Monday, June 2, 2014

Watching a Fantasy Come to Life

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
My favourite little sitting area.
On June 1, 2010, I was fantasizing about our house in Ottawa. For the previous five years, we'd been living in Colorado Springs, which has a very arid climate, and I was looking forward to living somewhere where plants thrived on rainwater rather than irrigation.

We had also decided that we would install an in-ground pool, as we had done in one of our previous Ottawa homes.

The good news was that the back yard of the house we'd just bought was pretty much a blank slate. There was a meagre patio of white squares, and huge cedar hedges all the way around.

During our final few weeks in Colorado Springs, I pulled out my sketch pad and started to dream. This is design I had in mind.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
The original design
Of course, reality doesn't usually comply with dreams, but now, four years on, I'm actually surprised at how closely our back yard resembles the drawing.

Here were the things I hadn't accounted for in my plan.

  • There are power lines along the back of the property, so we had to move the pool closer to the house.
  • The property slopes significantly from a high at the "future gazebo" corner to a low by the "future garage" corner.
  • The hedges cut about four feet off each side of the yard. We ended up removing it on two sides, just to give ourselves a little extra space.
  • We did not extend the interlock all the way around the pool (too expensive).
  • We angled the pool more to the right than to the left.
  • Because the big tree at the back straddled the property line, we had to bring the fence in.
  • We ended up building a much larger pool. (I'm not sure if that was a good decision or not, but you can't trim a pool.)
And here is how the yard looks today.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings

What you'll see in the photos below is that the entire lot has been terraced. I started drawing them in using Photoshop, but it just got too crazy. Besides, photos will do better. Are you ready for your tour?

Let's start with the south-west corner (upper left per the diagram).

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
There's the hammock (currently holding pool tools because look at how dirty the pool is!)
That picture was taken from my bedroom window. Here's one from ground level.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Facing west
That picture really shows the change in elevation from the back of the lot to the front. Terracing allowed us to create lots of little "zones." Plus, by buying and installing the stone ourselves we saved tens of thousands of dollars.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Another view of the hammock.
The hammock corner is shady and is framed by hostas right along the fence and a red Japanese maple. You can also see our little stag and doe (the doe has not yet been painted). Under the hammock, and along all the rockery, we have planted mother-of-thyme or creeping thyme instead of grass.
Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
This plant is extremely hardy, spreads beautifully, flowers in the spring, and tolerates lots of foot traffic.

Here's another view of the terracing/retaining wall, taken looking east from the little sitting area shown above.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Retaining terrace
Stephen and our sons, Brian and Peter, spent weeks moving those huge rocks. They are called "chicken rock" and were ordered through a local landscaping company. The rocks come in a wide variety of sizes and, when we went back for a second load, they only had smaller rocks (like the ones seen in the left side of the above picture).

Next up: the centre of the back fence, west in the yard.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Focal area

For safety reasons (we didn't want the neighbour's children to be able to climb a tree and hop the fence), the fence juts into the yard here a little and becomes a focal point. Steve bought the heron last fall, and it's just what we needed here.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings

I planted the allium last fall as well -- and I just love them here amongst the grasses and the phlox.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Allium: they're kind of like dandelions, but not obnoxious.
Moving along, we come to the northwest corner (upper-right in the diagram), which is the shadiest corner of the lot and is where we had thought about building a gazebo.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
The northeast corner
There's an odd little niche at the upper right because I wanted to build at least part of our fence close to the property line, but then wanted to hide the cedar hedge for the rest of the area. We've used that area (sometimes) to hide the inevitable junk that builds up in a back yard.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
A ground-level view of the shady niche.
For now, the area is home to a variety of hostas. I tried ferns last year, but they did not survive the winter. We may build another seating area up here some day, which would be lovely because it really is the shadiest spot in the yard.

Moving clockwise, we come to the north side of the lot.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
The north side.
The star of this section of the yard is the "Fat Albert" blue spruce, surrounded by peonies, spirea, a hydrangea (just planted, so it's very small), poppies, and ditch lilies. At the bottom is my herb garden, which also includes a rose bush and some lavender.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Ground-level view of the north (right) side.
Again, if you look at the top of the fence, you can see how the ground slopes from the back (west) to the front of the lot (east).

