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vexter1

Need Backyard Landscaping Advice - Newbie - Zone 8B

7 years ago
last modified: 7 years ago

I bought a new home here in Northeast Louisiana. The house faces N/W and the pool in the pictures faces E/W with the diving board on the E side of the pool. The backyard is looking rough and not sure where to go with it. The pictures were taken in Jan of 2017, so hence the lack of vegetation. There is a HUGE (I believe to be) Oak tree in the NE of the corner of the yard that seems to keep that area pretty shaded. Quick observations are it's a partial sun kind of yard with most of the sun hitting the deck on the W side of the yard and at times the N side to the right of the gazebo.

We would like some screening/privacy type of plants due to the pool and maybe of like closing off/walling in the pool (tall shrubs like a wall is what we were thinking) - maybe some edging along the pool with brick and retaining wall blocks for flowerbeds, but then again - we're not sure. I need low maintenance plants and plants that won't dump anymore stuff in the pool because I have enough with the trees ;)

The length from gazebo to the corner of the pool on the E side (where diving board is) is roughly 40'. The length form the NE corner of the pool to the SE corner of the pool is roughly 20'.

As far as budget - I'd of course like to keep it as minimal as possible - but if I need to spend some cash to pull this off right, then we'll figure it out. I'm thinking $2000 or less - but we'll see what everyone comes back with and go from there.

Thanks for any help ahead of time - I'll be watching the thread and will try to reply to questions etc quickly.


Comments (34)

  • PRO
    7 years ago

    Where is the need for retaining wall? I don't see it, or a place for it. And $2K is not enough to be throwing $ toward something you don't need. Better to buy plants with that money.

    It seems there's quite a bit of neighboring foliage hanging over the lot line. I think you'd have a hard time of creating a green "wall" if you didn't first acquire more light. While there are some shrubs that tolerate a fair amount of shade, most require some light in order to look good. You may need to trim some of the foliage back to the line in order that it doesn't add too much shade for new plants to grow well. The same condition pertains to a large tree that shows up in one of the photos. If you're going to grow things below it, you may need to first remove some of the low hanging limbs and branches so light can come in below. In general, screening comes from the ground up, not from things that are already up but allowed to hang lower.

    How much of the fence are you trying to hide?

    vexter1 thanked Yardvaark
  • 7 years ago

    Thanks for the response Yardvaark!

    There's no need for a retaining wall - was basically commenting on using retaining wall blocks to build flowerbeds, if they're the wrong choice - no problem - like I said, newbie ;)

    We have trimmed back a everything off the fence in the last few weeks - there is now nothing touching the fence and we can now walk all the way around the whole perimeter of the fence whereas before, you couldn't. Let's just say there's a serious brush pile for something to call home out in the woods now :) So lots of trimming done. The only thing I can't personally trim is the huge oak I discussed, but I agree, needs to be trimmed for sure. Agree with you on getting more sun in - and like I said, the only area that seems to get more sun than the rest is the wooden deck area. The area where the diving board/banana trees and large oak are is definitely more shady. Hard to say as far as sun/shade where the sago palm is - but it has grown well apparently.

    In regards to the fence hiding - I'd was hoping to hide/wall in the fence from view. I guess our thoughts were to create something visually appealing to look at from inside the house vs just a fence and some grass. I will say I spoke to one local nursery and they explained we would need 6" flower beds in this area due to drainage. So with that said, building out flowerbeds would require a lot of dirt etc I would think in that area.

    I'm wide open to ideas, never handled anything like this before. Would viburnum be a good idea or azaleas or am I running down the wrong path?

    Also - speaking of path - I thought it might be interesting to put some kind of path from the pool to the gate in the N side of the fence, like stepping stones and rock or something like that. Also considered stepping stones or large pavers close to the banana trees to give me a nice path to pool pump/equipment etc.

    Thanks again for the ideas/help!

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  • 7 years ago

    I would drain the pool and refill hoping to get the urine coloring out of it. It should be very blue.

  • 7 years ago

    @dchall_san_antonio - the pool looks much better now - it was way out of whack and I've brought it back around.

  • 7 years ago

    Sounds like you are describing some sort of hedge? Willingness to trim regularly will be needed. Only fences do not require trimming. :) I looked for inspiration in the Houzz photos, some of these are pretty fancy, but WOW, nice too! Pools with hedges

    vexter1 thanked Kim in PL (SoCal zone 10/Sunset 24)
  • 7 years ago

    @kiminpl - that gave me some good ideas. Thanks for the link! I'm thinking I need to get a handle on the sun/shade time in the yard to make a determination on what plants will/won't grown back there due to sun or lack thereof.

