After a lot of thinking in circles, we finally have plan coming together! Thanks to the power of the internet, we recently connected with Sara, who is a member of the Alberta Native Plants Facebook group and recently started her own consulting business working with families looking to plant natural, native garden / yard areas.
Our objective was to come up with a plan that we can implement over a number of years for low-cost that will not only provide the function of space we are looking for, but also will introduce primarily native, Alberta plants that support local flora and fauna.
Sara not only helped us come up with a map of the sections we want for both our front and back yard space, but she is also very knowledgable about plants native to Alberta, and was able to help us plan specific planting for each area. We worked together to create "zones" of planning and planting.
Excited scribbles after first meeting with Sara:
Zone 1: Current barren space under a conifer tree
Due to acidity of falling needles, we have a very barren area under a large conifer in a prominent section of the back yard. Since we moved in, we have been wondering what might grow in this area (if anything). Thanks to Sara, we identified a number of options and made a plan to introduce two native Alberta plants, both of which thrive in shade as well as high-acidity soil:
Zone 2: Flat stone path from current patio area to new "circular pie garden"
Three objectives with the main yard and garden area:
Change out the current "graveyard" looking garden to something less "graveyard"
Maintain and improve on current play space for children
Include growing area for both flowers and edible plants
To address the "graveyard" garden space, Sara came up with the idea of a circular garden that integrates different mediums such as flat rock, small-rock pathway, and four "pie" shaped sections of garden for both vegetables as well as native flowers. Adding to this, we expanded on the thinking to add a small bridge and "bean pole teepee" section with a "mud garden" for the kids.
Example bean pole teepee:
Sara was very helpful in suggesting a number of native plant alternatives to traditional lawn, which we can use as cover between pathway stones. In particular, she suggested a number of plants that do well under heavy foot traffic. Plans for the pathway as well as circular pie garden include:
Creeping thyme and wild strawberries as ground cover between pathway stones - both hardy under foot as well as native to Alberta
Silky scorpionweed, sticky geranium, and penstemon in the flower pie garden section
Two pie garden sections for vegetable planting
Zone 3: Current semi-shaded chain link fence with little-to-no privacy
Wanting to add some privacy to our fence, Sara gave us the idea of adding trellis and a vine variety to the chain link. From her suggestions we plan to introduce both Western White Clematis and Twinning Honeysuckle. Both of which should do well in shade, as well as grow quickly (hopefully within one season) to cover most of the fence providing increased privacy without having to replace the fence or take up much yard space.
These will also hopefully attract both bees and hummingbirds!
Zone 4: Shaded North side of the house
This is currently a "no go" space for the kids. It is filled with extra soil and scrap wood from last summer's projects and cleaning. It gets little to no direct sunlight and is a space we hadn't really considered developing. Working with Sara we have come up with a plan, which hopefully will make this a functional part of the yard.
Introduce native meadow arnica, which flowers in a vibrant yellow, all along the side of the house to bring light as well as ground cover
Build a scrap parts music wall as well as kids painting directly onto the current wood fence
Add a "play house" shaped trellis bridge and cover with shade-loving purple clematis
Stay tuned for plans to progress!