Let’s Take This Outside

First of all, the outpouring of kindness and support that you guys showed to our family yesterday is both humbling and amazing. Thanks for the helpful words of encouragement and for sharing your stories. But enough with the heavy stuff. How about something light and fluffy? Let’s go on a looooong overdue photo tour of our yard (a la Katie B’s), shall we?

You’ve gotten a few select glimpses of what we’re working with in this post about our carport/driveaway, this post about our “alley”, and this one about the magnolia out front. But there’s plenty more to show (that’s your warning that this post will be photo-heavy – so much so that it took me three weeks just to muster the energy to finally edit down the 100+ pics that I snapped a couple of weekends ago and write this beast of a post).

So let’s start somewhere familiar – the front yard (as sort of pictured in our header).

It’s smaller than our last house’s front yard (i.e. the house is closer to the street) which I see as a good thing because there’s less grass to mow. Sah-weet. Actually, there are enough bush-borders, areas of groundcover, and that big dirt circle under the magnolia that ensure there isn’t too much grass at all. Of course we have some long term plans to transform our house’s curb appeal and pretty much every square foot of yard that we have (just like we did slowly and steadily over 4+ years at our last house) but as for specifics, we’re not quite there yet. But it should be fun to see where we end up in a few years.

Our general plans for the front are mainly to make it feel more open and inviting to the front porch. Like our last house, there are lots of borders of bushes (mostly boxwoods and azaleas) that act as a natural fence around the grassy area seen above. But in our opinion, it just means a lot of visual interruption – especially when it comes to feeling welcomed towards the front door. We’ve also always felt that short squat houses like ranches look best with some open area and lower and more varied plantings than walls of large shrubs (so there aren’t a bunch of things in front of the house to dwarf it even more).

No one really uses our front door now (unless they’re selling something). In fact even FedEx uses the side door in our carport to drop things off. We can’t really blame ‘em because the front pathway is so narrow that it doesn’t really say “walk this way.” I actually had to trim some bushes on move-in day just to fit furniture through (it didn’t help that the bushes were also dusted with snow). Since the path is such a nice natural continuation to the sweet paver stones that they used to create the driveway, we’d love for it to at least look like it’s usable someday – even if everyone still goes to the carport.

So we’re thinking that trimming back / removing / transplanting some of these bushes above in favor of some lower profile landscaping will help open up the entrance on both sides of the path. Which will hopefully make it feel more inviting and show off our full-of-potential front porch (which we also have plans to pimp as we go).

But as much as bush-borders are a theme on our property, it doesn’t compare to the sheer volume of liriope (aka “monkey grass”) that you can find around here. Just check out the sloped area on this side of the front yard. Yup, it’s above that stone wall and below it, about 10+ plants deep:

This particular sea of liriope is actually kinda welcome because it makes for a virtually self-sustaining spot of landscaping, though it would be nice to add a bit more color to it at some point. But we’re not über-focused on that area because we’re so distracted / confounded by the area next to it. Yes, this big wild spot of leaves and tall grasses next to that stone wall and brick path is still our property.

This is the area that separates our house from our neighbors to the left (as you face the house). And I must say that we really appreciate the breathing room. Which reminds me – I should point out that this lot is surprisingly similar in size to our last house (almost an acre), BUT this lot is kinda square whereas our last house was a long skinny rectangle – with about half of it being woods in the back.

(Imagine a nice little whole-yard sketch here- I’ll have to whip one up in a future post).

The “pro” of our new squarer lot is that it puts more space between us and the next door neighbors (instead of just including a seemingly endless dense and thick woods in the back of the house). But the “con” is that instead of having a maintenance-free forest hidden in the back, we get “wild” spaces like this one shown above instead… which is visible from the street, btw. We’re not 100% certain, but we’d love to naturalize this area even more so it looks lush and semi-foresty instead of oddly bare but not quite tended to (tall grasses and wildflowers come to mind along with more large trees and shrubs). No rush though, we’ll figure it out someday…

And even though our lot is much less long and skinny than our last one, we still have plenty of raw un-landscaped area in the back. Actually, we have a ton of it. Sidenote: can you believe that’s the back of our house? Thanks to the addition it’s so different from the front (we think the peak is so charming) but someday we hope to bring some peaks into the front of the house and paint the hardboard siding (and possibly the brick) to make it feel more cohesive. But that might be five years down the line or even further. Gotta think long and hard about big changes like that to make sure we don’t do anything hasty that we’ll regret hate with a passion down the line.

Apparently this expanse used to be more heavily wooded, but somewhere along the line it was cleared and now it just sits as a leaf depository. Total bummer because we loved the private wooded feeling beyond the grassy part of our first house’s backyard.

