Trellises for the Back Fence

comments: 46


Thank you for all the funny things you said about the man sampler! We were cracking up all day long at the comments. I feel nervous now about how I insisted that beginners just need more motivation than skillz. You might need a little bit more than that. We'll talk about it.

It's May 11 and the sampler kits are completely sold out now — thank you again so very, very much for your orders. As I've mentioned, we are aiming to ship everything sometime in mid-June, and I will keep you posted here on the blog as to our progress. The downloadable PDF of the pattern and instructions only will be available in the next few weeks — I'll try to get that together as soon as I possibly can and will definitely let you know when it's ready.


Right now there's a sense of calm before the storm around here. All of our supplies for the kits are on order; we wait, ears flicking forward, for the sound of the UPS truck stopping in front of the house to drop off fabric, or needles, or crewel wool, or hoops, or anything. No such luck yet. It's still cold and rainy, but decided to use the time to work on the yard a little bit, and see if we couldn't get it in shape for spring a bit early. It's so cold it still feels early.


I was looking at some old pictures of our house and yards the other day. They were taken right when we bought this house, in 2000. There was almost nothing about the yard then that we have kept. If I had known what a "fixer" was back then, I would've definitely called it a fixer. For one thing, most of the property was covered in horrideous bark dust — the big orangey kind. There was no weed barrier beneath it: We bought in February; by July the weeds were more than knee-high and couldn't even be mowed (because of all the big chunks of bark dust). The yard was also just filled with diseased rhododendrons and other unhealthy plants. It all looked very newly planted, too, or at least like things had been recently moved around quite a bit for its sale. It has, without exaggeration, taken us ten years to get rid of all of that stuff and get both the front and back yards to be nice and average and healthy.


Let's just say we had (and have) a lot lot more motivation than skillz.


Eventually we got rid of all of the barkdust in the back yard, and planted grass. That grew for one year and then by the next year looked atrocious because there is a lot of shade in our backyard. So out it came, except for one little patch of it, which we frequently put a blanket down on to lay in the sun and read. It's the only spot of consistent sun in the yard. Everywhere else, Andy put down gravel. (There are before and after photos and a bit of explanation here.) And this turned out to be a great decision. We really, really love it.


Now most of the plantings in the back yard are containers. Except for a wall of climbing hydrangeas against the garage and a row of shrub hydrangeas against the back fence, I think almost everything else in the back yard (except the trees) is in a container. This works for me.


Some of the containers have perrenials, most of them have annuals. Several have herbs like sage and thyme or plants like lavendar and lemon verbena (I think that's what it's called). I have no plan. At the beginning of the season I just get a bunch of stuff and Andy sticks it all in the pots. I like things to look a bit wild and free lately. A hippie garden. Basil and warm-weather stuff will be planted later. But this week has been a start.


A bank dropped off baby tomato plants on everyone's porch the other day as a marketing tool (?), so we planted the tomato in a pot, even though it seems a little early. But hopefully she'll be okay.


About four years ago, the neighbors to the back were moving and decided to replace the fence we shared. We planted a row of shrub hydrangeas along it that were supposed to get to between four and six feet, ultimately. They've been very slow to get going; there is not a lot of sun back there and they are just growing right out of the gravel-covered soil. They seem happy, and flower profusely, but they're just kind of dinky. A few days ago I had an idea to assemble some bottomless cedar planters — little raised beds — and grow some annual vines up the back of the fence, behind the dinky hydrangeas.



So Andy built me some pretty little cedar planters, and we got some trellises and put them up.


Each planter cost less than $10 to build, and we will let them weather naturally so they will turn gray. We found two really old, lichen-covered trellises at the Rebuilding Center for $2 each. Then we found two other handmade screens at Garden Fever for $50 each. These screens are so beautiful. They are made out of budding branches — I don't know what kind of tree the branches are from. Whoever made them attached lichen and moss to the lattice and the whole thing looks like some sort of fairy gate. Just really pretty.


I'm going to start some pinkish black-eyed-Susan vine called 'Blushing Susie' (my mom and Andy's mom are both Sues, and my little sissy's name is Susie :-) from seed (!) and some hyacinth bean. Might not be enough sun for them, but I'll try. Probably try to grown some lettuces or something, too.


Since the fence does not belong to us, I wanted to make sure that our trellises were fairly minimal. But I might run a few vertical wires on the sides of the trellises if the vines look like they need to spread out a bit.


