Hey Guys! We are loving the new fence! As our gardens begin to fill in we are more and more enamored with the way everything is coming together. The parking pad space is being used daily as a fully functioning kid zone – it’s been really great to have. That parking pad (turned place space) is going to stay as a kid zone for the next few years, it’s so important that the kids have a safe place to play. Eventually (a few years from now) I envision us turning the space into another patio area.
The play-space butts up against our flower gardens, which borders our fire pit area. Before we had the fence I rounded the garden in the yard as a way to envelop the fire pit space and nestle it into the corner of the yard. The gardens give the fire pit area a pretty backdrop and make it feel cozy and serene. Recently, we briefly considered removing this part of the garden and laying down sod so that the kids could run freely from the play zone to the yard, but later decided this flower bed was really important to this corner of the yard. It grounds the fire pit area, and we would really like to have it stay.
The problem is that the kids are running through garden, I mean why would they use the stone pathway right next to it? Not only that, that kid zone is kind of an eye sore. I’m glad the kids have a safe place to play and are enjoying their backyard, but us grown ups get to see all those brightly colored plastic toys whenever we try and relax. We need to make a natural screen that doesn’t enclose the space but still makes a pretty lush barrier between the two spaces. Eventually when the time comes to turn this parking pad into a patio the plantings will help to give a natural backdrop to the concrete and white siding that resides there now.
I’ve come up with a list of small bushes and trees that we are considering to fill in the space. My main concerns are finding a tree or bush that has pretty foliage or flowers, interesting shape, and fills the space without over-powering it. The top runners are the Japanese Maple (which I am concerned will get to big and won’t survive a Minnesota winter), the Pee Gee Hydrangea, and the Purple Leaf Sand Cherry. Please chime in if you have experience with any of these, or have suggestions of trees or bushes I may be forgetting. I’d be curious to hear how you’ve created natural zones in your own yard, or how any of the above bushes or trees have worked for you :)
What about forsythia bushes? My parents had a few of these in our yard when I was a kid (in Upstate NY), and they always fared well over winter.
Hey Phoebe, I really like the look of Forsythia bushes but have heard that they can take over an area in a matter of years, they spread quickly. I think they are so beautiful though, thanks for the suggestion.
My hands-down favorite shrub is the viburnum–there are about 5 varieties in my yard! They bloom with white flowers in the spring, and some varieties have beautiful foliage as well (Mohican, Chicago Lustre, Doublefile). My mom just got some of the “Korean Spice” variety and they smell heavenly. http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/2198/korean-spice-viburnum/
Lexy! I’ve never heard of Viburnum before, they are beautiful, and I see they are hardy in zones 2-9. I will look when I head out to the garden center, thanks for the suggestion :)
I have a Japanese Maple in my backyard in Toronto, it is budding away, it can survive in cold climates. Maybe it is just the way I’ve pruned it, but it doesn’t have much interest below the 5ft mark. Definitely more tree like than bush.
Ooh, that is so good to know, Katherine. What zone is Toronto in? You must be a zone 4 or 5? I don’t mind if something doesn’t have a lot going on on the bottom trunk, I actually would prefer it. I’m going to talk to someone at the garden center and see if they think it would work for my space. How tall is your maple, and how old is it? Thanks!
Toronto is zone 5. Looks like you have a harsher winter than we do. The tree is approx. 10 years old, and 10 feet tall. It doesn’t have ideal growing conditions though, competing for sun and water with two other very large trees.
We have a huge grass plant that grows about 8′ tall and really separates the side garden from the back yard. You have to trim it down every year, but it grows pretty quickly in the Spring and is already at about 4′. We’re in Portland, though, so I’m not completely sure how it would fare in your neck of the woods.
Heather, Thank you for suggesting tall grasses. I totally overlooked them. I really like the look of ornamental grasses, they can be really beautiful. I will check them out too. So many options, ahh!
What gorgeous options! I’m a sucker for the japanese maples. But I’ve also never seen witch hazel or a rose tree before and those are stunning. I’ll love any of them!
I too really like the maple, I am just so tentative about a maple being the right choice for our yard. We will see… So many people have offered other wonderful suggestions too. I’m going to have to spend a good amount of time weighing my options over the weekend. I’d like to get something in there soon so I can enjoy it over the summer.
I’m in Mpls and I put in a Japanese Maple in several years ago- it didn’t survive the winter (although I’m the first to admit I don’t have a green thumb and often lose shrubs/plants over time). Incidentally, I replaced the Japanese Maple with a Pee Gee Hydrangea and it is doing wonderfully with zero upkeep.
Hey Sheree, What a bummer! I’m glad you found happiness with the Pee Gee hyrdrangea, they are beautiful plants. Thanks for letting me know what works for you here in Minneapolis!
Have you considered blueberry bushes? They’ve got little white/pink flowers in the spring, good autumn color, and hello blueberries! They do need mainly sun and acidic soil, but you can always amend your soil, although it’ll need some top dressing every year. They’re also very hardy. Not sure how big you want the planting to get, but pee gee’s come in regular and compact with the regular getting 6-8 feet big. If you want to have it in tree form, you’ll have to do some diligent pruning upkeep as well, which may or may not be a big deal to you. Little lime hydrangeas would be another more compact option but they do have a bushier form. Also, I don’t think it was Sheree’s fault her Japanese maple died – they are really marginal in our zone, but maybe you could mulch and cover over the winter? Good luck!
Hey Jasmine, No I never considered them, but I will now. I did not even know they were hardy in zone 4, thanks for suggesting it. I agree, Sheree’s fault, the Japanese Maples are only suggested through zone 5, you really need to baby them and cross your fingers to get them through a Minnesota winter.
I’d suggest Viburnum also, go for Viburnum carlesii (“Diana”), as the scent is just the most wonderful thing out there, and it puts out these big snowball-type flowers. Other options that are excellently hardy and not too huge here in MN would be Mountain Laurel (flowering in various shades of red, pink, white, or striped like peppermint candies), mock orange, rhododendron, and azalea. The majority of these will be 2.5′ W to about 5′ W, depending on the variety and how much you prune. Heights are varied as well depending on variety, from about 2.5′ H to 6′ H. Some of them are bushier, some are more sparse. Rhododendrons and azaleas are on sale everywhere right now (as they’re currently in flower and wouldn’t produce flowers again likely until next spring) and offer essentially unlimited options on size and color. There is a MN-hardy wisteria tree/vine too that I’ve found that looks outstanding as well.
Hey Kate, Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions. I hope that folks who find this post make sure to check the comments so that can see all the wonderful options you all suggested. I definitely considered a Rhododendron, and I still might get one for somewhere in my yard, I think the leaves are beautiful.