Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Kelly Heidbreder

Plan for backyard should match your needs


Joshua Riebe designed this backyard plan to offer homeowners a private place to relax.


Make a list of some of your favorite leisure activities.

Would you like a small putting green? How about a vegetable garden? Do your kids need some space to blow off steam and play baseball? Maybe you like to entertain, so your backyard plan will include a large seating area with a hot tub, fire pit, and outdoor kitchen accented by an irrigation system and lighting.

OK, yes. I have to admit that last one is on my backyard wish list.

We put Owens Community College student Joshua Riebe on the job, to come up with a backyard plan for a typical home with a deck and small lot. Mr. Riebe says you need to have your lawn match your needs.

“The backyard space of a home should be a private space to enjoy and relax in that also reflects a homeowner’s personal tastes. Sometimes the seating area is only a small concrete pad directly adjacent to the house,” Mr. Riebe says.

He says you might need to expand that  to pull your whole plan together.

Plot out your existing landscape and include anything that can’t be changed: a huge spruce that you know you won’t cut down, the existing property line, a shed, large concrete slab, or pool.

Once you have this foundation down, you can add in some of the extras.

Draw bubbles for a play area, an entertainment area, utility area, and any other additions such as a vegetable garden or putting green. Be creative and think out of the box. It doesn’t cost anything to put your ideas down on paper.

Now, think about adding in more structure.

Mr. Riebe says, “Trees are large structural elements that provide an overhead canopy and shade. They can provide the perimeters and the ‘roof’ of an outdoor living space.”

If your yard needs a boundary or has one you would like to mask, look for flowering shrubs to do the trick. Don’t be shy to plant three or more of the same species.

Mr. Riebe says, “Masses of plantings can be used to create unity and balance.

“Texture and plant habit are equally important as color to consider to create a unified theme. In this landscape the River Birch, Black Hills Spruce, and the Bottlebrush Buckeye emphasize the perimeter of the landscape without fencing the whole space in.  The Beech provides shade to the deck and house but will also enhance the feeling of an outdoor room.”

In his landscape plan, a vegetable garden is tucked into a corner with storage nearby. The small plot is bordered by a row of false cypress to hide some of the weeds if they get out of control. The second patio area in landscape is designed into a round shape and the edges are softened with bottlebrush buckeye and fothergilla shrubs.

Do your homework to come up with plant combinations that will have yearround interest. 

“In this design the Paperbark Maple will provide a year round focal point.  Its exquisite fall color and interesting bark will be especially valuable later in the year,” Mr. Riebe says.  He also recommends sumac, hydrangea, Arrowwood viburnum, and fothergilla for an impressive fall display. 

“The Lake Erie blue false cypress and Black Hills spruce give the garden winter structure while the red twig dogwood and kerria provide a welcome dose of winter color,” he says.

 When you are mapping out that landscape plan, be honest with yourself on how much time you are willing to spend keeping it in tip top shape.

Mr. Riebe says, “By using hardy shrubs and planting them in the right place you can create a very low maintenance landscape. By making sure that all of the plants have the right space to grow into and by using long-lived plants you can create a landscape that will flourish for years with very little maintenance.”

Now, about that entertainment area, I’m thinking an underground sound system would also be nice to slide in along with an outdoor flat screen TV.

Oh, and what about a water feature? Gotta keep dreaming, right?

Contact Kelly Heidbreder at getgrowing@gmail.com.

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