All posts tagged: landscaping

Spring Garden, 2017!

Last spring/summer, I was working so much on other projects that I TOTALLY slacked on my garden. I don’t recall doing much in the way of planting, pruning, weeding, or watering. I didn’t even mulch! When fall rolled around, I didn’t split or move anything as I had planned to, and decided to deal with it all this spring. You know that old sleep, creep, leap adage? I failed to notice that last summer was my LEAP year! Sorry, plants. There was a lot going on.

Regardless, almost everything has at least survived, and most of it is doing very well! I feel like this garden thing has a longggggg way to go before I start feeling happy with it, but just having stuff maturing in the ground (the majority of which will probably end up getting transplanted as I settle on some semblance of a plan) is a good first step. It at least looks pretty healthy and happy and cute enough right now.

The first order of business this spring was a long overdue clean-out followed by fresh mulch! I had a lot of weeds to pull, some pruning, and raking out leaves and some of the existing mulch from two summers ago. It took me a long day or two of work to clean and spread about 50 bags worth of mulch in this area! All in I’ve put down about 100 bags of mulch in the yard this spring, but that includes the other side of the house and a couple areas in the back that I’m DYING to get some plants growing in. If I ever want some mature trees in my backyard, I better get on it!

By the way, I know buying that much bagged mulch might sound crazy to experience gardeners rather than getting a bulk delivery from a local nursery/landscape supply place, but I wasn’t sure how quickly I’d be able to use it all and didn’t want it all festering in a loose pile in the middle of my backyard while I figured it out. I probably spent a bit more money, but this year it felt worth it to keep things manageable. Hopefully in the future that won’t be the case!

For some reference, the angle is different but this is more or less how this area looked when I bought the house! I installed the black timber fence back there as a way to divide this area from the back and keep the dogs contained in the backyard, but as you can see the garden was just regular grass with a couple rhododendrons and a big clump of hosta at the time. The hosta was dug up and split a bunch, and I’ve been trying to get the rhododendrons into better shape for a couple of years.

ANYWAY! This coming fall, I PLEDGE to split up the hosta growing in front of the original wrought iron fence so they grow as more of a full hedge rather than super distinct individual plants. I think that’ll look much nicer, and save me from having to weed/mulch as much as I currently do. That kind of goes for everything—I’m really looking forward to the day when I don’t have to mulch as much because most of the ground is occupied by plants! Those hostas have been growing steadily since I first transplanted them a few years ago, so they should respond very well to being split.

Also you can see that the creeping jenny has really started to take off—yay! I think I’ll transplant quite a bit of it for use elsewhere, but considering how little these were when I planted them, I’m tickled by the growth!

The rhododendrons probably hit their peak last week. So many flowers! Once they’re done blooming, I’ll do some somewhat aggressive pruning as part of my years-long mission to get them into a shape and size that feels nice and not too big for this location. We’ll see.

You can kind of see that the boxwood “hedge” behind them is doing quite well! I gave them all a little haircut when I was mulching which should help stimulate some nice dense growth. These are only a couple of years old, so probably still a couple years away from a real hedge coming to fruition.

I planted a strip of homeless day lilies in front of the rhododendrons, and now I don’t know why I did that! They’ve multiplied probably by triple in the time since, and I don’t even particularly like them, and they’re difficult to get rid of! Oopsie. I’ll transport them sometime soon…day lilies are ridiculously hearty and seem to survive almost anything.

Back along the black fence, I planted three hydrangeas way back when, and I think it’s safe to say that they are not happy. They’ve been healthy enough, but haven’t bloomed well or increased significantly in size, so I think this location is just no bueno for them. I’d guess they don’t get enough rain because of the huge spruce tree, and maybe too much shade.

In front of the hydrangeas, it’s a much happier story! All those purple bearded irises came from one small patch planted by the garage when I bought the house, and they’ve taken off really well. I love irises!

In the foreground, you can see the “wine and rose” weigela with the pink flowers! I planted three of these in a little cluster and they’re all doing well. Once they’re done blooming, these can get some pruning action too—they’re starting to get a little leggy and that should help them keep a more appealing and healthier shape.

There are a few more clumps of iris planted right behind the wrought iron fence.

Also back in there are a couple of oakleaf hydrangeas, which are doing OK but, like the other hydrangeas, don’t seem to love their location. There are two smallish pine trees growing sort of close to them in this front garden space, and I think they may be part of the problem—both because of the shade they cast and the water they hog. I’ve been thinking a lot about cutting them down, but I definitely want some other evergreen things growing before I do that so the yard doesn’t look too barren. More on that soon!

Up toward the front, the false indigo/Baptista is doing great! I love love these plants. These have HUGE root systems and don’t take well to being transplanted, apparently, so hopefully I can work around it as I keep futzing. It’s amazing how quickly these get so tall after starting from nothing at the beginning of spring!

