Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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: Water Falls
: Water Plants
: Side Terrace
: Back Property Line
[+:+] Table for Two
: Winter Scenes
: Flowers Everywhere
: Other Plants on Site
Backyard Wonders is a pictorial and informational how-to-book that logs the journey involved in converting an area into a tranquil retreat that would bring serenity to its owners for years to come. The converted area lies adjacent to a wooded natural boundary to a nearby reservoir in a city once known as the Paper City of the world. Each image contains objects that were created with the help of nature, a keen eye and some Old Yankee ingenuity. The impetus for developing this backyard wonder was not due to some stroke of genius but a stroke of lighting; literally a lightning strike that took down a mature maple tree on the top terrace. The solution for dealing with the storm’s aftermath was the creation of a pond and waterfall were the tree trunk of the great Maple once stood; now what stands in its place is an aquatic ecosystem that is self-staining. Over the years other areas on the property have been developed to provide various views of nature and the backyard wonders; places of retreat that our family members lovingly refer to as Tables for Two.
The trunk of the large Maple tree struck by lightning is located beneath the mound covered by a large single yew as seen in the picture. The pond now stands were the root system of the tree was once located. The tree’s roots extended long and deep from the trunk and took over a week to dig out by hand. As the excavation occurred by shovel large boulders were unearthed which were eventually saved and strategically placed about the pond. The little house seen in the picture sits adjacent to the pond and was constructed to house the biological filter which is fed water by a submerged pump in the pond. The water returns to the pond by way of a waterfall built into the mound covered by the giant yew. Except for the small tan colored pebbles surrounding the perimeter of the pond all other rock used to make the waterfall and the ledge-edging of the pond are from the immediate area; much of which had to be moved by wheel barrel at a great distance. Thus the project soon became a labor of love, sweat and yes some tears. In an attempt to make a self-contained ecosystem I tried several species of fish and plants; and yes, over the years I managed to destroy several species of fish and plants in the process. But at the day’s end I discovered the right balance by trial and error. What resulted is what is depicted in the various pictures taken on my iPad Air.
It was a wish of mine to design a system that would use a minimum amount of water, was self-contained and literally maintenance free; a water system that could be deemed renewable. I must have gone through four of five pumps, several filters, and pond liners before hitting on the combination that worked best. The pump of choice is a stainless steel one-third horsepower pump that is self-lubricating. I found it amazing that one pump could circulate the water to a biological filter and fight gravity to the point that it could be used to create a water fall as the return mechanism.
The pump itself is a Gould Submersible 1/3 horsepower Pump that with a 3450 RPM that runs on a 60 Hz AC. It is listed as a Filtered Effluent Submersible Sump Pumps: Model Number LSP03. The features and benefits listed are many that improve corrosion resistance for pond use. It is lightweight, portable and easy to service. A double labyrinth lip seal system protects the motor. It consists of three lip seals and a V-ring in addition to an impeller counter-blade system which keeps solid particles away from the seal unit.
The pump contains a corrosion-resistant construction/hard coated stainless steel shaft, a stainless steel motor casing and fasteners, a glass-filled thermoplastic impeller and casing, upper and lower heavy duty ball bearing construction lubricated for extended service life and is powered for continuous operation. Complete unit is lightweight, portable and easy to service. I purchased this particular pump locally at FC Taplin in West Springfield, Massachusetts for about two hundred dollars for its capacity, ease of use and warranty.
The Gould submergible pump runs 24/7 throughout the season from March to November. I highly suggest removal and storage over the winter months. The company has a great warranty which makes the approximate investment of $ 200 worth the value. The pump is strong enough to power both the filtration process and the waterfall. The pictures below are the actual pump I have used for 3 full seasons. The pump comes with a 20 foot 3-prong heavy duty electrical cord.
Like the water pump I went hrough several Biological filters and discovered that the best choice for a Biological Pressure Filter was the FiltoClear 3000. The FiltoClear pressure filter like similar filters offered by Oase is made of a high quality, impact resistant material. Several characteristics of this filter include filter and UVC technology and convenient ease of cleaning technology with the ability to be buried or hidden without affecting its use. Also included are a UVC clear rinse function for easy cleaning of the UVC units; 2 inch hose connections and combination mechanical biological cleaning and UVC technology. It has a patented Easy-Clean technology for easy and easy cleaning without opening the filter plus a cleaning and backflush function can be easily operated on the cover via a pump.
