Help for my poor neglected yard..

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by KirstyP, Apr 13, 2021.

  1. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    I wish I could say I'd just moved in- but my yard has been really neglected as we mainly use our cedar deck (not pictured..) rather than the yard itself. Plus, a freestanding garage takes up half the plot of our city lot.

    It is in seriously shaded by a massive cherry tree, lined with these hedging trees (lawsonia?) that my husband trimmed years ago into this ridiculous popsicle shape. I know the space is a challenge to plant, and I would love opinions on plantings. I got differing advice, so I've been paralyzed! (I'm enthusiastic but not experienced...) A landscape student (she told us to put in 3" of soil- which we did 2 years ago- and mulch and plant oakleaf hydrangea, ferns, lady's mantle.. never got to the plantings, but the plants are standing by..) A lovely lady we bought some beatiful heuchera, brunnera and lots of hosta told us it was unlikely the hosta would thrive in the space and that I should consider container plantings. Then a landscape designer said that trimming the cherry tree was paramount (we have done that..) and then to plant some ferns etc.- he said that ferns would likely be the only thing that thrived. I'd love to get something to grow here! (There were huge azalea when we moved in, that thrived for at first- as well as a mock orange-both died eventually..)

    We plan to put in two raised decks around the tree, as no one ever mentioned terracing our sloped garden. Should I put in more soil and plant the hostas and ferns, and maybe a dogwood- and hope for the best? Or should I stick with containers? Another thing that occurred to me was a raised bed, with 'buried' containers to protect the roots of the new plants, but I'm not sure this would work given the trees. (I know you can't cover the roots of the cherry w new soil, but not sure about the lawsonia..) Any advice at all to help this shady garden grow- and any plant or ground cover suggestions- would be vastly appreciated.. My husband's mother, a longtime gardener, also seemed to think the plants would be fine in the existing conditions, but she is fatalistic about gardens, and embraces the odd failure! I know this is a good attitude, but I'd like to give them the best chance. Pictures below reflect the light conditions before the tree has leafed- the last one is the wooden platforms we are planning to install (though much less!)... Thank you for any and all advice.

    Apologies for the long post, I've been planning to do this for ages..
     

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  2. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    I'm going to assume that I have written too long a post or have posted in the wrong place. Is there anyone that could offer advice as to whether or not I could plant directly in the soil under the trees? Or if I should have raised beds?
     
  3. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I tend to notice more replies to garden design posts on the weekend or when it rains -- they usually require longer answers.
     
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  4. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    Thanks Daniel, so true- beautiful days..
     
  5. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @KirstyP, good afternoon, yes a lot of busy people in their gardens atm, hence the lack of replies. But anyway, regarding your question about what to plant in your newly styled garden. Now IMO you are going to have to think about raised borders or planters, as those trees are the most difficult to plant under. If you look at forestry like this then almost nothing grows beneath them or near them actually.
    So looking at the walkway you appear to want, then some carefully placed planters either side at irregular intervals would be my choice.
    This then opens up your choice of plants. If it were me though due to the amount of shade, I would go for evergreen ferns, with some subtle lighting to show them off at night. If you go down the route of Hostas, then you have to remember they do die off over a six month period and so leaves you with nothing. But if your OK with this, then Hostas and ferns in a shady area is just about perfect. I do like the green garden as it is so relaxing and perhaps a small water feature also, to give a nice sound.
    Anyway, thats my small four-penneth as they say here in England, hope it's of a little help.
    D
     
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  6. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    Thank you so much Acerholic.! So helpful.. (I have noticed that nothing grows under them, but I was thinking of that heroic azalea..) I will take you advice on the raised border and bring in a yard- or three- of soil. The lighting would be a beautiful touch. Thank you for the reminder of growing windows, I will keep that in mind- nice to have something to look at in the winter. I hope some ferns, maybe tall ones (sword or ostrich?) might fill in the sizable gaps. Now I only wonder if I should put landscaping fabric under the new soil to prevent the cherry and lawsonia roots from invading the new plantings.. :) Thank you so much for this insight.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2021
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  7. wcutler

    wcutler Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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    @KirstyP, it's Acerholic who gave you advice about the raised border.
     
  8. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Or when someone else’s « problem » (I jest) is more interesting than our own half-way finished bright idea !

