Making the most of every square foot

franknjimApril 3, 2012

I have this 5' wide strip next to the garage where I have been dumping most of my landscape waste for the past 10 years. The compost here is really nice. Since I am pretty much out of room to plant many more hosta in the front yard I figured I would work on that narrow strip. It could have been easier but long ago, someone poured 1/2" thick concrete most of the way back that had been buried for many years. There was also some flagstone buried along with a bunch of white rock that had been dumped.

This strip is full shade for the half up against the garage and full sun on the fence side in the summer. I had an old dog kennel frame so I figured I would make a lean-to trellis covered in welded wire fence and grow annual flowering vines on it to give me all shade underneath. I planted 25 vines. Three colors of Morning Glory and Blackeyed Susan.

I started cleaning out the area and built the vine trellis thingy yesterday. Today I planted all of the vines after sloping things the way I wanted it and putting metal flashing along the bottom of the garage to keep the water off. I laid out 32 varieties of hosta spaced for mature size. Mostly Medium, Small and Mini with a Large or two thrown in. I'll use pieces of the old thin concrete as stepping stones. Either next year or this year I will cut a gate into the green fence to plant hosta behind the garage once I fence that area(14' x 29') off from the main back yard where the five giant dogs are.

No Maple roots back here Ken! Elm roots instead. :(

Yesterday morning.

This morning.

Ostrich ferns around the telephone pole. They had been growing next to the garage from some scraps that I had thrown away.

This afternoon. Front to back.

This afternoon. Back to front.

Varieties back to front, fence side.

St. Elmo's Fire


Rockets Red Glare


Itsy Bitsy Spider

Blue Boy

Blue Maui

Chinese Sunrise



Waving Winds

Emerald Tiara

Alex Summers

Lakeside Tee Ki

London Fog

Amber Tiara

Surfer Girl



Fantasy Island

Silk Kimono

Kinakfu Otome


Waving Wuffles...I might put something special here instead of this one.

Garage side, back to front.

Limey Lisa


Feather Boa


Secret Ambition




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Babka NorCal 9b



    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 6:41PM
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jan_on zone 5b

Frank, you are certainly a man of action. What a difference a day makes!!! We are all going to enjoy watching this area grow.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 6:48PM
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bkay2000(8a TX)

I'm impressed!


    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 6:49PM
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ilovetogrow z9 Jax Florida

Wow is right that is some work there. Keep us posted on how it turns out. Paula

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 6:51PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

As usual, Frank, you produce remarkable work overnight. You might want to consider Scarlet Runner Bean as an annual vine, or put in a clematis or 20 for a long term perennial vines. Morning Glories have a tendency to self seed all over the place and might end up being a weed problem.

Will you run that path straight across the bed or will you curve it? Probably depends on what allows you to fit the most. That looks like Silk Kimono up front in the last picture. A favorite, it's a great montana type plant.

Frank, now that you have a covering over the top you could put hanging baskets of Hosta in this space. The Hanging Hostas of Peoria!


    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 7:45PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Wow. That is amazing. Good for you! I cannot wait to see the pictures over the course of the summer. It is going to look so cool.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 8:23PM
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Thanks all!

I had dozens and dozens of annual vines all over the place last year. I weed extensively on a daily basis so a few more weeds won't bother me. What I hate is the million dandelions in all of my neighbors yards. That is the weed I hate the most. I probably will look into getting about 4 or 5 Sweet Autumn Clematis since they get huge.

The path will be broken up stepping stones for now. Eventually I will use a cobblestone concrete mold that I have to make a less than straight path. I will tweak the plant layout once or twice before I start planting anything. The closest big one in the bottom photo is St Elmo's Fire. Silk Kimono is closer to the entrance and hasn't unfurled yet. It has 7 eyes. The SEF is one of the ones I took indoors Feb. 1st. Most of the unfurled ones came indoors in Feb. and I had been growing them under lights in the basement.

I doubt that I will hang any hosta. I usually have 30-40 hanging baskets and 40-50 pots of annuals going plus there is usually always at least 50 pots or more on the driveway of new & extra hosta plus other perennials that get dug up to make more room for more hosta. It's a vicious never ending circle. I still have 28 other varieties of hosta to fit in the front yard and down the driveway and I will be getting at least 6 more streakers this year along with going back to Hornbaker's for their open house. I probably won't be able to resist bringing home a trunk full again.

One last area that I can plant behind the garage but that will take a bit more work for me to install two sections of privacy fence on a slope to keep the dogs out plus a gate or two. There is a huge Elm tree back there with a trunk that is close to 4' thick. There is also a small Cedar in the corner that you can see in the above pics. I'll have room for 3 or 4 more giant hosta plus lots of others! More nightmare roots to deal with just like in the front yard.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 8:56PM
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Pretty good effort you made there. It is going to be real cool.

Sort of reminds me of the space down the side of my restored Teahouse. I call that narrow strip the "allee" or walkway (guess that is where we got the English version alley.)

A lot of landscaping books show ways to "force perspective" on such spaces, to distract folks from seeing how narrow they are, and also to make it feel longer than it is. They put the large leafed plants at the near end, or front, and gradually reach the small leafed plants down near the gate. And if I can find the picture of the way a gate is built to make it appear further and smaller, I'll post it for you. A "secret garden" gate at the end would be perfect. Then put your bistro table and two chairs back there.

The space overhead created by the arbor could have a couple of hanging baskets. I heard you say the other day you were potting up baskets and such. Try about 4 of those in gradually reduced sizes as you reach the back. And, if you could possibly do so, make the path sort of undulate just a smidgen off of STRAIGHT, so you could place a large hosta as a feature and focal point as you are walking down the path. Or, a cluster of small hosta with a nie statue springing up out of their midst. Maybe hakone grass cascading there too.

I love such found spaces. It makes me feel so good when I take an ignored space and make it something special. Our allee was a disaster and will be looking good shortly when I remove the leaf litter. I'll show this picture from last year, first year it was set up. Our privacy fence is to the south, the garage/Teahouse is on the left.

I cut down the fence that was attached at the far end of the Teahouse, so we could walk completely around the building. To give a focal point, I situated the plain metal arbor on a center line with the stepping stone path, and set up Our Lady of Grace behind it. My passion vines grow on the arbor (Gulf fritillary butterfly host plant), and the big bananas behind the Blessed Virgin sort of screen off the neighbor and our chainlink fence.

Love what you're doing, I get real excited about such projects. It is amazing how much difference it can make.

BTW, I uploaded a few pictures of the space back there and it was really crude. I've always done my projects in "layers" instead of trying to make em perfect the first lick. That way, each layer improves the whole space, instead of just one small part, and you can modify the project as you see how it comes together well before the end result is visible. That's just the way I do things.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:20PM
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hosta_freak(z6 NC)

Lot of work,Frank! You really oughta consider buying a place with more property in the town where you live! Pretty soon you won't have any place to walk! Lol! Phil

    Bookmark   April 3, 2012 at 10:25PM
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bernd ny zone5

Great idea, but this is only on the ground. This space easily could carry twice as many hostas by going vertically, i.e. on the house. Have fun!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 8:37AM
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Frank, they make half-round pots which might be mounted to the support posts, thus raising the focal point UP a bit.
But, I'm sure as time goes by and you are elbowing your way around your property (hehehe) it will come to you as prime planting space. Where there is a will, there is a way, and you've figured out most of them!

Great show. I'm hoping you keep the pictures of this as a developing series. I'm sure it will inspire others to use marginal spaces too. Heck, I'm thinking along those lines as well for my "allee."

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 3:00PM
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