The peonies aren’t quitttttteeee there yet, but I do expect some good blooms this summer! I think the location of these is also too shady for them to thrive as well as they could. I loveeee peonies and just want MORE MORE MORE—particularly tree varieties and ones that shouldn’t require staking. I planted some peonies as a kid that are still growing at the house I grew up in, and I desperately wish I had dug some of them up before my parents moved. Especially with perennials that can be split, it’s such a nice way to keep your plants with you! I guess I could still do it, but I’d have to be sneaky. Don’t put it past me.

Over on the other side of the front door, the much smaller front garden area is doing really well! I planted most of this stuff two summers ago, which means that this is year three! So according to sleep, creep, leap, this side of the garden is leaping this year! I’m not sure I’d quite say that, but it does seem to be thriving. Like the other side, I do picture transplanting most of this stuff as I figure it all out.

This type of weigela is different than the type on the other side of the garden, but doing just as well! Such a cute plant!

I have to say, I’m really impressed with these deutzia—this variety is called Chardonnay Pearl which sounds like a pornstar but is really a lovely, hearty little plant. These were bought off the clearance rack at a big box garden center, then sat in their plastic pots over a winter because I didn’t get my act together to plant them, then survived and got thrown in the ground, and now a year or two later they look great! The foliage is a nice vibrant kind of acid-green, and the little tiny white flowers seem to last a long time. You go, Chardonnay Pearls!

There are a few irises planted to the right of the front door, but these are different than on the other side of the yard! These are special—they came from my dear friend John’s grandmother’s property that they’ve owned since, like, Civil War times. He brought a few up to New York with him when he bought his first home in this area around 20 years ago, planted them there, and now there are hundreds of them! We went to visit the house just for fun a couple years ago, and we couldn’t help but leave with a few. I love having them here. Keep multiplying, irises!

 

That’s pretty much how everything is looking! With respect to landscaping, this summer/fall will be about trying to fill in the more bare spots in these areas, but mainly I’ll be working on the whole other street-facing side of the house, which has almost no plants at all! It’s all freshly graded and mulched (I just had to get it down before the weeds could take over), and I’m really excited to get some stuff going over there. There are a few things with the whole side-of-house-restoration project from last summer to wrap up and it’s easier to get that stuff done before having to avoid stepping on new plants, so I really have to knock out those remaining items so I can get some things in the ground!

Tour: The Exterior!

aerialview

At long last, the exterior!

frontview

This is our house from the street! When we first saw the house over the winter, there was about a foot of snow on the ground and it was impossible to tell what was going on with the yard, but by the time we closed, the yard had become completely overtaken by tall grass and weeds. Over the first couple of days, Max worked really hard to mow the grass and clean up what we have. It’s really important to us that after 2 years of vacancy, the house finally looks like somebody is taking care of it. That goes a long way in the neighborhood, too.

Even though the exterior needs a lot of work eventually, we’re really lucky that it already looks pretty cute without doing anything major! The bones are there. Most of the houses in our neighborhood are on smaller properties and lean toward more traditional Victorian details, but ours has a larger piece of land and looks pretty different architecturally from everything around it——which, to me at least, might be another indication that it’s older than a lot of the surrounding houses. We’ve yet to pinpoint a date, but we’ve done some preliminary research. I’ll write a post about some history when we know more!

ANYWAY. At some point, probably in the 70s, vinyl siding was installed on all the exterior walls, but the original clapboard is right underneath. Even though I want to rip all the vinyl off and restore the clapboard RIGHT NOW, we’re definitely going to wait on that for a while. Since the vinyl is white, it doesn’t really impede on the look of the house very much, and we have no idea what we’re going to find underneath. As with the inside of the house, it just isn’t wise to start exposing anything that we’re not ready to deal with yet. Sometimes people tear off vinyl to find the clapboard in great shape and easy to restore, and some people end up with lots of rot——and then tons of time and money——to restore it. Obviously, when the time comes, I’m hoping that we find the former, and I’m also hoping that whatever nice moldings used to exist around the windows are still there.

frontdoor

I really love the crazy entry with the crazy columns, which are repeated on the porch off to the side. The banisters extending between the front columns and the house are definitely a newer addition, but they’re OK enough for now. The concrete needs to be re-faced at some point and the steps could use a little restoration, but nothing is so far gone that it all needs to happen this instant.