    Appreciate the help and input!


  • PRO
    7 years ago

    I agree with Kiminpl that it sounds like a hedge and lots of trimming. If you create a hedge but allow the shrubs to grow their natural (untrimmed) shape, they'll be a lot wider and take up considerable space. It may be that your scheme will call for some of each. Also, there me places that you don't necessarily want to hide the fence, but merely screen what is behind and above it in the neighbor's yard, if you are trying to create a plan with some variety, as opposed to having a solid hedge surrounding the yard.

    There are probably some areas of the yard (like the far side of the pool) where you don't need to have foot traffic. For those areas, instead of grass, a groundcover might work better. One possible solution for incorporating "flowers" in such an area is to embed a very large plant container with its bottom removed into the ground, and plant "flowers" in it. That way, they are raised above the surroundings. (The bottom of the pot is removed for gaining larger root space, by directly connecting to the ground, and to prevent the accumulation of water at the bottom of the pot.

    vexter1 thanked Yardvaark
  • 7 years ago

    @yardvaark - thanks again for the input!


    Here's a bit of what I was considering then in terms of hedges -

    Sweet Olive (which grows well here) - to start the hedge row next to gazebo, then several cleyera hedges then another sweet olive at the NE corner of the pool and then more cleyera hedges and ending at the banana trees (which I like and would rather not get rid of if possible..). Was considering edging the pool in brick and then putting mulch/pine needles on the ground where all sweet olive and shrubs were planted.

    My concern with this approach would be that it might not grow until we trim back some of the overhang (the oak tree etc...). And The other concern is would it be singular in depth - like should I have some kind of grass or something in front of the hedges to create a layered effect?

    I was also highly considering building something like this - https://zacsgarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/lattice_screens-1.jpg - behind the diving board to 'semi-separate' the yard from the pool. Just a thought - not dead set on it.

    Thanks again for the input - it's helping drive a picture of the end goal!



  • PRO
    7 years ago

    If "edging the pool in brick" means that the brick stick up above the pool deck level, I would not do this. Instead, install the brick such that they extend the pool deck in the same plane. They need a tamped granular (crushed gravel/sand) base in order to be solid, straight and level. If you install them in dirt they're not going to look good at some point.

    I think the word "layer" often misleads because it means one thing to some people and a different thing to others. Describe what you are trying to accomplish in other words. A hedge with a groundcover or lawn in front of it is not "layered" to me. Nor do I think it's bad or needs being changed to "layered." Once we find out what you mean, we can go from there.

    I consider sweet olive a small tree. It can be used in a hedge, but will need lots of sun. It's not going to be happy under the oak tree. Maybe you should be considering azaleas, camellia, aucuba, etc. You've showed us picture without lots of sun near the perimeter. Maybe you need to update the pictures so people can be on the same page with you.


    vexter1 thanked Yardvaark
  • 7 years ago

    @Yardvaark -

    I'm in agreement with you on the brick and appreciate that input.

    What I'm trying to accomplish with the word layer in this case probably means more like 'tiered' - or more like taller stuff in the back, shorter stuff in the front. Like this - https://lmchouston.com/sites/default/files/field/image/Beautiful%20Hedges.jpg

    The idea being some kind of screener/privacy hedge with some pops of color or grass or something like that in front of the hedge. To give it some variety, instead of just being a hedge row in a yard I guess. If it's not required and I should not - that's fine too. Like I said - newbie at landscaping.

    I can try to get more pictures - today is kind of cloudy working on rain - so may not be the best day for me to show sun cover. We are planning on trying to get an idea of the amount of sun on each side of the yard very soon by having my wife log the time and sun cover for a day. I just know the previous home owner said that the shallow side of the pool (the west side) - gets sun and gets warm in the water vs the east side of the pool stays colder because of the shade. So that's a bit of indicator I guess.

    I like the look of the aucuba plants - that would be cool in front of hedges as well as the camellias you mentioned. azaleas are very popular at the nurseries around here I've noticed as well.


    Again - thanks for the input!

  • PRO
    7 years ago

    The picture helps to convey what you mean. It's not exactly what I think of as "layered". It's more like a lawn that is edged with a planting ... in this case two -- in stripes -- which is its downfall. It would have been a stronger (and better) statement had it been a wider row of the red salvia and no marigolds.

    If you stood at the brick area and took a full sweep (from far left to far right) of slightly overlapping photos (without moving the camera location for any of them ... just pivot) that would be a pretty good look at the whole back yard.

