Family Backyard

Family Gardening

Now that James is interested in playing outside almost all the time, making sure we have a family friendly backyard is a high priority. I grew up on a strawberry farm with a pond and acres of fields and woods to explore. Even though we live on a cul-de sac I want James to hav fond memories playing outside just like I have.

I stumbled by this image awhile ago of a back yard that includes a fort. I think a nice fort is just want James needs to extend his imagination. We already have plenty of space for whiffle ball, soccer games and a large tree for swinging and someday climbing.  A fort will provide James with his own space and many options for being a pirate ship, castle or whatever his mind creates.

Image from Windsor Smith

Compared to the pre-fab units, I want to build something out of more natural elements. I am thinking willow branch guardrails, rough bark roofing and living green walls. I want it to feel more natural with the landscape. I am thinking this could be a good winter project. We will see when I can get it started.

Willow clubhouse found on Pinterest. I don’t think I will do anything this advanced, but love the feeling 

Ivy Covered – Yes or No?

Boston Ivy, Green wall
I am a fan of ivy covered walls and homes. I think they can cover sins and provide some green in really tight spaces. However growing ivy comes with some responsibility in maintaining and ensuring you have selected the right species for your need. 
First, if growing on a structure NEVER plant English Ivy, choose Boston Ivy. This will insure that the suckers or rootlets attached to the surface will not do any harm. Boston Ivy suckers can be removed with a good power washing, while English Ivy will bore into your brick/stucco/wood siding. In certain zones can also use Creeping Fig (see photo below) or other climbers in place of ivy. 
Here is some ivy growing at a client’s house. You can see from the bottom left corner were the plant starts and how far it spreads across the building.
This is and example of Creeping Fig. You can see it provides the same feeling of framing the doorway. 
This is a building I saw on Melrose in LA a few years ago.

Here is the ivy on the back of  my house taken a years ago in early summer. Since our house is covered in stucco in the back,  I used the ivy to provide some more green to the space. We have since moved our dinning room table to that section so it feels like you are dinning surrounded by a green curtain. 
You can see how this ivy has started growing up the wall and then will begin to spread out. 
Ivy can grow very quickly. I took a few weeks off from trimming at our house and the ivy started covering the windows and growing into the screens. On our one story ranch the trimming is easy to access with bi weekly clean ups (it is kind of my decompression therapy), but on a two story home would be more difficult. 
You are a slave to the ivy, two weeks off of trimming and you can have ivy growing into your windows.
Image from prettythings.tumbler  

This building includes a wire gird to support the ivy.
Image from Design Sponge. 

I love how this one building in a row of townhouses is covered in Ivy. Imagine trimming the ivy on the fourth story!
Image from Apartment Therapy. 

Design 101: Pleaching

Design 101

(Read Previous Design 101 here)

Pleaching is the method of training multiple trees into a single horizontal plane, or one continuous line. It is often used to create allees or hedges. More frequently seen in European garden design, the training takes dedication to clipping and time to mature. Most often the branches are clipped to expose the trunks. 

A classic example of pleached trees. 
Image from Jinny Bloom
Hornbeams pleached across an allee of trees.

Image n.mccullough

 These are European Hornbeams pleached into an Allee.

Image n.mccullough
Trees that work well for pleaching include;  Hornbeams, Linden/Lime, and Pear. My personal favorite to use are Hornbeams, but I am also experimenting using Buckthorns in my back yard. When planting you should look to 3-4 feet spacing between each tree. 

Here you can see a more natural landscape with a line of pleached trees. 
Image from here.
Image n.mccullough
From this photo you can really see the structure of the branches creating the unified green wall. This very tall allee of pleached trees is at Arley Hall in England.
Image from here.

I could post 20 more photos of different gardens using pleached trees, but I am going to stop myself from going over board since I think you now understand the technique. Keep your eyes out, I think you will be noticing a lot more pleached trees.