The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: Back Yard Page 1 of 12

A New Foster Puppy and Fall Planting

“Love, soft as an easy chair
Love, fresh as the morning air
Time won’t change the meaning of one love
Ageless and ever evergreen”

Summer flew by and suddenly, we are in September. The leaves have not turned their colors yet, but the crisp morning air and clear night sky are signaling that my favorite season is coming.


The dogs are enjoying the cold air + warm sun combo too. They spent lots of time in the yard even in the evenings.


In these photos you can see Dazumble, our first foster puppy. But I am happy to announce that she has been adopted! Dazumble went to her forever family about 10 days ago, and we brought her sister, the Snorch home to foster on the same day.

In addition to the new foster puppy, we also brought home new evergreen trees! They were purchased during the 50% tree sale from Home Depot. We always wanted more evergreen trees for our property. This time, we were fortunate to grab three decent sized evergreens for just over $200!


The first one is this weeping Norway Spruce. Isn’t it cute? We planted it next to the ginkgo tree and expanded the flower bed around it.


With the weeping habit this Norway spruce will grow to 8-12 ft tall and wide. We planted it 6 feet away from the fence and the ginkgo tree, so it can grow to its mature size without trimming. I also planted some daylilies to fill in the empty space around it. These daylilies were given to me as a gift. I spent a couple weekends dividing the irises in the front yard and gave away most of the rhizomes through Nextdoor. The irise giveaway attracted many gardeners to our house. One lady, when picking up irises, brought me daylilies she divided from her yard. These daylilies should bloom golden red. I cannot wait to see them flower next summer!


Here is the ginkgo tree, which was a small twig three years ago. Now it is 6 feet tall with very nice lower branching. Its leaves should turn to bright yellow color in a months or so.


This is the first year I planted flowers in the vegetable garden. The marigold has been blooming all summer long.


Besides the weeping Norway spruce, we also got a pine and a Colorado spruce. This Vanderwolf’s Pyramid Limber pine is about 6 feet tall right now, and eventually become 20′ tall and 15′ wide. We planted it in the new patio garden, with plenty of room to spread.


Behind the new pine is this Malabar spinach planted on a trellis. It is an annual in my area and a great climber. I planted two seedlings at the base of this metal trellis. I love its shape and purple-red stems. A must-have in the garden just for its beauty!


Here are the volunteer sunflowers in the same patio garden bed. They came up where our winter bird feeder was, probably planted by the birds. We can see at least two different varieties blooming.


Here is the last new evergreen we bought – a Colorado spruce! The Colorado blue spruce, also called Colorado Spruce or blue spruce, needs no introduction. It is a Rocky mountain native and can get to 70′ tall when planted at the right spot. Fortunately, it only spread to up to 20′ wide, making it possible to bring it into our backyard.


We situated it near the garden shed, in front of the two Ash trees. It gets dappled shade in the morning and full sun from noon to sunset. We also positioned it 9 feet away from the side fence and the hazelnut tree, so it has plenty room to spread.


Not until we planted the Colorado spruce I realized how much we needed its blue color in our backyard. Most of the trees here, including the Ash tree, the crabapple tree, the fruit and nut trees all have green foliage. Adding the icy blue color here really draws your eyes to the far corner of the yard, which makes the yard feel bigger.


On the other side of the hazelnut is the wisteria planted this spring. It has put on some growth and started climbing the trellis. 🙂 The weeping cedar planted along the side fence is also doing well. I have not see much growth from it, but the needles are all green and the tree seems to be well hydrated.


While all three evergreens went to the backyard, I added some Fall perennials and decor to the front yard garden. I’ve shown you the new boxwood in front of the new front porch. They are putting on new sprouts since planted a few weeks ago and appear to be very happy.


On the other side of the front door, we planted three junipers in early Spring. They should eventually crawl onto the gravel and cover the area around the foundation, but it will take lots of years for them to get there. To fill the space between them. I added three dwarf Joe-pye weed called “Euphoria™ Ruby”. It will only get 2′ tall and wide, a perfect size for this area.


Most of the plants in the front yard bloom in spring, so I have been wanting to add some color to the front yard garden for late summer/fall. The Ruby Joe-pye weed will bloom purple pink from mid-summer to frost, exactly what we need.


I also want to add more Fall colors along the sidewalk. Here are six Fall blooming mums new to the front yard! These little plants will grow into 2′-3′ mounds of cute flowers which last the whole autumn. They might not be able to bloom this season, but they seems to be taken in very well and I am looking forward to their blooms next Fall.


Believe or not, some pumpkins in my vegetable garden have matured. I have never picked pumpkins this early, and they may not last as long as those in previous years. But I was happy to get the new front porch decorated early. I grabbed two flowering mums from the stores and added pumpkins from my own vines. I like how colorful and cheerful this small decoration looks.