    Consider how much maintenance you're willing to put into the whole yard, too. If you add more than you are really willing to do, you could end up hammering a thorn into your side.

    vexter1 thanked Yardvaark
  • 7 years ago

    @Yardvaark - I'll grab the photos when I get home so we can get some good pics to work on for you guys. I don't mind doing some maintenance - I just don't want to be overwhelmed by it. aka - not every or every other weekend cutting/trimming etc - but if I have to do some trimming form time to time etc - that's no issue.

  • 7 years ago

    Ok - here's the pics as requested - taken @ 4:30p - some sun out - also took two videos - both pics and videos were taken from the SW corner and NE corners of the pool for different views etc. Hope these help! :)


    NE Corner Video - https://youtu.be/We9yluDP66k

    SW Corner Video - https://youtu.be/4fldOewAXoo


  • PRO
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    The real purpose of this sketch is to suggest a possible line that would divide bed from lawn. It lines up with the pool edges. The space between house and pool is small enough that I wouldn't want to deal with turf, leaving it only to the larger, central area of the yard. I've doodled in a hedge outline, but am not really suggesting how you do the hedge. I just got too far along so couldn't erase it.

    You left the large scrawny bush by the gazebo. What is it and what is it supposed to become? I can't see how you're going to do nice plantings nearby with that remaining as it would restrict light from getting to new plants. If it's worth saving, you might want to consider a regrow on it. But it depends on what it is.

    Ummm ... cuz I forgot to load it!

  • 7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    i don't see a sketch, i'm out and about on my mobile checking in, did it not post?

    Also - the scrawny bush (bushes) by the gazebo are crape myrtles I believe - not married to it, so if it needs to go, not an issue.


    Hope to see your sketch soon!


    Thanks!



  • 7 years ago

    Thanks NHBabs for that comment - it's most definitely something to note. I don't know what to mix in this case - any thoughts?

  • PRO
    7 years ago

    I added pic.

  • 7 years ago

    @Yardvaark -

    Thanks for the sketch!! I like what you presented a lot btw!

    So a few questions -

    1. Are you suggesting removal of the banana trees? Noticed they were kind of gone in the corner.

    2. What type of hedge are you suggesting?

    3. What type of plant are you showing as in front of the hedges, as in the edging/border of them - the ground cover I guess?

    4. What type would you suggest for each of the flowers (red and blue/purple) you have in the pic?

    5. Should we put in some kind of paver edging or just mulch/pine straw to the pool deck where we plant things?

    6. How far back should the hedges be planted from the pool deck?

    That's all I can think of for now - thanks!!!

  • PRO
    7 years ago

    Not trying to be purposely vague. The sketch it meant to be inspirational, where you think about and refine the ideas. In answer to your question. ...

    1. I never noticed your banana trees in a picture. Consequently I'm not suggesting anything about them.
    2. Not suggesting any specific type of hedge, though some possibilities were mentioned earlier. I'm sure there are more. The drawing is purely generic ideas ... not a specific "plan."
    3. Same with groundcover. In the picture is nothing specific. I'm not even showing your idea of color in front of the hedge. (BTW, it might be a pain to manage long term because the hedge roots will be infiltrating. I think it's better to have color somewhat more separate from large woody plants. But then, if you're willing and your scheme calls for it, have at it. We've already seen it can look good.)
    4. For annuals, it's good to go with what grows in the light conditions you're offering, and what's available locally that looks good. Given that you have some shade, it's likely Impatiens will be one good plant for you.
    5. There is not any need for edging at the pool deck. It has its own edge. Just trim groundcover plants at that edge. Mulch will cover earth in between plants.
    6. It's more like "how far back from the fence will you plant hedges?" 3' is a good average. Not closer. They'll occupy up to 6' from the fence so the groundcover gets the space that's left over.
    vexter1 thanked Yardvaark
  • 7 years ago

    @Yardvaark - good stuff! Thanks for taking time out.


    so moving forward - here's my plan -

    1. Determine sun patterns/time in yard so I can pick plants appropriately.

    2. Pick a hedge type we like - we really liked Cleyera with the mixture of different colors it has in some varieties.

    3. Pick some annuals/perennials that will grow well in our yard/area and plant those where you marked in the picture.

    4. No edging - use pool as edge.

    5. Mulch/Pine Needle in yard closest to house and create bed all the way through per your comment above "The space between house and pool is small enough that I wouldn't want to deal with turf, leaving it only to the larger, central area of the yard." I agree.

