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backyard landscape ideas

nicole
January 12, 2019
My backyard has a large slope. We recently put in a pool and retaining wall. Vinyl fencing is going in next week. Not sure what I am going to plant on the lower portion of the slope but I am thinking this corner should be some kind of focal point. I’m thinking a tree of some kind. Any ideas? I have no imagination for this kind of stuff! I can add more photos if necessary.

Comments (36)

  • nicole
    Forgot to add that I am in Southern California.
  • R. C.

    Whatever you plant, please plant native. Our pollinators need it. I am a huge advocate of a small meadow-like area or at least a small area of plants that feed our bees.

  • missenigma

    Given Southern CA water issues, I'd recommend that you hire a landscape architect that specializes in xeriscape design. I think it will be money well spent.

  • functionthenlook

    Unless you like cleaning leaves out of your pool I wouldn't plant trees.

  • miss lindsey (still misses Sophie)

    Terrace it:

    Vegetable Gardens, Herb Gardens · More Info
    A professional will be required

  • PRO
    Drawn by Nature Landscaping

    If your budget can afford it I would totally recommend a pondless water feature. You have a landscaper's dream backdrop where a water feature would blend in with it' surroundings very easily. The source of water attract all sources of life. Kids, adults, and all sorts of beautiful birds, butterflies, and pollinators. You will find yourself looking out the window all the time if you're not already out on the patio enjoying the sound of a calming waterfall.

  • nicole
    A water feature would be nice! We’ve spent over 100k between the pool, retaining wall and concrete. Not sure how much more we can spend but a water feature would be nice!
  • PRO
    Drawn by Nature Landscaping

    I hear ya! Of course most of us don't have unlimited budgets...I wish we did :) Depending on the size of the stream/waterfall you can get one installed from a professional from 5k-15k. There are some add-on bells and whistles, lower-maintenance items you can add on that start to reach that higher end price. The common misconception people have is that ponds are so much maintenance. They really are not. CA has a lot of great pond builders. I would recommend connecting with a certified aquascape contractor. They are the only ones that know how to build them right without giving you headaches down the road. https://www.aquascapeinc.com/find-aquascape-certified-contractors

  • nicole
    More photos just because.
  • nicole
    Thank you! I tried posting more pictures but I don’t think they posted.
  • nicole
    Pool obviously not done yet. Wall will get stucco eventually.
  • dyliane

    terrace it will look gorgeous

  • kitasei

    If is not too late, rethink the white vinyl fence in favor of natural wood matching the boundary fences already there. The white will jump out like a sore thumb.

  • nicole
    Too late.
  • greenfish1234

    Too bad about the vinyl fence-people do seem to love them though. Anyway given that you have spending fatigue, I would smother that hill in native wild flowers. Lots and lots of milkweed: monarch count in CA fell off a cliff this year :( I had a small patch this year and raised many monarchs-it is so gratifying to see them and other insects buzzing around our yard. :)

  • nicole
    I do love flowers! I’m concerned about having too many bees being that I have children and we will be spending a lot of time in the pool. But I do definitely want flowers of some kind.
  • greenfish1234

    Bees don't chase kids. I have had 3 honeybee hives right in my sideyard for 8 years and no one has ever been stung (except me when stealing honey)! Let me tell you that creating monarch habitat has been an INCREDIBLY rewarding activity with my kids!

  • missenigma

    I wouldn't worry too much about the bees unless one of your kids is allergic. The bees are interested in the flowers not the children. And the flowers are relatively far from the pool. I have a big butterfly and bee garden bed right outside my backdoor. The bees buzz around all day. I've never had a problem.

  • PRO
    Dig Doug's Designs

    some ideas:



  • wacokid

    I lived in Valencia and had the same steep, probably decomposed granite like hill. It is to steep, ground to hard, water to precious, and way to much work for any of the above suggestions. The only thing I found, after years of trying, that worked, used less water, was low maintenance and will attract a ton of bees is Rosemary. Plus you can use the rosemary in the kitchen and throw it on the bbq for a great smoked flavor. Good luck. btw, do you live up in the SCV?

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    There are ALL kinds of CA native plants that would be perfect for that hillside and that will tolerate poor, rocky soils (as long as they drain well) and minimal watering. So do not be discouraged by posts stating that nothing will work :-) And none will require terracing - unless that is something you would like to do and have the $$$ necessary to accomplish.