    I will read again and firstly would like to say I think your place looks really nice w lots of potential

    I notice the small picture (i don’t know term for them) that is part of your identity in this forum — is that your dream — because it looks a lot like what your existing garden bones might offer

    I would say before getting in to the details about which hosta or fern etc to choose - the big picture starts first
    (Like we all get excited about choosing the color of the granite counter before realizing our kitchen plumbing is a major factor in practical and budget terms)

    You know your lifestyle and vision best plus you know your budget

    And it is vital to know realistically how you will Use your yard — i have lived on slopes for a good number of years and rarely set foot in at least half of the real estate (the wildlife use it more than I do)

    Maintenance is a major consideration -

    Cost of metered water

    Firesmart in our urban interface

    Do your pets or people need areas for their enjoyment (kids playing / pets safely sniffing around)

    Microclimates in your garden thru the 4 seasons)
    I know we have wind from one way and big trees shade is in winter etc so it’s important to invest your time and money in the spots you like to be in.

    Hardscape is important including safe no-ice surfaces and safe lighting for the dark half of the year

    Privacy?

    Views?

    The best thing I have done is invest in properly printed large survey drawings of the property so I could pencil sketch around on the drawings

    Obviously you need to check in with your city hall about bylaws etc ... and make sure anything you build is on your property

    Then you can have fun with choosing plants — believe me, i usually fast forward to plants before practical !
     
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  9. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    I'm so sorry!! Thank you Acerholic! (And Wendy for pointing it out...) I can't even see your reply/ truly thankful.. (Though appalled at my accidental discourtesy, must dm..)
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2021
  10. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    Georgia Strait, thank you so much for this considerate reply. I am absolutely guilty of thinking about the plants first, I have made so many mistakes that way! My front yard is a disaster, in terms of planning, and plants still in their nursery pots abound... The profile picture was just one I chose quickly because I found it lovely- but you have really opened my eyes to this possibility. In fact, all those things you mentioned have! My kids are older now, (9 and 15) and we mainly use our decked areas which are half the space for games and eating outdoors, with furniture and daybeds- for the rest of the garden, I would just love to see something grow in this difficult spot. I know the cherry tree is a challenge but we have a very private space (views from the upper floors only, we are in East Vancouver...) I love the non slip and lighting tips, we do spend half the year skating on the cedar deck and hoping the motion light doesn't turn out :/ Our budget is limited to about $3000 for now- but I think I could manage better lighting. I must confess I have given not thought to fire smart and I do try to choose drought tolerant species. I had also given no thought to microclimates.. I do have a drawing, but I am not sure it is a survey drawing- it has been very helpful! (It's me that is the problem...) Thank you for seeing some potential in this little space :)
     

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  11. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    That is so very well put Georgia. But we all do it, lol.
     
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  12. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Not discourteous at all Kirsty, a very simple mistake that shows you are human and thankyou for the very thoughtful PM btw.
    I'm looking forward to seeing your eventual decision on your garden. A Spring/ Summer garden project is so exciting.
     
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  13. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    Thank you so much, I will update... I am a novice but not afraid of failure! A huge procrastinator and planner though, so maybe this will help with accountability :)
     
  14. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    The old saying comes to mind of, 'failing to plan is planning to fail'.
    So you are doing everything right Kirsty. And after reading your posts and your PM, I am certain you are going to have a wonderful garden.
    Good luck to you.
     
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  15. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    Thank you for the wishes Acerholic- made my day :)
     
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  16. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Hello again - I note above in your first post that you have nice plants still in the black pots fr nursery store ?

    I do that too!
    In fact my two fav retail therapy destinations (selling plants) - they tease me that they will call me in a week to make sure I have planted these new babies

    One yr I even tried to make a bargain w myself if I did one chore and then dig the holes for new plants, yes I was allowed to look ... and buy

    Ok - so likely you have significant expense in your plants awaiting so I think put them in one place (shade sounds like what you bought (Hosta, ladies mantle etc) that is out of the way but not forgotten - and near a water hose or rain barrel

    Inventory and take pix of your inventory when they leaf out

    If you like the Hosta colors you have - that’s great - I am partial to bright green lime color called Guacamole (yes a Hosta) and some others tried and true like Sum & Substance

    NEXT - ask your neighbors if they have larger black nursery pots (they are expensive to buy empty) and offer to use them!