Videos can be seen on the Oase site or on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwtxPznuye8
As with other homeowners I started to design and redesign my pond process with very little prior knowledge. This led to multiple do-overs during a five year time period. What is most important is to determine what looks esthetically and works best for your space. My design started with a 12 foot by 18 foot area that was slightly kidney-shaped with an average depth of 20 inches. But the real factor that determined the size of this pond was the excavation of the Maple tree’s root system. Once that was accomplished the depth was determined by the need to sustain various plant and fish life. The next step involved finding materials suitable for padding the liner so that rock in the soil would not rise and puncture the pond liner. I discovered that playground sand, old carpets or carpet padding worked best. Like other homeowners I started out by using expensive pond liners sold at the big box stores. I would not use the typical pond liners sold at big box stores due to the lack of adequate thickness. After several seasons of dealing with rips, degradation by ultraviolet light from the Sun and high cost liners I decided to do some additional research. What I discovered was that one could use recycled billboard tarps that are very cost effective and had more benefits than the typical pond liners purchased at a big box stores. In addition I discovered that, “while liners are primarily used to hold water, they also offer other benefits. For example, vinyl liners create a barrier that prevents potentially harmful micro-organisms in the soil from sneaking into your pond. They also guard against stones and plant growth thus keeping your water clean and pond well-maintained. In addition, cheap plastic sheeting can puncture easily and break down over time, becoming toxic to fish and plants. A quality vinyl pond liner will last for many years, maintaining a safe environment for growth; and Vinyl pond liners can also be trimmed with very little fraying or attached or altered with the use of HH-66 vinyl cement. This adhesive creates a permanent chemical weld and can even be applied in wet conditions. With the use of vinyl liners and this adhesive, any size or shape is possible.” (buildboardtarps.com)
The question that needed to be addressed before I purchased a billboard tarp was, why; Why Choose Billboard Tarps? Used billboard tarps offer a wide selection of heavy-duty liners that are thick at unbeatable low prices. Vinyl pond liners are anti-mildew, fish safe, UV protected and, of course, waterproof. You will not find this quality at this value anywhere else. Most liners that weighing less than 150 lbs. are light enough to be shipped by standard FedEx Ground. Many resale companies can be found online and they will over free shipping. A heavy duty used 10 foot by 36 foot use billboard tarp can be purchased for under $ 70.00 while a used 14 foot by 48 foot can be purchased for under $ 115.00 dollars. I first purchased my 14 foot by 60 foot used billboard tarp from an online source at $ 80.00 with free shipping about ten years ago and had enough to provide redo my waterfall and still give some away to friends.
Once the liner was cut to fit and the layer of sand or padding put into place beneath it then it was time to build the waterfall. Once the waterfall was purchased the location of the waterfall was dictated by the mound built up on top of the Maple tree trunk using the excavated dirt from digging the pond. I used a spillway purchased at a local nursery in Westfield, Massachusetts. “A waterfall spillway for the pond is a great way to design multi-drop waterfalls. This particular 16 inch spillway cost under $ 80.00 and include filter matting, 1-1/4” FPT – heavy duty bulkhead fitting mounted in the back, barbed adapter 1-1/4” that accepts a 1-1/4” inside diameter hose, barbed adapter 1-1/2” – that accepts a 1-1/2” Inside diameter hose, PTFE Thread Sealing Tape, a Hose Clamp, screw packet and liner flange. The spillway’s dimensions are 17-1/2” W x 16” D x 13” H with a spillway lip of about 3-3/4 inches. The spillway is suitable for pumps up to 2800 gallons per hour.” (123ponds.com)
The spillway’s dimensions are 17-1/2” W x 16” D x 13” H with a spillway lip of about 3-3/4 inches as pictured below. A Heater is used during the winter time to keep a hole in the ice so that the carbon dioxide from the fish escapes; thus allowing the fish to survive the winter.
A low wattage Heater used to keep an opening in the ice during the winter months.
The hose leading from the biological filter to the spillway was hidden by the planting of a large yew and several rocks. I had the option of either burying the biological filter or to hide it by some other means. As depicted below I decide to build a small house abutting the pond to hide the filter. The roof that is hinged which allows it to be opened much like a door which allows for easy access for cleaning the filter by back flushing. The waterfall operates 24/7 throughout the season and is disconnected in November. Both the Biological filter and submerged pump are removed and stored for winter. In order to keep the fish from suffocating in their own carbon dioxide a hole in the ice is kept open using a blue colored cow trough water heater pictured below.
The deicer is a Farm Innovators Ice Chaser Premium floating plastic stock tank de-icer that is 10.4 amperage and 1250 watts. The design is meant to keep stock tanks from freezing in the winter but its cast aluminum design is safe, reliable and efficient for ponds. It operates with nearly 20% less wattage but works as good as or better than traditional 1500 watt floaters and is thermostatically controlled to turn on and off automatically. I purchased mine at Westfield Feed and Grain.