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
You can also see our pool shed in this picture.
To the right of the pool shed is the gate to the side of the house with the pool pump and air conditioner.

And now we come to the least attractive view: the house itself, on the east side of the yard.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
We have plans for this area. The window on the left goes to the dining room, and we want to install patio doors (or French doors, if we can swing it -- haha!). We are also thinking of building a pergola across that wall, connecting to the roof that covers the back door.

And, of course, we need to power-wash those darned bricks. Before we removed the overgrown cedar hedge, the back yard was so dark that the bricks started to grow mold!

Ever since we put in the pool, I've fantasized about painting a huge mural on that wall -- with ivy and window boxes, birds, critters. The idea would be to make it look like the garden continues on all four sides of the yard.

When we're entertaining, the table gets brightened up with flowers and a table cloth, ad we bring out all those extra chairs, so it doesn't really stay that ugly for long.

To the right (southeast), we have our main seating area.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Again, taken from my bedroom window.
The pool has not been fully opened yet this year. We had to install a conduit to our sewer drain.
Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
Klingsbo $79.99
(The small round tables are only $30.)

After some pondering, we decided not to have an actual dining table. We rarely used it, and it really takes up a lot of room. I have to say, we haven't missed it. We usually serve food that is suitable for eating with your plate on your lap. Instead, we have lots of side tables (one between each pair of chairs) and a really, really large coffee table.

The furniture here is all bargain basement. The chairs were from Wal-Mart. The tables were from Ikea -- from their regular living room selection.

We found it after looking all over the place for a really large central table for food. So far, it has held up extremely well.

In this view, you can see the sun room, with the sliding doors.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
The sitting area.
This area of the yard just bakes, which is great if you're working on your skin cancer, but nasty if you burn easily or just don't like to be hot. We have three patio umbrellas that we bring out when we have a party, and we just keep moving them around. If (or when) we do build a pergola along the back wall, we plan to extend it right out over this area.

In the above picture, you can also see the shed that Stephen built out of white cedar to match the fence. I love that little shed, though I sometimes wish it were larger (you can see some garden-waste bags and our umbrellas leaning beside it), but it accommodates our lawn mower, snowblower, and wheelbarrow, so that's pretty good!

Moving through that gate, you come to our most recent addition: our very tiny vegetable patch.

Garden Fantasy | Wynn Anne's Meanderings
The vegetable patch under the sunroom window.
This wall faces south so, again, it gets lots of sunshine. We've planted to roots of rhubarb, six tomato plants, and six cucumber plants. I kind of wish we had enclosed this area in the fenced yard -- it would have kept the rabbits and larger scavengers out. Ah well.

You can see that we've also tossed in some marigolds to keep all sorts of garden pests under control.

(I've also planted them with my rose bushes in the main garden, but I've hidden them behind the bushes because they don't match my colour scheme of pinks-blues-purples.)

And there you have it: the four-year reveal. It's encouraging to see how the plants have grown and filled in over the past three years and how it's all coming together. I was, frankly, surprised at how closely the actual yard reflects what we sketched out so long ago.


  1. What a serene backyard. Well done.

    1. Thank you, Mely. It is my "happy place."

  2. It's looking lovely!
    What do the marigolds do?

    1. Thanks. Here's what I read about marigolds.

      Annual Marigolds can be used anywhere to deter Mexican bean beetles, squash bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and whiteflies. They are also known to repel harmful root knot nematodes (soil dwelling microscopic white worms) that attack tomatoes, potatoes, roses, and strawberries. The root of the Marigold produces a chemical that kills nematodes as they enter the soil. If a whole area is infested, at the end of the season, turn the Marigolds under so the roots will decay in the soil. You can safely plant there again the following spring.

    2. Here's where I read that:

  3. That's a lot of work but it looks like it was worth the effort!

  4. You do not know how much I love that yard. As I stare out at my dirt and piles of construction garbage, I remind myself it will someday be an oasis like yours. Love it.

    1. Oh, that transition phase is so painful, and lasts FOREVER! Hang in there. Start pinning!


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