11 gardening projects for 2011: projects 1-5

It’s dangerous putting the things you want to accomplish in writing—and even more so doing it publicly. But I’m hoping this will put the necessary pressure on me to get at least half of them completed. The fun ones will definitely get done, like adding more bamboo and getting carnivorous plants, others look iffier, like anything involving power tools or heavy manual labor.

So here are my top gardening projects for the new year: 11 of them since it’s 2011. The first five are described below, the rest will follow tomorrow.

1. Get more bamboo

This one’s easy. I’m only including it on my list because it’s the funnest project of them all. I already have a variegated arrow bamboo lined up (Pseudosasa japonica 'Akebono-suji', see here for a photo) and am hoping I can get a hold of an Angel Mist bamboo (Dendrocalamus minor ‘Amoenus’, see here for a large photo).

2. Replace street-side hedge with bamboo

Although pretty involved, this project will probably happen. The fact that it involves bamboo is a bonus.

As you can see in the photo below, we have a dozen mock orange shrubs (Pittosporum tobira) planted along the street side of the backyard. Left unchecked, these plants form a dense hedge with branches that extend outward into the sidewalk, which has caused problems with the City in the past. Last year my wife spent a goodly amount of time cutting out the dead growth in the middle, which is why the hedge currently doesn’t look very hedgy. Keeping this hedge maintained is an ongoing effort that is both time-consuming and frustrating.

Pittosporum hedge outside our backyard fence

We’re toying with the idea of removing the pittosporums and replacing them with clumping bamboo. We would use emerald bamboo (Bambusa textilis ‘Mutabilis’) because its culms grow very straight with just a little arching on top. In our climate, we can expect a mature height of at least 30 feet, which would completely screen our house and provide the necessary shade for our woodland garden which is right on the other side of the fence. Since we need instant shade, we would plant 4-5 15-gallon plants.

3. Lay flagstone next to front porch

Look at the photo of the street side hedge above. See the area where the 6 ft. backyard fence meets the 4 ft. front yard fence? Inside the fence, tucked away next to the front porch, is a small area where we built an L-shaped raised bed for tropical plants (elephant ears and gingers, mostly). Unfortunately, the ground outside this bed is just soil, currently covered with leaves from our Bradford pear tree. I don’t like how unfinished it looks, especially since the front porch is a beautiful rose-colored flagstone, and I intend to do something about it in 2011. I’m thinking of getting flagstone remnants, either in the same color as the front porch, or a neutral gray or blue. I will simply dry-lay them on sand.

Bare soil to be covered with flagstone

4. Build a succulent display stand

The area in the photo below is right next to the area shown in the photo above. I plan on laying flagstone here as well and then build some sort of multi-tiered display stand for the many potted succulents that are currently cluttering up the front porch (hidden below the white frost blanket). I love these succulents, but they aren’t displayed to maximum effect at the moment.

This is where the succulent displays stand would go

5. Build a potting bench

This is a project my wife suggested a few years ago. Since I do a lot of potting and repotting, it would be nice to have a dedicated place for that task instead of doing it here and there. The plan is to build something like this against the side of the house where the colored plastic tubs are.

Cluttered no man’s land in the backyard

We would like to incorporate an old soapstone lab sink that my wife got from Freecycle a while ago. The potting would be done inside the sink, and spilled potting soil could be collected through the opening underneath the sink.

Old soapstone sink for potting bench

This project requires careful planning, not to mention the dreaded use of power tools, so I’d say there’s only a 50:50 chance that it will happen. I am tired of how ugly the assorted bins and tubs look, so even if we don’t build a potting bench, we have to find some way of making them less visible.


  1. Ooooh, are you looking for suggestions on some of these projects? I've got some ideas on the flagstone over bare soil project, and could definitely help you design an awesome potting bench that would be simple to put together and require only two different power tools. =) Email me.

  2. Alan, yes, I'm definitely looking for suggestions. Seeing what you've accomplished in your yard, I'd love to hear your ideas. I'll e-mail you.

  3. Task Number 1 should be easy and fun :) I do like Akebono-suji, I don't have one myself but I've heard some feedback that they're prone to reversion, which I hope isn't the case.

    How nice to have a mild enough location to have Pittosporum tobira grow big enough to be a hedge! Although definitely better to have a bamboo hedge instead, much more attractive :)

  4. Pittosporum tobira *is* a very nice plant. I think our hedge was planted by the homebuilder in 1990, so it's 20 years old. Even if we do remove it, I'm thinking of taking a few cuttings so I can keep a couple of specimens in pots. I love the smell of the flowers in the spring. There's a beautiful variegated variety, too.


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