Saturday, January 23, 2010

Wherein I Reveal...

Photo taken about 2 years ago un-garden in the front yard. Extremely observant and regular readers of my blog may have noticed that all of my posts about my garden are about what's going on in the backyard. There's a good reason for that. I haven't started the gardens in the front yet. Not that nothing's been done in the front. Oh yes. It looked very different when we first moved in.

Spring of 2005

You can't see it very well in this photo but the brick walkway leading to the porch was fairly uneven. The front porch was even worse, with some steps being much higher than others. (Fortunately the mailperson was adept at getting up there!) On either side of the porch were some very big azaleas, much taller than me. They created quite a damp environment against the house. In front of the azaleas were boxwood, which were very lovely until an overzealous lawn person trimmed them (after this photo). Off to the left of the porch was another brick walkway that was in much worse shape (I frequently tripped on uneven bricks there.)

The driveway, of which you see a portion above, was huge. You could fit four cars abreast on it. The lamp would have been nice except that it had been permanently disabled. There was a small weedy garden just in front of those side windows and some daylilies lining the driveway behind the brick edging.

This photo was taken when we first looked at the house 5 years ago

The yard is a corner lot so it's pretty big on the side. Many trees lay against the side of the house, including a Southern magnolia!

So what is the design plan? Well, as I explained in a post last year, one idea is to reveal the house itself. And obviously we needed to fix the situation with the plants being too close to the house and the dangerous brick walkways. So first we removed the plants.

In the photo above you can see the front of the house revealed as well as the walkway I tripped on occasionally. Also, the little boxwood to the left shows how I pulled out towards the street the small garden just a bit more. Unfortunately the small garden, destined to be mostly a rose garden, has lots of small bits of asphalt in it still. But at least drainage doesn't seem to be a problem. :-)

The summer of 2007 is when we made the most dramatic changes (although I guess you could consider getting rid of ancient blooming azaleas rather major!). My style is more contemporary than traditional so with the help of my friend Alexis, a great designer, it was decided that some simple steps would look best. I wanted to find some nice big concrete steps but failed at that. So I decided to go with a company that could not only create the steps in situ, but also give them any kind of finish and color.

So in rumbled the big cement truck. The man guiding the truck is standing on the newly removed driveway and daylily planting (I couldn't place all of them so some of the daylilies went to a neighbor).

One at a time, each step was poured. Once it had cured, they came back to spray a material that made them look like granite (kinda, sorta, but not really).

This photo shows the new portion of the lawn in place, the new steps, and gravel surrounding the steps. The front porch is awaiting curing and its coating in this photo. Putting in a lawn was the cheapest thing we could do at that moment. Eventually this lawn will be a mostly perennial garden with possibly even a picket fence. But because there is quite a slope there, more money than usual will have to be expended to make a garden there possible.

This photo of the front corner taken just today shows that there is still a lot of work to come. Most of the fence has been put in but unfortunately we never had the gate put in. (After installing the fence the great carpenters got full time jobs!) But most of the trees against the house have been removed, a small garden has been placed in front of the fence, Savannah hollies (Ilex x attenuata ‘Savannah’) and parsley hawthorns (Crataegus marshallii) have been planted, and that green stuff under the hollies, spider lilies, have been saved from our old mower. If I can get some help this winter, I hope to enlarge that small garden and continue it along the fence for a bit. Eventually I may incorporate the hollies into that garden. The gate WILL be put in place someday and will hide the air conditioners. And perhaps a little picket fence will extend from the gate area to around the front of the house, allowing for yet even more gardens. I just need more money and time (don't we all!). So now you know why you never see my un-garden in front, ha!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. How wonderful to have a clean slate!

    Your house is darling

  2. Your house is lovely, Jean! It's wonderful that you won't have to alter your home's facade, as I would with my '70s ranch, to get the look you want. I like the new steps and path and appreciate that open, contemporary look you're aiming for.

    Speaking of which, I can't help but wonder whether a picket fence would fit in with that contemporary look. Maybe a low concrete or stucco wall (2 or 2 1/2 ft tall) would give you a sense of separation and privacy without fighting the style you're trying to achieve. You could even use the wall to level the right side of your front yard, and then put in steps to transition around to the back, making that slope an asset instead of a trouble spot. Just a thought. As you say, it only takes time and money!

  3. Bravo to you, Jean, for being brave enough to bare it all! I never show the whole front of my house either, because it badly needs landscaping as well. You've done a great job so far, and how exciting to be able to start from scratch. I would have had a hard time pulling out those azaleas, but I understand the problem about them being too close to the house. I think too many people make that mistake. And I think that was an excellent idea to tear out part of the driveway.