    6. I may build a horizontal fence with a planter behind the diving board - still up in the air on this one. thoughts?

    7. Thanks for the advice on hard far to plant hedges from fence, that helps!



  • PRO
    7 years ago

    "I may build a horizontal fence with a planter behind the diving board - still up in the air on this one. thoughts?"

    A "plan" summarized by a single sentence is still a mystery to a reader, as it could be any of twenty different things, depending on the details. It would be hard to say if I thought it was a good idea or a bad one. Yet it makes me wonder if it is a good thing to create a visual barrier between the end of the pool and the end of the yard. Is that better than keeping the open view all the way to the far end of the yard? Could something of visual interest be placed at the far end of the yard instead, where it stands as much chance of captivating interest if it is larger. At the far end of the yard there is probably space to make it larger. In general, I lean away from visual obstructions near the center of the yard in preference for them being near the perimeter, specifically so as not to divide the yard into smaller portions. If you have reason for wanting to create visual division in the yard I think you would need to set it back a ways from the end of the pool so as not to create a sense of cramped space near the diving board area.

    Unless you're going to hire someone to do it for you, what you should be doing, now that ideas are beginning to gel in your mind, is draw a measured base plan ("overhead" view) that shows all of the existing features of the yard that will remain: house footprint, walks, pool, deck, fence, property line boundary, tree trunks (even that large one in the neighbor's yard), etc. You do not need to worry about drawing at a professional quality level or using specific symbols. It's just lines on paper. A scale of 1/4", 1/8" or 1/10" on paper equals 1' of real world would be reasonable scales to work at. (If 1/4" to a foot, you would need larger than copy paper. The other scales could probably be done on copy size paper. Most people use graph paper in order to measure it out easily.) Use a pencil instead of pen. After you draw the base plan, make copies on which to doodle out whatever ideas you have about arranging plants and planting. The copies are so you can explore various ideas (ways to arrange things) without have to erase the previous idea in order to draw a different one. Use circles for individual plants. With plants that are in groups -- like a hedge or a groundcover -- don't draw individual plants. Draw an outline for the whole group. As you work through this process, taking into account the things that are there in real life, even if they don't show on the plan .... windows and tree canopies for example. This is generally the same process I would use to think through all of the details that would go into a landscape. Working at a scale much smaller than real life allows you to sit at the kitchen table while you think up all the cool things you will do in the yard. The thought process is a bit like decorating a doll house except you are doing the outside instead of room interiors. If you return and show us what you are thinking or proposing, that is probably the easiest way for people here to understand it and be able to give you feedback. In a measured plan, we can see exactly how close one thing is to another and how much space is allowed. You'll be able to use the same plan for calculating material quantities.

    From my perspective, the thing that generates the most mystery and why it is hard to speculate about your yard is that above it, there seems to be quite a bit of tree canopy from the neighbor's yards. Yet we can't actually see this in the pictures.

    vexter1 thanked Yardvaark
  • 7 years ago

    @Yardvaark -

    Yeah - the divider/fence behind the diving board was something my wife & I spoke about yesterday at length - we like the idea of it, but I think you're right - would need to be back further - noted. Might still toy with the idea.


    I'll see if I can get any pics of the canopy when I get home and post those for you to look at. In the meantime, I'll get some graph paper out and get to work drawing as well.

    Thanks for the help!

  • PRO
    7 years ago

    Pics of canopy must overlap with pics you've already taken. Pics of canopy alone will make no sense. It's how the canopy relates to the other things in the yard that make the difference.

    vexter1 thanked Yardvaark
  • 7 years ago

    Noted - I'll see if I can grab another set of pics with canopy this time....if not I'll capture a video like before with canopy in it.



  • PRO
    7 years ago

    Overlap from same camera location as the pics I used in my sketch. Just need to include fence. Don't include decking, pool, lawn, etc.

  • 7 years ago

    Not a problem :)

  • 7 years ago

    Ok - Here's the canopy pics as requested - let me know if you need other or they're not good enough - thanks! PS - ignore the torn gazebo please - we just bought the house and are improving/repairing as soon as we can.

  • 7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    "I don't know what to mix in this case - any thoughts?" Sorry, but I can't suggest appropriate plants as I've spent little time in your part of the world, and none in northern LA. I've spent several weeks based in NOLA for work, that's it. I just wanted you to be aware that you won't get an even dense hedge of one species with the variability of light levels. I have a more casual style (I live on an old farm) than what appeals to you, so instead of hedges of one species, for the most part I have mixed shrubs, with multiples of each species, mixed along the length of the shrub border. Only in one spot do I have a row of all the same species, and that is in full sun from all sides so that the plants grow at a fairly similar rate.

