Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Before...Frontyard 1998

This is my house, ten years ago with my tiny 3 year old in front. When we bought it, there was only the Sycamore and Pitisporum bush (out of the shot to the right), the Cherry Laurel and the tiny Indian Hawthorn with a ring of clover...the rest was a spotty expanse of St. Augustine grass.
It's taken years to remove most of the St. Augustine. My goal was to remove 20sq. feet a year. When the girls were little they played in the backyard all of the time, so we built a tree house, put in a tire swing and created several sitting areas so we could all be together outside. They enjoyed tumbling on the grass and so the gardening focus switched to the front yard. I was teaching art full time and gardening was a weekend hobby. Fortunately I had a close friend who was a botanist and gardening guru. She had a xeriscaped property, I didn't know what that meant. I picked her brain for years before she turned me onto several books, websites, suggested I look into the master gardener training and she was actually the person who nominated my yard for the green-garden award. I also had a dear uncle who lived in Maryland who's yard appeared on the historic garden tour of Frederic, and he answered my questions whenever I had an idea...he was an artist and had a beautiful vision of spending time with family outside. When I am designing for people now, a big part of the job entails educating them on having patience and a plan. My yard didn't change over night. One of my neighbors who lives on our street couldn't remember what my yard used to look like, it was that unremarkable. I'm meandering I know...what I'm getting at is that gardening can be your personal patience mentor. Not everyone looks at a blank canvas and sees potential. Education helps, lord knows whenever I sit to draw I have a stack of books around me,'s the drawing that comes naturally and the vision that keeps me inspired. Doing it yourself is the cheapest way to have a beautiful yard...anyone can do the plant research. But, as I walk through my neighborhood I see folks that have put a lot of time, energy and money into their property...but it's obvious that they don't know what they are doing. Then there are the yards that look like someone paid a landscaper/designer/maintenance team to have that perfect manicured look. It all depends on your goal, your pocketbook, your abilities, your personal ethos (in regard to stewardship) and your time.
What is your goal?
Is it: to increase the value of your home, to create a magical place for your kids to grow up in, have a space to entertain in, grow food...all of the above or something else? My first suggestion to anyone who has nothing but grass is to research trees and plant a few in the front and backyards. Carefully select them based on size, water needs, evergreen vs. deciduous and think about the energy conservation of your home. The first thing I did was plant a peach tree to mark time, the purchase of my first home. Once that's done, you're on your way. You've broken up the space. The next thing is to consider traffic patterns...for me that meant busting out the current driveway and sidewalk. Why? Two reasons, the first is permeability. The driveway stretched 80 feet into the backyard and was a river of water loss each time it rained. The second was to allow for designing freedom. Once the shotgun walkway was gone, I was free to flow with curvilinear lines, both with traffic patterns and beds. Islands of interest follow. I wanted a cottage garden, some control-type folks call that "hodge-podge" but they miss the wonder...I call them "yardners," they can usually identify the 5-7 plants they've got going with the help of many a product. Their main goal is to have something look "nice" without any work. There is an inbetween place where you can have something that looks magical without it taking up everyminute of your time.

It's called having a plan, and it's why you hire a designer/garden coach. Here's my yard now:

New deck, no sidewalk, baby Pecan tree, no St. Augustine on what would have been the left side of the walk, and an unfinished swale...need rock.


stacy said...

Wow! What a change! Great idea to show the "before" picture. Once again, it inspires that patience I keep reminding myself I need!

Lee17 said...

HA! I so just blogged about the transformation of my own yard. I like to put in my own plants because I want my yard to be unique to me - I don't want it to look like every other yard on the block or like some HGTV show. How boring. Plus, growing different stuff is fun and always an adventure ;)

Susannah said...

I am where you were 10 years ago, trying to make a plan and replace grass bit by bit. We have that typical Crestview lawn- boring! It's inspiring to see your yard's transformation.

La Booch said...

Gawd dang Chersy...that was one ugly lawn you had;-)

tina said...

Very nice, and I so totally agree with you on the education thing. What a change!