The old John & Sherry would just thrown down some grass seed to make the entire area look more finished, but we’ve sort of outgrown our “let’s grow grass everywhere” phase (thanks in part to reading the Organic Lawn Care Manual last year). So our current plan is to keep this portion of the backyard “wild” so it’s one less area that we need to maintain/mow/water/weed/otherwise tend to. We plan to slowly plant fast growing evergreens that will create some nice privacy and bring back that wooded feeling that we love. Because there’s already enough landscaped backyard to maintain for our tastes. Behold…

Overall, we think the backyard is super charming. Which is a bit surprising considering how much we didn’t enjoy having pathways-lined-by-bushes everywhere in our last house’s yard. I think the key difference is that these pathways are brick, not pea gravel (which was a weeding NIGHTMARE). Though they obviously could use a quick pass with the leaf blower. But see those round planting beds on either side of the path the branches from left to right in the photo above? Those are goners. Sherry thinks that planting grass there to create more of an unobstructed area for pooch running and kid playing (especially when the offspring is older and excited to play tag or have races or play running bases) it’ll be nice to phase out a few of those small areas that break up that lush green grass. So we’re thinking that the brick paths can stay but the round beds will go.

And even though the low-profile liriope border along the path is an improvement over the big obstructive boxwoods in our last backyard, we’re not crazy about it – especially the fact that it’s 3 or 4 plants deep in many places. It just makes the paths feel narrower and more closed in. And since we’ve always preferred more organic transitions (vs. heavy distinct borders) we’ll probably dig up a lot of the monkey grass eventually (or we’ll post one of those you-dig-it-and-it’s-yours ads on craigslist) and just grow grass right up the edges of the brick paths for a more flush and clean look.

Liriope isn’t the only border going on back here, though. We’ve got more stone borders than you can shake a stick at (which would probably break your stick, btw).

Sherry’s not a fan of them visually (too interruptive for her tastes) and I’m not a fan of having to break out the weed-whacker to trim the grass against them. I could learn to live with them in some places (like where they make a distinct break between the grassy yard and the wild leafy abyss behind). But other places – like this little tree in the middle of the grass – are a bit too disruptive (Sherry wants to transplant that guy into the woodsy back part of the yard anyway to de-clutter the grassy area a bit more anyway).

One thing is for sure- all of those stone borders are a pain in my arse when I’m mowing.

(Yes, I’m using my gas-powered mower and not my push mower for the back, since it only really works well on long, straight yards – which the back sadly isn’t).

Now that we’ve covered the front, side, and back yards – let’s move around the house to one last spot that we recently mentioned in this post (you can see how much older the pics are in this post by clicking over to that one for more lush leaves and stuff). It sits behind our carport, just off our sunroom and gets called everything from “Liriope Heaven” to “Burger’s Bathroom.” Here’s the view of it from the carport:

For Burger, it’s perfect. It’s fenced on all sides, completely visible from the house and has plenty of curious spots to sniff / mark… and even a little zen lawn ornament.

As we’ve mentioned a few times, we’d love to continue our liriope-removal party over here (can you tell I’m trying to psyche myself up by calling it a “party?” – maybe putting it all up on craigslist is the way to go) and then we’ll be DIYing a stone patio (all by ourselves if all goes well) so we’ve got more usable outdoor living space. I’m sure Burger would argue that he’s getting plenty of use out of it now, but he got out-voted at the family meeting. Poor guy. But he loved lounging on our back patio at the old house so methinks he’ll be down with the plan in the end.

Right now our only outdoor entertaining space is this patio off of the sunroom and living room that isn’t even big enough for our grill (fyi, that patio furniture was left by the previous owners and yes, Sherry’s broken ceramic dog still sits sadly by the door).

The sunroom used to be some sort of outdoor space before it was enclosed, actually. You can even still see the original brick staircase that used to lead up to it. Funny, right? Well, funny to you and me – so annoying to the wife. She just doesn’t understand how someone completely enclosed the sunroom and heated and cooled it and added a million outlets and a fan but didn’t take the time to remove those odd stairs. I suggested putting some potted plants on them but she thinks it’ll be too busy and cluttered looking so we’ll have to come up with some other plan. Someday.

All-in-all, we’re smitten with the outdoor spaces that we got with this house. None of them are perfectly “us” yet, but that’s probably why we’re so excited about them – there’s so much possibility and potential. Even if some of it is buried more deeply (under rows and rows of liriope for example).

We’re falling in love with our surroundings more everyday as things start to bloom and green up. Like our new Most Favorite Tree In The Universe – this maple that’s grafted so it has two different colored leaves. Yeah, that’s one tree. Nature rocks my socks.

Maybe we love it so much because it provides this awesome shot of color through the window of our guest room (which we catch a glimpse of every time we walk down the hall away from Clara’s room). This picture does not do it justice.

It’s actually a bummer I didn’t wait longer to take these pictures (three weeks from camera to post is inexcusable) because just yesterday our azaleas started to get some color on them. So rather than delay this post any longer by retaking and resizing all of these images (which might be another three inexcusable weeks), Sherry snapped a few flower shots for me to throw in here at the end. Ooooh…. ahhhh…..

Phew! Now that you’ve seen all of these “before” pictures of the yard – and now that the weather is starting to be consistently nice – we can start tackling some of those outdoor projects. Well, as soon as Sherry’s allergies calm down a bit (our car was so green with pollen last week that it looked painted). But she’s working that Netti Pot like a fiend. You’re welcome for that visual.

Update: Apparently this post was confusing (even to Sherry) so this updated post (complete with a sketch and a video) should help.






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