Landscape Update: Freshening Up with Ornamental Grasses, Wildflowers, and Natural Stone
I cannot believe I have lived in my home for four years now! Time sure flies. Even though I have been here for four years, I am nowhere near being done with any of my house projects and continue to work through each of them (and adding more as I come up with new ideas!).
Generally in the spring and summer, I really focus on what I want to be doing outside. In the fall and winter, the focus is generally on the indoors. As I have mentioned many times, I was very lucky and blessed to have inherited a home with great bones, and that includes the yard. Although there was some hard work and sweat equity needed to get the yard back to its glory, the foundation was there. Although I still have a few yard projects saved up for the future (e.g., fence, expanding the garden, planing fruit trees, a greenhouse! lol), my last major one of my initial list was cleaning up the backyard bed by the shed and finally putting the finishing touch on it.
When I bought the home, the bed was full of pachysandra (see below). Pachysandra is an invasive ground cover. It can be great when used well and appropriately, like for an area of the yard that needs something to take over with minimal care. However, the area where this pachysandra grew was not ideal. It was in the bright sun (pachysandra is a shade plant), so the green leaves were always a yellow green by the end of the season and had grown so invasively it was creeping onto the stone patio and had made the day lilies pretty much disappear.
Back in Summer 2018, I had decided to hire someone to tear out the pachysandra for me. I always puff my chest at the fact that I really and truly do most of everything in my yard (expect grass care), but this was really outside of my physical capabilities (believe me, I tried to do it!). I shopped around for someone to take care of it for me, and it was important that it was dug out with only organic weed killer (absolutely no round-up!). After finding someone who did it fairly cheap, my air conditioner went and decided that I was in no place to spend money on landscaping that bed. Although the pachysandra was gone, I had no other plants with the exception of the day lilies and the tree. I did love that I could finally see the day lilies—they were hiding this whole time!
As Spring 2019 neared, I knew I absolutely wanted to finish that bed. I just had to think about what I wanted to do and determine a way to work around some of the “barriers,” which were:
Clay Soil: This area of the yard pretty has much clay soil, which is not ideal for most plants. When it is really rainy, the clay just soaks up all the rain, creating a soggy mess for roots. When it is dry, the clay is absolutely DRY—creating a problem for plants that need moist soil. So it is key to find plants that can thrive in clay, whether it is sopping wet and super dry.
Border: After removing the pachysandra, I had discovered that the border of the bed next to the stone patio was not outlined in rock like the rest of the bed. I’m assuming the previous home owner created a border with pachysandra that likely looked really good when initially planted but eventually got overgrown. I discovered rock and stone underneath, creating an issue for the border, as well as any plants. There was previously electrical underneath as well, so I had to mindful of not disturbing that.
Before I tackled the border, I picked up some plants for the bed in early April to help finish off the plants. In reality, the bed is not that big, and the tree, day lilies, border, and bird bath take up space, so I only need several plants to finish off the look. After doing some research and wanting to try something new, I decided to go with an ornamental grass and wildflower theme. Not only do I love the look, but this also addresses my challenges of the clay soil, as many ornamental grasses and wild flowers can thrive in clay soil and a variety of growing conditions. In addition, the use of these plants allows for seasonal interest throughout the year—from early spikes in the spring, lush grasses and flowers in the summer, seed and beautiful colors in the fall, as well as visual interest in the winter, I knew this was the way I had to go. I picked up a few general grasses to put behind the day lilies (which were absolutely gorgeous this summer). Some other plants I picked out included:
Zebra Grasses: These grasses have colorful spikes and grow to be 6 feet tall! I liked the look of these and wanted taller grasses to border the fence for privacy. We had a wet, cold spring and start to summer, so I don’t think my zebra grasses settled in until almost July. They did not show much growth until we got some heat and started to look better. I was a tad worried, but I think they are settled in now and are about 3 feet tall. I expect them to be taller next summer, as they mature more.
Japanese Blood Grasses: I was the most excited about these, as I think they will add so much visual interest in the fall. They are currently green with red tips right now but should turn bright red as we change to fall. I cannot wait to see what they will look like and will definitely update you with more photos. If you want more information on this grass, click here.
Blue Festuca Grass: I have this grass in my front yard and love how it looks on the borders of my beds. I decided to do the same thing in the back and put three of these in the small corner to create a nice border. I love the small clumps of bright blue-green color.
Shasta Daisies: I also added Shasta daisies to accompany my day lilies for the wildflowers. These did not grow very tall this year, but I did have some blooms. One plant struggled with the very cold and wet spring and start to summer. I am hoping it will do much better next year.
After mulching with black mulch, it was time to clean up the border. Instead of finishing with the rock like the rest of the bed, I decided to create an area of River Rock to make the ease of finishing that edge off much simpler, as well as creating a different and unique look with the river rock. I laid down large areas of landscape fabric and placed the river rock on top. I used Dorado River Rock from Home Depot and linked up both my River Rock and landscape fabric below.
I’m so pleased with how this turned out! I think it looks so much better, cleaner, and more colorful than before. Plus, now you can finally see the gorgeous daylilies. Next year, I am thinking of adding some other wildflowers, especially if one of the Shasta Daisies do not work out. I am thinking of Black-eyed Susans, as well as Echinacea and ConeFlowers.
I also linked up some of my other backyard accessories below, if you are looking for some other ideas to liven up your landscaping beds or brighten up your patios.
What do you think of the updates? I’d also love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!