The purpose of water plants are to add beauty and to help create and maintain a healthy self-contained. Pond plants are extremely beneficial because they help limit the growth of algae by blocking sunlight and consuming nutrients that might fuel algae. Pond plants also filter water by trapping sediment and break down toxic compounds and pathogens. The plants increase surface area for colonies of nitrifying bacteria and offer shelter for pond inhabitants like fish and frogs. Finally, pond plants help maintain oxygen by the process of photosynthesis and it keeps the water temperatures down and dissolved oxygen levels up by providing shading. (Foster and Smith)
Doctors Foster and Smith state, “That Pond plants are categorized as submerged plants, marginal or bog plants, floating plants, and deep water emergent plants. They suggest that before selecting pond plants, you should research your desired varieties to determine their needs, growth habits, and ultimate size. I unlike the good doctors carried out my selection by a process of trial and error and attending several pond seminars and shows. Submerged plants like Anacharis or Cabomba grow completely underwater and provide a great place for your fish to hide from predators. They also pull carbon dioxide from the water and then release beneficial oxygen after photosynthesis. These oxygenating plants do not require fertilizing because they use the excess nutrients already present in the pond water.
Marginal plants are colorful and include Cattails and Irises that will grow in shallow water or wet soil about the pond. I decided on Iris because it is native to the area, free and readily available from the abutting reservoir area. Irises are bulb plants that heavy root feeders that extract nutrients form the soil. Irises also are perennial whose bulbs are easy to harvest for creating new mature plants. These Irises bloom in early spring to summer. They can tolerate draught or heavy rains. Their substantial root system makes them an excellent choice for seasonal the perimeter of a pond or as pond plants submerged in pots about 6 to 8 inches deep. My research indicates that I used the northern blue flag iris which is very adaptable in gardens and wet-land areas such as ponds and reservoirs.
My irises attract many hummingbirds and native pollinators. Along with the use of irises I use other marginal plants such as sedges as seen above in the picture on the left. There are over 100 varieties and most are offered either seasonally at big box stores or at garden centers. Sedges are perennial plants that resemble grasses that adapt best to shallow waters. Sedges can grow in clusters or as a single plant. They provide a habitat for micro and macro invertebrates that can be used as food for fish and frogs. Sedges provide grazing sites for wildlife such as small birds and rabbits.
Along with sedges I usually add several kinds of potted plants along the edges of the pond that sit in shallow water and provide additional color throughout the season. These can be either annuals or perennials and are usually purchased in season at local big box stores or local garden centers. I surrounded the perimeter of the pond with day lily’s which are re-blooming perennials, come in a variety of colors and are easy to divide and replant due to their hardy bulb system. These lilies are Stella D’Oro pictured below and are the famous yellow dwarf Daylily that blooms once during late spring and then again in late August into fall.
I also added some white Shasta Daisies in the background as a way to add dimension and added color to the pond area. Like the Day lilies the Shasta Daisies called Snow Lady are a hardy perennial that can be harvested into other mature plants; The picture of white flowers with yellow centers are the Shasta Daisies as seen above in the picture on the right. These daises do best when the harvested shoots are grouped.
Finally I added other perennial plants that fend well in rocky and moist soil areas about the pond. For added beauty and surface area coverage I used three deep water emergent plants called Water Lilies. These plants have roots which grow in submerged planters on the pond bottom. The leaves and flowers of these Lilies emerge and spread upon the surface. This provides fish and frogs with shade and cover from predators like herons and hawks.
I added a park bench with some landscape lighting to give the pond is a park-like feel. You will notice in the picture day lilies, irises, and American Coral Bells whose color matches closely with the shallow slate wall that outlines the pond. The perimeter of the pond is outlined using professional recycled plastic landscape lawn edging, weed barrier and 1-2 inch river pebbles. Perimeter lighting completed the ambience of the pond using a LED low voltage set of spot lights that provides bright illumination and added security to the home. The set of spotlights are adjustable, have a clear lens and consume less power. The 4-pack kit of spotlights includes 4 spotlights, a control box. An example of this kind of landscape lighting is the Moonrays 95548 LED Low Voltage Spotlight Kit which can be purchased are home and garden centers or big box stores.
The perimeter lighting is embedded in the rock surrounding the edge of the pond as to provide maximum lighting on the waterfall and plants without the lighting u nit being detected.
One of the most picturesque areas of the backyard is the side terrace as pictured below.
