Monday, December 10, 2012

Our back garden, the next step?

Someone recently commented that if I'm talking about doing something (specifically a project in the garden) then I've probably already made up my mind to do it. While that might be true in some instances, it certainly isn't now. This particular project has been tumbling about in my mind for awhile. I can't seem to decide whether to move forward or not. Of course you know what that means...I'm looking to you all for feedback. Here's the situation...

Subject: our remaining lawn
The Question: leave it alone, make it smaller or make it go away

Last winter I was pretty sure I would, at the very least, be making the lawn smaller. I planned to move a few of the bordering edges out, about a foot. Giving maturing plants a bit more room and slightly decreasing the lawn as a result. However when spring finally rolled around I was still finishing up the Bishops Weed project and unexpectedly removing the huge back garden Rhododendron, by the time I finished both of those I was done with projects for the year.

Just as well because then I started thinking bigger. What if it was finally time to get rid of all the lawn? I pictured a center planting area, built up for drainage with a nice masonry wall around it. There would be a wide (3 foot-ish) gravel border around it with a few pavers for solid footing. This idea started to formulate after visiting this garden. I really started to dream. After all a raised area like this would just beg for amazing agaves, opuntia, and all manner of spiky madness...but there is the little issue of money. This dream isn’t something I could do myself. This would require hired help. The idea was shelved.

Then I spent a warm summers evening in the garden of Sean Hogan. The tall bamboo and palms created such a feeling of enclosure, you could easily lose track of your surroundings and be anywhere but in urban Portland. A seed was planted.

That was late in August. Come mid September I was standing in a different garden jungle, this one just outside London when I visited Mark and Gaz. I loved that feeling of being enveloped by the garden. Maybe I needed to revisit my idea of taking away some of our lawn and creating a more dense planting area?

So that’s how we got to this point, are you ready for some pictures? This photo (and above) was taken as you enter the back garden, looking to the northwest corner.

Here you’re looking at the northeast corner; the side of the neighbor’s garage and the back of our house (sorry for the disconnect of lighting and containers, I took these photos on two different days in October).

Now you’re looking at the back of the house and to the entrance in the southeast corner…

And finally the garage and southwest corner, towards the shade pavilion (and yes the Hydrangea is still scheduled to go away in the early spring).

Here’s an amazing (kinda sort of to scale) graphic I made to show you a bird’s eye view. I know, try not to be so dazzled by computer graphics skills that you lose sight of what we’re talking about, oh and remember, what’s white here is actually green lawn. The edges of the lawn really are jagged like this, it's just harder to see in the photos because the plants (especially the Japanese Forest Grass) soften the edges, and the planting borders are deeper than they appear here. If you're curious the overall dimensions of the lawn are about 20.5ft (north to south) x 18.5ft...

In the green text box I note that the entrance sight-lines are important. This is the view we get of the back garden from the driveway, it's all we see unless we are in the garden. I want to make sure the view is kept the same or improved by any change that I make, some of the options I present below are better at this than others. In all the options some lawn remains. Not only because of the large undertaking that removing it all would be, but because I really like having it as a resting place for your eyes, a sort of negative space to counteract all the crazy plants. Also I like being able to move the lounge chairs around to capture the sun or shade, depending on my mood and the temperature. Lila feels strongly about this too, afterall lying on the lawn itself is so déclassé don’t you think?

So …options abound! Please tell me about your favorite, tell me why a certain option sucks, bring up totally new ideas, or convince me I’d regret it and I should just leave well enough alone (or hold off until I can revisit the idea a built-up center island = $$$). Here we go!

Option 1 - this is meant as a sort of compromise of my expensive idea. Here lawn is cut out of the center of the yard and maybe mounded up a bit but would have a flush grey brick border just like the rest of the lawn does currently.

Option 2 - in this option the planting border off the back of the house grows larger.

Option 3 - here the new planting area shoots off the existing border between the lawn and patio.

Option 4 - and this one is a compromise between #2 and #3...

So that's where I'm at...what do YOU think?

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