    Get decent potting mix (I like SeaSoil fr northern Vanc Island — ÉDIT: make sure you get the mix for container pots - the Sea Soil bag labels are very decorative and I easily confuse one bag with another)

    Now put your plants on (EDIT: put your plants IN not on) bigger pots — do NOT put soil any higher around the stem than you already see in existing pot

    Keep your old (now empty) pots to plant more alchemilla mollis (ladies mantle) and eventually you can divide your hostas etc

    —-
    One key thing I have learned is something attributed to one of the classic (likely British) garden designer ladies is “if you don’t know what else to plant, repeat something you already have”

    That helps keep us on the design mission - and THEN you can put in the middle a striking focal point planter of seasonal interest - or some special driftwood or a weather-safe sculpture you create (or choose) with your family

    And that lovely peaceful seating you show in the image next to your name

    —-
    On thé practical side
    Other thoughts as I recall my own journey
    1. Drainage! Does the street run down in to your yard? Does your driveway run in to the neighbor? Must be addressed

    Off street parking is key, too

    2. Storage of sport and garden gear - near your car and also secure safe dry rodent-proof storage for your bikes and skis and winter tires, racks and tools - check w house insurance about what secure storage they require esp for expensive e bikes etc

    3. Consider a balance of what you’d like today // what is budget today and how you can evolve your plan longer term

    Based on your avatar photo — Make little spaces you can enjoy today with a couple of plastic muskoka chairs fr big box store and a recycled side table and test for the summer - do you use that spot ? If no, then you have info about future plans & perhaps where to direct your time and investment $

    I imagine your property has great design ideas and opportunities yet to be revealed - and I look fwd to updates on this forum.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2021
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  17. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    Thank you so much for these tips Georgia Strait- I am totally guilty of impulse plant purchasing! MANY nursery pots in my yard, and my upstairs is entering jungle territory with 5 very big fiddle leaf figs... I have a lovely selection of shade plants brought from Erica's daylilies in Langley, she was very helpful- choosing shades that complimented each other. I am currently wanting to buy a bunch of tiarellas, so beautiful and native to boot- I had never even heard of them.

    Our drainage is good as we had to dig away the perimeter of the house when we purchased- and we laid a concrete barrier. A big part of our yard is a freestanding garage, but in our neck of the woods no one uses them for cars.. mainly studios or storage... Design is so important, we couldn't do crush or the like because of the cherry debris.. (Speaking of design- we have a little water feature, low and tiered. The raccoon's favourite hobby is to muddy it up and rip out the pump, that is secured beneath rock, etc. I read that they use them as a latrine- so I think we have to rethink!)

    Great idea about the nursery pots...! Is the primary reason to protect their roots and make them easier to divide..? Do you mean take pictures before planting them, so as to look at them together? I like that, like a composition... My dad buys the sea soil, I know it well! I will use that in the pots but and I will be ordering a few cubic yards or garden soil.. I used Lawn Boy two years ago for soil delivery and we were happy with them, but I've seen some complaints lately. If anyone can recommend someone in Vancouver, that would be great :)

    I will post pictures, and hopefully get something growing...!
     
  18. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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  19. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    @Acerholic This is so helpful! I have been making a list but this- coming from people who know what they're talking about- is such a perfect resource! I totally appreciate this link- I had been trying to find a similar one everywhere- to no avail!! I've already copied them, thank you so much :))
     
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  20. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    You are very welcome Kirsty, glad it's of help. Something you can refrer to now and again on your gardening journey.
     
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  21. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    I have some lovely hardy, native plants (mainly ferns) as well as my hostas etc.waiting to go in the ground- and I am thinking I might have made a very silly mistake! I spent all of today digging 3 yards of soil to lighten up the current situation- thinking I would give them a 6 inch headstart (esp. with the dreaded lawsonia cypress) over some cardboard- and now I am unsure if it was the right thing to do at all! I wonder if I should have just gotten a yard of ammender.. also, I have this niggling doubt that in fact I chose the wrong soil... I wonder, should I get rid of a yard? Did I get the wrong thing?

    This is the soil profile:

    "Premium Garden Soil is made from heat-treated, high fertility compost, and has a sufficient amount of sand it it to provide appropriate drainage. This mix is optimal for planting annuals, perennials, flowers, shrubs, trees, and raising beds. The structural make-up of the soil regulates garden bed temperature, and retains moisture. The soil can be added to gardens that have clay soil and need to improve work-ability..."

    Thank you for any advice! I know that there are a lot of gardeners that advise never to tamper with the native soil, but we have a slope and a 50 foot cherry tree and the hedging cedars...
     