The terrace was once a grassy area that we had difficulty keeping green because it was shaded by the house and a row of very large Cedar Trees that became evasive and out of control. We actually hired a landscape company to remove all 14 Cedars and replace them with beautiful 4 foot arborvitae which in just a short 5 years has grown into the natural privacy barrier we had always planned. Along with the arborvitae we had a unique quarter-shape stone patio put down. The cost for both the plants and the stone patio was about $ 2000.00 back in 2010. I would advise that if you are not familiar with laying a stone patio, choosing the correct variety of arborvitae and digging out old plants and planting new ones then get 3 to 5 estimates from reliable landscapers in your area; This job is time consuming, hard labor and not for the faint of heart. We were able to work with the landscaper to choose what style pacers to use and the design of the stone patio What we did was to add touches to the side terrace patio by choosing furniture and perennials that would do well in our kind of soil and compliment the rest of the backyard. As you will notice in the picture above we chose the same variety of Day Lilies and Shasta Daisies used about the pond as accent plants in the planting beds that run parallel to the arborvitae.
We added other features like plant stands that contain petunias as well as Sedum and grasses. Petunias are an annual that come in a wide variety of colors and must be purchased seasonally. They are a great way to add color to any scene at a low cost. Petunias are generally insect-pollinated, can be grown in pots and can tolerate harsh conditions and heat. They require about five hours of sunlight every day to promote good growth in late spring. Applying a fertilizer weekly will help the plant grow quickly. I suggest that you pick off dead flowers as they die as a way to promote more growth and additional petals
Along with the use of petunias, Day Lilies and Shasta Daisies we chose to add color for the fall by planting Sedum Autumn Joy as pictured below. Sedum is a member of the stonecrops genus that is a leaf succulent. This particular Sedum is broccoli-shaped that remains green until the autumn when it turns a crimson color. The plants have water-storing leaves and flowers usually having five petals, seldom four or six and twice as many stamen as petals. Sedum Autumn Joy is another perennial that can be divided and re-planted in other areas to generate additional Sedum plants. Sedums attract pollinators like bees, dragon flies and a multitude of colored butterflies.
The perennial plants chosen are all very hardy, come in a variety of colors and can be harvested to produce more plants; thus saving on additional costs for plants. The annuals like petunias were chosen because they are hardy plants that can take a lot of sun and come in a multitude of color choices. They are great in hanging baskets, elevated pots, window boxes, ground cover or as a single plant staged on an old chair, rockers or Adirondack chairs.
As for the finishing touches one can add color globes on stands, bakers racks, archways, birdbaths, a fire pit or decorative fencing. The decorative globe can be found for about $ 25.00 at a local discount store like the Christmas Tree Shops or at a Garden Center at a slightly higher price. It’s all of matter of personal taste and creating an ambience that will provide solace and serenity for the homeowner. As an example, I found an old beat up bakers rack at a tag sale for around $ 5.00 and with 2 cans of outdoor spray paint I converted it into a display and storage piece. I usually add several wine glasses and knickknacks to complete the scene as pictured below.
There was a large clearing created adjacent to our back property due to a massive fire which burned down dozens of native pines and undergrowth back in the mid-1950s. When we first purchased the house from the former fire chief we were told that the clearing was owned by the local water works department; this clearing was neglected over the years. So it was difficult to determine how to wrap our property using a natural barrier rather than a fence since all sides of our property have a natural barrier consisting of plants, walls or both. We needed a hardy plant that could take both sun and shade along with draught conditions if necessary since the only water provided to them would be rain. The answer lay at my mother’s house in a neighboring town. The back of her house was invaded by a bright orange color plant known as the Tiger Lilly. It was easy enough to dig out a bagful of tubers and stalks of this plant to transplant in our backyard. This lily like the Day Lily is very hardy and evasive. What started out as a handful of perennial lilies now consume our back property line, side terrace wall and other parts of the property such as the waterwheel and the barbeque area.
These Tiger lilies are the famous old orange Daylily that are considered wild Daylilies just like the old Lemon. There are 20 Daylily species worldwide and thousands of hybrids have been created. Hybridizing Daylilies for various colors and styles is not a new process it’s been around for years. “Plants hybridization occurs when pollen from flowering plants disperses widely and land on flowers of other species. Chromosomal doubling called polyploidy occurs more frequently in plants and facilitates the fertility of the hybrid offspring. One of the first persons to study plant hybridization was Josef Kölrueter, who published the results of his experiments on tobacco in 1760. Kölrueter concluded that interspecific hybridization in nature is rare unless humans disturb the habitat. Since that time, many instances of hybridization among various plant species have been documented.” (biologyrefernce.com) You can see in the picture below on the left these lilies on the side of the left side of the water wheel; no this is not a house flag but the actual side of the water wheel house when the lilies in bloom as pictured below on the right.
Along with the orange colored lilies lining the back property line I decide to add an accent wall made of red brick. Most of this red brick was dug up from the perimeter of our house or free from many of the buildings being torn down in our blue-collar city of Holyoke. What you see in the picture below are the red brick in the background and birdhouses sitting on top of pine stumps which were left over from the dead decaying pine trees which once stood in the same place. This area is a work in progress since this picture had been taken. The bird house, stumps and brick have all been remove. The plan is to allow the tiger lilies behind the wall to grow wild and to build a white scalloped shaped picket fence to accent the lilies. I will add additional perennials in front of the fence and finish it all off with accent lighting.
Another reason to go with a natural landscape barrier had to do with our property’s perimeter outlined by an existing stone that was made available when the interstate highway that leads from Connecticut to the Canadian border was built. I am not sure how so much stone found its way to this property but I remember my father-in-law having a similar terrace built out of the same stone. It was he who told me the story of where the stone originated from and what quarry it was housed. I dismantled some of the top layers of the stone wall to make the pond and to add steps to the top side terrace as a means of access and to generate an accent area. The original wall that terraces our back yard into two major areas was left untouched.
You will notice the use of dozens of Hostras lining the flower beds along the wall separating the top and bottom terraces. These Hostras once lined the sides of our driveway. These plants are hardy perennials that can take lots of sun and grow virtually everywhere. As you read you must be gaining an understanding for my use of these kinds of perennials. They are heat and water resistant, very low priced and can be easily harvested to produce more mature plants. It is a very fiscally responsible means to add color and coverage to a large area; and with it a means to attract a variety of birds, pollinating insects and other fauna.
As stated in the introduction many of our relatives and friends have come to call our backyard paradise; A Table for Two. The reason for this tag has to do with the many seating areas staged for two. Some of the following pictures best represent sitting areas that provide varied views of the flora and fauna that exists in this area and support the title of this particular chapter. The two all-weather Adirondack chairs were purchased at a local Garden center at the end of the season for about $ 150.00 each. The Chimenia is a Hampton Bay Lokia 20 in. Cast Iron Chimaera, Model # FP-51104 which was purchased at a local Home Deport for around $ 139.00. The placement of the two chairs allows one to view the top terrace from a secluded corner spot which gets afternoon sunlight. And as evening approaches with the sun setting to your backside the wood burning in the Chimenia and a glass of red wine provides a very romantic and serene ambience. From this advantage point one can view the terrace area to the left, the four season sunroom, the pond to the center and the bottom terrace surrounded by a multitude of perennials.
One of the views from this advantage point is the stone paver patio with patio table and chairs, a side view of the pond with its day lilies and park bench and lighting in the background.
Along with a view of the pond area one can see the back four season room with its windows and transits and the door leading from the room to the back yard. When you exit the room from the door you step out on a small stone patio that houses two white Andorandak chairs; which provide antoher point of view and sitting area for two. The park bench by the pond provides another wonderful sitting area to view the fish and waterfall. The addition of two white Andorandak chairs underneath the shade of a white Dogwood tree on the lower terrace seen on the far left of the picture below is a great place to cool off during the summer heat. Many of the water plants such as the Blue Flag Iris at the left of the bench and by the filter house love the wet edges of ponds and are taken from the nearby reservoir area.
As you can see from the various scenes pictured below the spaces are not only scenic but functional. The bird houses were constructed from leftover Tung and Groove wood used for the Sunroom and painted with primary colors. The birdhouses have begun to be inhabited by local species of Black-capped Chickadees. Chickadees are a hardy bird that remain active even during the winters of NewEngland. Black-capped chickadees can be identified by there size and color. They are small (about five inches) and have a fluffy large head. They have a very distinct color pattern comprised of black caps and throats with their white cheeks and lots of white on their wings. Other chicadees that have inhabited the backyard can be gray above and white to pale brown below. Other bird houses throughout the property have been inhabited by the same or other species of small birds. I will return the kinds of fuana that inhabit our backyard in a later chapter.
The Sunroom was once a three season screened porch. I replaced the screens and aluminum frames with pressure treated studs and sheetrock that houses a series of windows that have transits. The windows sit on all sides of the sunroom except the side with the door leading to a small stone patio. The view from inside the four season sunroom is outstanding and very picturesque with a 270 degree viewing area. We heat the room with a gas stove and have furnished it in a ski-lodge motif. The furniture was purchased from Pier 1 at an end of the season sale. We not only use this room as an informal sitting room but as a formal dining area for the holidays. We are contemplating replacing the door and window with a French door.