    I've been poring over landscape books the last few weeks and thinking about how to re-do our front as well. My project may take a few years, not only because of time and money, but because I want to make sure I do it right. You're off to a good start, and I know you'll be happy with the end results, whenever they get done!

  4. Your house is so pretty! What a lot of work you have done, I can't wait to see the progress.

  5. If those big azaleas would have agreed to bloom 12 months a year, I might have left them. I'm not one for having anything too big growing up close to the house. Must have been hard to get them out.

    The new porch and walkway looks great, but what a lot of work. Worth it, I'd say.

    Gates sometimes irritate me....trying to open them when my hands are full. I'd probably leave the fence gateless.

    Nice windows you have all around the house. Must help bring the outside inside.


  6. You are a model for others who are afraid to rip out overgrown foundation plantings. I like how the front is shaping up.

  7. Thank you to everyone for the encouragement. I need it!

    Pam, the original idea about the picket fence was to ground it in its sense of place. There are many old homes in the neighborhood with them. If I do get one, I would try to put a slightly contemporary spin on it. As for a stucco wall, I'm not sure I could find anyone around here to build one as they are never seen here! You're right though, it would solve some issues. Probably something like it is going to have to go in if I want those gardens!

    Donna - good point about the gate. I've never really had to deal with one before!

  8. Thanks for the advice about which photos to enter in the museum's contest!

    Meant to say yesterday that I just noticed the picture of your cats and they are soooo cute!

  9. Jean I love the azaleas it is a pity you had to get rid of them because they were in the wrong place. The colour added some life to the front. I wish I could grow them here....well one man's thrash is another man's treasure. I can't wait to see it when you are done.

  10. Jean, you are doing a wonderful job and I can't wait to see what you did this year. It looked very nice before but as lovely as the azaleas are, they just don't bloom long enough. I like the steps too.

  11. Jean, you've got a great space to work with there and I look forward to seeing what you do with it! I can see a more contemporary style picket fence in front. Maybe even one with a Mission style influence. I think your plantings will be the key to making the fence fit in with the house. I'm excited for you!

  12. Good for you, Jean. This is a really gutsy thing to do. I wish I had the courage to create a clean slate!

  13. Oh how I wish I could convince my husband to agree to start with a clean slate in front! The overgrown yews, burning bushes, and lava rock in the foundation 'landscape' of our '60's red brick colonial haven't made it into a blog post yet, for obvious reasons. This is not what a gardener wants to see every day as she pulls into the driveway. Yuk!

    Your house is charming Jean, and it looks like your plan is coming along well. Thanks for sharing the process and progress - very inspiring!

  14. Hi Jean...tku for dropping by my blog and leaving a comment. Always good to hear from those across the pond.

    Gosh you are one busy and brave lady. Digging up plants is something I do with reluctance.......a fascinating journey. Looking forward to seeing the progress.......

  15. Wow, I think your house is charming--it's a great idea to reveal it in all its cottage-iness. The steps look original and inviting--can't wait to see how they will tie in to the landscape as it evolves.

    A fresh canvas for you to play with--I'll bet you can't wait to work on it!

  16. Jean, how sweet your house is! I love it. I always wanted a gray house to put plants against. Love what you've done and can't wait to see what you will do in the future.~~Dee

  17. Thanks for a great series of photos. You are really brave to make such big changes esp. in a traditional neighborhood. But I figure the neighbors thinks all of us gardeners are a bit crazy so you might as well do what you want. I'm with Pam on the picket fence. You could do "pickets" but not make them pointed for a cleaner look, and perhaps let it age like the other fence or paint it the house color or even that dark brown like the gutters etc. Something that would take the traditional aspect and give it a twist. Can't wait to watch this develop. We are in year 13 or 14 of our 10 year plan, so I know very well how long these things can take.

  18. Love the 'granite' steps and the planting potential. What fun. It is a gem of a house and we will all be along for the transition. Is a garden ever 'done'?

  19. Hi Jean, Your house is so lovely and everything so tidy and charming. I think it is great to see your the form of your home better without foundation plantings. Though I am sure it was hard to remove your azalea... too bad it could not have been moved but very hard to do!! If possible... It looks great without it there. Your fence could maybe have an arch going over the gate? It is great to see the before and after shots... you have a great eye and are creating a special oasis there. I look forward to seeing your progress. Your new steps add a nice clean line to your entrance. I am so jealous that you can garden in the winter!! ;>) Carol


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