Asked on Dec 30, 2012

Need ideas for neglected part of yard

Melissa G
by Melissa G
I need ideas for a neglected part of our yard for which we really have no use, but nevertheless needs to look prettier. It's a bit difficult to describe, but here goes.

We have a picket fence separating the back part of our property from the front. It's about midway along our house, extending from the house to the fence along the property line. The picket fence is about 8 to 9 feet long.

In front of the picket fence, going toward the front of the house, the ground slopes sharply upward until it reaches the front corner of the house, where it becomes flat again. There are bushes at the top of the incline, so the area is essentially boxed in. The whole area measures roughly 8-9 feet by 20 feet.

So we can't access the area very easily, though I can squeeze through the bushes and clamber down the small incline to reach it. We don't need the area for anything. My husband doesn't want to use it for storage -- putting a small shed in there for the lawnmower and garden tools -- and it's shady, so I can't use it for a vegetable garden. And it can't be seen from the street.

There are two reasons I want to make it look prettier, however. It's directly outside a bedroom window, so I want there to be a nicer view, and the neighbors can see it very well.

I was thinking of planting something there that would require little or no work. Hydrangeas were one thought, since they do well in shade and bloom on their own year after year. I would plant them along the fence along the property line. There is already ivy in this little area, so I thought of keeping it trimmed between the hydrangeas and the house -- it would cover the ground and prevent erosion on the slope.

Does anyone have other ideas for this neglected, unnecessary part of our property that nevertheless needs to look better?
need ideas for neglected part of yard, gardening, landscape, View from the front corner of the house down toward the picket fence You can t see it well in the picture but the ground slopes down from here
View from the front corner of the house down toward the picket fence. You can't see it well in the picture, but the ground slopes down from here.
need ideas for neglected part of yard, gardening, landscape, I was thinking of planting the hydrangeas along the unpainted fence The neighbors have small bushes on the other side
I was thinking of planting the hydrangeas along the unpainted fence. The neighbors have small bushes on the other side.
need ideas for neglected part of yard, gardening, landscape, View from the picket fence toward the front of the house You can also see the bushes at the top of the slope and how this little area is hidden from the street The bedroom window is at the top left corner of the picture
View from the picket fence toward the front of the house. You can also see the bushes at the top of the slope, and how this little area is hidden from the street. The bedroom window is at the top left corner of the picture.
  20 answers
  • Barb Rosen Barb Rosen on Dec 30, 2012
    How about planting those hydrangeas, some hostas and other shade lovers around a sweet garden bench? Since this is outside a window, you might like a birdbath and feeder to attract birds to watch as well!

  • Maureen O'Donovan Maureen O'Donovan on Dec 30, 2012
    I'm with the hostas on this one I would add a variety of ferns ......some mulch, and gerber daisys for some color (if any of the area gets any sun). Hydrangea Paniculata will do well in part shade, and are easy to maintain, and pretty to boot. Lantana Montevidensis is a lantana that tolerates shade if you like lantana. Good Luck!! Oh, and living in Kennesaw for approx. 25 years, they should do well where you live.

  • Denise aka Nise Denise aka Nise on Dec 30, 2012
    if there is a little sun, i would try some daylillies too!

  • Kimberly Barney Kimberly Barney on Dec 30, 2012
    You reference that the area is not easily accessible and you mention accessing it from the front yard. Is there no access from the backyard? I ask because I thought since it is outside your bedroom window, you could plant hosta, coral bells, huccera, columbine, and other shady plants but it would be wonderful if the window could become a door to your private garden with a couple of comfortable seating options and maybe even a small firepit for those cooler nights.

  • Melissa G Melissa G on Dec 30, 2012
    There is no access from anywhere but the front yard, and I still have to squeeze through the bushes to get to it. The bench idea is nice, and I like the idea of hostas. What about the ivy? Should I remove it or use it somehow? Thanks for the responses!

    • Leslie Williams Leslie Williams on Aug 02, 2019

      Can you thin the bushes and create steps down the incline? Use whatever costs least for the steps (landscape timbers aren't costly). I have an incline in my back yard that is a bear and I'm waiting on a load of FREE short sections of timbers next week from a friend. So I'm all pumped about building steps on inclines!

  • Melissa G Melissa G on Dec 30, 2012
    Oh, and I know I need to repaint that awful white fence, but that's going to wait until we get this area figured out.

  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Dec 31, 2012
    Melissa, you've gotten a lot of good plant ideas. I think you should consider interplanting the hydrangeas (I would strongly recommend oakleafs) with a shade-tolerant evergreen viburnum like Prague viburnum (Viburnum. x pragense) or some rhododendrons so you have some winter interest (although oakleaf hydrangea does have lovely exfoliating bark). And I'd definitely get rid of the ivy. It's going to compete with whatever else you're trying to grow there, and eventually it will win. Stepping stones surrounded by hellebores would be lovely.

  • Carroll A Carroll A on Dec 31, 2012
    For sure get rid of the ivy! I will take over. Along with plantings, I would add a walkway. Nothing fancy, simple gravel maybe next to the house. Better access for your meter reader.

