Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Uninspired, but busy! The story of our landscaping…

The title says it all. Despite being pretty busy these days, I am feeling a bit uninspired and didn’t want to just bore you with drivel. But now it’s been a week, so I guess… bore away! ;) No, no – I’ll try harder! (Also, our landscaping is totally uninspired and very busy...)

So busy, you say? Yes… A bit. In all my house buying posts, I think I mentioned that the house we bought needed a bit of work. I mean – not so much a fixer upper as “well cared for” in real estate parlance – i.e., nothing has been updated in YEARS. We did a bit, but then ran short on time, money, stamina and stopped for a bit. But as it got warmer outside we realized that “well cared for” did not extend to our yard. Nothing had been done there – even basic upkeep – in a LONG, LONG time. We have this small fenced in area behind the house, but then our yard extends much further beyond the fence (not like miles – like our yard is maybe 2 or 2.5x as big as the small fenced part) and that was crazy overgrown. Just unusable. In the front, we have a big oak right in front of the house surrounded by ivy – crazy ivy everywhere! As we can’t seem to grow grass (apparently oaks suck up a lot of water? Who knew?), the ivy was ground cover. But now one had kept it in check – it extended into the back and even into the “woods” behind us. Then to the side (still in the front), we have another little “forest” (ok, not really – it’s small. But so overgrown you can’t walk through it. I tried raking it in the spring and 10 bags later you couldn’t tell I’d done anything.)

We needed to get to work. My husband started pulling out the overgrowth in front of the house (azalea bushes that hadn’t been trimmed back in this millennium and other overgrowth). As he did, he found a huge stump a few feet from the house – old and rotten and just never removed. He took load after load to the dump. This was getting old…

So we decided to rent a dumpster. We had SO MUCH undergrowth to attack, but also there were several trees that needed to come down. Dead and dying ones. Ones that abutted the house ruining our roof, whose roots were headed into the foundation. Ones that should have been trimmed back years ago! The dumpster arrived last Monday and work commenced. My husband started pulling out brush and cutting down trees while I was at work and my Mom stayed with us to watch the baby. In a couple of days, the dumpster was pretty full. We called to see about replacing it (and this is where it gets hairy). Due to miscommunication, we thought the replacement was included in our contract – but really, it was a whole new dumpster. It arrived Thursday morning and was half full by the end of the day. As we thought the replacements were included, I suggested that maybe we should get a new one on Friday in case they couldn’t deliver on the weekends. We ordered one. But that evening, my husband thought through his conversation with the dumpster company. Had they actually said it was included? Well, no. And it didn’t really make sense to include it… I mean, they were expensive to get out to us. He called them back. Not included. This was a whole new dumpster / new contract / new fee. Crap! We cancelled the 3rd one coming and the guy was really nice and gave us a bit of a discount (about 20%). So now we are filling the hell out of this thing.

Now I don’t like to think of myself as a “girly” girl, but really – I’m not exactly great with the Great Outdoors. Each day I’ve been helping us clear things out I’ve attired myself in long pants tucked into my socks (just to make sure I look as dorky as possible), a shirt, a hat (God knows what creepy crawlies are out there!) and more bug spray than you can imagine! Then I’ve gone about tripping over myself as I haul away branches and wheel barrows – stopping to think, I look like a bad tv show / movie about idiots in the woods as the branches manage to catch on the fence as I pass and then hit me in the face.

But the progress has been amazing. We managed to create a huge clearing beyond our fence (that might once day house a swing set or maybe a little patio. Or, per my husband, a pit bbq…) on Thursday. On Friday morning we looked out and saw four large bucks standing in! Of course we weren’t on top of getting pictures, but man, it was really cool! My husband said he also saw a lone Indian crying out there and maybe the Lorax…

Once all the bigger stuff was gone we moved on to the mind numbingly repetitive / boring part… Cutting back the brush, raking out all the leaves, getting all the small crap into the dumpster. Kill me now. While I worked on this, my husband started attacking the stumps (so his work was more back breakingly hard than mind numbingly boring). I’ve suggested we paint the remainder of the larger ones and make them into little tables for a play area for my daughter (I think I saw that on a home improvement show once… something like that…).

Anyway, the hard labor continues. The real problem with it all that my husband noted is that the place was SO overgrown before that despite a week of hard work, no one would look at yard and think – wow, that looks amazing! Or even really good. We’ve just barely gotten it up to the clean slate of what it “should” look like now. On the “amazing” front… I can’t even pick out paint colors (When I was at my old job, we painted the condo bedrooms. I got the intern (marketing) to pick out the colors for me because I was too lame to figure it out for myself. And my husband is color blind.). I don’t think I’m going to do well with trees…

So if you have any suggestions for plantings that do well without a ton of sun and oak trees soaking up all the moisture (is there a grass that will survive this?), let me know! Or any great (and super cheap) design ideas? Or ways to get cheap materials? We have space – not great space, but space. And maybe even some skill (the “we” here refers entirely to my husband). But creativity and vision… it’s always something, isn’t it?


  1. Check with your local city or county. Most have free mulch that they give away from their tree and leaf pick ups. Use the mulch under your oak trees and you can make a free form of mulch that you won't have much up-keep with.

    Hosta, pachasandra, abelia, and ajuga are great for the shade and all have some type of flowers. Go to a privately owned (no chains) garden center and ask what they suggest you use in the shade. Take a notebook and write down what you like. Then do some research on line and slowly build you landscape. Remember if you buy smaller plants, you need to leave room for them to grow. Always remember that all plants need room to grow! So don't plant them too close! And by all means don't forget to mulch or all that hard work you put in to planting will be lost to dying plants!

    Good luck and send pictures!

    Come visit when you can...


  2. I am useless when it comes to landscaping, so I have no advice. I do have encouragement, though, which is to say that I'm impressed with how much you've done so far. If you take pictures, you'll be able to prove the progress to yourselves when you're feeling discouraged by the volume of work remaining. Good luck!!

  3. Ahhh. I know NOTHING about landscaping. NOTHING.

    *Blank face*

    Keep up the good work.

    The Bottomless Pit sometimes builds stone walls as a hobby. He takes forevvvver doing it because he gets a little too into it, but they end up being beautiful. He did a little stone pond and waterfall for a guy not too long ago.

    He volunteered me to bake. AGAIN. So. Want him to build you a waterfall? I'll send him right over. ;D


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