As an owner of a single-family house you probably have a garden in the front yard and maybe a garden in the backyard, but the side yards are not being used. Just because your neighbors may not have side gardens or specially created landscaping doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t, too. Believe it or not, there are plenty of things you can do to enhance the appearance of side yards whether they are sloped or not or whether they are bathed in shade.
However, you need to focus on floras that thrive in your particular region of the country. Zone numbers will be included here.
If your side yards are sloped and/or shaded, here are some ideas on how to spruce them up. Refer to the United States Department of Agriculture Hardiness Zones to see if what is being mentioned will flourish in your area.
· Create a fern garden. Ferns do very well in the shade as well as in moist soil. A combination of tall and shorter ferns can appear to lessen the slope. Ferns to consider include Ostrich ferns (zones 3 through 8), Boston fern (zones 9 through 11) and maidenhair fern (zones 3 through 10).
· Plant flowers in the area. Species to consider include the Correa also known as the “Dusky Bells” bush. This shrub features downward facing bell-shaped flowers that grow to 3-feet high and 6-feet wide and attract hummingbirds. You can use varieties of ground cover including ice plant in areas no one will walk on. The cover produces flowers that are star-shaped and have a bright pink color. Another cover to consider is African iris. It features sword-shaped leaves and will serve as a great contrast to the Dusky Bells. These covers and plants grow best in zones 8 through 10.
· Use plants that thrive in the shade if your side yard is shaded. An ideal plant to consider under this circumstance is the Hostas (zones 3 through 9). It features leaves that form a rosette with a flowering stem in the middle. It grows into a variety of sizes from small to large (about 12-inches across and more than 36-inches across). The leaves appear dark to light green with yellow and white.
· Create a series of terraces with flora. Terraces arranged from the upper side of a slope to the lower side offers flat areas where you can create different gardens. If the side of the house includes a door, then you can include a private patio that can be framed with an oriental style plant like a Japanese maple (zone 6 through 9), which thrives in lightly shaded areas. Add raked gravel with some large stones as a focal point and a bamboo fountain for another focal point and to add the sound of flowing water.
Keep in mind that the side yard may have different intensities of shade from dappled that allows sunlight through occasionally and deep shade like you would find under bushes or trees. Not much will grow in the deep shady areas, but you can lighten it up by pruning the lower branches of trees. In addition, observe how the light changes during the seasons. What was shade in the winter can be partly sunny in the summer.
If trees are present, be careful as you dig around their trunks because you could damage surface roots. Don’t change the soil level by more than 1-inch to 2-inches under the drip line of the tree. Finally, remember that the bottom of the hill will be wetter than the top of the hill. So plant flora that thrives in moisture on the bottom of the slope and plant flora that thrive best in dry shade toward the top of the slope.