Sunday, June 1, 2008

GT: Analysis and "Before" Pictures.

(This is the only nice area of our entire property. It exists on the west side of the house and is enjoyed solely by our meter reader.)

Let's take a look at it piece by piece.

You've seen the front yard. Here's a view from the side. As you can see, we live on a corner lot.

Why is there a broom in the flagpole, you ask? Why is there a flagploe? Why, it's to hold the extension cord we used to plug in the car two winters ago. As a kindness to our neighbours, we strung it up and over the sidewalk.

Bones: The house just sits here--as do most others on our block. It's forbidding. The path to the house isn't wide enough for two people. I'm not sure what that plant is at the corner--it's quite straggly, too. Those two trees at the side do attract birds but the one in the rear seems to have a lot of dead branches. Its leaves cast a beautiful dappled light into our room in the morning, though, so I want to keep it and make it healthy.

Breath: Flow? Movement? None.

Heart: Boring, unbalanced.

Head: If the purpose of the front lawn is to integrate the house with its surroundings and welcome visitors then I think it fails on both counts.

Now for the backyard. It has at least five distinct areas. Maybe more. (I'm not exactly sure how to count them all up).

There are, currently, three garden sections.

1) By the back door along the foundation.

Bones: Obviously overgrown and disfunctional.
Breath: It is about three feet deep and something ridiculous like 22feet long. I want to grow vegetables here in tiered planters with mulched paths between them.
Heart: Ugly, embarrassing.
Head: Has no function or purpose. Needs a complete clearing out.

2) A serpentine planting bed along the west fence which extends all the way back to the brightly painted bike shed (I was standing in front of it when I took the first picture). We have raspberry canes growing back by the shed. They'll stay. The husband has been tenderly caring for them since he moved in.

Bones: It has good bones, actually, except for the electrical wires leading to the garage. I like the curve, I like the shrub by the picnic table. The husband wants to put in a fire pit, though and that would require reshaping it. So, I'm not sure what will happen here, if anything. It's also a very shady spot.

Breath: The shape gives and shrub actually give definition to the eating area which is something I'd want to keep.

Heart: None.

Head: No clue what the purpose of this area should be except it would be lovely to have some colour and tall things growing to obscure the fence. It might be a thought to extend this area and put up some sort of screen to block our view of the shed and useful eavestrough extension. Here's the view, looking back the other way, taken today, from in front of the BBQ.

3) The vegetable garden plot. The boards containing it have rotted through and the area is overgrown. The dog has dug a deep hole in the middle. I want to eliminate it entirely.

Here's a shot of the area from the back door. (Also taken today). You can see the outline of the ancient useless plot.

Bones: None. See the gate coming in from the driveway? I want to put in paving stones and make a new path which curves towards the sidewalk to the house. It would also be a good idea to widen the path by the garage so we can wheel our bikes out of the shed and over to the gate more easily.

Bad. Movement is actually difficult and it was an impossible spot for a vegetable garden.

Heart: Kill it all now.

Head: The entire purpose of this area is to get in and out of the yard. That's it. If I can get that much done this year I'll be happy. I think I'd also like to plant something in the resulting area that will be enclosed by the new paths. Something dramatic with a bird feeder or bird bath in the middle.

Other areas:
1)The BBQ and picnic table.
(scroll down a few posts if you want to see a picture)

Bones: This needs a shelter of some kind. We've been thinking of a screen house, but I don't really want a roof. A pergola would be perfect. The concrete is also seriously bad shape, though the thought of jack hammering it out is numbing. The BBQ--under the kitchen window transfers smoke and heat into the house. That sort of defeats the purpose of BBQing, I think.

Breath: It works well, actually, if you don't mind having your chair fall into a crack when you push it out to get up from the table. (Something we only discovered last night. Wasn't a problem with the picnic table!)

Heart: Needs lots of love.

Head: Ok. Let's be honest. For this area to work really well, it needs to be elevated with access directly off the kitchen. But that's never going to happen.

2)The "play" area. Here we have the playhouse and doghouse, toy box and sand box. There's also this strange tree/shrub which I like but which is dying.

Bones: Messy, messy, messy. The sandbox can go. The playhouse needs to be painted inside and prettied up. I am planning to do that with Aurelia this summer.

Breath: Movement through here isn't bad though everything is lined up against the fence. That's necessary for a few more years, though as we like the lawn for throwing and kicking various balls.

Heart: I'd like to put little window boxes on the playhouse windows.

Head: Area needs to be better defined as it's purpose. If this is really where the toys go, then that's where we need to put them. Do we want to put a dog run here so we don't have to lock up our outdoor lovin' mutt inside when we leave the house?

1. What is the problem with your yard/garden?
Simply put, it's nasty.

Like my wardrobe, it has been neglected. I do not know how to garden and from everything I've read, I don't think I'll like it. But I do like pretty things. But if there's one thing I've learned from AT, it's that, in my case, ignorance, (and lack of accountability) not laziness, leads to the neglect. Hence, GT.

The fence needs to be repainted. I'd like it stripped to bare wood, actually, like our neighbours. It's a lot of fence, though, so I may have to paint it a soft gray instead. That may be a hard sell.

The layout is also incredibly boring.

2. What would your garden/landscape say?Ha, ha, ha, I've got you! I'm doing exactly what I want...I'm in charge of what grows here, not you!

3. What is lacking that you would like to do?
Eat fresh tomatoes, herbs and other veggies like beets. Smell nice things. Cut flowers for the house. Watch birds. Read in the shade. The kids would like a pool. We have a fair sized inflatable one which with some planning could be left up in the summer.

4. How would you like your garden/landscape to be described?
Inviting. Peaceful. Exciting. Colourful. Fun.


Colleen (CQ in DC / quinncx) said...

I can't play- no GT when you don't have any outdoor space at all. Nevertheless, I plan to live vicariously and comment wildly and at will!

I worry a little about your trees- it seems they are very close to the house and I know some trees have invasive roots that can damage you structure. I am guessing your trees are not that kind, but I just wanted to mention it as a possible concern...

Alana in Canada said...

Thanks CQ! Cooment away. The trees? Funnily enough, there has never been any water come into the basement from the walls where the trees are located. I'm not sure why.

Other than that, I'm not sure how we'd find out if they were doning damage--do you know?

Anne (in Reno) said...

What kind of climate do you have where you are? How hot/cold/wet/snowy does it get?

Personally, I would picture a deck off of the back porch to hang out on, surrounded by low-maintenance perennials for color, possibly covered by some sort of arbor if you need the shade. A vegetable garden in raised beds back towards the fence, so the kiddoes could learn to grow their own food (not that hard so far, I can say, herbs are a good place to start). And some flowering low-maintenance shrubs to soften the lines of the house and the fence. I would start with rhodies and lilacs, judging from your pictures, with maybe more of those cranberries if you like them. Lots of potential here.

Honestly, what do YOU want it for and how much can you invest yourself in it? Hardscaping is a good way to start, if you want paths, or more raised beds (one is a good start!) or a deck/seating area. Plants can always come later, fall is really the ideal time to plant.

scb said...

This is going to be soooo good. Your house reminds me of the one my uncle/aunt/cousins lived in when I was growing up. I was going to say cheerfully, "I'll post pictures tonight" and then I remembered my home computer is off limits. Gah.

You've inspired me to get at least a couple of indoor plants, so I can play gardening, too!

I used to grow tomatoes (had a plot at a community garden for a few years) and they're really easy. So are beets. And they taste WONDERFUL! Raised beds are a great way to go.

I don't know anything about these things -- and it would be pricey -- but would it be possible to build some sort of deck over the cracked concrete at the back?

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