Backyard Priority Project #2: Hornbeam/Oak Gap Filling

A couple of days ago, I discussed that I'm very susceptible to 'plant lust' and 'tree lust' once the Winter thaw breaks and Home Depot and Menards start to put out their nursery stock. 

The traps there are well-established.  First, buying stuff and then trying to 'figure out where to put it' is not a good approach.  Not to mention that the Big Box stores tend to feature A LOT of Spring/early Summer flowering items (so we are naturally drawn to them!) and if you plant what they have in stock and on sale, you often-times end up with a NON-four-season garden.  You get a lot of show in say...Spring.  But, you have a boring Summer and Fall (and even Winter) garden. 

Because we had a professional do our plan, I just need to stick to it.  And not stray too far.

Unlike years past, I'm going into this season of plant buying with a FIRM plan. 

That means focusing on three areas - maybe two and a half areas - for enhancing the view from our patio.  The first is this south fence line section that I covered two days ago.  That area calls for seven new hydrangeas, some astilbe and allium for color and the likely transplant of a few things.  Focus on that first, Jake. 

The second area is what you see above.  It is about 'plussing up' the area by the Frans Fontaine European Hornbeams trees, enhancing the area around the large Oak tree and then creating a 'bridge' between these two by removing the turf.

First, the area under the Hornbeams.  You can see what that section looked like here last Summer.  I have a mix of Hostas under-planted at the bases of the trees that are a mix of transplanted/spit Hostas and some newly acquired ones.  I count seven in there currently.  The plan calls for 13.  My plan for this year is to add more Hadspen Hostas under the trees - potentially six more and stagger them around the base on the trees. 

Then, let's shift to under the large Oak tree.  The plan calls for nine more hostas.  A couple of Summers back, I added two Hostas to the tree ring - this Christmas Tree and Fantabulous varieties.  I also transplanted this mini variegated hosta to the backside of the tree ring, so if all three of those come back, I'm at three so far.  Means, I should think about adding six more, of which, I'm going to try to transplant a couple of the tear down hostas under the kitchen window.  Lets say that I'll get three from there.   Down to three net new ones. 

Total Hadspen Hostas to add:  9. 
Total Hostas to transplant:  3.

The plan also calls for three Guacamole Hostas to serve as that 'bridge' between the tree beds and the large Oak tree.  Those would go in front of the (largest that we have) Chanticleer Pear tree. 

Next to those hostas would also be another 'bridge' planting of five (5) Bottle Rocket Spiked Ligularia.  We have three of those in our front beds that have not done particularly well over the years, but when they flower - they have these beautiful yellow spikes that are striking.  These are currently planted in clay and I would say that the area is not often moist - more often very dry - and not too fertile.  This description calls out what these would like:
Ligularias are at their best when grown in cool, moist locations in part shade. Protection from the hot, afternoon sun in the south is essential to prevent wilting.
I'm going to really focus on putting down a thick base of mulch (cocoa bean) around these existing ones and think about how I can best create - maybe through a swale of sorts - a moist environment for the three to help thrive.  The location that these are called for in the backyard is in a low-spot, so I'm thinking that there will be some natural 'moist' conditions that develop.

Total Bottle Rocket Spiked Ligularia:  5.

Behind the tree, the plan calls for 11 Ostrich Ferns. We have some existing Ostrich Ferns in this area that move to be closer to this area - behind the tree. 

And finally, you'll see - lurking in the background - a couple of Chicago Lustre Arrowwood Viburnum.   Back where these are called for in the plan, we do not have any turf.  There's a 'bed' of sorts there, but it is mostly a layer of leaf compost/mold that has laid dormant.  According to the plan, these two would fall to the East of the largest Catalpa tree (that you can see in the 2nd photo here).   

As part of this section/slice of the landscape plan, there are a few things worth calling out. 

First...there is a serious set of turf removal.  From around the tree all the way to the Hornbeam bed.  If you scroll down to the second photo in this post, you'll see that there is currently 'turf' all around a large landscape drain adjacent to the Hornbeam bed.  That all has to come out.   I think that leads to a natural opportunity to 'surround' the drain with some rocks/hard surface pieces. 

Second, I have to contemplate the 'entrance' to the path here.   Is this a spot where we could use a Moon Gate?  Hmmm....that's interesting, right?  Imagine the 'entrance' to this path begins under a gate like that?  Might be something to consider in terms of placing items, but I'm not sure it is something that I'm going to get to this year.  I've thought about nestling a pavilion down in there, so there's surely some thinking to consider before I make any significant moves. 

Next, I've reserved a big section of fencing ' underneath' the Chanticleer Pear that I think could be a really neat space for a Belgian Fence espalier.  I stalked Home Depot for $5 fruit trees last Fall, but they never dropped below $15, so I didn't pull the trigger.

And finally, this new section would require quite a bit of new mulch.  In the front, I've gone with Cocoa Bean mulch, but with Lizzie being around, I'm still thinking that we'll have to use traditional mulch in the back. 

For the focused shopping list, this section requires:

9 Hadspen Hostas
3 Guacamole Hostas
5 Bottle Rocket Spiked Ligularia
2 Viburnum (or 1, maybe)
4-5 Ostrich Fern transplants
3 hosta transplants
Turf removal
Rocks/boulders to surround the drain
A lot of mulch to cover this new area.

In the next post, I'll create a glimpse of 'Priority Area #3' in the backyard - which is that area behind the yew hedge where I took down the medium-sized Buckthorn and the area where I'll establish the largest, most finished section of 'path'.


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