As the summer is coming to an end, we will be harvesting, grilling, dining outside, and cozy up with Roxie, Charlie, and our new foster puppy. Are you fond of fall too?


A New Parking Pad Addition

Last week, I showed you the new concrete porch in the front of the house. Today, let us go to the backyard for another concrete project – the new trailer parking pad!


This area is located on the south side of our garage. When we moved in back in 2017, this area was part of the front yard lawn:


In 2018, we constructing a new fence here and enclosed this area behind. Since then, this side yard has been used to park our utility trailer.


Although very functional, parking the trailer here slowly killed the lawn grass beneath, and the dogs started use it as a sandbox to nap in.



The soil surrounding the trailer also became more compact. Instead of healthy lawn grass, weeds started to grow.




We had talked about pouring a proper parking pad for a couple years. This July, when we hired a concrete contractor to build the new front porch, we added this area into the concrete work, filling the space between the gravel area under the fence line and the existing sidewalk.



Before the contractors came, Slav and I removed the pea gravel and pulled up the landscape edging around the work area. These pea gravels would be put back eventually. But for then, we wanted to give the contractor some space to build the form.



On the day of concrete work, the contractors started by removing a few inches of soil from the space. Then they built the form and compacted down the soil.



A metal wire mesh was added to prevent the new concrete pad from cracking and separating. The new pad would fill the entire length from the drive gate to the end of the sidewalk.



The same contractor also worked on the garage floor for my neighbor across the street on the same day. Sharing the labor and the concrete truck significantly lowered the cost for both of us. But the parking situation on our street that day was kinda crazy.



The pups were locked in the house for good measure – we do not want hundreds of paw prints all over the new concrete patio!


By mid-afternoon, the new parking pad was poured and finished. It was amazing how a team of people worked so seamlessly that they created this in only 6 hours.


The edge of the pad is about 8″ away from the fence line. This space would be filled with pea gravel again after the concrete pad was properly cured.



We were told to stay off the new pad for 5 days. A temporary fencing was set up to block the dogs out. Although every single of them could easily clear the low fencing, lucky for us, none of them attempted.



After five days, we removed the temporary fencing, put the pea gravel back, and parked the trailer onto the new pad.


As you can see, the new parking pad was a lot longer than the trailer itself. This is intentional for easier access from the back of the trailer.


Here is Dazumble, checking out the new parking spot!


Here is a closer look of the pea gravel area along the fence. The height of the new pad is tall enough to hold back the pea gravel, so we no longer need to use landscape edging here.


Beyond the parking pad area, we put in landscape edging to better contain the small-size pea gravel, then aligned it with decorative concrete blocks that match other area of the backyard.



As you can imagine, the pups are happy to get their yard back!


Privacy Planting around the Hot Tub




Since purchasing the ranch house 6 years ago, we have been planting trees in our backyard to add shade and privacy. We put five fruit trees along the back fence and two hazelnut trees along the northern fence. Last year, we installed a hot tub near the northern fence. Unfortunately, none of the trees we planted were close enough to provide any privacy.


We considered adding a pergola over the hot tub, but crossed off the idea quickly. I enjoy looking up the night sky while hot tubbing, and did not want any structure over the hot tub. We eventually decided to plant more privacy trees around the hot tub. Although this approach will take a few years to come into effect, it only costs a fraction of a pergola, and we will be able to bring more shade and biodiversity to our backyard.


Creating a wisteria arbor

The hot tub is only 15 feet away from our northern neighbor’s fence. Being on a slope the hot tub sits significantly higher than the neighbor’s yard. People can see us going in and out of the hot tub over the fence. So we really need to screen off the space above the fence, between the two hazelnut trees.


There are only about 8 feet distance between the canopies of the hazelnut trees. We decided to install an arbor and grow a wisteria vine here. This will bring the foliage right up where we needed it, a fast way to block the view over the fence.


The wisteria variety is “Amethyst Falls“. It is a fast grower, but stays relatively tame compared to other varieties. It will reach 15-20 feet tall and 8 feet wide, a perfect fit for the space between the two hazelnut trees. I found a 4 feet wide garden bench from a thrift store for the space under the new arbor. The wisteria leaves will cast some much needed shade on the bench, making it a great sitting spot in the garden.


To offer strong support for the wisteria, we decided to build a permanent arbor made using cedar posts, instead of buying a metal trellis online. Slav and I went to our favorite fence supply store and got a couple 4″x4″s and 2″ x 6″s for the build. I picked the simplest design, and Slav built it in our garage in like 10 minutes.


Three 50-pound bags of concrete (leftover from our 2018 fence build!) were used to secure the 4″x4″ posts in the ground. I racked away the mulch then Slav dug the holes. We had lots of experience setting posts from our horizontal fence build. Everything went so fast that I barely had chance to take pictures!





After the concrete had dried, we took off the bracing of the arbor and planted the wisteria. This spot suddenly looked so cute!


