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landscape creatives: clean slate ideas

2 years ago

30 years ago we moved into this old house (NJ) with a postage-stamp size, fenced-in back yard. Back then we were much younger and, I guess, more creative - since it wasn't long before we had a gorgeous back yard that many people would just stop and stare at as they walked by. But included in those landscaping ideas was a sun-burst locust tree. I thought it was going to a 'lightly shade' tree but is soon took over the entire back yard - including at least 20 feet over our two story colonial and half way across the street. Literally, there was no sun - ever - in my back yard, even though it is the south side of the property. Consequently, nothing ever grew and all our plantings just died - as well the grass. I tried every trick in the book for years, but nothing but hostas ever took hold. My backyard became a barren wasteland - except for the locust tree (which was quite stunning, actually - but very messy in spring with tons of catkins dropping for weeks - that I had to literally shovel off the sidewalk!).

Then last year the tree had gotten so big it literally split in half. I had to take it down and now the back yard bakes in the summer sun. The few shade loving plants that were trying their best to survive in the dense shade were gone in a short time as was the lawn that was barely alive to begin with.

But with the bad, comes the good. My barren wasteland is now a clean slate with plenty of opportunities for those sun loving, flowering plants that I so wished I could have grown over the years. I have not started designing just yet -- so I thought I'd show you all what I have so maybe some creatives can come up with some ideas to spring board me into spring. I would love to attract butterflies and other pollinators -- and I would like it to be a 3 season yard (when some end their season, new plants are emerging).

The only caveat that may pose as a problem is that I have never had luck with buying young/bareroot plants online. I've tried for years and even though what comes in the mail look extremely healthy, they never make it out of the chute - even though they were shade loving. Perhaps the squirrels eat them - I'm not sure. So I am going to try to have, at least most of the varieties, the kind that are common enough to find in 6" pots at a garden center.

Photo 1 shows one of two raised beds - which I will be keeping since the soil is ideal for growing, while the yard is hard clay (even though I have been adding nutrients for years - it's still hard clay). Photo 3 shows a lot of trash (sorry) - which, of course, will be removed. It also shows a mis-matched fence section. The fence is a custom made fence and we had to work around an old tree, which I had removed when the locust was taken out. I do not plan to fix the fence - but instead will want to cover it was something tall or bushy. The plant to the left is a blue-berry bush and will be remaining. I started planting ivy for a ground cover a few years ago - it is taking over and I am ok to keep some of it for now - at least until the other plantings that I add mature. Photo 4 is the detail of another planting area. It contains a small pond that once was a home for creatures (frogs, etc), but now is overgrown with pond lilies. They produce pretty purple flowers and no longer require any maintenance, so the lilies/pond will remain. This area does get shade until mid afternoon because of the garage.

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