Just sharing something I put together for a friend that wants to block the view of a neighbor’s house from their back patio. It’s not totally correct with spacing and siting, but could be tweaked pretty easily. I chose Bay Laurel because it’s evergreen and the leaves can be used in the kitchen (bay leaves) and the shrubs and perennials provide a nearly year round color mix, attraction to pollinators and birds, and are low maintenance once established. If I were to actually install this I would follow the instructions in this “How To Create A Privacy Hedge” video by Urban Farmstead.
There is a construction site near the Nickle Bridge toll station that I’ve been running by for the past month or so. My first fear was that they were building a new road access to enter the trail parking lot right after the toll booths, but I realized that would cause traffic issues. While searching for another IFB, I recently came across the plans for the project and I was pleasantly surprised. The city is installing a new Pump House Park Trail that will connect the sidewalk of the Nickle Bridge to the North Bank trail entrance and the Pump House beyond. The project which includes “500-foot long and eight-foot wide multiuse asphalt trail with an ADA-compliant portion, requisite storm water management elements including a rain garden, and other landscaping and site furnishing elements” was awarded to Jeffery Stack Inc. in Jersey, VA for $186,380. I was surprised there were only four bidders, but contractors are very busy right now.
The plans designed by the Timmons Group, attached below, look simple and thoughtful. I appreciate the use of native plants in the rain garden. I’d like to know more about the policy or program that required the use of natives. Pollinators are going to love the wax myrtles, sweetspires, dogwoods, tulip tree, bee balm and more. I would have liked to see fruit-bearing shrubs included in the designs like serviceberry, blackberry, and blueberry. I like the graceful curve of the trail, and the way that the project prioritizes foot traffic at the juncture of so many beautiful outdoor spaces: Byrd Park, Maymont, the Nickle Bridge/Southside/Buttermilk Trail, the North Bank trail, and of course the Pump House. I especially hope the Pump House, with more foot traffic, visibility, and awareness, continues to become the destination that folks have been saying it could be for years. Designs and files attached below.
As we enter spring, I’ve been getting extremely nostalgic for last summer when I watched my first wildflowers grow from sprouts. I’ve planted more seeds for more wildflowers in the past week, but honestly I still have this worry in the back of my mind that the seeds won’t grow this time. It’s a problem of modern life that I’ve very rarely sprouted and grown or done anything with seeds up to this point in my life, but it’s also fun to have a kind of childlike fascination with them like they’re magic (which the basically are). Since we’re in a new house now, I’m also thinking about all the landscape work that we did at our last house and wanted to put together this blog post to share and also save the memories for myself. Many exhausting weekend days went into making this “yard” into a garden that we could enjoy.
When we first moved into our last house, the front yard was a mix of tall grasses, one shrub, and one established Crape Myrtle. The fence was unstained and badly warped. The ground level of the front yard was higher than the fence so that it met the bottom cross beam and left no room for the fence and the siding of the house to breathe potentially leading to rot. There also was no clear walkway around the house and little visual interest in fall, winter, and early spring.
The property faces south and receives full sun all day long. We knew we needed to find plants that could withstand the heat and also some more trees to eventually provide shade for the house and the garden. We also knew that we wanted the garden to be low-maintenance so we looked especially for heat and drought tolerant plants.
The first major change we made was to dig out the entire yard including a few inches of soil (several truck loads) to lower the ground level, remove the grass, add mulch, and prepare the space for landscaping. We also planted two more Crape Myrtles, one large one to mirror the existing one and provide shade on the south-facing front of the house
We also planted a knockout rose, a small arborvitae, and a gardenia (the last two did not do well).
I hired a landscaping company to install French drains around both sides of the house and redo the back patio. The patio had been installed violating code (sloping toward the house and covering the lowest board of siding) and needed to be redone to prevent the risk of rot.
To give the existing Crape Myrtle more room to spread and encourage upward growth, I trimmed limbs growing toward the middle of the tree as well as lower limbs and many smaller limbs that I didn’t think looked good where they were growing. It has continued to grow and fill out nicely from this initial trim.
After considering many options, we decided to install a permeable brick path around the right side of the house leading to the side gate and the back patio. We used old reclaimed bricks from a friend’s backyard in the neighborhood so the path would match the historic character of the house. Along the brick, we planted a variety of sedums and aromatics including rosemary, lavender, and thyme as well some dwarf evergreens and Gerber daisies.
I potted yuccas (one foraged and one purchased) and placed them on either side of the front steps for more year-round, no-maintenance curb appeal.
We added more plants including Lenten roses, Russian stonecrop, purple heart, more rosemary, and a second knock out rose. The Lenten roses provide nice winter blooms and have grown very well. We then spread some of our compost and planted a wildflower garden to attract pollinators and provide a bounty of flowers throughout the summer.
The wildflowers provided months of changing colors and shapes as different flowers grew and bloomed. It even got a little out of hand, but since they are mostly annuals, we weren’t worried about keeping it trimmed back as long as we could walk to the other side.
While we initially thought of the heat and full sun as a problem, we realized that with the right plants it could provide a bounty.
We also had the house painted a light, cool blue-green color to compliment the new landscape, mulch, and brick walkway. Then we stained the fence a light brown natural color to blend in and protect the wood. Hanging plants provide an additional layer of color.
By late summer, I had trained a morning glory vine up the front of the house and across the brick path toward the larger Crape Myrtle.
I really enjoyed watching everything spread and thrive. Especially considering how low-maintenance it became once everything was established.
Last fall, I planted some crimson clover cover crop that has taken very well and bloomed along with some returning wildflowers this spring.
It’s definitely hard to leave something that we put so much work into, but I’m glad to go back and see it is still doing well and remember that it’s a gradual process figuring out what plants and uses will work best for each space.