I love the front doors. I’m debating trying to strip the doors and stain/seal them so that they’re natural wood, but that might also make me insane. Maybe they just need to be black? I like a “pop of color door” as much as the next person, but I really don’t think it’s right for this house.

knob

Cool hardware, just for fun. The locks still work!

side1

I love the little wrought-iron fence that covers the front and part of the side of the house. So cute! When we can finally landscape, I really don’t want to have any sod at all at the front of the house or on this side. We have plenty of yard in the back, and grass is a pain to maintain (WE JUST MOWED THIS.) and isn’t the most environmentally friendly choice. Can’t you just see it with beautiful luscious gardens all along the front and side? It will be so nice.

side2

The side view of the house is where it kind of starts to look a little bit Frankenstein. My guess is that the original house had one bay window on the first floor, and later (when the side porch and kitchen sections were added), that second bump-out on the top was also put in. But I don’t know! I’d love to find an old picture of the house from this angle.

sidegarage

There’s a garage! Crazy. We can’t actually get in to the garage from the street because of the fence (it doesn’t appear to open in front of the garage door!), but eventually I’d love to set up a little workshop space in the garage and use it as an actual garage. I have no idea if the garage is original to the property, but it is really old. Evidently when the house was on the market, some improvements were made to the garage (apparently it was falling down…yikes), but it seems very solid now. It even has a new roof!

backmudroom

This is the mudroom from the outside. See how it’s weird and big? See how the window is tiny and strange? See how there’s that awful set of exterior stairs and that silly little flower bed? See how there’s a huge weed/tree growing from the crawlspace underneath?

Oy vey. I don’t know. SOMEDAY (most used word in the post?), I actually think it would be nice to shrink the mudroom by about half the depth, move the door to face the garage, and then put a set of stairs up to it on the wall where there’s currently that tiny window. Does that make any sense? As it is, the mudroom is silly-huge (about 9′ x 10′) and just looks like such a janky little add-on.

backofhouse

This picture is taken from the back corner of the yard. Those steps to the second floor! I want them to disappear. I’m sure they were required by code when the house was two units, but since we’re converting it, I’m guessing it will be OK to take them out. Obviously we’ll make sure and permit properly and all that…when the time comes.

That big tree (some type of maple? maybe?) is really nice, but unfortunately it’s kind of rotted at the base and probably needs to be removed. This makes me a little sad.

So. The asphalt. BEHOLD:

backyard2

Remember that thing I said about the house being covered in snow when we saw it the first time? Amazing what a foot of snow will make disappear. Apparently, between making the house into two units and owning several cars, the previous owner decided that paving, like, half the yard was a great plan. We’ll definitely come up with a whole landscaping plan before totally getting rid of it, but I’m pretty sure it all has to go. How hard is it to use a jackhammer? Honest question.

You can kind of tell in this picture that on the backside of the garage, there’s a pretty sizable flower bed made of cinderblocks. I call it our weed garden! For the sake of our verrrrry preliminary attempts at landscaping, I think it would be worthwhile to clean this planting bed up, pull all the weeds, and maybe plant some veggies or something in it. Right now, it’s crazzzzzy. Some of those weeds are taller than me.

There’s a small strip of land on the outer edge of the garage, too (about 5 feet), which is also completely overrun by weeds. I think I’d like to put gravel in this area and put a compost bin back there.

asphalt

That back fence is like a crazy jungle nightmare mess. I did a little exploring and found that there are actually a few nice-looking bushes/trees hiding in all of that, along with a bunch of daylilies bordering the pavement. That neighbor also has a wood fence, which is nice for privacy, so I’m kind of anxious to at least get this area a little cleaned up.

backyard1

Finally, some grass! Once we’re able to replace the chain-link fence, I’d like to plant some more privacy trees lining the fence to the right (behind that green house is a very low-traffic commercial business, which would be nice to block out a little bit!), then probably reserve a lot of this area for grass. The whole reason we were so excited to have so much yard is because it gives Mekko enough space to get her ya-yas out, and I’m sure she’d appreciate not running all over asphalt. Although she also doesn’t seem to mind at all.

sideyard

The side of the house is where the best part of the yard is——just some grass and that big tree. The house doesn’t have a dryer, hence the clothesline. I’ve never made a habit of air-drying my laundry, but I have to say, it really works! Everything smells good and dries fast and it’s kind of awesome. We definitely want to get a dryer, but it’s kind of nice that this option is here, at least as long as we have the tree.

sidebathroom

The window on the left is the laundry room, right is the bathroom, and far left are the big living room windows. Sorry if you’re so lost!

But look! Somebody had a little garden here at one point. And a huge affinity for Hosta. Hosta and day lilies is how this yard was landscaped. Definitely room for a little more diversity.

The little slate path bordering the house is super cute. Max bought those little solar-powered outdoor lights for a few dollars a piece, and they actually make a big difference to the look and feel of the yard at night. They work really well, too.

porch

Back at the front of the house is the porch. I love the porch! We need to get some furniture or something for it, but it’ll be nice to hang out on. The people in our neighborhood have been very friendly and social, so it’ll be nice to sit out there and chat with everyone. There are some nice plants in front of the porch. A couple of them are a little too big and overpowering, but we might be able to prune them back or relocate and replace with something else, too.

I know this yard (and the exterior, generally) are going to take a ton of work and a lot of upkeep and maintenance and a future full of back-breaking labor and weird sunburns and probably an inadvertent brush with poison ivy (or several), but we’re so excited. Almost as excited as Mekko, who has eased into her role as Squirrel Patroller with all the tenacity and panache that Linus puts into sunbathing.

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