Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Townhouse Garden 2008 - The Backyard Evolution

With the major front garden renovations completed, it's time to turn my efforts to the backyard.

There's a lot of things I want to do to this blank slate of a backyard. There were a few plants and some garden beds in place but nothing that I was going to keep. The ugly fence is going to be replaced in 2009, so I can't do to much with the backyard, just enough to make it pretty for this year.

The existing hard edged combination of brick and plastic edging are going to be replaced with something more natural and flowing.

My sister saved some Iris's from some one's garbage, I potted them, I plan to give them a nice sunny spot in the new garden.

One of the first things I bought for the garden this year was an ornamental cherry tree "Kwanzaa" is the variety. After seeing all the flowering cherry's lining the streets I just knew I had to get one. I like the full flowers and late blooming of this variety, this tree will grow large in 15 to 20 years, but by carefully pruning the branches, I hope to keep a open airy feel about it. I would like some shade but not all shade.

The garden needed some height, one way I tried to achieve this is the addition of these free Rhododendron "trees". I totally scored with these beauties, I can often be found trolling the Craigslist's, Farm and Garden or Free listings, I've found it's a good way to acquire cheap or free mature plants and I lucked out one day when some one had posted free Rhodo's. Knowing how shallow rooted Rhodo's are I went with my utility trailer and shovel to dig them up. When I arrived they were exactly what I was looking for, 6 to 7 feet tall, and the lower branches had already been removed years earlier. It took a little digging and two people to lift it out of the hole but up they came and I've never looked back. One is red as shown and the other is purple. They bloom at different times so there is some colour for almost a month and a half strait.

The purple Rhodo in bloom.

After each of the tree's finished blooming, and before the new growth really started to grow I removed all the old leaves by carefully snapping them backwards. The old leaves were not in good shape and by removing them, it enabled me to clean up the spent flower blossoms from this and previous years and I could see the "bones" of the trees. I cut out any crossing branches and opened up the tree for good light and air movement. I find you can prune them hard and they are very forgiving.

Another total score, courtesy of Craigslist, were the granite rocks I was looking for. They weren't free but who can argue with $20 and a case of beer. They look terrific as the new boarder for the back garden beds. They add more of that natural element I'm trying to going for.

The granite rocks go all along the backyard, curving here and there. One thing I would like to add sometime would be the addition of a small shed to store the wheelbarrow and all my gardening tools, perhaps on the shady side of the fence once the fence is replaced next year.

I painted the ugly fence this year and I also attached some painted plywood to the upper portion of the fence to cover the lattice. Our backyard faces the street and I didn't like the fact that anyone walking by could look through the lattice and see into the yard and into the living room at night.

The combination of the shade from the fence and the dog, does a number on the health of the grass in the backyard, I'm constantly watering a patching up the doggie damage it really is a losing battle. I'm considering removing the grass and replacing it with some crushed stone next year. That will be a no maintenance, water saving option, not to mention it will keep the mud off the dog's paws in the winter when the grass seems to turn to a muddy mess.

A different perspective

The back fence isn't strait across, it juts in about 2 feet from the property line half way across. Next year when the fence gets replace, the fence will all be the same depth, running on the property line. This should give me and extra 20 square feet to garden in. Right now nothing can be planted along the fence by the gate, but next year the gate will stil be in the same place, but I will have all that extra room. The granite rocks will have to be re-worked to accommodate the extra bed.

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