Tiny back yard slowly thawing out

janetr(Ottawa USDA 4a)March 17, 2006

Here is a picture of the back yard looking across it the LONG way. You can see the entire depth of the yard in this photo. Hey, the front yard is much smaller...

And no, I didn't clean up properly in the fall.

I want to put a rhodo in that bed for some winter interest and of course, the spring flowers.

To the right of what you see in that picture is my longest bed which gets a bit more sun and therefore has only a little snow left on it. Here is a picture of it looking back in the opposite direction, again, along the long axis of the yard. There is a viburnum in there, but it is so small, you can hardly make it out in the picture. I will be adding a variegated weigela at the sunny end. Actually the sunny end switches with the seasons. The low angle of winter sun comes in under the limbed up pine and lights up the left end pretty well until late spring. By then the sun comes in higher and hits the right end, now shadowed by the privacy fence, leaving the left end in the shadow of the pine.

What kind of compact shrubs would YOU put in such an area, that would have three or four-season interest preferably, tolerate various amounts of shade, and not threaten to take over the little space I have? They would have to be hardy too, of course, but seeing as this is a very sheltered yard with decent snow cover, I could definitely push the zone envelope by one or two zones.

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alison(6b/OH)

Maybe a Euonymus (I hate trying to spell that!) or a Cotoneaster (I hate trying to pronounce that one!). Both have nice foliage, great color in the fall, and the later has berries that make it look pretty for much of the winter.

I have a little mock orange kept in a tiny bed surrounded by concrete that has kept it narrow and not so tall. Pretty white flowers in the spring, and peeling bark in the winter give it interest half the year. (Kind becomes just background in the summer. Not bad, but not particularly noticeable.)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 1:25PM
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janetr(Ottawa USDA 4a)

For the euonymous, are you referring to burning bush, or wintercreeper? I thought burning bush required full sun. I may yet put one in the front yard. The tiny spot in the back that comes close to full sun through much of the summer has already been claimed by the weigela. I'm going to chew on the cotoneaster idea though. Fall is definitely a weak season in this backyard, although the meadow rue and Japanese anemone should flower this year and perk things up compared to last year.

This yard was nothing but grass and dirt a year ago, so I have to be patient.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 4:54PM
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alison(6b/OH)

Check out this euonymus !

Here is a link that might be useful: Emerald Euonymus

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 7:47PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Is your soil acidic enough for a Rhododendron?
In the shady side, I would like to suggest Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'. It does not grow more than 4 ft.This shrub is never boring. The leaves are large. The white flower heads are huge. They turn kelly green as the season progresses then tawny brown that last well into winter.

In the sunnier spot, maybe you can check out a Red Twig Dogwood. It is pretty all year long. The stems are bright red in winter. Cornus alba 'Sibirica' offers the brightest red stems that look stunning in winter.

You can also grow a small Clematis up your Viburnum bush.
:-)

    Bookmark   March 17, 2006 at 9:45PM
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janetr(Ottawa USDA 4a)

Thanks for the suggestions! The Emerald Gaity (sp?) euonymus is a popular cultivar in this neck of the woods. Do you know if they are prone to scale infestations?

I'm too cheap to get my soil tested, but all the neighbours are unanimous in saying that everything will die because the pine tree makes the soil too acidic and nothing can possibly grow there. Hmm, think I'll ignore that. Soil tends to be more alkaline than acidic in Ottawa because of the high clay content, but on the other hand, I am willing to believe that the pine does have some acidifying effect. In the recent issue of Canadian Gardening, one of the head honchos of the American Rhododendron Society gently takes issue with the assertion that rhodos require high acidity. Hmm again, although I take her expertise a lot more seriously than the neighbours'. In any event, mulching mine with pine needles will be easy, we get an abundant harvest every year as you can see in the photo. I already mulch both back beds with the cones (large ones, I think the pine is an Eastern white) to discourage my cat. They aren't 100% effective for that, but they do make a difference. I think the needles and cones together should probably suffice for acidic amendments. In any case, I'm willing to make the experiment.

Redtwig dogwood is another popular shrub around here. Doesn't it get rather big around though?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 3:53PM
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pitimpinai(z6 Chicago)

Red Twig Dogwood grows to about 6-7 ft tall. 'Sibirica' is a vase shape shrub so it does not take up a lot of room. 'Elegantissima' is wider. At any event, they give you the brightest color if pruned hard every spring. I cut mine down to the ground in order to get the brightest colored twigs. If unpruned, the twigs are dull green.

If you have pine trees near your flower bed, is the soil rather dry in summer?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2006 at 11:05PM
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janetr(Ottawa USDA 4a)

Directly under the tree it is rather dry, yes. I do mulch, but I still water it once a week if we haven't had significant rain. Particularly since everything was just getting established. I'm looking forward to this year and seeing things fill in a bit more.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2006 at 4:05PM
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