money to burn, I'd have a professional come in and give us some ideas, but we don't so we have to figure it out ourselves. 

Or should I say, I have to figure it out myself (with a little help from my friends - that's you!), since my husband is willing to provide the muscle, but admits he doesn't know anything about landscaping or gardening.

Okay, so now it's late and I'm bummed out, let me try and cheer myself up by showing you some bluebonnets we saw last weekend.

Words and photographs by Jayne Wilson, Green and Serene, Jayne's Country Garden.


Sylvana said...

I have this same rain barrel -actually two of them. I love them. They actually double as garden features rather than something that needs to be hidden or dressed up. Our local hardware chain, Menards, just started selling solid brown ones like these for under $100! I might get one, because I can always paint the barrel straps, and it would be far less than what I paid for my first two!
We put ours up on a platform so that the water would flow out better when we hook up a hose.

Jayne said...

Hmmm, good point about raising it up to let the water flow out better. I just got a hose for it this past weekend, so I'll have to experiment with it. We had a little rain over the weekend, so it has water in it already - yay!!

Lancashire rose said...

I love your rain barrel. It looks fine as it is and you can always put a planter by the side of it.
As to the patio, I would be willing to put forward some suggestions but would need some more input from you. Do you want access from your patio all the way along? I have similar areas in my garden. No sun then blazing hot sun around 3pm. Indian hawthorne did very well for me in that area and butterfly iris. Now I have pulled all those out and have planted Salvia gregii, hesperaloe and Stipa tenuissima.
Let me know. You can send me an email if you like. On my blog.

Kimberly said...

Hi, Jayne. I just posted about my new rain barrel. But it's not pretty like yours. I got it from the local extension office so it's the horrible bright blue color that I have to disguise somehow!! You've done a great job concealing the utility boxes.
I'd try to give you my advise re. your shady space but I'm not a designer. My spaces are usually trial and error...and what I find on sale or what is given to me. The budget doesn't always permit exactly what I'd like!! :) Keep us posted on your decision for this space.

Ami said...

Hi, Jayne: Came cross your site and had to say that I love your blog. I also moved into a new house last year with little landscape, and I have been slowly converting the grass to the flower bed since then. Love how you make the plan to make small steps. Rain barrel is also on my list of to do:) If you are interested, welcome to stop by my florida garden at:

I will check back how you are going to do with your shade area. I also need to open an area at the side of the house for more shade loving plants. It is always good to get some inspiration from fellow gardeners :)

Jayne said...

I'm a trial and error gardener too Kimberly! And the sale table is usually a magnet for me at the garden center. I saw those bright blue rain barrels online but I'm glad I found a nice subtle one, lol!

Jayne said...

Hi Ami, thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you have enjoyed my blog. It's getting a bit late now, but I'll be sure to stop by your blog for a visit soon :-)

Jayne said...

Thanks for your suggestions LancashireRose. I'll probably put stepping stones or a pathway over the part of the border right outside the back door, sort of like I have in the border in the front garden. I'll email you tomorrow and tell you a little more about my plans, which seem to change by the minute, lol!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

I think most of the projects we've done, even the supposedly simple ones, ended up being much more complicated than we imagined. I love the rain barrel and would just love to get one. I'm not really familiar with what grows where you are. At my favorite nursery they often have little vignettes of plants for specific types of gardens - shade, butterfly garden, etc. I've always gotten lots of ideas from garden books that are specific to my area too. Working around the sprinklers I guess would make it tricky too.
The area by your utility boxes looks great, you found the perfect solution.

Corner Gardener Sue said...

I forgot to say before that I like your rain barrel. I have 2 that I use for watering cans.

I like the cover for whatever it was you wanted to hide. A shady area that gets afternoon sun is hard to figure out. Can you grow perennial geraniums there? Some of those may do OK there. Sedums may be OK, too, even though they prefer sun.

Those grapes are cute. I hope no critters get to them before you do.

Houston Garden Girl said...

If the bed gets blazing sun in the afternoon, you should plant things that are listed as full sun. Most plants listed as full sun can only take part sun here. Most salvias would probably work (just make sure to check the height because some of them get up to 4'), knockout roses (in a spot where you don't mind something being 3-4'), a ground cover that I love is chenille plant, angelonia, shrimp plant, cuphea, artemesia powis castle, lily of the nile (agapanthus) are a few other suggestions.

Jayne said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Houston Garden Girl. (Sorry for being late in responding, I didn't realize anyone else had commented)

meemsnyc said...

I like the rain barrel!! How do you get water out of it? With mine, it was a hassle trying to get all the water out of it without using a pump.

Jayne said...

meemsnyc -- thanks. There's a spigot at the bottom and we've attached a hose to it. Makes it easy to fill a watering can or to use the hose to directly water plants on the patio.