Side/corner yard ideas?

technoducklingDecember 14, 2012

Hello everyone, we just purchased our first home in the South SF Bay area, it's in a pie shaped lot and the way the house is oriented we essential have 3 yards on the two sides and back of the house. Right now I'm working on the side yard where the kitchen window is facing, and was wondering if I could get some ideas/advice here.

This side yard is split into 2 components--a front grassy lawn with a small herb/vegetable garden, and then a wood chip covered dry corner in the back. It gets plenty of sun throughout the day, so drought tolerant plants would be ideal for the back corner (no irrigation/sprinklers there yet). The main thing about this side yard is its ugly telephone pole (on the neighbor's side, right next to the fence) that I really want to hide because that's the first thing I see when I'm standing in the kitchen doing dishes. I was thinking of planting a tall gingko tree because I adore gingko, but not sure if sticking a tree there will affect the rest of my lawn/herb garden. There's also the issue of the branches possibly hitting the pole down the road, but I saw a variety called "Princeton Sentry" that might work since it doesn't have that big of a spread..?

I'd also love to plant some fragrant/showy shrubs/small trees along the fence. My personal favorites are fragrant tea olive shrubs (Osmanthus), dwarf crepe myrtles, and/or a guava fruit tree (anyone successfully grown a guava tree in this area?).
Anyways, here are some pics of the yard. Any thoughts/ideas are welcome! Thank you!

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Picture 1: Corner yard with the telephone pole in the back corner. The fenced corner measures about 35'x30'. You see the wood chip covered ground in the back, the lawn, and the patch of overgrown lavender/salvia(?) in the middle on the border between the wood chip area and lawn.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 11:05PM
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Pic 2: Here's a view of the sideyard as seen from the kitchen sink window (really want to cover up that pole!)

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 11:06PM
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Pic 3: Here's a closeup of the area I want to work with, would it be too much if I created a raised bed along the fence with shrubs/flowers, and then planted a Princceton Sentry gingko tree in the middle (where the black potted plant is)?
Maybe I can lay down stones to create a patio/sitting area with the tree as the focal point? Let me know what you think!

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 11:09PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I'd plant a tree right off the bat. I'd move it just to the left of where it is now, so that the trunk is not dead center in the corner of the yard from your view from the window. Are you sure you want a deciduous tree? Gingkos are slow-growing, aren't they? I'd be inclined to plant something faster and evergreen, myself. But the gingkos are so beautiful.

Raised beds will rot wood fences, so don't use the fence as one side of the bed. I think sweet olive would be wonderful- does it grow well in full sun where you live? Here it has to have partial shade.

You have nice wide beds, that's a great start. I would consider an arbor, fountain, or sitting area so that you have something beautiful to look at from the kitchen window. I have an arbor to the corner of my yard and I like it very much. I'll see if I can find a photo.


    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 7:22PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Here's a shot of my arbor. You have deeper and nicer beds, though, so it would probably look better.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 7:31PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

You could do an Italian Cypress, or a trio of them, in the corner to hide the power pole. It will not interfere with the rest of the garden and no pruning required. Also drought tolerant once established (3-5 years). If planting more than one, do not plant them so close together that they merge into one mass--they are beautiful in silhouette which is lost if they are too close. Smaller golden version 'Swane's Golden'. Quite fast growing, inexpensive to purchase.

Ginko 'Princeton Sentry' is a beautiful tree. Eventually it gets quite large. Note it is deciduous so you are going to be seeing the pole through the bare branches in the winter time.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 6:18PM
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@ hosenemesis--Your yard is so lovely! It has the exact feel that I'm looking for--a nice spot to just sit and watch the flowers/birds/squirrels. I really like the trellis on the walkway--maybe I can incorporate it next to the herb garden somehow, maybe with wisteria to cover it? (not the invasive kind, but the N. American "Amethyst Falls" wisteria--Wisteria frutescens ).

@ hoovb: I've considered Italian Cypress and White birch trees, but I think I have my heart set on a gingko, they're just too beautiful. I won't mind the bare branches too much in the winter--I think if I position it just right, just having the tree branch/trunk obscure the power pole will be enough. :)

In regards to planting by the fence, what's the best way to do it? Should I just keep the ground level as it is right now and NOT do a raised bed? Or should I line the fence with stone/edge border to minimize fence rot? I love gardening but I just realized I'm a total beginner at this. Any good resources/books to get started? Thank you!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 7:47PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

The Sunset Western Garden Book is a must.

Don't bother with raised beds, you can plant directly in the ground. Plants do better in the ground anyway, and most shrubs get so big that you don't want them raised. Plant tall shrubs in the back, measure out to where they will eventually grow, and then plant lower stuff in the front. Winding paths seem more mysterious than straight ones. Mine goes to a hose bib :D


    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 1:03AM
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