  • nicole
    Dig Doug Designs, that is gorgeous! I have zero imagination for this stuff and could’ve never pictured doing that!
  • nicole
    Waco kid, I love rosemary. I live in Yucaipa.
  • wacokid

    Sorry Gardergal, but have you lived in SoCal and had a steep sloped bank for 15 years? The amount of work to get one plant into that hill, only for it to die from heat, is not worth it. Look at every neighbors bank in Nicole's pictures, they are all struggling. Nicole, Yucaipa? I used to get my Thanksgiving Turkeys from Via's.

  • wacokid

    I should have mentioned that in SoCal larger housing developments start with earth movers coming in and completely removing all dirt, hills, topsoil, etc, sometimes down 20 feet and then bringing back in fill dirt and then packing it down with giant machinery. Your left with no topsoil, or soil that has any nutrients in it for your landscape. So even native plants have a hard time growing in that soil. And add a steep bank with hard soil, water can barely penetrate the surface and ends up running down the hill.

  • greenfish1234

    Ugh horrible!!

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I'm not sure why you would think a Calfornia native plant would be any more difficult to establish on the hillside than rosemary - ceanothus, coyote bush, red buckwheat, manzanita, lessingia or creeping sage would all work almost identically and with very low water requirements. Native plants are very well adapted to both climate and growing conditions and groundcover types are wondrful choices for spreading across a difficult to access slope.

    And to answer your question, not that it applies necessarily, I have done numerous landscape designs for SoCal gardens......Orange County primarily.

  • nicole
    I should’ve added that there is a sprinkler system up on the hill. And yes, pretty much everyone has the same ugly slope.
  • greenfish1234

    First year can be nice but let it go and subsequent years get even better, lightly over seed every couple of years, don't forget milkweed.

  • nicole
    Thank you all!
  • NHBabs z4b-5a NH

    Be aware that Doug lives in the SE US, which doesn’t have nearly the water issues of southern CA, so adjust expectations accordingly.

    There will be Mediterranean plants and as GG48 mentioned California natives that will work well. I would spend time looking at lots of pictures of southern CA gardens to get an idea of plant density and plant palette that is used in your area. Here is a Houzz article I found that includes several low water CA gardens.

    https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/86440802/list/8-colorful-drought-tolerant-landscape-designs

    While the designer linked below is in the Bay Area, it shows that some type of steps and access is needed, if for nothing else, basic maintenance. One set of steps up and then paths across the hillside periodically is necessary since a lot of foot traffic on an unvegetated slope will lead to erosion.

    https://www.houzz.com/photo/766320-ornamental-grasses-mediterranean-landscape-san-francisco

    https://www.houzz.com/photo/766323-ornamental-grasses-mediterranean-landscape-san-francisco


    Photo sources include the landscape photos here on Houzz, books from your public library, general internet searches, gardening magazines for your area. Start a file of photos of gardens and plants you find appealing, even if they aren’t planted on a slope. You can save ideas in a folder here on Houzz of photos found in the Houzz photos tab, but you can also upload photos from other sources. Regardless of whether this ends up being DIY or designed by a pro, having ideas of what you find appealing will help.

    As functionthelook mentioned upthread, you want to be aware of leaves, flowers, and other material that is likely to be shed by plants near the pool as anything that drops in needs to be removed. You may be able to find a list of pool-friendly (low litter) plants for your area somewhere on Houzz or elsewhere on line that you can use for the area near the pool.

    You say there is irrigation on the slope. Be aware that it may need modification to work well for the plants and the design you choose, and make sure that you know exactly where lines run before the shovel comes into use.

  • PRO
    Norwood Architects

    I agree with a couple of the other posters who suggested hiring a landscape architect and with terracing the earthen portion of the backyard. Terracing would make sense to control erosion. Native plants makes very good sense but would also be great if you could sneak in a few edibles too - at least some herbs. Good luck!

  • nicole
    Thank you all for taking the time to reply! I appreciate your input!
  • ninigret

    even tho its "too late" on your white vinyl fence, if you manage to get your hillside looking good i'd remove the back fence section and add black cast aluminum fencing. you'll lose the vicious glare, the black disappears, and gives a nice view at whatever you've succeeded in doing.



    gosh i cant wait for summer.

    oh wait. i've been thinking your fence is adjacent to your pool, is it all the way at the top? if so, never mind then. our local codes make it sensible to fence the pool area, and not the whole yard.

  • nicole
    We’ll have the vinyl on each side between us the the neighbors. The backside is a wall that is not ours. That is a nice idea though!

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