Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Year Later...from nothing to, well, something!


Well, it's hard to believe that just over a year ago we moved into our first house! The above photos show the house just before we moved in in May or early June of 2009 and then just a few days ago, in Late July 2010.

I believe we got our keys in the middle of June and after a harried few weeks of cleaning, demo and painting, moved into what resembled a labyrinthine maze of cardboard boxes more than anything else. I believe I started breaking ground on the garden around the 4th of July in 2009. It may have been the hardest I have ever worked at any garden in my whole life. The house sits on a tiny lot (50x50, instead of the typical 50x100) with very little actual yard space. The lawn on the east and north side of the house measure around 6.5' deep by approx. 30' wide...that's it! The backyard is postage-sized. I'm guessing 15 x 10...and that's taking into account the various nooks and crannies. I considered dealing with the backyard first, as it was completely desolate after being torn up to remove an old, leaking oil tank (we switched to natural gas). The removal company replaced the old, tainted soil with what they told us was nice, clean soil. It may have been clean, but soil it was not...try sand. I decided I wasn't quite up to the challenge of moving and enriching sand quite at that moment...so thought I'd begin my gardening foray at this new house by tearing up the lawn by the front entrance. My goal all along has been to remove every last bit of lawn and replace it with gardens, including the parking strips at some point in time. Well, the house sits on a fairly steep slope and this being July, the ground under the lawn was, well, very solid!

JulyCombo copy
As you can see above, this is the tiniest little space in the world! I love that recently, Google maps updated the aerial shots to show just after we moved in and I started the garden. you can see the little wedge-shaped bed! This tiny little spot was the result of 2 solid days of me digging, turning over the ground and then cutting off the grass with a spade and beating the loose soild out of the grass roots. I developed an awesome case of carpal tunnel from all this repetitve activity. Later, as I did more and more of the garden, I would discover a much better way of removing the turf and tilling the soil. I now use gravity as my friend, but first digging a line with a regular shovel, then using a flat shovel to skim just under the roots of the grass, moving in segments to separate the grass from the soil. Then, I cut it again with the spade and roll the turf up, like sod in reverse. I can now remove a 32' segment (4' deep x 8' wide) in just under an hour. I think at first I didn't really have a plan or overall design for the garden, I was just so excited to have a garden again that I went around the nursery, grabbing plants I've always wanted to grow and plants I've grown in previous gardens and had been missing. Needless to say, this resulted in a somewhat haphazard look, one which I've been refining since then :-)


In the first pic above, you can see the garden later that same year, in September of 2009 as the garden had started to fill in. I had already moved a few things around as I continued to get a feel for the different light conditions around the garden. I have also added a few more plants here, extending the garden by about 8-10' or so. The next 2 photos are from this spring. One thing I've learned is that I MUST plant more spring bulbs, the garden is pretty sad and barren in February and March. I've already decided on a few tulip mixes from High Country Gardens (the Plum Pudding and Pretty in Pink collections) as well as transplanting some of the bearded irises from around the back of the house. In addition, I'm going to plant a lot more of the drumstick alliums around existing plants. Over the past year, I've planned, designed, planted, and re-designed various parts of the garden. It's still a work in progress, but I wouldn't have it any other way!

Front Garden


  1. You've done a wonderful job. Gardens change as they mature. Mine has. You'll be surprised what you do next.

  2. Kudos to you on all the hard work you've done! That's a sweet little house and you've improved it immensely. Love the plants in front that spill over the brick edging. Why tulips and not daffodils? Tulips decline over the years and need replacing, but most daffs increase.

  3. What a difference a year makes! The yard looks great...all of your hard work has certainly paid off. I think most of the fun in gardening is changing things. You may have already noticed that I change things a lot! :) It keeps me interested.

  4. Wow you've been one busy, busy gardener! I love before and after shots. Such a big difference that one year has made to your home & yard. It looks great! :)

  5. What a beautiful garden! You have truly improved the value of not only your house but the neighborhood as well. Kudos to you on all of your hard work! It is fun to be able to see the progression. So many times we forget what it started out being as we have spent so much time in the middle of making it anew. We now have some re-blooming irises that would be a great addition! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Oh, wow, what a transformation! It doesn't look haphazard to me. What you described about gathering plants and such is how I garden. I am constantly making changes, too, and am actually thinking about making more drifts of plants, putting more together than what I have, but haven't made a decision about that yet.

    I love what you've done! I need to get off of the computer soon, but plan to come back and see more of your blog.

  7. Thanks everyone for the kind words...it sure is encouraging!
    -Tom - so true, change really is the only constant
    -Alison - you're very right about daffs and tulips, I'd love more daffs, but the declining foliage just lasts FOREVER in my garden for some reason, and I think I was just really annoyed by it this year, I'm for sure going to put a few more daffs in this fall, just in places where they'll be hidden by the other plants later in the season...the ones that were planted here when we moved in are right up front, and you have to look at the foliage until the middle of July :-(
    -Zoey - same here, I'm constantly thinking of things I want to change, sometimes almost as soon as I've planted it ;-)
    -Racquel - me too, before/after is one of my faves on other blogs
    -HCG - Thanks! I'm sort of addicted to your plants...I just keep ordering more and more...pretty soon my garden will be nothing but Agastache :-)
    -Sue - Thanks, I've been refining it as the year progresses and it definitely is more chohesive right now. I think my biggest problem is my tendency to plant things too close and to make impulse buys that I'm then stuck with trying to figure out where to fit it in!

  8. You've done a beautiful job! nice blog...nice to see your progress, it will all get better and better

  9. Now that's what I'm talking about! I like how you slowly crept around the house, adding and adding--addicting, no?. The hell strip is next? It looks stunning--a small space doing so much. Maybe I can impose upon you to chekc out my similarly recent transformation? http://deepmiddle.blogspot.com/2009/12/garden-evolution-2007-2009.html

  10. Holy moly. You sure took up the gauntlet with the size/shape/topography of your small corner lot. As well as adding bulbs for spring color you might consider a dwarf evergreen or two for winter interest. Or do you have mild winters without much snow?

    And what would be so bad if there were a few gazillion agastaches anywho? That'd keep the bees a-buzzin. Really, wonderful garden, Scott. I tip my chapeau...

  11. Brian...thanks...i can't wait to see what future seasons bring
    Ben...totally...those hell-strips days are numbered! I'm totally going to check out your blog.
    Kris...thanks...at the beginning I doubted my resolve...it was a hard slog for the first season, but now it's all falling into place. I'm definitely looking into some evergreen options, but I'm finding the site to be a bit tricky...it's so narrow that I need a really one...it can be tall-ish, but no wider than 5' or so. In my opinion, the more agastaches, the better!


  12. Scott - Pencil hollies are nice - tall and narrow, kind of like green exclamation points! There's also weeping cypress. Can't wait to see what you do with the devil's strips....