Monday, June 11, 2012

Another Privacy Screen

With all my posts about privacy screening projects, you may conclude that I try to hide from my neighbors!  Not true.  It's actually the opposite... I love to have my curtains open, and I am also outside on my porch a lot, and while I am not doing anything interesting (er, at least I don't think I am...) I worry that my neighbors are weary of seeing me. 

I've been struggling with the exposure from driveway end of my porch.  The order of things is this:  The short end of my porch, my narrow driveway, my neighbors' living room windows.  They are lovely people.  I could possibly call them friends and neighbors.  But day or night, they never close their blinds.  Now, I'll also say, I don't think they spend much time in their living room.  But I spend a lot of time on my porch.  And I've become a wee bit self conscious of all my porch sitting.

Most often I crawl out there post-shower (but appropriately dressed, I promise) with a beverage after a full day of working on a project, prop myself up and try not to pass out from happy exhaustion.  Wet hair, lounging clothes, my iPad or a book and an adult beverage.  Or, I am out there really late at night in the dark, just enjoying the solitude of my porch/street.  Or, it's Sunday morning, and I'm clutching my coffee and having my Sunday morning "cawfee tawk" (a la SNL) with my bestie in Minneapolis.  Point being ... I spend an enormous amount of time out there.  I.  Love. My. Porch.

For many months I have been crafting in my mind some type of privacy gizmo for the very narrow space between the porch and my driveway.  Here's the space I'm working with - I've angled my love seat in an attempt to shield the sitter... I used to have it backed up against the window...

I didn't really see planting plants directly into the ground here as an option for a couple of reasons.  One, there is a lot going on in the ground right there -- sprinkler water lines, electrical wiring -- that I really don't want to disturb.  Secondly, I already struggle with soil migrating from the bed into the driveway every time it rains, and I haven't been able to envision a type of edging that I like to hold it in place that could take occasional car tires...  As a result, I was envisioning either a raised planter or some type of wall.

I was going to do one of these:

The concept of a wooden screen was attractive to me because it would be uber easy to build and instantly full height.  Air would still pass through for circulation.  The hardest part would be digging the post holes for the support posts, and setting the posts in concrete.

I showed these two photos to one of the neighbors next door, and she liked the second, more open panel best. She said she actually likes seeing me sit out there and that that one doesn't provide total block out of vision.   But when I mentioned that I had although thought about a planter, she jumped on that idea.  I pressed her about it and she said she'd rather have a view of greenery versus wood.  I had to give her snaps for that.  A planter it would be.

I still had some wood left over from my neighbor's deck demolition - and quite frankly was weary of looking at it stacked in my carport.  I had used some of it to build a potting table (you can read about that here: but still had some left, and I just couldn't bring myself to put it out in bulky trash.

I did some measuring - the porch opening with allowance for the outdoor electrical outlet would accept a 5 foot long planter.  For width, I estimated that 12-15" would fit nicely.  I wanted the top of the planter to be even with the floor of the porch.  The similar height would help it blend in, I hoped.

Sunday began by laying out all the remaining reclaimed lumber in my carport by type of wood and length to assess what I had to work with.  Then I inspected the longer pieces for splitting and hard to remove nails.  I was a little shy of how much I needed to build the design I had in mind, so I had to modify it a bit - I would have liked to have two planks for the bottom, making the planter wider - but it's okay.  And I would have liked to have pieces that were a little less deteriorated for the legs - I really wanted to rip the leg planks and have two narrower pieces to wrap the corners, but I don't think the wood would have been strong enough to use in that way.  Nonetheless - I'm pleased with the end product - although it looks a bit like a horse trough to me.  (Recall the indoor buffet table* that I likened to a hitching post?  Hmmm..  I sense a theme... lol)

The lighter colored side

The darker colored side
The lumber, by virtue of having been part of a deck, has one side that was exposed to the elements and therefore is weathered and darker, and has one side that was the protected underside of the deck, and it is a lighter color.  It's sort of hard to see in these photos.  I built the planter so that one side is the light side (that matches my brick quite well) and one side is the darker wood - thinking that nobody can ever see both sides at once, and that the two colors give me versatility for placement.  I used that same dichotomy of color with my hanging frames on my back steps.

The finished planter is 5 feet long, only 11 inches front to back, 17 inches deep, and 24 inches tall; a funky size that I'd never find in a store, but it's the size needed for my space.  I challenged myself to use only the reclaimed lumber - no supplementing with new lumber.  Success!  I love the character that came from having to piece two shorter boards together for the front middle plank, and that there is some red lettering stamped on one of the boards from its previous life.
I thought that marked the end of my day.  I showered, but did my aforementioned post-project collapse in the living room, in the air conditioning.  It was ... hot outside. 

But after a respite, I mustered the energy to go buy the plants.  I wanted bamboo, but the guy at the nursery said the roots will expand so much over time that they would literally blow a wooden planter apart. Um, not a goal. Then I wanted horsetail, but we determined that when it got tall enough to be a screen, it would flop over. Well that won't work. We discussed Nandina and this other shrubby thing (the name of which I don't know but I've never liked it anyway...) but decided they would both get too woody (i.e. transparent) at the base. And so... the plants are red tipped Photinias. Mind-numbingly boring, but they grow fast, can be pruned to shape, and will make an effective screen. And, I had two random Home Depot gift cards, which made my plants cost just half what they should have. Score.

My across-the-street neighbor was out watering when I got home, and I asked her to help me move the planter from the backyard to it's new home - it is ridiculously heavy.  I had already determined that I was saving the actual planting for Monday morning, when it would be cooler outdoors.

Before setting the plants in, I laid in two layers of window screen (leftover from another project) at the bottom and partially up the sides of the planter to keep the soil from falling out the spaces between the planks.  I added 3 inches of rock (a bag the previous home owners had left behind the shed) for drainage.  On top of that, I added organic compost and  organic fertilizer.  I dropped the plants in, and filled in the spaces between the root balls with with organic potting soil.  I watered it all in with water from my rain barrels (newly full from our rain last week - yay!) 


Grow!  Grow!  Grow!

* Sideboard/hitching post: