Saturday, September 3, 2016



I have been improving my back yard these past few seasons, beginning in 2013. While most of my improvement projects that first year were devoted to urgent repairs on the house and garage, I did have my rotten deck replaced.

In 2014 my niece's fiancĂ©, Marcus, installed my courtyard garden, which I showed you in an earlier post. He also replaced my old arbor over the front sidewalk and replaced it with a gorgeous cedar arbor, and he and my niece, Kelsey, rototilled and planted a perennial garden in the back left of the property, and my daylily bed in the back right.

I can't think of any big projects accomplished last year but this year Marcus and his helper really went to town. The two prime reasons for the changes were my dogs barking at the neighbors, and the lack of shade over my deck after my beloved elm had to be cut down (see previous post). I knew that the shade for my deck would no longer be sufficient, but I went ahead and bought my shade plants anyway, because a lot of the temporary greenhouses pack it up by the end of June, and the permanent ones are out of annuals - at least the healthy ones - by then as well.

I knew the plants would suffer, and they did. A few of my orchids were severely burned, as well as a bird's nest fern. Impatiens, my old reliables, sickened. Some houseplants actually bit the dust!  I quickly researched cloth shade sails and umbrellas, and ultimately decided on two huge umbrellas in a gorgeous blue, which Marcus and his friend installed. They lasted two days - literally. I bought these umbrellas for shade, not for me but for the plants, so I left them up during the day. The second day, a huge wind/rain storm whipped through town while I was at work, and broke the ropes on both umbrellas, destroying their capacity to open and close. They were a total loss - a bitter disappointment and a hit in the pocketbook.

Then, Marcus offered to build a pergola. I am quite satisfied at how well it turned out, except that I had hoped for longer, more dramatic Japanese-style rafters. I was thrilled at how they blended the deck, built by other contractors, with the new pergola. The top photo is the view looking up from the lower deck, and the bottom photo shows it from the back yard. If you enlarge the photo you can see Holly giving an adoring look to "her Marcus", the photographer, and also a part of the lower deck behind the garage.

Mostly, I am tickled pink with how it turned out. Not only can I place a lot of annuals and houseplants in the shade, I can hang orchids from the lattice top (photo taken before I did this). Other plants include heliotrope, pansies, regular and New Guinea impatiens, tuberous and dragon-wing begonias, and several varieties of fuchsias. I am also able to hang wind chimes, votive candles and garden flags. I have mounted plant hangers on a couple of posts, and hung some of my smaller "Green Men and Women" plaques from other posts. The deck has really become a "Garden Room". (This view is looking toward my patio door into the kitchen.)

This view is looking out toward the back yard, where you can see the new fence that Marcus and his partner built. Next year I plan to hang my larger Green Men and Women on the fence. Holly no longer barks at the kids who live behind me, and they no longer shriek in fear when they see her (as if Holly would harm a fly). The white arbor over the statue was secured so it won't fall over every time the wind blows a bit.

This is one view of my courtyard garden, all filled up! It has a new black metal fence this year. Purchased at Lowe's, it was quite inexpensive and went up quickly. It is a huge success in fulfilling the purpose it was added for, to keep the dogs (mainly Holly) from digging up the dirt squares and knocking over pots.

This is another view of the courtyard garden, and unfortunately of my neighbor's driveway. However, when I am down in the courtyard , I have perfect privacy due to the grapevine. I also have privacy on the other side of the yard, from my neighbor's ivy. Both are excellent for hiding chain link fences. However, you will note that I said I have privacy. Holly can still see through the chain links, and barks excessively at the neighbors, and especially rabbits, cats, and children, whom she appears to have never seen before.
So that problem still needs to be resolved. And my hugest disappointment to date is the 2014 re-seeding of the back yard. It cost a lot, and did not take. Last year, it was half grass covered with plaintain weeds and half bare dirt. This year it is an explosion of weeds of all sorts and great height. I have had two helpers hack away at the weeds over the summer, and recently had a go at them myself. I am half wishing for fall so that the weeds will die!
It is clear that next year's project is seeding the lawn again - but making it smaller, by carving out more perennial beds to replace a lot of the grass. Ah, there will be a lot of dreaming over the long, cold winter.