Last Fall we had to remove a couple large, dead evergreens from our front yard. Those trees maintained our privacy despite being on a busy corner facing a city park. What a difference when they were no longer there. But I had all winter to mull over what to put in that space.
The street front has a well established, low maintenance garden dominated by a huge juniper and a lovely birch tree. Boxwoods, left to their natural shape everywhere but the front walk, and a couple of mugo pines fill in the rest of the space. Oh, there is also a terribly over-sized forsythia in there too; that isn’t as low maintenance as the rest of the garden as it needs constant pruning to keep it from over taking the other plants.
Last summer we planted a small barberry plant in the front where a burning bush didn’t make it – this should be hardier and remain red all year.
In keeping with the mature side of the yard, we chose to use boxwoods, barberries and a mugo pine as the filler for the large ‘L’ shaped area we needed to replant. To balance the birch, the leaves turn a lovely shade of gold in the fall, we put in a Ginkgo tree. When I was in college I worked at the
Washington State Gingko Petrified Forest State Park for several years. Three Ginkgo trees were planted to provide a reference tree for those not familiar with Ginkgos when they visited the park. I spent many hours researching and discussing these trees, developing a desire to someday have a Ginkgo tree in my garden. This tree will also have golden-yellow leaves in the fall. It will not be as large as the birch, but it will grow to fill in the space above the boxwoods and provide that much more privacy in summer, but we will get light in winter when we need it.
For fun, we added a witch hazel and star magnolia shrubs. The witch hazel will have yellow flowers in late winter; a little earlier than the forsythia will bloom yellow. The star magnolia will have white flowers about a month later.
For a few years we had a live spruce tree as our Christmas tree. It is a green spruce, not a blue, and it has been quite happy to be in our backyard these last two years. We decided to move it to the front, close to where the full-grown Douglas fir once grew.
As with remodeling a house or rebuilding a car, when you take something apart you have to be prepared for surprises when you revamp a garden. Well, we were surprised on many occasions during this experience. There are drainage pipes fairly close to the surface in a section of the garden we didn’t anticipate finding such a pipe. Slightly further out, closer to the street, we found a deep layer of gravel beneath the rock and soil, with a second layer of landscape fabric under it. But the roots of our late trees provided the most consternation as my husband dug and re-dug holes to avoid stunting the new plants before they had a chance to get started. This meant that the plan for the new trees and shrubs had to be redesigned on the spot; sometime with little knowledge if our new decision would prove just as fruitless.
There was rock along the foundation of the house; sterile. While we were preparing to plant the barberries and boxwoods I set the pots along the front of the house, just because. When my husband came home from work, he commented on how nice it looked to have plants in front of the house. Well, now we have several potted trees along the front of the house. The irrigation pipe, roots and what ever else is beneath the rocks were too daunting to continue to dig into it. Large pots, fun trees like Oklahoma Redbud that flowers vibrant purple in the spring, holly and a sambuca (black lace elderberry) grace the front of the house where it is fairly protected from the worst of the winter and summer weather. Until the new plants get some size there is no protection from the spring winds that come over the hill.
Alas, after chopping out large sections of root and rearranging several of the plants, we have gotten everything planted. Our present irrigation system was the next concern as the brittle PVC pipe split below one of the valves, causing a small swamp to develop behind the compost bin. Now that it is up and ready to use, we can address the water needs of these new plants so they will have all the water they need through our hot summer months.