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I feel your pain, because I also have a totally flat yard, and my yard is over 5 acres. I have enough area that I can plant trees far enough away from the septic lines, but until those trees grow up I'm still seeing lots of flat open ground. Adding some height to it is proving to be a challenge.
I have a wooden garden shed in the back yard that I am trying to train vines to grow up, so that adds some height. I also built a pretty crude pergola to provide more shade for hostas and other shade lovers. That is about 10 foot tall, and there again I'm trying to train vines to grow up it. I have a few pathways also, and have put up arbors to add more height to the flatlands.
Those are all the ideas I've come up with so far. Hopefully someone else will have some ideas for us.
As far as your backyard being out in the open, do you mean that there's no privacy? Is putting up a privacy fence possible? You can grow lots of cool plants on a privacy fence, as well as personalizing it with garden decor and paint.
Certainly your preferences would dictate most of the plants and style. Soil type and maintenance level needed would also be factors.
An informal system of paths linking beds of different plants/themes with a nice place to sit and look out and enjoy your work would be good.
Thanks bigcityal, I was mainly talking about focal points. I have no background so to say to build off of, just flat one dimensional open space. I need to figure out where to start a foundation I can build from, and then expand. Don't want too much of a foundation so it does not stick out like a sore thoumb as I am building it, but not too small so when I go out next year to decide what to add I have to re-do it.
Jason - Until you decide it wouldn't be a bad idea to just look around at nurseries/arboretums or flower/garden shows for structures that suit you. The flat is not really an issue, just think you could be designing this on a back hillside that would need terracing.
i like the idea of an alpine garden [very low growing] with stone pathways and benches or what not. this way the flatness is intergrated with the garden style. rocks and small soil deposits for raised plantings might be good too but i think a zen style something or other might work naturally with the flatness. central sitting areas too enclosed by grasses, shrubs, arbors etc
I'm putting in a meditation garden. It's a huge maze that wanders to a center and then circles around to the beginning. The overall effect is kind of cottage gardeny. It's a garden modified labrynth. :)
I can plant trees here, so I'm adding twelve dogwoods in a couple of weeks. The paths are surrounded by beds, and they are anchored by shrubs. My second year of this project is coming up, and I plan to finish the "bones" this spring. That's more shrubs, perenials, roses and a couple of arbors. Next year a lot of the grass comes out, and the paths get hard scaped. I'm hoping that will cut down on the weeding. The following year, I'm adding the pergola. I have a number of large scale angels that I hope will keep the rotten quack grass at bay. :)
The most interesting thing is that I face a fairly busy road. Everyone knows just where I live because I'm the one with the maze in the front yard. (In a couple of years you won't be able to see it from the road.) We moved in last year, and the neighbors decided that we must be landscape artists or complete lunetics. Lunitics would be correct.
I just love garden and forest and have no use for a lawn. Grass definately takes up the space where a flower should grow. I couldn't hardly stand all that flat grass out there.
It's not a project for the faint of heart. It's been quite expensive, too, but ebay really helps as well as starting plants from seed.
But I have this beautiful vision of walking the paths in my old age and sharing a bench with my husband while we listen to birds singing. Spring is coming!! Yeah!