We fixed the uglies by putting brick over the concrete, but it didn't do much to soften the drop off. Shrubs are always the answer when there's a decorating problem outside, so four skinny little redtwig dogwoods were planted in a row.
These are Cornus sericea 'Isanti' named for the Minnesota county where it was introduced (the county itself named for the Santee Sioux).
Redtwig dogwoods can get very rangy, but this cultivar was advertised to grow compactly to only 5 feet tall, just enough to come up over the 3 foot brick face and then another 2 feet to create a low wall of greenery along the open edge.
A year later they were still little, but showed promise.
Species redtwig dogwoods will get really huge, and will sucker. This smaller cultivar is nicer in so many ways.
After five years I could not be happier with them. Unlike many of my gardening solutions, this one worked beautifully. Right size, full shape, a loose look that billows without looking too unkempt by the front door.
But wait, there's more!
There are pretty flowers in spring.
And the characteristic red stems in winter.
Cornus sericea is a suckering shrub, and it is easy to cut rooted stems off and replant them. I created another stand of redtwig dogwoods behind my dry creek bed just from a few random rooted cuttings that I took from this row.
I have not pruned these yet, other than to take off the more rambunctious branches that reached toward the front door. But you can cut them all the way back and they'll regenerate.
Or you can cut out just the bigger older stems and leave the younger shoots. That is supposed to assure good red color, since it is the newer stems that are reddest.
I spend a lot of time on this blog lamenting my mistakes and all the goofs I have made in my gardening career. This is not one of them.
Planting Isanti redtwig dogwoods was the perfect solution.
Rob Woodman at The British Gardener did an excellent three part profile of shrub dogwoods here, here, and here. Check out his posts for some great info!