The interior wall of the sunroom was replaced with a Tung and Groove pine that was stained to match the décor of the room. White rockers and weave-like furniture from Pier 1 was purchased to complete the sitting areas.
Other areas that contain the “Table for Two” name are pictured below. Each sitting area provides a unique view that can be appreciated with or without a cold drink or glass of chardonnay. This is a Bistro set that sits on a corner of the top terrace just to the left of one of the two stone stairs leading to the bottom terrace. The corner is the opposite corner of the top terrace that has the two Adirondack chairs and the cast iron Chimenia. The Bistro set was purchased at AC Moore at the end of the summer season for well under $ 70.00. The flagstone seen in the picture was once part of a walkway and reused since. The gate in the background was built with leftover 4 by 4 and 2 × 4 pressure treated lumber. The gate was purchased for at a local garden center for $ 25.00 as a close out item. This area has undergone many transitions utilizing different Bistro table sets and planters. However since the picture below the flagstone has been replace with Aztec decking and other materials left over from an entrance deck built for the front entrance of our large Breezeway to the house
Bistro set on Flagstone
Bistro Set on Aztec Decking
I also managed to purchase two sets of lavender Bistro Tables and chairs from a Tag Sale. One of the best methods for furnishing your backyard project is through a tag sale or as my grandkids calls it, tag-sailing. One Bistro set sits near the back property line while the other set is adjacent to the barbeque area behind and to the left of the water wheel house on the lower terrace; this nicely serves as a sitting area to have a glass of wine while cooking and or eating alfresco. Another Bistro set sits by the house in perennial garden area that is covered by river rock that is brown and tan to match the color of the house and the darker-brown roof. This perennial area flourishes with daylilies, iris, ground cover plants and sedum throughout the seasons. In the picture below at the right you will notice the beginning sprouts breaking through the stone in early April. By the end of May the perennials will almost be mature and begin to flower. This sitting area is another great vantage point to view the whole backyard and its wonders while having your morning coffee.
Other sitting areas are represented by the following pictures of Adirondack chairs and park benches. These sitting areas are always relaxing and again offer a different view of the surrounding area. The one below sits beneath a mature white dogwood tree that provides beautiful white spring-time blossoms and is adaptable to various soils. This tree is drought tolerant and can grow in shad or sun. This dogwood will produce red barriers in the fall and winter months which will attract many diffident types of songbirds.
Adirondack chairs underneath the Dogwood Tree in Summer is a great place to have a cool drink.
Another set of Adirondack chairs sits on a small patio comprised of stone just outside the four seasons Sunroom. Along with three pairs of Adirondack chairs there are multiple park benches and cement benches strategically placed to enhance the park-like atmosphere of the backyard.
Other park benches used for sitting, staging plants or as accents can be seen in the folowing pictures.
All in all it can be said that it took some time and lots of trial an error to get the seating just right. One enjoyable requirement for this trial and error method was the need to sit and observe each view with a healthy glass of wine in hand.
It is somewhat easy to prepare the landscape for the winter months and to ready the landscape for the holidays. Nature’s signal to cut and clean the perennials down to about six inches above the ground is when the Autumn Red Sedum and stems of the Shasta Daisies turn brown; and the leaves of the Hostas begin to rust and all that is left to the Tiger lilies and Daylilies is the green spear like leaves. I use a 20 inch electric trimmer mounted to an 8 foot pole as to save me from having to bend down to shear off the stems of the perennials. This technique saves both time and wear and tear on the legs. We use a blower or a small rake to push the cuttings out of the flower beds and then we pick up and bag the cuttings using our lawn tractor or our self-propelled lawn mower. It should be noted that the dried stems of many of the perennials make for good kindling to fire up our Chimenea. Once the beds are cleaned and the final grass cutting and pick up is completed using our Club Cadet X2 Enduro Series with dual bagging system pictured below, it becomes time to decorate for Halloween and Thanksgiving using pumpkins, corn stalks and scarecrows.
We chose the Cub Cadet after much research and thought. We like many of its features and the price tag; the tractor was about $ 1800.00 and bagger about $ 400.00 with a two year no interest loan through the company. This saved many hours and days of backbreaking work required to do the fall clean-up without hiring a landscaping company. In essence the total price tag was priceless. One of the best features this model has to offer is its smaller cutting deck size which allows the mower to be extremely nimble when handling smaller lawns and an upgraded steering system that allows for better navigation around obstacles like trees, bushes, or flowerbeds. Some of the best features of this tractor is its durable construction, encased in robotically welded steel with precision and strength designed to increase operator safety, seat materials that add extra comfort and absorb vibrations and a central control panel that allows the operator to modify the
engine speed and the mower’s direction. A dual-blade cutting system beneath the cutting deck increase the precision of cutting helping to create a lawn with a more consistent height and color. There is more than enough horsepower provided by the OHV V-twin Kohler engine. The Tuff Torque hydrostatic transmission and enhanced steering system allows the mower to travel at up to 5.5 miles per hour and up to 3.1 miles per hour in reverse.
