Saturday, August 27, 2011

setting the stage of the garden...background and foreground

Let's start from the beginning....We moved into our home around 4 years ago. The old trees and character are what attracted us to the neighborhood.  The backyard had several trees but beyond that was filled with rocks and groovy red pavers that outlined just about anything that was living back there.  This is where, what I like to call the "suburban circumstance" comes into play.  If you're someone who backs up to a park, forest, or you have an ample amount of land this does not apply to you.  For the rest of us the "suburban circumstance" is having houses on all sides of you.  When I walk out in my backyard I want it to be our retreat, a peaceful sanctuary if you will, no matter what your circumstance is.  So I took matters in to my own hands, and have not looked back since.

The First Step...The background-as an art major you learn that the background is just as important as the foreground because it sets the tone for the entire composition.  In the garden when choosing plants for your background it is important to look at all of your factors such as light, soil, and space.  For us we knew that privacy was key but various species of evergreens would be too large in time. So I went with a fairly symmetrical approach across the back and in four years we are making progress.  Diablo Ninebarks, Techney Arborvitae, existing Burning Bush, and a Douglas Fir to anchor the opposite corner.

Hostas are place holders until we widen the bed and continue to see how everything fills in   
The side yard has been a different matter. We have so much shade and my neighbors have beautiful 45 year old White Pines but anything I plant underneath competes for space.  I have planted Canadian Hemlocks (have lost 2 but 2 are going strong) with groupings of Viburnums and an existing White Birch.  

We have pocket shade gardens and a small sloped rock garden where Coreopsis, Geranium, Bee Balm, and various Sedums exist but the fun really begins next year.  This is when the foreground truly begins in our backyard garden and I could not be more excited.  It has taken us 4 years to get here but with planning and patience we are ready to begin the next step. The stage is set with our background let the foreground begin!  Below are some fun design "inspirations"  for the garden foreground.

Great colors and textures

Border ideas for the side yard in front of Hemlocks

Shade inspiration for borders

Great examples of plantings for in front of our Douglas Fir.....Black-Eyed Susans, Coreopsis, Feather Reed Grass, Sedum 'Autumn Joy', name a few


  1. You have a lot of inspiration to work with. Time is always a factor in any design. Good luck with you foreground/background juxtaposition. It does take some tweaking over time to get those special moment vignettes.

  2. I hear you. It has been such a focus for the last four years has been on learning about our space. This has included creating beds, planting trees, taking down diseased trees..and so on. Each year I have been trying to start one area and then stopping to see where it goes...I am going to email you because I have some questions about programs and course work. Thanks again for your feedback.. Oh and really enjoyed the pics of your beds in the front of your house....Beautiful!

  3. I added you to my blog roll as well. :)

    This is going to be fun to see your transformation! I think it's really helpful to collect inspiration first. Those white pines and your background are AWESOME. Hostas are so horrible in a line like that, aren't they? I found that all I needed to do was re-arrange them and they're gorgeous in my shady spot (well, until last weekend when the deer chomped them all down).

  4. The deer!!! Ahh! We have a fox and a coyote that like to stop by among the many visitors! And yes...those hostas are hitting the road...when we bought the house the people prior to us lined the side yard and along the back with them. We have a bit of a farm going on! I will be coming to you for help with veggies for next year. We grow herbs in pots because of the shade but I am thinking of building a planter box for a south side for a veggie garden....It is a process!

  5. Nicole, you've got a great start to your garden, and I'm impressed by your patience. When I started gardening here--just a few years before you--I plunged headfirst into creating flowerbeds instead of setting the background as you rightly suggest. But we don't have a suburban lot--we live on a farm with lots of wide open spaces, which presents its own set of design problems.

    Looking forward to seeing your garden evolve!

  6. Thanks Rose! I thought you lived on a farm from your pictures. It must be fun to incorporate all that space with your garden! My dad's dream is to one day have a farm or land to retire to...I would take the farm in a heartbeat!

  7. You have a very beautiful garden and so much space! It's really a little piece of heaven there!

  8. I like the way you think and design your garden. It is so systematical and it shows on your garden. It was so well planned and beautiful in a sense that it looks natural.


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