We'll see. I think they look so pretty right now, just plain, too. I was going to say something else but I forgot what it was.


lostnoz2 says: May 11, 2011 at 08:31 AM

Nice job with your backyard. It looks so inviting "cozy". We actually have a beautiful "summer" day here today, so I am on my way to enjoy God's blessings in my garden!

I feel like I have been on one of those garden tours, with a friend. If I were actually there, I would have brought a cake, and stayed a bit longer to putter in your garden...

Great Job! I have a very shaded yard too. It drives me crazy some days but I'm learning to like shade plants.

Were you going to tell us how much you love us? :)

It looks beautiful. I love that fence. I've just sketched it (badly) on a post it for future ideas. If you have a shady-ish spot you would like to have a climbing vine, Trader Joe's had beautiful, healthy-looking Clematis this weekend.

Thanks for the tips on where to get the pretty trellises too. I bought a raspberry bush for a blank south-facing wall and that would really help make the whole thing look prettier while the wee raspberry tries to grow up.

Summer hasn't decided whether to stay or not. I wish she would make up her mind. I'd like to get my veg garden in as the plants in the hot bed are ready to go. About 300 tomatoes,plus bell peppers, egg plant,etc. Then the squash,beans,corn,cukes,pumpkins and melons will follow. Your trellis project looks terrific. Great job as always.

Your garden looks lovely - you have really made the most out of an inauspicious start! And the rest - it'll come to you suddenly and you can tell us next time ...

Pomona x

It all looks quite lovely!

Just lovely! Great idea with those planters behind the hydrangeas. The front of the new we're moving into this week gets no sun at all, and I've been greatly inspired by your woodland-esque garden area lately (which you showed last year on the blog).

It seems that no matter how many years I have gardened (as an adult, as long as I've been married = 21 years), I never seem to acquire enough trellises, whether they are built or bought. That is the pickle that I was thinking about when your post popped up on my reader.

Maybe I'll head to the local ReStore.

Your back yard always looks so lovely. It has been a source of inspiration for several years now. Happy planting!

I love your yard and beautiful!

Your back yard sounds an awful lot like mine. I'm still attempting to garden (I want fruits and veggies) each year, but I'm also figuring out how shady my yard really is!

Oooh - you have lots of pots too! I´m trying that this year; to have most of my plants in pots so I can move them around a little. :-)

Mary Lynn says: May 11, 2011 at 09:49 AM

Love your idea for the bottomless planters. My Hubby is always looking for an excuse to use his power tools. I see a weekend project...

Wow, you're lucky your neighbors built such a cool fence! I'm a total pot/container gardener - so much easier to pull out the occasional weed! Can't wait to see what your "Sue" looks like! I feel the call of the garden center.. :-)

Laura A. says: May 11, 2011 at 10:12 AM

Beautiful garden and plan. And such an ispiration for the time I can get out and fix my old, weedfilled scares-the-neighbours mess. I have another year of school and then bam. I'm going to attack that sucker. It's a huge clay filled lot so I like the idea of little grass and some trees. And by then I'll have a sheltie again to wander around the place with me.

Oh, it all looks very lovely! I esp. like those long purple things with the purple butterfly-looking things on top - (LOL!) At first I thought they weren't real, but they are, aren't they?

Thanks for the inspiration! This is the second summer we've been able to work on our yard and it is SO gratifying to see green stuff instead of the asphalt that used to be there!! The trellises look great.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it is very unlikely that you will have sucess with your blushing susie vine especially if you just plant the seeds straight in the ground. They love very hot sunny spots and when I grow it I start it indoors at least 6 weeks before I plant it out. Even then, the only year I had good luck with them I planted them in pots on my driveway which is like a heat sink as it faces south. I'm not sure which annual vines might grow in shadyish conditions although sweet peas might work.

I think this may be my favorite post ever.

With the beautiful weather we had yesterday i went a little nuts and put in veggies and tilled the ground and all. I'm praying we don't get a freeze.

Andy may embroider like a mad-man but he sure is a handy dude to have around! hip hip hurray for handy dudes! now can he come over and build some boxes for me?????

They look great! The boxes and trellises are a wonderful addition to the garden. Congratulations on being adventurous and planting things you like rather than obsessing over it.

Just stunning! I'm feeling quite inspired!

Amy Janow says: May 11, 2011 at 12:35 PM

I just purchased a climbing hydrangea this past weekend. I am glad to hear that they do grow in the shade, as I bought it for a spot that only sees late morning sun. Your trellises are gorgeous! If everything goes well my hydrangea will be climbing up the side of my porch this summer~

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


post a comment

About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.