  • Curtisev Curtisev on Dec 31, 2012
    Improve the sun light to the location. Improve the front yard access. Move the picket fence toward the front yard. Plant the smaller front area (as said above).

  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Dec 31, 2012
    @Melissa G is there a reason you are keeping the old picket fence at the bottom? Are you keeping something in (or out) of the back yard?

  • Danita Griffith Danita Griffith on Dec 31, 2012
    I am big on using what God has given us, like making a wall where you've described the incline. I believe that the width of the wall has to be at least 3 ft in order to work. There are alot of different types of hostas that may look pretty along the edge and some type of ground covers that does not need to be mowed for the plants don't grow to tall or about a couple inches. Also I've been checking into Wall planting... or vertical planters...

  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jan 01, 2013
    First thing you do is get rid of the ivy! Hate that stuff! Then put in a gate to the area. Then take the next couple of springs to make it a private adult area. A few large concrete squares next to the house can hold a couple of chairs and a table...then put in plantings all around. A lot of things like gardenia can be rooted in water. If you have friends that have these, ask for a cutting. If you have friends with day lilies, ask for a piece...same with iris! You will be surprised how people will share with you. And don't forget to get some good planting soil for the plants. It does not take much. And you can pick up pots at garage sales or flea markets to sit around and add color. That way, you do not have to make flour beds. See how I painted old pots!

  • Aquascape Inc. Aquascape Inc. on Jan 02, 2013
    When you said this was right outside your bedroom window, the first thing that came to mind was a re-circulating fountain. It doesn't need sun and you can listen to it while you fall asleep at night. Of course, the incline would lend itself to a waterfall but then you'd have to take down the fence.

  • Melissa G Melissa G on Jan 03, 2013
    Thanks, everyone. I don't want to put too much work or money into this, just make it nicer. Four Season Nursery, I actually hadn't thought about why we were keeping the picket fence there. We keep our back yard enclosed because of our dog. I suppose we could move it forward, but you can see from the pictures how the fence lines up with the change of height of the property-line fence. Moving the picket fence forward would disrupt that line a little bit. Also, that would be more work than I want to commit to. I'll let everyone know how it turns out in the end.

    When I think shade, I think ferns. A fountain sounds like a great idea too. Not only does it sound and look pleasant, the sound of moving water will attract birds. There are also shade tolerant plants that attract butterflies.

  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Mar 19, 2013
    @Melissa G wondering if you have made any decisions. If you want to do something simple perhaps you could clear out close to the house and put in a mulch walkway (I would use a fine mulch as it is easier to walk on). I do agree with clearing out the ivy, but you could also keep some if you want and train it over the fence instead of the ground. Hydrangea is a great idea - little maintenance and continues to flower, but it does spread and needs to be thinned every few years. As for access, not sure what your bushes are, guessing one may be a eunonymous type bush, which can be invasive as well - over a long period of time. The bushes could be cleared/cut back somewhat to have the path to the front lawn for easier access. Love the idea of the birdbath as well, but you need easy access to add water to birdbath - lots of ideas of how to create one on this site (fun project). If you want a place to hide from people you could add a chair and small table from a thrift or garage sale - I personally love a place to get away for 10-15 minutes when there are a lot of people around. The bird feeder is a great way to add birds to the area, but also squirels and then the seeds they dump out may promote weed growth. We keep ours on our deck for this reason. Thanks for posting and do keep us posted on your progress. ;)

  • Gail Salminen Gail Salminen on Mar 19, 2013
    Hi again@Melissa G it is snowing here so I am trolling the garden section of ht and found a little garden space smaller than yours, thought you could get some inspiration from it by @Trish M, she has done a great job to add eye appeal from her window.

  • Trish M Trish M on Mar 22, 2013
    Get Yourself a Circulating Pump and some cool containers and make your self a cool lil pond.Let is Meander down the Length of the Yard from one Container to another & Dump out near the any over flow will water them.Plant a Bunch of Bleeding Hearts They Love Shade and Humming Birds Love Them.Plant Pansy's in lil Pots around the Ivy & Maybe Some Azaleas..You can also make a Small pond and A Fake River of rocks To The Front of The house.Shop Around Flea Markets and yard sales.You Can find Some Very Cool Stuff to Make Your Yard Look Great.I did the Fake river Once and Put Blue and purple colored Flox in the Rocks..Looked cool.The Ivy is a Pain..But..You can Put up Old Bed Frames and Make Very Cool Live Privacy curtains.Just Tie it to The Frame and Trim It..Have Fun...

  • Melissa G Melissa G on Apr 04, 2013
    Gail, I have decided to clear out some of the ivy and plant two or three hydrangeas, because they don't require much maintenance, like you said, they do well in the shade, and they flower year after year. I'll leave some ivy on the slope to help with erosion, because it would certainly become a problem if I removed it there. Trish, thanks for your suggestions, but this area has almost no access so we wouldn't be spending time there. I just wanted a nicer view from our window, and I think the hydrangeas will do the trick. I like your idea for bleeding hearts -- maybe I'll plant those as well. I'll post pictures when it's done! Thanks, everyone.

  • Kelly Miller Kelly Miller on Nov 23, 2013
    Waiting for your photos Melissa .....