February 26, 2013

Finally Landscaping the Backyard!

When we bought our Spokane Valley home in 2007, the landscaping consisted of half-dead lawn, a few boring shrubs in weedy beds, and one crispy dogwood tree.  We landscaped the front yard in 2010, adding more curving flower beds, more trees, and lots of shrubs and flowers (photo above from spring 2012).  We knew the backyard was going to be a big and expensive project, so we put it off.  I was surprised when my husband suggested we go ahead with the backyard landscaping this spring, but it didn't take long for me to get excited about it.  Really, really excited.  Like hard to sleep at night excited. 

I took these next two photos from an upstairs window showing the current state of the backyard in February 2013.  Sad.  We have planted fifteen trees in the backyard and cut out lawn around them to give their roots room to grow.  I've taken advantage of every lawn removal to plant my perennial purchases wherever they'll fit.  It's a big hodge podge right now. 

The cheap swing set we bought for the kids lurches around when they swing very high.  I think it's ugly.  Our plan for the new landscape needs to include spaces for the kids to play as well as places for me to garden.  And I'm still dreaming about having a wedding reception out here someday.  Even if all my children marry in December, I'll find someone to use my backyard for their reception!

Here is my obviously-not-computer-generated drawing of the plan for our backyard.  Our backyard is on the north side of our home.  We're going to have all the lawn removed except for a patch in the center.  There will be a stone path circling the yard and providing access to the patio, water faucet and garage.  I'm including a simple but sturdy swing set for the kids, and I think they'll love playing hide-and-seek out here.  There will be two raised beds - one shady, one sunny - with great soil for perennial gardening.  I'll tuck in a few strawberries, blackberries and vegetables in the sunny parts of the yard on the east/right side of the house.

Although the backyard hodge podge has its pretty angles (above), it needs a more structured design.  I've been spending hours researching shrubs and picking my favorites to plant around the edges of the yard.  Of course I already have six 'Katherine Havemeyer' lilacs (10' Tall/8' Wide) - Spokane is known as the Lilac City.  I like classics, so I'm going to use a lot of boxwoods for year-round structure.  So far I'm planning on eighteen 'Green Mountain' boxwoods (5' T/3' W) planted in groups of three, five 'Green Tower' boxwoods (7' T/1.5' W) as columnar accents and multiple 'Wee Willie' boxwoods (2' T/W) to give structure to the perennial beds.  All of these boxwoods stay green in the winter instead of turning bronze.  I'm also going to try two super hardy 'Mikkeli' rhododendrons (6' T/W) in the shady raised bed, and perhaps a few 'Blue Star' junipers (2-3' T/4-5' W).

For deciduous shrubs, I'm planning nine 'Invincibelle Spirit' hydrangeas (3-4' T/W), three or more 'Brandywine' viburnums (5-6 'T/W),  a 'Black Lace' elderberry (6-8' T/W), a 'Shasta' doublefile viburnum (6' T/10-12' W), and a couple of 'Leonard Messel' magnolias (slow growing to 10-15' T/12'W - I know how to prune it if it gets too large).  I already have a 'Limelight' hydrangea (6-8' T/W), three 'Capital Red' peony trees (4-5' T/W), and numerous David Austin roses (like crimson 'William Shakespeare 2000' above) that will be part of the gardens.

Since I love playing with color in the garden, I'm planning spaces for several different color-themed perennial gardens.  The sunny raised bed will be classic shades of pink/crimson and blue-violet, with pops of rosy-orange.  The top left corner will have soft pink and pale yellow flowers with blue-grey hosta and juniper foliage.  I'm doing a white garden in the area to the right of the patio, and the area to the east/right of the house will be shades of lavender, lavender-pink, and light blue. 

The photo above shows the path and gardens on the west side of our home, which were installed in 2010 with the front yard.  The path in the backyard will continue with the same stone.  After talking with the landscaping company last week (Haase), we've got the ball rolling.  Actual landscape work will have to wait until April or May, depending on when the ground thaws and we get a break from spring rains.  It's so hard to wait.  I feel like my kids waiting for Christmas morning.  But patience is one of gardening's great lessons, so I'll just have to learn it.


  1. Hi VW,

    Looking forward to seeing development photos as the work is done! :)

    Brown grass? Is that due to snow lying for long periods and killing it? Never see dead grass here except during droughts.

    Are you planning on any climbers? How about arches or pergolas; they'll definitely add some extra fun for the kids hiding! Not that I want to throw a spanner in the works ;)

  2. I look forward to your redo of the backyard. I like how you frame the center grass area. Jealous of the blank slate! Our yard is so sloped that some designs just wouldn't work here.
    Love the salvias and daylilies.

  3. That is exciting! I'll be looking forward to seeing your progress.

  4. oh, that blue sages and yellow irises are just heavenly! love your planting schemes!! all the best for your future projects.
    Ioana ( rosa complicata)

  5. VW:

    Such lovely photos - what a gift you have! I know that each post I receive from you will open to an exquisite photo. It is wonderful that in one of the posts you said - one of the things I grow best - my children. What a lovely sentiment. Our world needs more families like yours. Best wishes from Kentucky and thank you for the inspiration.

  6. Looking forward to seeing your progress! There's nothing like starting with a blank slate! :-)

  7. Can't wait to see the final design of this landscaping project. Now you will realize the beauty of having your backyard landscaped.

    parker hardscape

  8. Great post! Lovely snapshots you got of your already splendorous garden!

  9. It's looking really good VW. I'm very excited for you!


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