As you can tell by my photos, I spend A LOT of time on the front and side of the house. There never used to be much reason to spend a lot of effort in the back as I never really saw it. We have a huge deck (I think it’s 14′ x 20′) attached to the house and we entertain there. You’ve seen the photos of the trellis all around it with the ivy thick on the trellis. The only view of the back yard is from my breakfast room window or when you are walking from the driveway up to the deck. Since I never sat in my breakfast room facing the windows, I didn’t really care about that yard. I’d tried various methods to tame the weeds. I tried putting down burlap covering the dirt so we could get to the composter. I tried using bamboo fencing as a pathway. My goal was about walking to the composter, not about having a nice view.
Once we redid the kitchen 2 years ago, I ended up with my wonderful round counter-height table. I sit there all the time. In front of me is the glass wall and door to the deck. To my left is the back yard. Which looked terrible. I began working on it last summer. There are a few problems with the area. The first is the lack of sun. Because of the trees, house, garage and deck that area gets almost no sun on the back property line and very little between the deck and the garage. The soil is poor and complicated by the fact that over 25 years ago I had landscaping done. Why is landscaping a problem? Because landscapers put down that horrible black weed-barrier material, which is nearly impossible to cut. It doesn’t prevent weeds, either. I had the area around the deck completely mulched. I had visions of my son and his friends climbing on the deck rail and falling off. The mulch deteriorated, we replaced it many times, and it became and accumulated dirt. The weeds grew in the dirt. There was easily a minimum of 2 inches of dirt above the weed barrier. I began trying to grow plants back there. They’d die because they couldn’t get roots down far enough. That’s what led to the burlap and bamboo paths.
I finally realized last year that if I wanted plants I was going to have to do battle with the weed block. First I need to determine the battle site, excuse me, site for the plant. Then I need to push all the dirt to the side to uncover the weed barrier. It is now over 25 years old, so sometimes it yields fairly easily to the box cutter knife. Other times I could swear the barrier was made of steel. Not only do I need to clear the barrier from an area sufficiently wide to dig a hole, I have to slice it for a distance from the hole so the plant can spread. I’m not sure that I always do a sufficient job of slicing to enable spreading. It takes a lot of strength and energy to cut that material, even as aged as it is. I’ve started looking for shade-loving plants (I should move the cilantro back here) and ground covers that will spread. I really don’t want to have to deal with this yard with the effort that the front requires. I’m very pleased with how it’s looking these days, although you can tell from the photos that it is due for a massive weeding. I was planning to do that this weekend but I ended up tackling the rhododendron and the weeds on the side of the house, and then weeding the driveway. Oy. Exhausting.
I’ve ordered another 5 stepping stones for the walkway. The bugleweed is doing GREAT. It looks beautifully healthy and has already begun to spread. My only reluctance about it is that it is not native to this area. Besides supporting pollinators, I’ve tried to grow native plants. The lamium (dead-nettles) is doing well also. The 3 smaller plants closer to the house are all from last year. The larger one I bought this year (and did indeed buy a larger plant than I bought last year). There is a small coral bells near the entrance to the garage that is still struggling – I planted it last year. There are 2 larger ones back by the ivy. The curly grass was a transplant from my sister’s yard this year. The tag on it claims it likes shade whereas the site I linked says sun, so we’ll see how it makes out. I need to prune the dead curls and figure out if it’s struggling or doing alright. I added a fern this year that is thriving (it was fairly large to begin with). That was the site of a major skirmish with the weed barrier, complicated by 2 huge tree roots. I forgot to mention that the tree roots are yet another complication in the back yard. I’d planted ivy last year (the solid bright green) and then added more, smaller plants this year. Considering how well ivy does coming up on the deck trellises, I’m hoping they will cover the barrier hiding my neighbor’s garage. 🙂 I moved some spiderwort 3 years ago, as well as some goldenrod. The spiderwort is holding firm but the goldenrod gave up the struggle.
The fuchsia are hanging from a pole that I used to put in the front, in the middle of my rudbeckia. I decided it worked much better in the back. When we first moved into the house, the front of the house was shaded by 3 large trees that are no longer with us. For years I’d hang huge baskets of fuchsia on the front porch. Once the trees were gone, so went the fuchsia. I’m very happy to have them back where I can enjoy them. The vine along the deck trellis is a new experiment. It’s adlumia fungosa, also known as Allegheny Vine or Bleeding Heart Vine. I got this (along with my usual butterfly-attracting plants) from Heritage Flower Farm this year. I didn’t really understand what it means to be a biennial plant. I gather I’m not going to get any flowers this year but next year the flowers will come. I thought it also meant that it flowers every other year Apparently it will die at the end of the 2nd year. If I’m lucky, it will seed itself and repeat the cycle. I’ve had limited success with self-seeding plants (note to self: STOP hiring the yard cleanup crew in December). In addition, what I’ve been reading seems to imply that Allegheny Vine is a bit finicky. Given the poor soil back there, I suspect that I’ll be lucky to even get flowers next year. It was worth a try, and maybe it will turn out better than expected! Sometimes plants do flourish when you least expect it. *laughing* ESPECIALLY in the cracks of my driveway!!!