Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tewkesbury Ward Service Project. Or, How Not to Landscape.

My frontyard. This little patch of green is about 6 x 9.
I hate, hate, hate those three bushes.
And I'm torn as to whether to do anything with the porch.
(Click on image to enlarge.)

One of the things I've not liked about our home is the lack of landscaping in the yard. Granted, it's not a very big yard, so there's not a lot of room to do spectacular things. (See above.) But, I'm not looking for spectacular. I'm looking for colorful, proportional, easily maintained, and healthy.

Case in point with the last want on that list: the side yard. (See below.) It only gets about an hour of sun in the summer afternoon, otherwise it's shaded. Grass hasn't done well here and it's poorly terraced (as in, the idiot who flipped it, stacked cinder block-like pavers three high and three across and called it good.)

The awful, awful, gets-little-shade-in-the-summer sideyard. As much as I hate the three bushes, I really hate this feature on the house. Eventually, those stairs you see in the far background will be removed and replaced with a safer structure that will also double as a garden shed underneath. Don't be deceived by the green, semi-lushness in this picture. It's spring and it's been raining here the last few days, so it looks healthier than it really is. (Click image to enlarge.)

The backyard, what little there is, is an absolute eyesore, but I have a solution for it already. I'm going to till the soil to loosen it, then I'll dig out and discard a good five inches of it and put down recovered brick. This will expand the parking possibilities and/or provide a space for planters that can be moved and placed as wanted/needed. That part's figured out.

It's the side and front I can't figure out. So, here's the deal: looking at the two pictures I've posted above and knowing that I want to get rid of this stupid trio of cheap, crappy bushes and knowing that, not to repeat myself, "I'm looking for colorful, proportional, easily maintained, and healthy," what would you do or recommend for this space?

Oh, and as an added caveat, I'm also looking for plants or landscaping devices that are repellent to cats. While I'm grateful for the hoards and herds of feral cats in our neighborhood--I've seen nary a rat, mouse, or cockroach inside or out since moving here. I use to see them all the time when I lived downtown--I'm not grateful that they use my yard as a litter box.



Anonymous said...

Tewks, do what your next-door neighbor did -- plant a big leafy tree in place of the sticker bushes. It will shade the window and give your house a cozy look. Your house does look cozy, by the way -- just a little bare naked in front. Put shredded tree bark at the base of the new tree to keep the cats from using it as their litter box for a while.

The side of your house doesn't bother me. Frankly, I'd rather see the patches of grass that soak up water and heat rather than something paved over that reflects and radiates heat. I guess a happy medium would be to replace that grass with slate or sandstone pavers (we did sandstone stepping stones on one side of our house). Then use either pea-sized rock or tree bark to fill in the gaps, or plant some pretty little flowering vines for groundcover. Those things usually do well in the shade.

Also, I think the side of your house is begging for a vine arch.

But I do think your house is adorable even if you didn't do anything new to it.

Have fun this spring!

- Phoebe

Cele said...

Argh blogger ate my comment. Let's see...

I agree with Phoebes I like lawn, you should try aerating you will be amazed at the difference it makes. A beautiful leafy tree is a great idea. And I do like shredded bark it helps keep the moisture in, but the cats in my neighborhood like it too. My solution... Lion dung from the Wildlife game park. Works like a charm.

For summer lushness I love Hosta, Lily of the Nile, and daylilies. The problem with these plants is that the die back for winter leaving you with barreness. Andromeda gives you nice color all year long and interesting textures. Witch Hazel adds an interesting texture and winter color.

I agree with Phoebes about the side yard needing a vine night blooming Jasmine, Akeba, Clematis are so nice vining plants. Akeba and Clematis are deciduous.

sideon said...

You could do a zen garden motif - dark pebbles in a greater pool of white pebbles and some sort of meditative icon/statue in the center.

Sure beats mowing the lawn!

Hugs hugs to you!


Jess said...

Um, I have NO IDEA. I've never had my own yard. I am in awe that you have such a thing. And curious to see "after" photos.

Wicked H said...

Azaleas for the front, not sure if they are feline friendly however.

I also vote for after pictures.

We could use the side for our pic-nics....or choir practice. La la la laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Mme. Meow said...

If you want to do something low-maintenance I think you should go with poecilla (the tall, feathery grasses) for the main part, and maybe some phlox and a nandina. A clematis vine would be nice near the fence, but you will need to amend the soil and till it if you want more high-maintenance plants.

Oooh. I smell project.

Phoenix Touch said...

I am with Jess, never having had my own yard to care for and absolutely abhoring yard work when I was growing up. I do love me some pansies, though. However... I feel concerned... this is called Tewkesbury Ward Service Project. Or, How Not to Landscape. My concern is this: I don't wanna do another damn organized service project, even if it were to save my life!!! Nor do I want to go to a young woman's camp out or a fireside. So, as your Deliverance Syndicate Leader, I am pawning the ward service projects onto those who the Very Important Pew People. :)
In the name of SomeOne, Amen.
*bows and gracefully departs the podium*

janeannechovy said...

I have some seriously shady parts in my yard, too. I love hostas, though yes, they do die back. I have ginormous sword ferns on the north side of my house, though, and they don't. I have a hardy fuchsia in a shady section in back that's done pretty well, and I'm also a fan of evergreen huckleberry, which can get pretty big (I'm thinking 8-10 feet in the shade? but I could be wrong) and will also (eventually, assuming you can keep birds away) produce yummy fruit.

If you want more suggestions I can ask my gardener. I also really like fragrant stuff near the front steps. I have daphne that smells awesome right now, really fragrant old-fashioned roses for June, and honeysuckle for later in the summer. I had heliotrope last summer, too, but I think it was an annual.

Overall looking at your yard makes me think it needs more mulch/fertilizer.

Anonymous said...

Dirt? Grass? Plants?

Note the date: I HAVE NO ADVICE TO GIVE.

(But I love your house, it's so cute inside and out.)

- Di

Adriana Velez said...

Wow, you've already got a lot of great suggestions. I agree with hostas on the side -- they're very low maintenence. That's what we have in our no-sun front garden. We also put in coleus for color and a few other shade-loving ground covers. If you go to a nursery just ask for shady plants.

If they show you plants with "part shade/part sun" tags press them on that -- "seriously, NO SUN" -- so you don't end up with something that tolerates lots of shade but would prefer more sun.

J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Everyone: This is all excellent information! Thank you. I almost feel like I should hire a landscaper to come out and give me an assessment. I'm also very tempted to send my pictures to that TLC or Discovery Channel program where they 'redecorate' your yard. Curb Appeal?? I think that's the one.

Anyway, this provides me with some ideas and plant names I can now work with. I think I may head down to the Garden District tomorrow in my old neighborhood and see what added wisdom--armed with this information--I can garner from the guys and gals down there.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Liz said...

I don't know about bushes and such, but some window boxes full of trailing flowers or greenery would look darling hung on your front porch railing...

Holly said...

I hate lawn. I dug up my entire front lawn and planted ornamentals. They're much prettier and don't require mowing, but they do require weeding. If you want low maintenance stuff, I would dig up the entire lawn and plant hostas (yeah, they look crappy early spring, but they look great the rest of the time) and shade-friendly ground cover,and any gardener can provide you with plenty of options for that.

If your front yard gets sun, I'd dig that up too and put in things that flower and/or smell pretty like lavender and lilacs. And a clematis--I'm with mme. meow on that. I have a deep purple one and it's awesome.