RChives85
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New here - looking for ideas for backyard

Hi,

New guy here from Georgia. Fiance and I just purchased a house and the backyard has a great deal of potential. However, we don't even know where to begin! Hoping some of you could throw me some ideas...

The way our backyard is set up: At the very top, we have some space that might be unusable. We can't grow grass up there because it gets too much shade. So my options might be limited. I was thinking I might be able to do something under the big tree (in the very middle of the first picture) maybe hostas and some other shade loving plants.

For the mid and lower levels, I am looking for something to accent the stairs and walls, but not overtake them. The half circle area on the left hand side will eventually be turned into a fire pit area with rocks and seating, so mainly the mid level and lower right section of the wall area will be what I'm working with. Ideally I'd like something low-laying in front of the walls for sure, and maybe something on top of the lower one.

Specifics:
I live in North GA (Canton, GA to be exact)
Backyard is very shaded, but does get occasional sunlight (probably no more than 6-7 hours a day and mostly noon-6pm)
Looking for design ideas to really accent the retaining walls and stairs
I love hostas, Brunnera, Heuchera, Hydrangeas, ferns, and I'm open to anything else!
Oh, and I'd like to keep the maintenance relatively low, although I know that's not always possible.

Fire away!

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New here - looking for ideas for backyard

Wow! Yes indeed, your backyard has potential to be beautiful! I love the different levels. I assume when you said the yard gets 6-7 hrs of sun, you weren't talking about that top level. 6-7 hours is basically full sun. The top level looks shadier than that. Assuming it really is shadier, then it would make a lovely shade garden. Shade gardens can be beautiful and colorful, though more of the color may come from foliage plants not blooms.

Do NOT just make a ring around the tree! Use most of that space to be your shade garden, with maybe a bench and a bird bath and a little bit of paths to them.

I always like to look for inspiration pictures, to give me an idea of what I am aiming for. So here's a couple shade gardens;

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Heuchera (coral bells) is a lovely shade plant that comes in all kinds of beautiful foliage colors. All of these are heucheras:

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Tiarella (foam flower) is another one, not quite as showy, but lots of different variegated foliages available and very pretty flowers when blooming:

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Exactly what else is most likely to thrive there depends on what your soil is like (wet? dry?, acidity?). But Solomon's seal is a much under-used native shade plant, that is pretty adaptable about conditions. There is a variegated hybrid that lasts a lot longer in the garden than the original species. It spreads nicely but not aggressively into a colony:

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The white edgings make it show up well in a shady area.

Put in some of the spring ephemerals (e.g trout lily, trillium, virginia blue bells, jack in the pulpit, mayapple) and some ferns, maybe some wild ginger as a ground cover. And then of course, that area cries out for an azalea. You must have been seeing azaleas covered in brilliant flowers all around you for the past month or so. ( I know this because I am just about an hour away from you in very No. GA, just across the line from Chattanooga.)

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this is azaleas with dogwood and incidentally a small dogwood would be beautiful against the dark green leaved trees in one of the top level corners.

I will leave it to others to speak to developing some of the other spaces, except to say that I think every garden needs a water feature. The lowest level space on the other side from the fire pit area (to be) would be one nice place for a pond and waterfall/ fountain. Where I used to live we had a pond and fountain next to our firepit. It is a very primal feeling to be sitting around a fire, listening to water, so peaceful!!
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

ButterflyLady29
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Re: New here - looking for ideas for backyard

I would look to see what native plants grow in wooded areas near your location. Then find those or similar plants and plant them in the shady area.

You have the advantage of being in a much warmer climate than me. I would put in some figs and maybe a "hardy" banana plant. Then a variety of flowering plants that would drape over those brick walls. That corner between the wall and walkway has the setting for a lovely flower garden.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New here - looking for ideas for backyard

So RChives (is that R - Chives or Archives ?? :) ) did any of this speak to what you were looking for? If not, ask some more questions, tell us more about what you were hoping for...
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

RChives85
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Re: New here - looking for ideas for backyard

rainbowgardener wrote:So RChives (is that R - Chives or Archives ?? :) ) did any of this speak to what you were looking for? If not, ask some more questions, tell us more about what you were hoping for...
Sorry for the late reply - my settings for getting notifications were turned off, so I had no idea when someone made a post on here!

I think you nailed it with your suggestions. It just hit about everything I was looking for. I just made a walkway from the top steps to the lower steps, so I am about to start planting and filling in the area!

I did have some other questions that you might be able to help with. For the top wall, is there a particular flower/plant that would drape over the top portion of the wall slightly? Not something that can get crazy out of control and take over my wall. Secondly, above the soon to be fire-pit area on the left, I'm looking to do some type of evergreen tree/shrub/whatever to block the noise and the sight of the AC units. However, I know some of them can get rather larger and I don't want them taking over the deck or blocking the sunlight to my pretty maple tree. Any ideas?

I appreciate your feedback - I'm going to use just about everything you listed in your first post. Just need to figure out where to put them!

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New here - looking for ideas for backyard

You are talking about the top retaining wall? So plants would be planted on the outside edge of the top level and cascade over down towards the middle level? So that's a part shade location that gets some reasonable hours of sun?

Lots of choices: Basket of gold alyssum (aka aurinia) is a ground cover that would cascade over. In the spring, it gets absolutely covered in golden flowers. How much sun the area gets will determine whether the basket of gold will work there. It's an evergreen perennial. It is basically a full sun plant, but will tolerate a bit less than full sun.

This is basket of gold cascading over a wall and also tucked in to crevices in the wall. You could get a similar effect by removing a brick or two if they aren't mortared in:
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Creeping phlox (Phlox stolonifera) is a cascading ground cover that gets covered with pink or lavender flowers in spring. It is easy care and very adaptable, full sun to part shade. Here's some different colors of phlox cascading over a wall:
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Snow in summer (cerastium) is another cascading ground cover. It has silvery-gray leaves and white flowers. It is another ideally full sun plant that tolerates some shade.
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Prostrate or creeping rosemary is a perennial evergreen herb that will cascade. It has fragrant aromatic leaves (that can be used in cooking) and pretty flowers. Needs full sun.
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Creeping thyme is another evergreen herb, which will tolerate more shade than the rosemary. It's flowers are very attractive to honeybees. It has smaller leaves and smaller flowers than rosemary:
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Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

imafan26
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Re: New here - looking for ideas for backyard

Don't forget, it is best to prepare the ground by adding a 4-6 inches of compost and some manure to the site so the plants will have a good foundation to get started. You will also have to have a plan on how you will water it . Irrigation system is a time saver. You will still have some maintenance to do like trimming and weeding so make sure you leave yourself some access space to get around the area. I use stepping stones.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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