Category Archives: garden

FENCE! (does that express our excitement?)

After the DAYS of ivy removal and then the joy of bamboo removal, it was finally time for the new fence!  Timing for everything worked out really well.  We felt like we really cleared out as much as possible before the new fence went up and were excited that once it was up, we’d be at the point of really starting to transform the yard.

Two days before the contractors showed up, we also got another big delivery…

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PLANTS…lots and lots of new plants!  4 hours in a nursery with a toddler, now that’s a story for another post.  For now, we had a patio full of plants and on that Friday morning, this rolled in:

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That’s a lot of lumber and I have to move NONE of it! In 30 minutes we went from this:

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To this:
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I’m not going to lie, it was really nice not having a fence at all.  I considered (for about 1 minute) the idea of not putting one back in and letting our yard feel like it goes on beyond the alley to the back lot of another property.  Reality then set in, of course, and the guys got to work setting the posts.

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Things went quickly once they got rolling and it was exciting to FINALLY have a real fence in place.  Of course, they also removed and rebuilt the side panels from the house to the neighbor’s properties to match.

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So long nasty, broken, wobbly, rotting, barely operable fences and gates, it’s really been great living the last year with you.  Now that I’ve gotten you to this point, I’ll have to leave you with a little teaser.  Since the new fence went up, we jumped right into getting the landscaping in and haven’t actually taken finished photos.  Crazy, right?  Sorry about that.  In the meantime…

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2 Comments

May 22, 2014 · 3:24 pm

Bamb-who?

Along with Ivy, Bamboo was another ‘wonderful’ addition to our backyard landscape.  Don’t get me wrong, I actually really LIKE bamboo and think that it’s structure, height, and leaves are very pleasant and add a nice structure to landscapes… in pots or VERY well crafted planters.  Using bamboo to create planted ‘walls’ and a place is great.  When you create such a place in the middle of the open lawn with NO boundaries to contain the bamboo, then you get a big ‘ole mess of nasty that takes over the yard.  This was the secret garden in our yard:

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Lovely, Huh?  I cut back about 1/2 of the bamboo in the fall to get a better idea of what was really in there and this was what it looked like this spring.  Originally nestled between 2 large trees, I imagine at one time created a very pleasant oasis.  In fact, we uncovered a lot of stones that created a little patio within the bamboo jungle.  It was the intention that after all the ivy removal, I would take on the bamboo removal.  Everyone balked that I would say that.  Neighbors responded with ‘good luck’ or ‘yeah, we tried too’ and even ‘no way in hell will you get that all out’.  But I was determined.  After day three of ivy removal, I was exhausted but very pleased with all the progress!  I grabbed my trusty pick-axe and shovel and walked across the yard to the jungle.  With the new fence installation about to be scheduled, I was on over-drive to clear out as much as possible before it’s arrival.  I found a little batch of young bamboo shoots furthest from the main jungle and thought I’d start there and work inward.  One, two, three thrusts of the pick-axe and… nothing moved.  Not an inch.  What the hell was I thinking?  I’m exhausted!  I threw the pick-axe onto the ground and walked away.  It was decided.  Everyone was right, ha, there was no way I was tackling this myself.  The next day, I called a landscape crew; they came that night for an estimate.  It was half the price of a previous estimate, so they got the job.  Three days later this happened:

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Daycare was closed that day and Naomi was selected as a jury and sitting in a trial, so Gabriella was home with me when the ‘truck’ showed up.  She loved EVERY MINUTE of it and could not stop watching.  It couldn’t have been any cuter.  In the end, this is what we were left with:

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A 95% bamboo free side yard that had been seeded and strawed.  And look how HUGE it is.  We truly had no idea how much space was over there and it completely opened up the yard.  We just spotted little grass seedlings popping up today so it’s well on it’s way to becoming a previously-useless-but-now-full-of-grass-and-open-air section of our yard.

Ivy removal- check

Bamboo removal – check!

Up next, NEW FENCE!  The crew was here last Friday to remove the old fence and build the new one.  It’s unbelievable what the yard is looking like now!

 

2 Comments

May 16, 2014 · 2:27 pm

April showers, brings May landscape overhaul?

We’ve lived in this house for just under one year now!  It’s hard to believe because sometimes it feels like we just moved in with lots of unfinished little projects; other times it feels like we’ve been here for much longer.  But the truth is that moving day was May 18th so we’re officially coming up on our one year in this house anniversary.  Crazy what we’ve been able to do in that time and yet, there was one large area of our home that had seen very little improvement.  Sure, we ‘maintained’ what we inherited and made some very modest improvements in order to get through the summer, but let’s face it, we were busy unpacking and trying to get our new LIFE in order to really worry about too much more.  The YARD.  One of the things we LOVED about this house was the flat, open, manageable sized yard.  Well, we loved what the yard could be.  We knew that buried under years of neglect and layers upon layers of leaves, ivy, dirt, ivy, ivy, bamboo, and some more ivy, there was a great outdoor space for us!

