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Archive for Sunday, September 20, 2009

Backyard getaway: Couple use wise plant choices for water garden

Cheryl and Jim Harmon have a bit of peacefulness in their backyard coming from the large water pond they built. Asian decor complements the tranquil space. Below are details at the Lawrence property.

Cheryl and Jim Harmon have a bit of peacefulness in their backyard coming from the large water pond they built. Asian decor complements the tranquil space. Below are details at the Lawrence property.

September 20, 2009

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A fence offers privacy to the Harmons’ property in northwest Lawrence.

A fence offers privacy to the Harmons’ property in northwest Lawrence.

With careful consideration of the mature size of plants and the scale of the garden, Jim and Cheryl Harmon have transformed a tiny, bare backyard into an oasis of lush plants and babbling waterfalls.

The landscape pond came first, and the Harmons admit they were worried about how to build something beautiful without making it overwhelming.

“With such a small yard, we had to just start playing with it to see what worked,” Jim says. “Then we ended up making the pond most of the yard.”

The pond Harmon is referring to includes a bog that filters the water, a stream and a series of waterfalls. The layout is reminiscent of Colorado streams, which was the Harmons’ intent. They have also tied in some things they like from Asian-themed gardens, including a small stone pagoda. A Japanese fishing ball, acquired while the Harmons lived in Hawaii several years ago, floats in the pond amongst the water lilies.

Knowing that pond installation was a big undertaking, the Harmons hired a professional to dig the hole for the pond, lay the heavy rubber liner and install piping that carries water from the bog to the top of the stream. The pro also helped set the rocks that line the stream and pond and create a patio.

Once the water feature was in place, the Harmons could start planting. Two small-at-maturity trees, Vanderwolf pine and Bracken’s brown beauty magnolia, create a vertical accent that complements the waterfall and smaller, mounding plants. Vanderwolf pine is a variety of Limber pine and is one of the few pines still recommended for this area. Bracken’s brown beauty is a variety of Southern magnolia that is generally best suited for a protected location.

Blue-mist spirea and Russian sage, both with silvery stems and blue to purple blooms, stand out among the green of other plants. The sage and spirea are also right in scale with zebra grass (a 3- to 5-foot ornamental grass with white horizontal stripes on its stems) and tiger eye sumac. A lower-growing beautyberry peeks out from the corner where its brilliant purple berries are just beginning to show.

The Harmons also grow a variety of bamboo that grows in clumps instead of sending out invasive runners.

Hibiscus, sweet flag, yellow flag, sedge and dwarf papyrus grow in the bog and create a sort of backdrop to the pond. Each of these plants have a sort of narrow, upright nature that gently guides your eye from the water lily leaves on the water’s surface to the landscape that frames the entire feature.

“It’s fun to sit here in the evening and watch the birds taking a bath in the stream,” Cheryl says.

From her seat on the patio, it would be easy to imagine oneself somewhere other than a tiny backyard in the middle of town.

— Jennifer Smith is the Douglas County Extension Agent–Horticulture for K-State Research and Extension. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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