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How does my garden grow?

My Felco shears. I am in love.

I spent my long weekend deciding what to do with my backyard. I can't for the life of me find the true "before" photos... when I find them, I will post them. Suffice it to say that they are profoundly worse than the "before" photos you see here. How can that be possible? It is, trust me. If you're joining this blog in progress, let me catch you up: We bought a fucking shithole of a house; there are SO many things that need to be done with it that I can actually spend (waste?) a three day weekend just deciding which tragic room I can tackle next.

Even though the kitchen needs more love than almost any room, I am choosing to ignore it for now because I love summertime, and having a happy little backyard to relax in is pretty much priority one this year. Plus, I want to throw big barbecue parties this summer with "Bring Your Own Meat" as the theme (because it's both naughty and fun to say) and I can't really host people with my yard in its current state.

So, today, the (almost) mother-in-law came to visit, we made a plan, and the fun will start in a few weeks.

A few weeks ago, I had a landscape designer come give me a quote, but decided that for $3,000 for just a plan, I could use that to make it nice and pleasant for at least a few years. I mean, $3,000 is a hell of a lot of money to tell me what my yard needs, and what it needs is this:

Quit looking so ghetto.

This is before we had a fence installed. (Duh.) And this isn't even the true "before" photo. Seriously. It was worse.

See? $3k saved right there. Now I can spend it on 3 tons of bluestone, some cheap Craigslist labor, and enough hydrangeas, lilies, lavender, hellebores, & lilacs to make the bee-allergic run in fear.

With all this work ahead of me, and with rowdy shrubs needing to be tamed after 30 years of neglect, I splurged today on the Cadillac of hand shears. I felt like Mr. Miyage, snipping off all the useless little branches and turning my fat lilac bush into a regal lilac tree (of sorts).

Yes, this is the "after" photo. Or at least the "in progress" photo of the lilac. Trust me, it was in much worse shape before I hacked away. It's about 2 months from blooming, I am very excited.

I am not really a "pots" person, as a rule... this is just a mess of them until I get the yard finished and can arrange groups of these, spread out. The baby bath is not going to house plants (they're just kickin' it until they get planted in the beds). The baby bath will be the ice bucket for all of the summer BBQs I intend to host. I am hoping we can do one with fried chicken from Ezell's, and 40s and tall boys of Pabst shoved in the baby bath/ice bucket. Sweet.

Back to business... see that nasty grey cement-ish business on the side of my house, under the brick? What's going on there? Did they run out of bricks? What am I supposed to do to pretty that up? Any advice would be appreciated.

In Seattle gardening news:
If you live in Seattle and haven't been, I recommend Swanson's nursery on 15th past Greenwood/Ballard. I got the best service there and the plants are pretty dreamy. Not to mention, there is ample signage (when did that become a word, exactly?) so that a novice can really shop it unaided and still get great info on everything from soil prep to choosing the right plants/trees, etc. And when I did need help, the staff was super friendly and competent.


paola said...

Swanson's is FAB-YOU-LOUS. I can't go there very often, because every time I do I end up spending far too much money.

But this gardening malarkey is ridiculously addictive. Today I spent HOURS planting radish seeds and renovating the lawn and I don't even particularly like radishes....

Cote de Texas said...

Oh God, paint it a glorious shade of sage green which will offset the red brick! I like that idea of mine. or you could put trellis over it, paint it first, of course - then train vines on it. Two ideas for the price of one.

paola said...

Oh and if you do find some good Craigslist labour, can you send it my way when you've finished?

Our front garden (I'm sorry, but I really can't bring myself to say yard) makes yours look like the ornamental gardens at Versailles.

Decorno said...

Joni - yes! Either idea is perfect. Thank you.

We actually have ivy growing on part of it way to the left of that photo... I am tempted to train it to grow over the rest of it, but may lack the discipline of keeping it from climbing up the whole house. Is ivy the menace everyone says it is? Or am I being a worrywart?

Paola - you crack me up. :)

Anonymous said...

I have to admit I don't mind the grey of the concrete much at all. If you paint it, I'd go with something soft and muted and barely noticeable, so it doesn't look all desperate and scream "I'm covering up something ugly!!!"

Anonymous said...

PS: Ivy is a menace to the mortar between bricks, but if you can keep it contained on the cement part, it would be a smart, no-maintenance solution to the bare-cement look.

Abbey Goes Design Scouting said...

Ohhh decorno. I love your blog. I love your backyard (I want one!) Damn New York.

Decorno said...

Oh Abbey... I heart you, too. :)

Decorina said...

You've gotten a great start on the back yard. Your lilac looks much better, but they bloom on last year's wood, so you removed some of this year's flowers. Best to prune them after they bloom - except if they have become some kind of overgrown monster. Which it sounds like yours was.

Ivy is hard on the mortar in brickwork, but hey, it takes it years and years and years to seriously degrade it. How long are you planning to stay here? And it looks so great...anyway, train it over the concrete. It won't hurt it, you don't have to paint it and it will stick without any help.

Anonymous said...

Those antique, pre-owned, Hungarian baby bathtubs - with the folding iron stand - are marked way down at Garnet Hill....from 228 to FYI in case you need a pair.......

Cote de Texas said...

Really? Garnet Hill? Those are the cutest things ever for ice and beer, etc. I may just have to get one! thanks for the tip! D- are you going to get another one?

Sucker For Marketing said...

Decorno - espalier an apple (or somne other)tree on that wall. You won't have to paint it, it will be a great architectural addition, and it will trick your eye to look up to the brick part of the wall, rather than to the cement. I don't mind the cement. It is part of the foundation and needs to be there. You could also train some other plants up that wall...rambling roses, boston ivy (which will be glorious in the fall). Have fun!

Tara Dillard said...

Have you done anything with your foundation? I've just read your entry, Nov. 6, 2008.

The foundation is visually chopping your house, shortening its height. Staining it the same shade as the bricks visually makes it 'one' and taller.

Putting stone on the cement is historically correct. Use 1/4" stone with mortar the same color as the brick mortar. Using a Cherokee gray flagstone will make it look as if it was always there.

What zone are you? Creeping fig is the classic Southern vine choice, not ivy. I wouldn't do either. Why add maintenance? Plus, it would visually shorten your home.

Employ the rule of 'just let it touch' to create lushness with your pot cluster. The pot next to the raised trough should have the plant 'just touching' the trough. Instant lush! get the idea.

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