We thought this year, we’d tackle a new fence and a phase one round of improvements, but once we decided to hold a large outdoor event at our house in mid-august, we decided to bite the bullet and do a more complete overhaul of the yard.

Here’s what we started with when we saw the house:

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Ok- from a distance, it doesn’t look THAT bad.  Trust me, it was.  First step was finally taking care of the fence.  It clearly had seen better days and was in need of a complete removal.  There really was no saving it because some years back, a tree along the back property line had fallen (onto the garage, no less) and when the roots up-rooted, it took the fence up with it.  Hence the current condition with our fence lifted at one point and leaning into the alley in that spot while leaning into the yard at the other end.  The side fence pieces from the house to our neighbor’s  were also barely holding on.  The left side literally blew down one day and the right side with the gate was hardly operable.  No saving them either, they all had to go.

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We got 3 estimates for the fence.  Two large companies that have done a lot of work in the neighborhood and a smaller, local landscape company.  In the end, price and product led us to contract with one of the large fence companies.  We’re basically installing the new fence in the same location as the existing, except we’re adding a larger gate by the garage and moving the short fence line into the yard by 4 feet in order to create a larger parking pad off the alley in front of our garage.  Not that parking is ever a problem in our neighborhood, but we figured we might as well plan the new fence to allow for it now because we wouldn’t want to have to modify the new fence in the future.  Also, fences are expensive!  We’re hoping to do this now and NEVER AGAIN!  Fence install day is Friday (TODAY!) so we’ll show you how that turns out in a future post!

Our to do list included more ivy removal.  We knew we’d have a few weeks before the fence was installed so we figured we’d take the opportunity to clear out the ivy along the fence line so that once the new fence is in, the area would be cleared and done.  Ivy. UGH. I’d like to meet the person who thought, ‘Oh, what a lovely green plant that has no fragrance, no flowers, and no real purpose in life.  Yes, let’s plant it everywhere and let it cover the ground, climb the walls of the house, climb the trunks of all the trees and, my favorite, spread through the lawn creating a desert condition on the ground that no longer supports the growth of anything more than a collection of weeds.’  Oh, what I’d say to that person… anyway.  We know that ridding the property 100% of ivy is not realistic, but we wanted to give ourselves the best chance to maintain its removal which meant that we had to dig out as much of the plant and roots as possible.

And so we set out on the ivy clearing, pulling one root strand at a time.  A pick-axe, shovel, and three 12 hour days of physical labor, and the yard went from this:

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to this:

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The yard was already looking better and BIGGER!  We packed 14 contractor bags full on ivy vines.  JUST THE VINES…14 bags!  It was ridiculous and we’re so glad to get it out of here!  In the process, we uncovered a stone retaining wall which was a nice surprise.  It wasn’t huge but we dug out all the stones and stock piled them for use elsewhere in the yard makeover.  It may not look like a lot in these photos, but trust me, the yard was taking shape.

Up next in the yard overhaul…Taking care of the bamboo jungle once and for all!

1 Comment

May 9, 2014 · 10:15 am

Knock, Knock…

… who’s there?  Not sure, but I’ll tell you who’s (or what’s) NOT there.  Let’s back up a little, shall we.  When we walked up to this house, we could barely find the front door behind the behemoth, overgrown, green monster.  Exhibit #1:

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Ok, so you might be thinking, “That’s not that bad.  It’s kind of nice to have a full shrub frame the front door.”  Maybe?  But then this happened, Exhibit #2:

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Yeah, that shrub grew 3 feet taller this summer.  We trimmed it twice and it just. kept. growing!  For some scale, you can see the size of a person (me) below holding G.

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That shrub also made it nearly impossible to walk around the house to the trash cans and back yard.  You actually had to walk on the grass just to get around it.  It’s size, inconvenience, and the fact that we really didn’t care for it all led to ‘someday we should remove it.  Hey, maybe we just transplant it to the side of the house for some instant impact?’  Well that day happened when it had been raining and I ran some trash out to the trash can and accidentally rubbed up against some of the branches and found myself soaked because all the leaves basically dumped water on me from head to toe as I tried to squeeze around it.

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That weekend was the time to say goodbye.

I figured it would take some muscle, but there seemed to be a decent amount of soil space at the base, so I grabbed the shovel and went on a mission.  Not without my little helper, of course:

No idea what expression is on our faces.

G thought she could handle it, so we let her take a few shots:

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What can I say?  She’s her father’s daughter. 🙂

Then the real work happened:

G was sure to supervise.

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You can see, transplanting this monster was a non-starter.  What we discovered was that the shrub was actually growing OVER the original concrete walkway to the side of the house.  Rather than trim the bush back, at some point, one of the previous owners simply poured another concrete walk next to the original one.  The only way this beast was coming out was to cut it back and spend 24 solid working hours using a shovel to VERY slowly, inch by inch dig out the root balls of the TWO adjacent shrubs.

Exhaustion and success after FINALLY getting the first root ball out!

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Milk Break while daddy starts on root ball #2!

