A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Rethinking the Box

Over the past couple of years I decided that my box o’ grasses wasn’t really working out as I desired. Initially I wanted them to act as a privacy hedge from our neighbor’s yard, and while eventually they did, it would take half the summer before they got tall enough.

The grasses in late May

The grasses in late May

Grasses in mid-June

Grasses in mid-June

There were a couple other issues. One, it was getting to be a pain to cut them back every spring and they created way too much plant waste that we had to get rid of in our landscape waste pickup. Secondly they splayed out a bit, which meant the grass was either tickling the backs of our necks as we sat in the Adirondack chairs on the gravel patio, or we had to pull our chairs halfway up the patio, which meant that there wasn’t room for much else there.


Grasses splaying out, early fall

Skyrocket juniper as accent behind fountain

Skinny juniper as accent behind fountain

I also wasn’t crazy about how the grasses looked next our skinny Skyrocket Juniper, which acts as an accent piece in line with the fountain, and also separates the space between the gravel patio and our flagstone patio.

I didn’t want to get rid of the cedar box we built, so I needed to find a good substitute for the grasses.

Earlier in the summer I went to Lurvey’s, our local garden center, to get some ideas. I thought something evergreen might be nice, but something like Arborvitae would be too big for the box, and we already had some on the other end of the property. Someone at Lurvey’s suggested Pencil Holly. They only had one available though, and because the box is so long it would have taken a LOT of those to fill it up. Still, maybe a few of those along with some other things would work.

The other suggestion was to use vines, which meant we would also have to build a trellis for it.

I decided that would be our best option and went ahead and bought several Trumpet vines. I know they’re vigorous climbers, and these would be contained and therefore (hopefully) more easily manageable.

Well, they ended up sitting it their containers for a good part of the summer. At one point I was afraid they weren’t going to make it but we amped up our watering and they recovered.

Finally, a few weeks ago we cut down and dug up all the grasses. Not a fun job.

I drew up some plans to mimic the design of our pergola. Luckily we had a bunch of lumber left over from the pergola so we got to use it all up and just needed 10 more 2x2s. We attached the framing to the box, matching the height of the cross braces to the pergola.

Matching the framing height to the pergola

Matching the framing height to the pergola

Framing for the trellis

Framing for the trellis

We added corners to strengthen it. I planted one variety of trumpet vine in each corner, and a different one in the middle section.

Mimicking the pergola design

Mimicking the pergola design

There are a couple of finishing touches I need to make, which will go in those 2 empty spaces. That will take a couple weeks and I don’t want to reveal what those are just yet. 🙂


I’m happy with the result so far. For only about $200 for plants and additional lumber, we have a privacy fence without building a fence!


  1. Jan Hunyady on September 4, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    I have a couple of Trumpet vines in a color they call red but actually looks like orange. In our area you can only buy Red (orange) and Yellow.

    They are vigorous growers and can grow underground and come up in a crack 10 ft away.

    The trellis look great.

    • denise on September 5, 2016 at 8:11 am

      Yes I think these are red. It kind of scares me about the underground growth. We had that problem with the Smooth Sumac we planted and there were underground roots going everywhere, including our neighbor’s lawn!

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