Tag Archives: backyard

22 Jan

Hill Garden 2001-2014 a Transformation!

Before photo 2002

 

IMG_9731

When my husband and I moved into our St. Louis suburban home in 2001 we inherited a south-facing, 18-foot tall, very steep, lawn-covered hill.  I looked at that hill and saw it as a great opportunity.  The grade itself provides privacy from neighbors, and the hill faces the house so I knew that we would get the full visual benefit of turning it into a garden.  My husband looked at it and wasn’t convinced!

Before even beginning my landscape planning, I knew I needed to get a jump-start on screening the surrounding houses, so right away I planted several ‘Keteleeri’ upright juniper on the top eastern corner of the hill.  These large evergreen shrubs would eventually satisfy my need for a 12-foot screen, without overgrowing the space.

hill digging

 

In order to create the formal look I desired for the rest of the yard, and to define the lower edge of the hill, we had a 4’ tall concrete block retaining wall installed.  By cutting into the hill, the wall also helped to expand the flat, useable area of my yard.  I resisted multiple terraces, because I wanted the area above the wall to be dominated by plants, not hardscape.

wall install

 

I kept my choice of plants to those with very fine foliage, small flowers, and a mature height of less than 3 feet tall.  This makes the plants appear farther away and the property appear larger.  I also wanted to create the feeling of an alpine meadow, which requires adhering to a specialized color scheme of mostly bluish purple, true pink, and red, with just a dab of clear yellow.  Most importantly, the plants had to be drought and sun tolerant.  To that end, I used a mixture of native and adapted plants.

I implemented the first round of planting over 2 years, starting with small wholesale liner plugs (72 plants to a flat).  Additionally, I fill in every year with new plants to replace what has not done well, or just for the fun of trying something new.

hill plugs

new hill plants

 

Each year, in the very early spring, my husband and I cut back all the plants on the hill.  We don’t remove any of the dead and dried plant material, we simply shred it and leave it to decompose between the plants and return the nutrients to the soil.   In mid spring, before the plants fill out, we hand weed quite a bit. Mainly we tackle the woody trees sprouting up.  We battle honeysuckle, maples and red bud trying to turn my prairie like hill garden back into a woodland forest!  The more we pull during the early spring, the less we have to do the rest of the year in terms of maintenance. But by the time the plants fill out in late spring, if we have done a good job of weeding to that point, there is little weed competition for the rest of the year.  I fertilize with an organic slow release fertilizer annually, and water about once a week.

plants 1 season

 

The three main initial grass varieties on the hill were the backbone of the design: Pennisetum orentale ‘Karley Rose’, Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ , and to a lesser extent the Miscanthus sinensis ‘purpurascens’ (which is a beautiful grass, but hasn’t thrived for me).

2005

 

2005b smaller

 

The perennials successes are led by the Nepeta (Catmint),  Salvia greggii ‘maraschino’ (which surprisingly has come back for me for years despite it being only rated hardy to zone 7) and Amsonia hubrechtii, which has a fantastic golden fall color.  Pink Missouri primrose, several types of lavender and Plains Coreopsis (a self seeding native annual) also have established well.

Another species that is thriving is Rhus Glabra, the only woody species on the hill.  It is a native suckering shrub that I planted in the opposite corner from the evergreens to visually balance their height.  It has an outstanding fall color and is doing very well (maybe too well as it also wants to take over now…but it is pretty, and native, and for the most part the sumac and I are friends).

early fall 2006 smaller

 

I’ve also had a few disappointments – the Gaura ‘siskiyou pink’ and the Agastache rupestris I tried, both bloomed beautifully the first year and looked fantastic by my design criteria, but died out after only a year.  I’ve had little luck with Russian sage surprisingly, and also have been disappointed by several types of Penstemon, although last year I planted more Penstemon, so we’ll see if I fare better this summer.

I considered the Hill portion of the hill garden mature when it was 3 years old…about 2007.  The surrounding woody plants, the smooth sumac, the junipers, and many of the trees and shrubs in the rest of the yard have been growing now for over a decade, and although the hill itself still looks a lot like it did in 2007, the perimeter of the yard has gotten much larger and the yard is very private now.

 

2014 Pictures

2014

 

2014b

 

Our planning and work has paid off, as you can see in the photos. Instead of a bland, hard-to-mow steep slope of turf grass, we have an ever-changing view of diverse and colorful plants to enjoy throughout the year. We’ve provided a nice sized area for local bird and pollinator insect populations, and a pleasant backdrop to the various activities in and around our suburban home. Most of the winter we have a resident fox who likes to sleep in the hillside sun…and, for a plant lover like me, I’ve created a wonderful place to test and enjoy a variety of grasses and wildflowers in my own backyard paradise.

The hill changes with every season.  Here are a few more of my favorite photos of the hill garden, enjoy!

P1000204

 

photo 4

 

Photo 8

 

Photo 9

Mary Francois Deweese is a Registered Landscape Architect and Owner of Acorn Landscapes in St. Louis.

20 Jan

Thinking about what to plant in the veggie garden this year

So, it’s after the winter holidays now and I’m starting to think about what vegetables I want to grow this year.

So this is the 10th year that I’ve had my raised vegetable gardens.  I have 4 of them and they are about 6′x8′.

I’ve gone through many permutations of plan plans for them, starting off with the square foot gardening method with strict string layouts and regimented borders of flowers.  I progressed into a haphazard (read lazy) version of the square foot method with ‘areas’ not defined any more with string.  I’ve planted for early, mid and late successional plantings (or tried to) and I slowly moved towards more of an inter-planting scheme. The last season was one where I let everything lay fallow, and weed covered, as my garden pathways were under construction and I just ignored the forest of volunteer veggies, flowers and weeds until early fall (at which time I did harvest over 50 mini pumpkins from a volunteer vine that I never weeded, watered, planted, or fussed over…best success with pumpkin growing I’ve ever had…ha!)

At this time, mid-winter, I’m anticipating the next season of planting…which actually may be my favorite part…the catalog browsing, dreaming and planning stages.

I don’t know about you, but I’m always getting sucked into the gardening and seed catalogs, and I’ve grown many many things that I don’t even really eat.  I’ve had tomato’s coming out of my ears (I’m not a huge fan of tomato’s really), and have harvested a lot of strange and inedible bitter greens.

This year, I think I’m going to try my hand at cucumbers.  I’ve actually never had good success with cucumbers, but I tried the most delicious brined pickles this winter (Bubbes brand from Whole Foods) and they were so delicious I thought I’d like to try my hand at brining my own fermented pickles.  So I see some trellises in my future, probably made from the bamboo I took down that was previously made into my berry cage.  I see buckets of brined pickles and can’t wait to start looking at the growing pile of catalogs by my desk to choose several varieties of cucumbers to try.

I don’t think I’m going to grow tomatos at all, since several of my neighbors do, I will have plenty when they start sharing.

I do think I’ll get some nice lettuce going, and onions and leeks.  Also carrots and beets.

So in the mean time, before I start my indoor seeds, I’ll just be dreaming and planning of spring…Yay!

 

12 Aug

July 2011 Garden Photos

Sunflower planted by Chipmunks

Wow, July was a very dry month for us here in Missouri…although the total amount of rainfall was near normal…that 3 inches all came in the first few days of the month…and then nothing for the rest of the month.  Things have struggled in the drought and heat this month…there were several weeks of very high temperatures…many days in the triple digits.  It has been almost impossible to keep up with weeding chores because of the heat…so things are getting a little overgrown in places…it is always difficult to stay motivated to maintain the garden when it is so hot, and this summer was a record setter!

 

Read More

24 Jul

June 2011 Garden Photos

Fibrous Begonia Macro orange

Here is a nice collection of Photos from June, although I am a little late getting these posted…Things looked good in June…had regular rain…maybe too much rain…and the vegetable garden was a few weeks behind what it was last year…but most things look healthy and the season in quite underway.  I was on a garden tour this month called the Sustainable Backyard Tour…we had about 50 people come by…and the garden looked really nice.  I got a new wicker bench and chair which I have been wanting for several years for our main patio…and the weeds were mostly under control.  The wildlife has been incredible this month, and it really feels like a garden of Eden out there.

 

Read More

24 Jul

2011 Food Growing totals

serviceberries

Last Updated August 18, 2011

Here are the current food growing totals…as well as last years totals so you can compare how we are doing.    We are definietly behind for the year, but I have started a bunch of fall crops and hope to make up the harvest in a month or two.

 

Read More

31 May

Two Month Garden Time Lapse

The Backyard Layout is very Formal...which ties together the whole design.

Here is a time lapse video of my hill garden from April 1st 2011 to may 31st 2011.  It begins with the forsythia in bloom in the pot, and some bulbs.  Soon the serviceberry trees bloom white and everything starts turning green.  The Siberian Iris in the pot are growing, and when they begin blooming the bearded Iris do too way to the left of the image.  The hill garden blooms in very light pink from the primrose and is also very purple from the catmint (although the video doesn’t show it well)  Towards the end you start seeing the serviceberries turning red and our ladder is out so we can pick them.  There was a lot of rainy days during this two months…and we did some entertaining towards the end of the video.

26 May

May 2011 Garden Photos

Native Pink Honeysuckle macro

May was a great month for the garden!  I spent a lot of time out there and am pleased that it looks as good as it does.  It has rained quite a bit and everything is extremely green!  I stepped back for some of these photos so you can see the design of the garden more instead of focusing so much on individual flowers.  I hope you enjoy taking a tour of the garden, I wish you all could see it in person because the pictures just don’t do it justice.  It is like a garden of paradise out there, with so many birds and animals, flowers and fruit, I am truly one lucky gardener!

Read More

30 Apr

April 2011 Garden Time Lapse Video

backyard

Here is the first time lapse video of the garden….April 2011

Note the video begins with the forsythia in bloom and the hill still brown and not cut back or mulched.  Then the serviceberries bloom and the grass and hill start to turn green.  The next installment for May should show the hill burst into bloom, pink and purple!!!!!


Read More

14 Oct

2010 September Garden Photos

Erie viburnum / Viburnum dilatatum 'Erie'

Here is a collection of photo’s showing what is in flower in my garden during September 2010

Its getting close to fall but there is still a lot of diversity in the showy flowers and plants this time of year.

Read More

24 Jun

Attracting Birds to your Yard

Duck Family

If you want to attract birds to your backyard there are four things you should strive to provide…food, moisture, cover and housing.

We enjoy watching a variety of birds all year long. 

Read More

All Content Copyright 2010-2014 Sprawlstainable. All Rights Reserved. Website customized by DeweeseDesign Powered by: WordPress