When it comes time to choose the pumpkins and cornstalks for our fall decorating process we always call on the youngest grandchild for help. Although it may take a little bit longer to pick the right pumpkins it provides priceless memories.
As you can see from the pictures below we not only decorate the backyard but we utilize a fall décor in our front yard to provide curb appeal to our home.
Once the autumn season is passed we begin decorating for the winter season. We place an old fake Christmas tree with lights near the park bench adjacent to the pond and hang wreaths on the light poles. As with the fall season we extend the winter season décor to the front of our house as a way to provide a sense of welcoming and season’s greetings.
It is somewhat easy to get caught up in spending too much on generating a beautiful landscape but with a little bit of planning and spacing of purchases over a few years one can purchase quite a few flowering perennials that can be easily harvested to provide the necessary plants that will provide you years of joy and serenity. I strongly urge the reader to do two things; gain as much information about various plants by either researching online or talking to as many local experts at the various garden centers in your area; I prefer the latter. And take some chances on purchasing items at your local tag and garage sales; you never know what kinds of outdoor treasures you will happen upon. The following are some pictures of actual flowers that grow in our backyard and its surroundings.
Stone Crop (Sedum Acre) is a classic evergreen perennial groundcover with showy yellow flowers in spring and summer. It is a perfect choice for rock gardens and works well in containers and hanging baskets. This perennial attracts butterflies. It is a tufted perennial herb that forms mat-like stands some 2 to 5 in tall. Much of the year the stems are short holding densely clad leaves. At the flowering time in June and July, the stems lengthen and are erect and often pinkish-brown with the leaves further apart.
Dianthus has very large, single flowers with serrated petals that come in crimson, rose, red, white and bi-colors.
Baby Doll (Dianthus Chinensis) also known as pinks are compact and low-growing hardy annual and perennials. Dianthus has very large, single flowers with serrated petals that come in crimson, rose, red, white and bi-colors. Their flowers have a clove-jasmine scent and are ideal as ground cover and are well-suited for plant containers or window boxes. It is suggested to plant pinks in full sun, partial shade or anywhere they will receive at least 6 hours of sun. The plants need fertile, well-drained soil that is alkaline that will allow them to grow to 6 – 12 inches high.
Hosta plants are a perennial favorite.
Hosta plants are a perennial favorite because of their lush foliage and low maintenance. There are over 2,500 cultivars which attract pollinating insects as seen in the above picture. Although hosta plants are known as shade lovers their sunlight requirements vary widely. Successfully growing hostas in the shade depends on their color. Hosta leaves come in a variety of greens, ranging from deep blue to a light chartreuse to a soft creamy white. “A good rule of thumb for the placement and care of hostas is the lighter the foliage, the brighter the sun. The deeper darker foliage retains it color best in moderate shade. The variegated varieties need more sunlight to keep their white and gold stripes. All hostas need some shade and few, if any, will do well in strong direct sunlight.” (Gardening know how). Hostas should be placed in slightly acidic soil with a planting hole that is one foot deep and with a width that will accommodate mature in four to eight years. Established hostas can tolerate almost any soil and are very tolerant of summer drought. I have personally planted and transplanted dozens of hostas from a variety of areas on our property. I have planted them to align both sides of our driveway, under our large maple tree, in front of the wall separating our upper and lower terrace and in a variety of planting beds and locations.
Petunias are a wonderful perennial that adds instant color to any area. Multiflora petunias have more abundant flowers that are smaller and ideal for summer bedding because they are tolerant to wet weather. Petunias are also tolerant of heat and need to be watered regularly. Watering once a week should be sufficient unless there are prolonged periods of drought. However the spreading types of Petunias and those in containers require more frequent watering. It is suggested that you
fertilize Petunias monthly and to remove any faded or dead flowers to ensure good growth and to prolong blooming.
Petunias are a wonderful perennial that adds instant color to any area. Multiflora petunias have more abundant flowers that are smaller and ideal for summer bedding because they are tolerant to wet weather. Petunias are also tolerant of heat and need to be watered regularly. Watering once a week should be sufficient unless there are prolonged periods of drought. However the spreading type’s of Petunias and those in containers require more frequent watering. It is suggested that you
fertilize Petunias monthly and to remove any faded or dead flowers to ensure good growth and to prolong blooming.