After a her refreshing beverage, G had to get back into the action.  She wanted to show me the best way to remove the remaining surface roots:

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“Look, I can use two tools at once, why is this taking so long?”

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Digging, cursing, digging, sweating, sweating, cursing, cursing, sweating… and hours later, we finally had this:

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Do you not share in our excitement?!  Let’s show you a comparison:

Before

After!

Such an improvement, right?

Well after all that work, we decided it was playtime… (enter gratuitous photos or our little lady)…

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and garden… (seriously, her father’s daughter!)

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We’ve been busy around here and are working to get some updates out- new windows, unpacking, new deck, and some built in shelves to name a few.

2 Comments

October 25, 2013 · 8:57 pm

well, what do we have here?

These?

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Oh, these are just our FINAL INSPECTION sign-offs!  FINALLY, after our ‘6-8 week, tops’ project as promised by our contractor turned into FOUR AND A HALF MONTHS, we are finally complete with all the work they were contracted to perform and our final inspections have passed.  If I heard one more time, ‘I just don’t understand, I’ve never had this happen before with so-and-so subcontractor?!?’ I was about to lose my sh#t!

We’ve spent the last few weeks trying to make the place feel more like home on the inside, and have been trying to make the outside, well, the best version of its current self.  We have big plans for the landscaping in both the front and the back, but need some time to really plan it all out before investing too much.  In an effort to increase our curb appeal, our first step was to try and finally get some grass to grow in the large hole in the front yard where a tree had been removed years before.

Disregard the huge crane on the lawn (don’t you have one of those too?! :P). You can see the large, barren wasteland right in front here with no grass to speak of.

This area had become the neighborhood’s largest dandelion patch and it was time for them to go.  Oh, and these were no ordinary dandelions, no no no, these were those that had thorns and fight back when you try to remove them! After carefully digging out each and every one of them, we threw down some grass seed, covered it with some grass clippings from the rest of the yard and watered.

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And waited.  And watered. And waited.  After about a week and a half with no action, I thought I had done something wrong.  Is it even possible to seed grass improperly!?  I was at a loss.  Just as I was about to give up, we saw these little guys!

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Ah-ha, success!!  I continued watering the patch every day and about once a week, I would go out there and carefully weed out all those darn thorny dandelions that insisted on coming back.  Just about a month later, the large hole is about 1/2 filled in and the rest still has some tiny seedlings plugging along.

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Going on vacation for 5 days without watering didn’t help the little guys and they got a little yellow.  I don’t think they’re dead, just moving a little slowly.  Still, an improvement over where we started.  For now we’ll leave it and see what happens, but in the fall we’ll do a more robust seeding of the entire front yard.  Hopefully that will give us a nice full lawn next spring!  A quick comparison of where we were a few months ago.

What we bought.

Where we are now!

(ps- the fact that these shots almost EXACTLY line up is a complete accident!)

This flower bed is a combo of found plants, new plants and recycled potted magnolia trees from the front of our old house (btw, they seem to love their new spot even more since they’re not baking between brick and asphalt!).

As for the back, we cleaned up the patio and the border planting area that we discovered with some new plants and some transplants from elsewhere in the yard.  We’ve found that the little bunny family living in our bamboo jungle sure likes to eat….everything we plant!  It’s very frustrating, but the littlest bunny is very cute and Gabby enjoys looking for him/her (?) everyday, so for now, they can stay although that bamboo jungle WILL be tamed at some point, perhaps in the fall.

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The two tables on the patio were left in our yard before we moved in and since we didn’t own an outdoor dining table, we figured we’d just go ahead and use it.  It needs to be refinished, but it’s a great size and solid wood, so we think it’s a win!  We only owned 2 outdoor dining chairs (that desperately need to be refinished…again) so as we were wandering through Target one day and saw these on clearance (50% off!) we snatched up 6 of them and had an instant patio set.

The rest of the yard just gets the weeds mowed (very little actual grass back there! ha) and we continue to dream big about what it will look like in the future.  You’ll also notice some new fence boards to the right.  We went ahead and installed new pickets over the gaps between the existing ones in an attempt to peacefully co-exist with our neighbor’s dog who doesn’t care for us in the least.  It has helped a bit in cutting down the constant barking at us and has allowed us to actually be in the backyard with Riese, without the two of them attacking one another. So it’s been a good mini-project that only required us to invest approximately $200 and a few hours of manual labor!

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Next up, we really need to get some stairs down from our new french doors to be able to really enjoy the yard for the rest of the season.  I’ve got some plans in mind so we’ll see what shakes out!  Oh, and look at this little guy who just popped up in our sideyard.

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I swear we didn’t plant it and didn’t throw any zucchini seeds out in the yard.  It just found its way to us! 🙂  I put a low barrier around it when it first popped up to keep the bunnies from eating it and it worked.  Let’s see what it produces for us this year.  Ironically, it’s in the exact spot where we want to put our vegetable garden next year.  Guess a vegetable garden in this location is meant to be!

3 Comments

July 12, 2013 · 2:26 am