Friday, April 29, 2016

A cleaner slate

People who know me in real life, and maybe my blog readers too, know that around the first 70 degree day of the year, Shaun and I go a little crazy.  We tend to immediately drop whatever inside project we were working on (or in this stage of our life, dreaming about one day accomplishing) and turn our focus outside.  We are addicted to landscaping, it has always been our favorite thing.  It's something we started working on immediately on Russet street.  That was fun, since there were hundreds of flagstones buried all throughout the yard.  Who does that?  Oh yeah, Boozie Susie!!
We also jumped head first into the yard issues with our Minnesota house.  THERE WERE MANY.
Yes, this time of year a simple visit to the grocery store or Target usually ends up with me pulling into the parking lot of a garden center, nursery, or (if I'm desperate) Home Depot - then wondering what exactly I'm doing there.  It's a sickness.  Luckily, I'm not able to get out of the house much, so maybe we won't put all our money into plants this year.  Anyhow, here's the fug outside of our house when we bought it last September. 
Grandma, are you there?  Now, I'm not saying our house looks run down, it was nicely maintained (ONLY on the outside, let's be clear about that!) with manicured 'mustache' bushes and virtually no weeds in the grass.  It was just so old fashioned.  I know why evergreens are so popular, because they don't drop crap all over your lawn and provide color in the winter.  HOWEVER.  I dislike most evergreens because they are boring, everyone has them, and they do a great job of blocking light to windows.  Why put windows in your house and then plant a huge bush in front of them?  Curtains and blinds, people!
Stuff like this blows my mind.  When we bought this house, the first thing we both said was 'these bushes have to go, immediately.'  But then I was hugely pregnant, and we spent our time working on the inside before our new tiny human was to arrive.  Now, here we are at the start of landscaping season.  Faced with the possibility of ripping out all these bushes ourselves, I decided to use my brain rather than my brawn.  I put all the evergreens on Craigslist for free if the person removes them.  Success!
I had a ton of interest, but ended up choosing a man who was having a landscaping company come take them out and replant them at his house 30 minutes away.  It was awesome to not only have it all gone, but removed professionally.  For free!  We removed all the lilies and hyacinths first. 
You can see we removed the silly burgundy shutters, too.  A real pet peeve of mine is shutters that are slapped onto any house, regardless of relevancy or whether the shutters could actually cover the windows if they shut.  I do wish the windows were bigger, but I still think the clean look is much better. 
Good thing I have curtains downstairs, to prevent creepers like this from looking in.  After removing the ugly retaining blocks, we decided to backfill a little more dirt against the house because we thought it wasn't sloped away from the house enough. 
You know how long it takes to do something with your 3 year old helping?  About three times longer than it would have without them.  Luckily, we have a child-sized shovel so he could remove the dirt we'd already placed while we weren't looking.  The people from Craigslist also took the huge evergreen on the south west corner of the house. 
They left a nice hole for us to plant something new, too.  Jury is still out on the three lilacs that were ruthlessly trimmed into a hedge between the driveway and walkway.  I'm not sure if we will keep them, it depends on how good they look, smell, and if we can move them to the backyard or not. 
I love lilacs, but this is just too big to keep in this area.
Now we have to come up with a plan for the front of the house.  I really don't have any idea what to do, since we can't cover the lower windows and the house is really tall and boxy.  Hopefully inspiration hits, because the people in our neighborhood with houses like ours are definitely not winning any landscaping awards!  Oh yeah, and there is the little issue of the ugly door, railing, mailbox, address plaque, and light
Not sure what we can afford to do with this mess right now, but I'm thinking!


  1. Ha, this sounds like our house! After being completely stuck last year with what to do to help with the front landscaping, I decided to hire a landscape designer to come up with a plan... best decision ever! We are still doing the work, which helps to spread out cost, but it's so nice to have a professional figure out what looked best for our house. Good luck, just removing those bushes helped a ton!

  2. Holy cow, those are lilacs! Never would have guessed. It looks like the overhang on the roof is wider than usual as well. I saw an episode of yard crashers where they had to deal with one of those. I think they made it into an extended porch, anyway sounds like a good excuse to find a yard crashers marathon for some research. Good Luck!

  3. I never would have thought to do that listing on Craigslist - that is GENIUS! Free removal is a win/win!

    Could you plant taller bushes where the windows don't fall and then low foliage where they are?

  4. I love giving things away for free on Craigslist - it's amazing what people will do for free. We have our own CL guy named Randy. He's now disassembled and taken away two full garages, a fugly fence and an original kitchen. Oh, and ALL OF OUR OLD RADIATORS. He's my go-to guy. And while we probably could have sold or scrapped some of the stuff, the work wouldn't have been worth it.

    Anyhooooo - this looks great. I can't believe how much bigger the windows are once A is next to them.

    Can't wait to see what you do. I am always amazed by your gardening prowess. I have none of that skill.

  5. Your house has lovely, strong horizontal lines and asymmetry. (Which really makes me wonder who installed that super-symmetrical mock-Victorian front door - if you get the $$ to replace it, go with an asymmetrical choice, like lights on only one side.) I would be tempted to paint everything about that entry - door, number, mailbox - with a color matching the brick, to maintain the horizontal line of the front elevation.

    For landscaping, I like to consider the view from inside the house. So, if you want something interesting outside, first figure out what you want to be seeing from within. Do you need privacy, colorful flowers/foliage, a blocked view of the neighbors’ house, kitchen herbs or veggies, shade, sun, birds in berry bushes, butterflies on flowers…? Then plan and plant what you want to see.

    If the “outside view” idea fails to inspire you, I would plant one, nice large shade tree in your front lawn, centered between the windows. Pick a species that grows well in your neighborhood (maybe a nice one already in your backyard or a neighbors’ yard or a nearby park tree that you covet). Because if you are not using your front yard, nor caring how it looks from a window, then keep it simple and mow-able and plant a big tree.

  6. I had the same tired old shrubs (must have been planted by previous owners when the bought the place in the '50s --huge stumps and roots!) and we're slowly taking all that out and redoing our landscape. As an urban designer, I'm always advocating for front yard landscapes that provide interest to pedestrians and definition/mild privacy for residents. (I say "mild" because I don't advocate for hiding our front yards behind tall walls or fences.) For your yard, I would consider creating a row of low shrubs (small hedge) near the sidewalk to establish some definition between the public realm (sidewalk and street) and the private realm. An evergreen hedge provides some structure yearround, but it doesn't need to be the old plants of yore. Then plant some other things between the house and the hedge: groundcovers, perennials, other shrubs, small trees. Perhaps leaving some room for usable area: a couple of adirondack chairs and a low table. That way you have something pleasant to view from your house that isn't blocking windows and you set the example for your neighbors!

  7. Hooray for craigslist success! :) I LOVE how much more open and contemporary the house looks with just those plants and shutters gone. It's looking a lot less grandma-y :)

  8. I think your house looks a million times better, just in removing the shrubs! Yay for Craigslist!

    You could add a mid-century style pergola and patio to the front of your home. A simple slab door or a single lite glass door would look good - maybe in a bronze or turquoise? Shake up the neighborhood, a bit. :)

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