    My usual suggestion in this type of situation is that you visit neighborhoods where the gardening appeals to you to get ideas, or if there are garden centers or nurseries with demonstration gardens or if there is an arboretum or public park or botanic garden where you can look at the various types of plantings that they have. To get an ID on a particular plant (if it's not in a situation where it is labeled) take photos of leaves, blooms or fruit, branches and the whole plant, and post on the Name that Plant forum. Or visit the public library and look for books that have landscaping photos for your general area or look at photos here on Houzz that are from your part of the US and see what inspires you. You want to keep in mind that you don't want a huge amount of pruning (so check growth rates once you know names) and that you don't want excessive amounts of shedding of blooms, leaves, seeds, and branches, so something that blooms all summer might be messier than you want to groom.

    Here's a photo from Derviss Design/Michelle Derviss - she sometimes participates in these forums. Though her area is different (CA coast) it shows a similarly shaped yard with varying light levels around the perimeter and so a mix of plants. She hasn't tried to totally cover up the fence, but there is a mix of different textures and foliage color and varied plant heights. If you look at the closer photos of the pots (go to link below) they also rely largely on foliage rather than flowers. I am not suggesting that you try to emulate this, just that this is one way to approach your problem.

    Napa Valley Outdoor Living · More Info

    http://www.houzz.com/projects/312471/napa-valley-outdoor-living

    vexter1 thanked NHBabs z4b-5a NH
  • 7 years ago

    @NHBabs - Thanks so much for the input and advice! I love the idea of mixed plants etc - my biggest concern is always picking the right ones and how many and where to plant. I guess the computer guy (I do IT for a living) likes concise plans and I struggle when things are clean cut as in 2 of plant A goes here and 3 of plant B goes there. I know that isn't how plants work, but I'm always worried about what I'm doing vs what I did right I guess. LOL..

    I like the pic/link you sent a lot - it gave me some ideas for sure. Thanks again for taking some time out to respond and send your thoughts. MUCH appreciated!


  • PRO
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    I pasted in the tree canopy as much as I could and think it doesn't look as bleak as I imagined. You will need to trim off some overhanging limbs from the neighbor's trees and can get enough light to grow a decent hedge. Keep in mind when you do that, limbs above will grow longer, heavier and lower next year and so on. If a limb is just as low as you could tolerate it when you finish trimming, next year you will be sorry you didn't remove it, too. I always go a little farther than where I want it to end up. Within a relatively short time (first summer) everything ends up looking A-OK.

    Employ Google search with a term like "shrubs for zone 8" and compare several of the results. I think you will find many of the same shrubs on multiple lists and those are probably going to be the ones that you are likely to have best results with. Study those and explore Google images for each to see if you can find a picture of it in a larger size. Then you can begin to get an understanding of what the shrub can do for you. That's my version of bottlebrush buckeye in the distance with white blooms. (It would not screen in winter.)

    vexter1 thanked Yardvaark
  • 7 years ago

    Thanks Yardvaark! I'll do some digging on the shrubs for zone 8 as you suggested.


    I'm not sure - but if I wanted to have some limbs remove - does anyone have a very rough idea of cost? I'd do nit myself, but this is one big oak AND my luck it'll fall right in and put a hole in the vinyl pool. Best to let the experts handle business. Just trying to gauge the cost to get some ideas...

  • 7 years ago

    Congrats on your new home! We too just bought a home in La. Closed on 2/25 we are in SWLA though.:) I can not offer much help on plants as I am a complete rookie and struggling myself. Only bit of advice I have is be sure to know just how wet your ground stays and how everything drains back there before making choices. That's a real problem in the area of Louisiana I live in. Good luck! I look forward to following and seeing what you choose.:)

    vexter1 thanked Brandy Smith
  • 7 years ago

    @Brandy Smith -

    Thanks and congrats to you as well!! And thanks for the drainage advice!


    We've more or less decided on Viburnum, Indigo, Hostas, purple fountain grass and maybe some Gardenia per the local nursery after we figured out how much sun we had in each section of the yard after monitoring it for a day hour by hour.

    We plan to use the Viburnum and purple fountain grass down the fence line by the pool, the Indigo/Hostas close to house where it's shady and maybe some Gardenias in a couple of spots.


    Thanks everyone for the help and input - it got us on a track and the local nursery was an excellent help as well - we have a plan - just working on the execution now ;)