Tag Archives: pavers

DIY Landscape: Forsythia corner Part 1

When we first bought our home, there was very little usable landscaping. For starters, we knew we would be pulling out the Yew that were only 2 ft from the foundation in the front, which would leave the front yard bare, but stop the roots from further damaging our foundation. And the only other tree in the yard, a lovely cherry in the backyard, was so termite infested my husband took a chainsaw to it 2 days after we moved in. I wanted to keep it, but after I saw the large hole inside the trunk I realized he was right.

IMG_2297IMG_2470So we are starting from scratch. Last year we removed all the foundation plantings in the front yard. We then landscaped the side yard beside the garage and driveway. This task literally took me 10 months to do, but yy goal is to do a little bit of something every year, ending with a finished landscape in roughly 5 years if Im lucky.

This year I plan on tackling the back corner near the power lines where two already established Forsythia bushes are in dire need of friends and tidying up. I could have opted to remove them and start fresh, but they are the only bushes remaining from the original owners (presumably), and I have already worked their awkward placement into a doable landscape design.

IMG_1104This is what the space looked like last summer. The whole corner was so ugly and overgrown I found it difficult to keep myself from chopping down the Forsythia along with all the wild volunteer trees, vines, and bushes that were with it.

Unfortunately my husband didn’t get the memo that we were keeping it. He had already severely disfigured it before I managed to stop him. I really hope it will put on a more rounded shape in the next few years, otherwise he will off it for good.

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My husband had placed our compost tumbler on that side of the yard, but it was difficult to access and the legs were uneven due to bumpy terrain.  So I decided this year that I would tackle this particular corner so we could gain easier access to the bin, and reduce an eyesore visible from my kitchen. No one wants to see a compost bin, even if it is a slick container raised from the ground. Its just not meant to be pretty.

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I needed to start by revisiting my original rough sketch from last year. I hadn’t taken the time to insert a lot of measurements or details, I just wanted a basic landscaping guide to help to tote around if I saw a few good plants on clearance.

I knew I wanted a curve by the opening in the back gate that swung around toward the Forsythia. I had a vague idea that this curve then needed to follow the side fence before tapering off where the fence ended in the front. But I hadn’t done a really good job of looking at the slope of the yard when this sketch was made. I didn’t realize it makes a good 15” drop or so toward the fence on my neighbors side, and dips back up about 6” from the fence, creating an awkward valley where one would ordinarily begin to place landscaping plants.

I was halfway through the digging before I decided I wanted a few fruit trees in that spot. Wouldn’t a pair of cherries trees look nice? Maybe one on either side of the Forsythia? Instead of cherries, maybe a nice plum or peach?

However, there are power lines in that corner that stretch over my yard to both my house and my next door neighbors house. All the other trees on the back fence line have received an ugly top chop from the power company, and I didn’t want my babies to endure the same fate. So I ordered dwarf fruit trees from the Arbor Day Foundation. The great thing about them, in addition to being able to buy really cheap trees, is that they will recommend suitable mates for trees that are not self pollinating. The Plum and peach I ordered didn’t need another pollinator, but the cherry tree did. Luckily, I didn’t have to do a lot of intense research to decide on a the pair I wanted.

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But that also meant I now really needed to change my original plan. I hadn’t accounted for any trees in my plan from last year, so the design was too small. And based on my experience with the Arbor Day Foundation, I needed to have my spots prepared well in advance. Since the last frost date for my zone is projected at April 7, I expect the trees will arrive the 2nd or 3rd week of April. And I still have two other fruit trees to prepare for.

First I measured where I wanted the trees. They needed to be roughly 4 ft from the fence after all, I do want most of that fruit for myself. So I placed a stick at the desired distance. I then tied a string to a stick, measured 4 ft of string, and attached that to a can of white spray paint which I used to go around the stick in a semi-circle to create the base of the tree (you can barely make out the circle in the photo below). Why 4 ft? The trees will never reach a width of more than 8-10ft. They need to be at least half that distance from any other major landscaping element (in this case, the fence and the forsythia).

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After this I sprayed the rest of the border free hand with the same white project paint, then began to cut into the soil with a shovel. I don’t have one of those wide tined forks designed to pull up grass, nor did I want to strain my back like last year, so I sat down and pulled the grass up by hand, shaking off or removing excess dirt to reduce the weight in my garden cart. I left a  small circle of grass in the center to mark the spot where the fruit trees would go (the boys kept moving everything else I was using to mark the spot).

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I am so thankful for my birthday present last year! That Garden cart has been more than worth it. Im using it to cart away the grass I am removing to a dump site at the back of the house.

I feel like I haven’t gotten very far with this project, but I think Im nearly done pulling out the sod. Just a few more trimmings here and there to clean up the curves. Maybe make them less curvaceous? I think so. It’ll be hard for my husband to mow the lawn without running over some of the plants if my angles are too harsh.

The pavers around the Forsythia are for the boys. They wanted so badly to walk through my newly exposed dirt, and I wanted so badly for them not to. So I moved some existing unused pavers from other parts of the yard and created a path around the Forsythia. I am still 4 pavers short, but I will find a way to fill that space in. Thank goodness there are some wooden planks sunk into the ground behind the shrubs. They are their own natural path structure, so I don’t need to anything there.

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Cont to Part 2.

DIY Landscape Part 5: Stone path

Continued from Part 4.

The worst part of my landscape plan was the stone path. I had plenty of stones to work with (for the most part-a few flat stones had been gifted to me), and was daily digging up more. But with the clay, pebble filled soil, it was a long and arduous process. I chose to remove the grass in stages-a feet of grass removal followed by instant paver placement, then repeat as time allowed. This was to decrease the soil erosion that had already begun to take place. I also sprinkled in a few alyssum seeds hoping the root system would anchor the slope a bit.

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At the midway point I decided I needed to raise up the magnolia garden area where the magnolia was planted. I didn’t want to keep those hideous scalloped cement borders, and I wanted to plant a few iris and daffodils at the base of the tree so they could establish themselves while the tree was doing the same.

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Check out those Iris! They are the same 1-2” specimens I dug up back in March! Only a few of them flowered last year, but I expect that has to do with the small rhizomes. They will catch up as the rhizome matures to a nice size.

The garden border to the sides of the path was also being built as the pavers went in. Between the border stones I placed some Hens and chicks, and the stone pathway received a small dose of creeping thyme seeds that I had started indoors, and some creeping jenny at the base of the curve.

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I started placing these pavers sometime in April, and placed the last one sometime in October. Between inclement weather, lack of stones (this was often temporary), and life, it took much longer to create this pathway than I had anticipated. But don’t you think it looks nice? Not great, I know, but I am really loving it!

And since I had two downspouts, I created a pebblestone dry creek using small pebbles from my patio area to divert the drainage without causing further erosion. It also serves as a nice barrier between the lawnmower and the natural stones. No need to use the weed whacker here!

These last pictures are from this year. You can see that the daffodils have just taken off with their spacious new homes. And though I didn’t get a light snow of blooms as I had hoped, I feel that, too, is due to small bulbs. They just haven’t had time yet to store enough energy to flower. All in good time.

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Next time I’ll discuss the plants I chose, those that worked, and those that didn’t.

Cont in Part 6.