Friday, July 6, 2012

A Living Wall

When we initially designed our outdoor dining patio, we knew we wanted the space to be as green and lush as possible. To accomplish that, we opted to not build a formal wall around the patio, but instead created a living wall. 

This is what the area looked like after the patio and stairs (to the dining room) were built. Because the yard slopes away from the house, we built a hardscape patio with a stone-style retaining wall to create the level space. In addition to accommodating the slope of the yard, we also liked the idea of not having to mow around or under the table and chairs during the summer months. 

Here I've propped English boxwood up around the patio to see what the living wall would look like. Although these were the tallest boxwood I had come across, they were still going to be fairly short up against the patio, especially at the end with the largest drop to the ground. 

The patio is the same dimension as our dining room (12x16), which required over twenty plants. 

A year after we planted the smaller boxwood, I came across larger plants that were at least twice the size of the original plants. So we had a dilemma...wait patiently for the already planted but smaller boxwood to grow, or buy the larger ones to enjoy the living wall immediately because of the increased height. 

To resolve this question, I called the lovely Tara Dillard, a landscape designer who helped us plan the foundation plantings in the yard. She recommended switching out the smaller plants for the larger ones because we'd have to wait quite awhile for the smaller boxwood to grow that big. 

So that's what we did and we're so happy, despite the extra cost, the work to transplant the smaller boxwood elsewhere in the yard (in the flower beds) and of course, planting the larger boxwood in their place. 

The boxwood are very loosely shaped. I really do love the classic manicured formality of meticulously pruned boxwood hedges, but that aesthetic just doesn't seem to fit our yard. 

Beyond the fence line the yard is fairly wild. We used the fence to create a separation between areas of the property that are more vs. less managed. We wanted to create a lush yard next to the house, but also wanted to keep it on a manageable scale to minimize the maintenance of plantings, watering, etc. 

Soon the limelight hydrangea, which are on either side of both sets of stairs, will be blooming. I've already started to see little buds and I'm looking forward to seeing how they do this year. They've grown quite big over the past three seasons and although I have yet to cut them back, I will probably do a little pruning this fall just to keep them at an even height.


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