The picture below were taken when I stood behind the hot tub. You can see the a few feet of the space we are trying to screen off. I mounted a piece of cattle panel on the arbor so I can train the wisteria to grow up at an angle.


Planting a weeping Alaskan cedar

While the new wisteria arbor can block the view from the neighbor’s yard, we still need to find a solution for the view for their back windows. In the summer months, one of the hazelnut trees can effectively block this view. However, during winter months, the hazelnut tree loses its leaves and no longer offers the same privacy. To create an all-season screen in front of the fence, I chose a weeping Alaskan cedar.


I have wanted a weeping evergreen for a long time. I have considered weeping white pine and weeping colorado spruce, but they are both too big for our urban backyard especially at a spot so close to the houses and a fence. Weeping Alaskan cedar trees only grow 8-12 feet circumference when mature, but reaches 20 feet tall in our climate. It is the perfect specimen for this narrow space.

Weeping Alaskan Cedar For Sale Online | The Tree Center

Above is a picture of a full grown weeping alaskan cedar. I like its straight central trunk and dense, pendulous branches. Even the side branches are long, the weeping habit of the branches keeps its footprint contained. I planted the weeping cedar 5 feet away from the fence. So even when it is fully grown, the branches should barely touch the fence.


Once full grown, this weeping cedar will not only add privacy to the hot tub, but also serve as an all-season screen between the two back patios. To save some time, I splurge for a more mature and taller tree. It was over 5 feet tall when it came to our house this Spring. Given its fast growing rate (4-6 inches per year), it should start performing in 3-4 years.

Adding an arborvitae hedge

Last fall, we added six “north pole” arborvitaes in the side yard. The spot is right next to the neighbor’s garage and a small alley, where they keep the trash cans, construction materials, and lawn equipment. Although privacy is not a big issue here, we do want to mask the old fence and the utility alley. The “north pole” arborvitae grows to 12-15 feet tall and 4 feet wide. We planted them 3 feet apart, so they can grow into a green wall when mature.


We planted the same variety of arborvitae in our front yard in 2018. They are now over 6 feet tall and bulked up really nicely. Knowing that these trees grow fast, we purchased smaller size to save some $$$. But after one winter, these little trees already put on some decent growth.


Planting magnolia tree and shrubs on the east side


While building the retaining wall around the hot tub, we added a small flower bed on the east side. It is already 3-4 feet higher than the hot tub patio, so small trees/large shrubs are sufficient to screen the hot tub on this side.


Last Fall, I planted a Jane magnolia as an anchor plant in this area.


The magnolia tree lost all its leaves in winter, but this Spring, it leafed out beautifully, and produced the most beautiful flower in May.


This magnolia tree will grow up to 20 feet tall and 15 feet wide. I will be training its branches to go over the hot tub which should be magical during the flower season. In the middle of the bed, I planted a pieris mountain fire. I first saw this plant in a display garden in Nashville, TN and immediately fell in love. The new growth on this plant is intense red, which gives it such an unique and striking appearance. It should reach 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide, a perfect second tier next to the 15 feet tall magnolia tree.


The very end of the bed is too small for perennials, so I seeded three cosmos to add some color. I really like the pink and purple cosmos next to the bright red leaves on the pieris mountain fire. I think this spot can be used for pink annuals every year.


Adding weeping redbud trees on the east and south side

The last two trees we added for the hot tub are weeping redbud trees, a variety called “lavender twist“. The first one was planted on the east side of the hot tub, close to the shed patio. Although far away from the hot tub itself, it sits right between the east side house and the hot tub. Once the leaves fill in, it will create a 10′ x 10′ waterfall-like dense foliage to block the view from the east side.


Here is how the redbud tree looks from 10 feet back, through the herb garden. It should look really good in a couple years!


The second weeping redbud tree were planted in the patio garden bed, on the south side of the hot tub.


Same as the other weeping redbud, it is already at a decent height and once the leaves are filled in, this tree will screen the view from our southern neighbor. The shrub behind the red bud is a snowball bush viburnum. It will eventually grow into a 6–10 ft tall and wide multi-stem shrub, adding another layer of greenery on the south side.


A quick view of the new garden beds

Walking around the hot tub area, I cannot believe how different our backyard looks compared to last Fall. Although half empty, the new garden beds flew nicely and the anchor plants looked so lovely.



Remember the side yard I planted last Fall? All the bareroot hostas sprouted this spring. There are also six lady ferns. Although they are all super small this Spring, I think they will cover the entire side yard in just a few years.


There is still lots of space to fill, and I am excited to plant more perennials! I would love to add more pink and purple colors to this area, such as gaura, purple cone flowers, lavender, alliums, and maybe some smooth hydrangeas. Now we have the bones of the garden established, the rest is more of play than work to me. We have done so much but there is still so much to do – but this is what makes gardening fun. Do you agree?


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