Creating a Victorian Garden

Backyard Landscaping

The Problems:

  1. The old wooden fence was collapsing and needed to be torn down.
  2. Huge tree limbs from the neighbor’s trees kept the sun light out of the yard, preventing anything from growing.
  3. Sod had been laid in 1997 but now only ½ the yard had grass growing.
  4. There were 3 oddly placed trees and a few bushes that were far from attractive in the yard area.
  5. There were unattractive objects protruding out into the yard. The gas meter, a window air-conditioner, and three basement window wells, that all needed to be camouflaged.

The Vision:

  1. Create a landscape design that would remind me of Italy and Thailand. (Places I enjoyed visiting.)
  2. The yard must be eye appealing from the second story bedroom windows as well as the first floor dining room and kitchen.
  3. I needed to make use of several hundred bricks that were left over from the rebuilding of chimneys.
  4. The garden must be easy to maintain and have an in-ground watering system.
  5. The garden needs to maintain shape and some color throughout the four seasons.
  6. The area must include an herb garden.
  7. The garden must include some pieces of ornamentation, such as a birdbath and a sundial and the area must be safe for the cats to play in.
  8. The design must camouflage the unattractive objects in the yard.

The Project Begins in spring of 2000:

  1. Since the old fence was on the lot line between the neighbor’s house and mine, the neighbor provided the manual labor to tare down and haul away the old fence. I dug up the slabs of limestone buried in the ground that had created the old retaining wall and saved them for use later. The old retaining, wall on my property, was replaced with a new one built of treated wood planks and installed by my neighbor, I paid for the materials.
  2. Large tree limbs from the neighbor’s trees that hung over my yard were cut away by a professional tree trimmer. I removed three trees, their stumps, and some large bushes that existed in the old landscaping.
  3. Next I removed the old sod and rotor tilled the entire yard and removed all the grass and weeds. The yard sat vacant until the following spring when I continued to remove grass, weeds and rotor till again and again.
  4. In the mid summer of 2001 I purchased ten 9-foot Arborvitae trees and five white hydrangea bushes. The nursery personnel installed the trees and bushes. They were planted to line two sides of the yard.
  5. I placed some of the limestone, saved from the old retaining wall, around the three window wells using them to secure a wire screen to keep pets and leaves out of the well areas.
  6. I purchased a Galileo sundial at a garden shop and put it away for future use in the garden design.
  7. During the summer and fall of 2002, I rotor tilled the entire yard, removed more weeds and grass and leveled the area to allowed for natural drainage. I started to create the design for the yard on paper.
  8. A brass antique baby bed was found in an antique shop and purchased for the yard to be used as a flowerbed. I found a brass arch at another antique shop and knew I would find a place for it in the garden too. I found a rod iron bench at a garage sale and added it to the garden collection.
  9. In the spring of 2003, with the design layout in hand, I staked out the area I wanted to put the walkway in. I proceeded to dig out four six-foot wide walkways, 3 inches deep in a cross-like design. My business partner tampered this area and I lined it with black weed resistant paper.
  10.  When it came time to move and lay the bricks into the cut out area, I suffered an arm injury from moving the bricks and had to hire two friends to lay the brick for me in July while I underwent therapy for my arm injury. About 750 of the left over chimney bricks were used to create the walkways, placing them in a pattern I choose and securing them with sand and at a later time, edging.
  11. By September, my arm had healed enough for me to lay the bricks that divided the yard area into 16 individual flowerbeds. I set the bricks into the ground about 3 inches, slanted at an angle, pointing upward.
  12. To camouflage the unattractive objects protruding into the backyard, I took four old shutters and by stacking one on top of the other, created two trellises, one to hide the air conditioner and the other to hide the gas meter. Two more shutters were used to create a plant stand over another utility post.
  13. The brass Galileo sundial was secured on a cement pedestal and placed in the center of the walkways. Ground cover was planted around the base.
  14. Plants were selected and planted into the sixteen beds. (See placement chart and list of plants.)
  15. I laid a limestone walkway into the ground to offset the next section of the garden and planted ground cover in between the stones.
  16. In the fall I planted 150 tulip and iris bulbs next to the limestone walkway for color in the spring.
  17. In February of 2004 I picked up a Thai Spirit House in Florida and drove it back to Illinois. It had taken 3 years to acquire it from Thailand. I had one in my yard when I lived in Thailand, so I wanted one for my home in Illinois. (See Spirit House explanation with photos.)
  18. In the spring I laid 35 stepping-stones in a checkerboard design to create the herb garden. Herbs were planted later.
  19. My business partner and I installed a 5 foot tall, green plastic coated wire fence on the outside of my retaining wall to insure the safety of my pets while they were in the yard.
  20. The Spirit House was mounted on top of two pedestals that were places on top of a circler stepping stone set into the ground. The pedestals were painted with white enamel.
  21. A birdbath was placed in the center of the herb garden.
  22. I used my old porch swing to create a seating area to watch the squirrels feed and placed the last of the chimney bricks around it to enclose the base, made of cinder blocks.
  23. I potted annuals and placed them around the porch swing.
  24. After the tulips died off I used more potted annuals to cover the area left bare when blooming time was over.
  25. Lastly, I put in a misting system on timers to take care of the watering needs.

Summer of 2006

It's been five years since the 10 Arborvitae trees were planted. I was told they would grow together in five years to create the privacy wall I wanted for the back yard. It did not happen as planned. As a result of having four foot gaps between all the trees, I had twelve more Arborvitae trees planted, filling the gaps with five and six foot trees. Now the trees create a "W" effect until the smaller trees grow as tall at the original 9-foot trees.

Fall of 2009 to Spring of 2010

Fall came and went with no let up in the rain and then the winter. Spring of 2010 became the new planting date. The amount of trees also changed. I found three pine trees fit the space better since they were so wide. Three smaller transplanted pines took the place of the weeping willow since it may have interfered with the water pipes in that area. Two large groves were dug into the front lawn upon delivery and the following summer and fall were spent adding dirt and seed to repair the expected damage.

During the winter of 2009 I learned that cast iron fountains crack in cold weather. I was able to patch the crack and it held water the following summer. In 2011 it was not even uncovered, so I decided to turn it into a planter in the spring of 2012.

A couple of the 16 beds in the garden are not looking so good, so the spring and summer of 2012 will have a few areas replanted with new perennials.

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