The pictures above show a metal birdbath sitting amongst both Daylilies and Irises. The Irises seen above are native to this area; I mean I literally picked and transferred them from the surrounding wetlands.
The scene below shows a view beyond the lower terrace as seen through a reddish-brown perennial called CoralBells. Coralbells have airy flower spikes on wiry stems with very dramatic foliage. They are low-growing with leaves that are deep red to dark purple leaves. Their flowers come in tiny bell-shaped clouds on flower spikes with variety of colors ranging from pink, coral, red and white. These flowers bloom in late spring or early summer. These flowered spikes will not obscure any plants behind even with a height that ranges from 18 to 24 inches. In the fall the foliage colors include red, purple, silver and green. Coralbells are low maintenance, good for cut flowers and attracts hummingbirds.
This chapter references other plants that have found their way to our property; plantings that we have come to enjoy and have nourished our souls over the years.
Forsythias line the top of our rock wall that forms a natural divider between the neighboring properties. These perennials form beautiful yellow flowers that will eventually turn green as summertime approaches. They can be left to become overgrown small tree-lie plants or trimmed to form a beautiful hedge.
Oriental Grasses are used both in the front of our home and the rear of our property line as points of views to highlight and supplement the natural flora in our area. These perennials tend to flourish in all types of climate and require splitting every couple of years to keep them from over growing. The good thing about perennials is that from one plant comes many.
Bluebells is a wonderful bulbous perennial plant frequently used as a garden plant. In the spring it produces a nodding, one-sided inflorescence of 5–12 inch tubular, sweet-scented violet–blue flowers, with strongly recurved tepals and 3–6 inch basal leaves.
Azure Blue Sheep Fescue is an extremely fine bladed bunchgrass that produces a dense sward and distinct teal blue colored turf. Azure can be used in areas that require little care. It is very low growing, excellent in periods of drought and is cold tolerance. The teal blue color intensifies under heat and drought stress. This perennial is perfect for areas where mowing is not desired. I’ve used this in rock gardens, around the pond and under a shade tree.
Monkey Grass is easy to care for. It is heat and drought tolerant, and hardy. It grows in many types of soil under numerous conditions. This perennial resists weed invasions and is not affected by pests or diseases. Various types of monkey grass creep or spread while others form clumps. Some enjoy sun while others do well in shaded areas. I use a kind of monkey grass around our pond and in perennial flower beds in front of our lower terrace walls.
Dwarf Fountain is a small fountain grass that can reach about three feet. This perennial is grows well in full sun or partial shade. The perennial fountain grasses are mound-forming with a spectacular bloom in midsummer. They are extremely easy to grow and maintain and attract birds of all kinds. I planted some on my top terrace which gets full sun and they have flourished
Azaleas are a flowering shrub related to the Rhododendron. Azaleas tend to bloom in spring with flowers that often last over several weeks. This perennial is shade tolerant and prefers an area near or under trees. I have had many different colored azaleas over the years. They can grow very large; almost tree-like unless they are pruned. I have planted one in a rock garden under our large picture window located in the back of the house and I have planted several others near a stand of pine trees that borders my neighbor’s property.
Thank you for reading my book. If you enjoyed it, won’t you please take a moment to leave me a review at your favorite retailer? Thanks! Wayne St. Peter
I am a retired educator who has always supported the arts and literature. With the support of my wife, Linda and family members I began a journey that led to this how to book. We have three wonderful children and several grandkids. Although my background is that of a science educator and researcher I have always thought of writing as the center of any discipline and as a means to gain insight. I view this book as a journey which tells how one can transform their backyard into a piece of heaven. As I continue the development of our backyard into a place of great serenity I find myself searching for the right combination of plant and aquatic life; along with outdoor amenities such as fire pits, seating and lighting that will provide the best balance and esthetics. This labor of love is ongoing and brings with it everlasting memories.
Backyard Wonders is a pictorial and informational how-to-book that logs the journey involved in converting a backyard area into a tranquil retreat that would bring serenity to its owners for years to come. The converted area lies adjacent to a wooded natural boundary to a nearby reservoir in a city once know as the Paper City of the world. Each image contains objects that were created with the help of nature, a keen eye and some Old Yankee ingenuity. The impetus for developing this backyard wonder was not due to some stroke of genius but a stroke of lighting; literally a lightning strike that took down a mature maple tree on the top terrace. The solution for dealing with the storm’s aftermath was the creation of a pond and waterfall were the tree trunk of the great Maple once stood; now what stands in its place is an aquatic ecosystem that is self-staining. Over the years other areas on the property have been developed to provide various views of nature; backyard wonders and places of retreat. Our family members lovingly refer to these staging or viewing areas as a Table for Two.