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Modifying lawn shape - am I on the right track?

suburb of Toronto, ON(Zone 5b)

This is a long read – I hope you don’t get bored before reaching the end – and the question….

I keep a rough plan of my garden areas on a copy of the property survey. Currently I have been playing around with it to help me figure out what to do to make the back lawn a more pleasing shape. I’m not sure if I’ve got it right – the rough planned shape looks a bit better than the existing one but it’s starting to look a bit like an apron! :-) Maybe there’s a better option that I’m just not seeing. So I thought maybe some of you could weigh in with some opinions/advice. Here’s the rough plan:

[What photobucket option do I use to get the picture to show in the preview? I tried them all and none did!?]

The solid line marks the edge of the lawn now and the dashed line is my proposed new edge with the two new beds and path extensions behind it.

The lot is 75’ wide side to side. The short side is just over 50’ from the patio to the back fence. The longer side is a bit over 60’ from the house to the fence. North is the right side; the back fence is W. The dark dots/circles are trees but I see that the oak tree is not very clear – it’s in the top bed closest to the fence and house on the S side, more or less aligned with the ash tree (which is the large circle/dot off the patio.) The oak, ash and the two white pines (the big circles on either side of the path closer to the fence on the N side.) are the dominant trees in the garden. Together they shade the whole garden; the lawn only gets sun in spring before the ash and oak leaf out and for a couple of hours in mid-day once the trees are leafed out. Needless to say, the grass is rather weak back there! The oak is relatively young (I’d guess 20-25 years – it just started producing acorns three years ago…) and has grown substantially in the past two years. It is now taller than the house and in a few years will probably have overlapping canopy with the ash. The ash is probably close to 60 years old and I expect we’ll lose it sooner or later so I’ve planted several smaller trees (a white redbud, serviceberry and dogwood) over the past few years to help provide continuing shade if we lose the ash. I’ll probably plant another tree (not sure what…) in the proposed new beds.

All of the garden beds on the rough plan are there now except the bit on the left between the dashed line and the solid one. The rest of it has evolved piecemeal over the 8 years we've been here. We started at the back fence and gradually moved up towards the house. The beds on the north side were the last ones to go in. The planned beds behind the dashed line is my attempt to give what has become an awkwardly shaped lawn area a more pleasing shape. The only way to do that that jumped out at me was to make the beds on the north a rough mirror of those on the south - which means add the two beds indicated. (DH rolls his eyes at the thought of me digging up more of the lawn :-) I'm wondering if there is another way to address the lawn shape issue - or whether it's an issue at all.

You will notice there are a lot of narrow paths. I need those for maintenance access and canine exercise. The rough drawing is not sufficiently accurate with respect to scale to show that there is a slight difference in width of the paths between the main outer ring of paths plus the center one in the south beds and the secondary cross paths. But it has been pointed out to me by someone else that it would be better to make a greater distinction between the primary and secondary paths by making the primary ones noticeably wider than the secondary ones.

The paths along the fence are a case of 'don't fight the inevitable'. If you look at the linked album, you might notice a dog or two in a couple of the pictures. One of them is ours but we dog-sit regularly for various friends - two dogs are currently here for a three week visit, for example. Dogs inevitably run the fence lines. If I didn't put paths there, I'd soon have them anyway! Sometimes there are as many as 4 dogs here and the paths become their racetrack - but they largely stay out of the beds, preferring to wander (or race) around the paths instead. So I bowed to the inevitable and put paths along the fences to begin with - saves having to deal with a lot of dead plants :-) I have planted the north and south fences (which are chainlink…) with vines in an attempt to make the fences look more like just a vertical bed on the other side of the path.

There are pictures of various parts of the backyard garden in a Photobucket album that might help you get a feel for the ‘look’ I aim for and see what the space looked like this year.

Am I on the right track with the planned beds or should I do something different?

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