Friday, May 13, 2011

Our not-so-great outdoors

Note: I originally published this yesterday, but at some point Blogger went down and took my post with it. Luckily I still had the copy in my Reader.

This probably wasn't the best day to take these pictures, since we had a monster storm yesterday and today it looks like we haven't mowed or weeded in a month. I promise it was last Saturday, no matter what it looks like.

My yard is on a five year plan--I figure it'll take at least that long to be able to afford everything I want to do--and this is year one. I really really hope that it looks better next year.

First, the entry. Ignore the water bottle on the ground, it's gone now.

Notice all the little "helicopter" seed pods on the ground? Our whole neighborhood looks like that. Those are from the enormous maple tree in the front yard. Eventually there will be some sort of plant life in this bed. Small shrubs, maybe, or something I can steal from my mom's perennials. Daylilies, irises, coneflower, etc. Right now it's holding part of the remains of one of the front bushes.

Speaking of the front:

I started out just wanting to give the bushes a trim. The first one was at least five feet tall, and they extended into the yard about six feet. However, when I got in there I discovered that since they hadn't been trimmed in a long time (years, if not decades) that the branches underneath were dead and twisted over each other. The one we've cut down had something that I think was powdery mildew. The very first one was actually completely dead and just pulled right out of the ground. So we are cutting them back and starting over. I don't really like them, but I've heard stories of people pulling out these types of bushes and having basement water problems. The root systems are pretty extensive and soak up a lot of water. So the bushes stay for now.

Now to go toward the backyard. This is the paver sidewalk leading from the driveway to the back gate. I'm facing the street here with my back to the backyard.

Eventually I want to extend the sidewalk down the driveway (not all the way, but further than the corner of the garage) and set the pavers in a wide bed of pea gravel, like so:

Maybe with a border like this:

Our sad patio.

The slab is cracked so eventually the concrete will have to come out. It's also kind of odd how they planned the yard, as you'll see, so I'd probably have to take it out even if it weren't cracked. But eventually I would like to replace the slab with pavers laid in a grid pattern with grass or ground cover between. Like this:

Although the pavers I have are smaller and cobblestone-stamped, so maybe not.

This is the area to the left in the patio photo up above.

As you can see, for some reason instead of extending the slab to the garage they left a small bed of gravel there. It's wide enough for the patio table to sit on, but completely useless. For now I'm taking the rocks up (my mom wants them for their patio) and...I don't know what's happening after that. I had thought about putting pea gravel or crushed marble there, too but it seems kind of pointless. Maybe I'll get a sand and water box for the kids and put it there since the spot is usually shady.

This is behind the patio, roughly in the lower right corner of the picture above.

This is to be the garden bed this year, although it's really too small to grow everything I want. And it was cleaned out, but this is how it looks after the storm. The timbers around it are rotted and need to come out, but I'm not entirely sure what to do with them. I'll have to call the city and find out. I'm not entirely sure what the rocks in the corner are supposed to be for. More gravel to get rid of, I guess.

This is further down the fence, next to the garden bed.

These are peonies, albeit not optimally placed peonies. There are three (soon to be two) trees back here. One is a very overgrown cherry bush, I think (the one next to the fence in the picture above), one (the one behind the swing set) is a locust and the last one, the one that's coming down because it's a huge mess, is a walnut tree. So we usually have a pretty shady yard--these are planted right next to the cherry tree--and peonies like more light. I'll probably transplant these in the fall. I'm not sure what colors they are yet, although I think at least two are going to be fuschia pink. One has darker-looking leaves so it might be a different variety. They've got tons of buds so in a week or two I'll know for sure.

The last bed, on the other side of the cherry tree:

There are two roses in there, although one is cut way back and probably won't bloom this year, and the little bush in the middle is a coneflower if I remember right. The rest is weeds. Weeding is neverending, even with the black weed mat (which really doesn't help--Preen is better).

Last but not least, our trashy fence for the dogs' area.

Again, I have no idea what that rock-edged bed on the left is for. There's never been anything planted there while we've lived here. Maybe they dug it up and took it with them, I don't know. The rocks are going to eventually be reused to edge an impatiens and hosta bed that will go around the giant maple tree in the front yard. Those are my go-to full shade plants, and the hostas can be split from the ones growing at my parents' house. The bushes in there are lilacs. I have no idea what color because last year they were too overgrown to bloom (or something) and got cut back to the ground. This year I don't know if they'll be big enough to bloom. There are actually four lilacs back here (there are two more a few feet to either side of the dog fence) and I'd say at least two will be getting moved. Not sure which two yet.

So there you have it. A very sad look at my yard and landscaping, although it is nice having so many perennials already in place and access to some others for just the labor of splitting them. Hopefully next year it'll look nicer and have at least a few things in their final spots.


  1. Love your idea of a pea gravel walk w/border. Also love your concept of a 5 year plan - that way you'll feel happy w/the progress you make each year. Thanks for your comment - my missing post just reappeared out of nowhere.

  2. Question: How much sun do those beds get?

    Suggestion #1: just saw the rotted timbers into "bite sized pieces" and put them in the garbage. They aren't really compost-able as they're pressure treated. They won't burn well. So, to the land fill they should go, I think.

    Suggestion #2: While you wait on resources to do things the way you'd like, you might want to a long row of giant sunflowers along the fence line. Kids can plant and watch them grow (quickly), and they are very impressive. Then you can plant something else fun underneath, like a squash or gourd or even beans.

  3. The above should read, "to grow a long row" not "to a long row". Sorry about that. :/

    And for an idea of how big the sun flowers get:

    The birds will love them too. Again, very kid friendly and fun and dramatic. That picture is from year one of the garden. One actually got ~15' tall. Last year, we had them all around the garden. People could see them from a block away.