To make a backyard oasis plants provide fresh air. This a fact that is becoming increasingly important in heated, polluted cities. But urban greenery is not just a matter for city planners. REGIO author Heide Bergmann has taken up the challenge and lovingly planted her backyard.
When I use Google Earth to find our apartment building on the edge of downtown Freiburg, I see mostly sealed surfaces. There are adjacent apartment buildings, large old buildings, a treeless street with cars, and a commercial canal. Behind our house, a green patch stands out, filling the space between us and the neighboring house. There stands the fan maple I planted 15 years ago. Together with a landscape gardener friend, I landscaped our backyard back then. If the asphalt desert in front, I thought, then at least out back a green canopy of leaves. Since then, the 60-square-meter backyard has grown into a lush oasis.
Our plantings have grown magnificently over the 15 years. The hydrangeas, witch hazels, funkiest, boxwoods, camellias, bergenias, ferns, elfflowers, and clematis have quickly greened up the backyard. Their spreading leaves provide air exchange and a pleasant atmosphere. It’s like a green living room. But wild bees and butterflies have been scarce. I wanted to change this and took the advice of natural gardener Robert Schönfeld. Here how to make a backyard oasis :
Plant Diversity In The Shade
“Almost anything can be greened,” says the garden consultant and wild plant expert. He encourages all those who are working for more green in the city. In most cases, he says, backyards are rather lovelessly landscaped with concrete slabs, trash cans, and bicycles. With a little imagination, however, a barren wall or a dark corner can be made quite interesting. “There are suitable plants for almost everything,” says Schönfeld. When gardening between house walls, light conditions play a major role. To some places, the sun comes only two to three hours on the day or not at all.
How Do I Make A Backyard Oasis ?
That doesn’t have to be a disadvantage. It’s amazing what thrives in the light shade: ferns, ivy, Christmas roses, foxgloves, bluebells, lilies, evergreens, purple bells, forget-me-nots, or grasses. Many shade perennials are extremely attractive with their contrasting leaf shapes, textures, and shades of green. Their large leaves, with which they catch the little light, are typical.
For a bed of about two square meters, we selected a planting of woodland plants: yellow foxglove, Silverleaf, gemsbane, wood anemones, liverwort, snow creeper, and more. “Wild plants are an asset to the backyard garden,” explains the garden planner and designer. “Not only for the insect world but also for us. A combination of annuals and biennials with perennials creates a natural woodland character.”
For example, a planting of wood bellflower, deer’s tongue fern, or Christmas rose looks loose and dynamic when joined by ruprecht weed, yellow corydalis, garlic knapweed, or columbine. “Wild plants do tend to spread, but they grow slowly and are tameable if you walk through the area two or three times a year, removing new plantlets or selectively cutting off shoots,” says the expert’s tip. “The important thing is to identify the seedlings, then leave them where desired.”
Such green areas are becoming increasingly important. After all, inner cities are heating up due to increasing sealing and global warming, and pollution is also on the rise. Urban greenery not only promotes the well-being and health of residents but also improves air quality. Plants store water and evaporate large amounts of moisture. A mature tree, for example, can lower the temperature by two to three degrees through its evaporation. Its leaves filter up to 1.3 kilograms of fine dust per year. They breathe in CO2 and exhale oxygen. What more could you want? That’s why green urban projects have become a task for the future. But it’s not just urban planners who need to do something: Everyone can contribute to a better climate with plants.
Between Walls And Old Trees
Often, however, you’re dealing with a garden situation dominated by shrubs and old trees. The soil is root-ridden and dry. Nevertheless, you can see early bloomers like snowdrops, bluebells, wintercreepers, hare-
harebells and crocuses. In early spring, they benefit from the light that deciduous woody plants let through. They have stored the energy they need to grow in tubers and bulbs. When it gets hot, they retreat to the ground.
Now in the fall is the time to put in the bulbs. Carefully, so as not to injure the tree roots, loosen the soil five to ten inches deep with a digging fork. To mimic the forest floor environment, spread a thin layer of semi-rotted leaves, green waste, or bark compost. Woodruff, liverworts, anemones, wild garlic, deadnettle, or wild strawberries also feel at home in this moist gauze soil.
A backyard is often characterized by walls, stones, and dryness. There are specialists for this as well, covering unsightly corners and looking pretty in the process. Zymbel weed or wall fern, for example. They grow in cracks and stone joints and manage with extremely little water. The Lesser Brownell is also such a survivor. It grows on gravel and forms pretty carpets. Ruprecht’s weed, wall pepper species, and ivy are equally tough plants.
But how do you come up with ideas for planting? First of all, every backyard is different. The best way to start is to photograph the backyard situation, make a paper print and place transparent paper over it. Use a green marker to draw in the plants you want and try several variations. Before you get started, you should know this: You need humus-rich, deeply loosened, reasonably nutrient-rich soil for planting. Get to work with a digging fork. Depending on the condition, you should improve the soil with compost from the composting plant. If the subsoil is concreted, you simply plant it in large tubs. Or you can build a raised bed, for example with pallets. “The raised bed can even be narrow, the only important thing is that the plants have enough root space with good soil,” Schönfeld emphasizes.
My wild perennial bed meets these requirements. Now I just need patience, because it takes two to three years for the perennials to reach their optimum. When everything has taken root, my backyard will serve two functions: a natural air filter and a habitat for butterflies and hummers. And where insects flock, songbirds come, too. My Japanese maple is beautiful – but if I had my choice again, I’d plant a native tree, a rowan perhaps, elderberry or hawthorn. You never stop learning.
I hope the article How Do I Make A Backyard Oasis? can help you find inspiration.