Landscape Advice

Old 07-14-15, 06:55 PM
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Landscape Advice


First time poster here. I recently purchased a house and found myself with a challenging backyard. I was hoping to get some advice for DIY or relatively DIY solutions improve the look and feel.

I want grass up top but was recently told there is too much shade to grow anything. I also do not like the current plants on the hill, but get something is necessary for water runoff.

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Old 07-14-15, 07:27 PM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
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Rather than grass, which is labor intensive and needs lots of water, I would suggest some kind of low growing ground cover that you can plant and forget. Native plants always work better with the amount of water that comes from the sky.

One off topic suggestion, when posting pictures always add a line return between pictures. It makes it easier to view the pictures without them blending together.
Old 07-14-15, 09:09 PM
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You have quite a challenge, but also an opportunity for a lot of creativity.

The soil on top of the slope doesn't appear to be very good soil - it looks fairly sandy and could use some improvement. An easy way is to dig small holes and bury coffee grounds; I'm told that Starbucks gives them away free. Worms like coffee grounds and will aerate the soil as they munch on the grounds.

Even if you did put grass in, I'm wondering if you have enough access with a mower to reach that area. The access areas do seem quite narrow.

The wooded area is quite attractive but you could probably remove a few trees and allow more light to come in.

Ground covers would probably work well, but I would turn and enrich the soil first. Vinca spreads prolifically; pachysandra is lovely but there are also some flowering groundcovers that would brighten the background and provide highlights to the intense shade.

Another alternative is low growing evergreens; they wouldn't spread as much as a ground cover but they're very attractive. It looks as if there already are a few evergreens on the slope (4th photo). And yet another option is a herbal ground cover.

For the slope, you could consider terracing, which would help retain soil and water and avoid runoff. If that's too expensive or too much work, and you can afford some nice rocks, you could create a shade rock garden, or just use the rocks to help retain the soil. I wouldn't plant anything large though because of the steep slope.

There are actually plenty of lovely plants that enjoy deep shade: several varieties of ferns, astilbe and a wonderful array of easy to grow hostas just to mention a few of the popular ones. Hostas have been hybridized so extensively that there are a lot of varieties, sizes and colors, including a white hosta. Annuals are wax begonias, impatiens, caladium (beautiful range of colors), and coleus. There are many more both annuals and perennials.

There's a large plant with rounded leaves in the 4th photo; I can't recall the exact name but it's something like a petularia, petolaria - not sure but I recall a "...laria" in the plant name.. It's an example of one way to start landscaping the slope, by anchoring a larger plant at the bottom. There are also some bog plants that you could put there if there's a lot of water runoff.

Another method of treating the slope temporarily to minimize erosion is to plant vining annuals and just let them run freely and anchor themselves at will on the slope. Sweet peas are generally shade lovers; there's also the hyacinth bean, snail vine and others, although not all will bloom in the deep shade.

I don't have any particular expertise in this area, and you didn't ask about it, but I'm a bit concerned about the stability of the "bridge" to the slope, given the steepness of the slope and the tendency of soil to run downward until it's stabilized. But it may already be extended and anchored deeper into the slope.

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