  22. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Good morning Kirsty, this can be a very hot topic on the forum, so I will just say what I do. Over the past 40 years at our current house I have brought in tonnes and tonnes of topsoil grit and compost to help my garden. It is mainly clay, so never drains or works well, I have removed equal amounts of this over the years.. I have had a great deal of success comparing my plants and trees to my parents and neighbours who have not done this. But and here is the but. The science does say 'not' to do this. A scientist Linda Chalker Scott has written a lot about this, so I do reccomend you taking a look at her studies about amending soil. I've added a link for you.
    Biggest Garden Myths | Linda Chalker-Scott | joe gardener®
    Hope this helps Kirsty.
     
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  23. KirstyP

    KirstyP New Member

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    What a great read- thank you so much! So, do you attribute your success to the fact that you experimented? Even though the science says not to amend, you have found a formula that works, taking out soil if needs be, or finding plants that improve the workability...

    I think that is why I was agonizing as I had read about a science based gardener, who admonished amendment as well as pot drainage etc. This makes perfect sense as plants have to thrive in native conditions.. To be honest, I thought I had clay but when I did the drain test it looks as if the water drained away very quickly. (Could it be 70 years of cherry pits and leaf litter?) It sounds like you have made your garden work, but you had to take out a lot of your amendments. I would do a face palm right now.. but, oh well. I spread it out mainly on the beds, and I get the risk. I only put down two point five yards, and I will use the lightening the soil tips, and avoid peat moss. I have all these shade plants - maybe 30- that there was nowhere to plant. The roots were too pernicious. I guess I will just have to plant ferns only and maybe experiment with a few plants that I can afford to lose. It is so hot right now (the soil, not the weather) that I will let it cool down and plant some hardy native ferns and heuchera, lady's mantle etc. (The experiment plants, heuchera, are doing very well, I will transplant them into soil that is only 3" higher..) Then the more tender semi shade plants I will move to the front garden. I was hoping to put in tiarellas (love these plants...) but I don't think they would do well.

    So lovely to hear about your experiences, I'd love to see pictures :)
     
  24. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Generous Contributor

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    Hello - you’re making great progress and probably more than you realize

    I hope you’re taking “before and after” even if only for yourself

    Take from same angle and time of day — really important morale boost!

    ——
    QUESTION - when I read your post yesterday - I am unclear - is the cardboard UNDER your fancy new soil ?

    What is the purpose of cardboard ?

    It seems a reasonable concept for weed suppression - maybe -

    However I would say that you should cut holes in it where you are putting your Hosta etc

    EDIT to clarify - I think much of the cardboard has so much coating and ink , it just lives forever even in the rain - I found a small piece today from a couple yr ago - in some fir needles I picked up - ink perfect.

    ———
    Design - I urge you to plant with a plan for swath style like nature (I think swath is the word)

    It will look better

    Also - BC native sword ferns are your friend in dry shade and low maintenance and water restrictions - and they are leafy all year round here at coast — allow 3x3 feet per sword fern

    Be sure to include your chair focal point like the photo on your name in this forum

    I hope you post pictures soon of your project

    And before I forget - yes! - it’s an experiment - it’s creative and also scientific -a balance -

    and most importantly, responsible care and use of resources these days, too —

    - I think perhaps @Margot posted recently about garden experience and experiments - I think it’s really important for you to do your chores and be organized about it - then call it a day and admire how great it all looks — hence your rest chair in your meme

    I am sure many other contributors would support your experiments process
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2021
  25. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Thanks Kirsty, re photos just go over to the maples forum and you will see many pictures of my trees.
    My experience has come from listening to old gardeners who lived in my area and passed on their knowledge. No science at all, just learning from their experiences including their mistakes.
    IMO, there is nothing better than looking around where you live to see what plants thrive in peoples gardens and what is scarce. I am a bit of a chatter box, so enjoy talking to people about their gardens when out walking. You will gain so much from doing this, so do give it a try.
    As you probably realise, I love maples. So did my parents who lived only 100 yards from where I live, so we have the same soil. Their maples were very poorly tbh, so I decided to give mine the soil they would be happy in. That's good drainage and a slightly acidic. So that meant the clay had to go. Now for me this has worked, but it has taken many many years to get to this stage and a lot of work. Probably only suitable for fanatic maple growers, lol.
    So for you, I would look at what plants do well where you live and pay attention to either shade or sun loving, so you also get the placement right. You will not go far wrong if you adopt this principle IMO.
     

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