Monday, August 15, 2011

Weekend of Destruction

I said I would wait, but I couldn't.

I've been thinking about what changes I'm going to make to my yard, and had plans to terrace the west side of the garage and the south end of the lot, put fruit trees in the driveway loop, and, and....  Lots of plans!  I was doing some online research on landscaping for midcentury houses, thinking about who could do the terracing work and how I'd pay for it, when I realized that I had skipped a VERY important step.  **How do I want to relate to the out of doors?  What's my overarching landscape philosophy?** (yeah, OK, this is a bunch of hoo hah - but it's the backbone of just about everything.  If ya got a philosophy, then it's easy to make individual decisions. Just align to the philosophy.)

Which got me thinking about the prior owner (and wife of the guy who built the house).  How did she relate to the out of doors?  That's when I realized that she kept most of the landscaping to act as a wall between her and the rest of the world.  Example:  the top picture shows a dark square, just above the blooming bush.  That's the front door.  Yup.  The front door of the house.  Hidden behind a huge Korean Spice viburnum and some huge rhododendrons.  After I understood her philosophy, I understood why things were the way they were in the yard, and I felt pretty good about making changes. (Note:  I talked to a neighbor and friend of the prior owner and he confirmed my understanding.)

My philosophy is a little more outside-based.  Grow food, cook outside, lay in the hammock and sometimes sleep outside.  No barriers between inside and out.  It's difficult with this house.  The living level is one floor up, so every trip outside involves a flight of stairs.  Not fun, when balancing a tray with raw steak, beer, a magazine and cooking implements on the way down to the grill.  I'm just sayin'.

Anyway.  I don't have the money to make the big changes I was planning.  But now that I understand the philosophy thing, it's easy to take baby steps that cost nothing to implement.  Starting with the front door.  Bye to three rhododendrons, aggressively pruned to about a foot above ground.

The left side of the sidewalk has an evergreen and another rhody.  If it weren't for the viburnum and the evergreen, both sides of this walkway would be perfectly nice, sunny space that could be used for "useful" stuff, like rhubarb, lovage, and other edibles.  I'm going to cut down the viburnum and the evergreen, and transplant all of it to somewhere else.  If it doesn't survive, I'll be OK.  Then I'm going to bring some of the blue flag iris and peonies from the other house and put them on the right side of this walkway, where the viburnum is.  I'll put lovage from the other house on the left side of the walkway and plant rhubarb, chives and some other stuff.

Here's the north side, where I want to terrace.  The first picture is in June, when I was letting everything "express itself."  The second picture is yesterday after I did a hack job on the stuff next to the house.
This steps/ramp thing drives me NUTS!  I was thinking of hiring someone to get rid of it, and terrace this slope up to the platform.  But now I'm thinking that since I have 2 arms and no extra money and could use a workout, I can start to do it myself.  Get rid of the walkway and make the first, lowest level next to the wall into space for next year's garden.

Here's another view.  This platform (below) makes no sense, in a how-does-the-inside-relate-to-the-outside kind of way.  To get to it, you have to walk down the steps to the driveway, and then back up to the platform.  Huh? My current thinking is to get rid of it, and use pavers to make a patio-thing.  But, if there were to be a patio, it should be on the same level as the driveway, not up a hill.  An alternative is to bust a hole in the master bedroom and put some steps down to the thing. I still have some thinking about that.  The incremental approach means I've got a few years to figure something out.

I am going remove the roses, honeysuckle and the yucca from near the house, and plant other edibles there.  Possibly blueberries, but I have a perfect space on the other side of the house for them. 

(I've been spewing off names of plants like I'm an expert or sumthin'.  But really, when I wasn't being destructo-mama, I was in the books or online, researching plant names.  It's nice to know what I've got, but sad to realize that so much of my yard is overwhelmed with invasive honeysuckle and multiflora rose.  It'd be nice to have the goats now.  They like the stuff.)

I'm going to go around the rest of the house and show you what's there and what I'm planning, but this post is pretty long already, so I'll save it for another day.


  1. Wow! You really got your work cut out for you. Good luck & remember to post "in progress" pictures.

  2. Did you see this in the NYT? It's about restoring mid-century modern houses.

  3. Thanks for the link! I discovered the Retro Renovations blog a few months ago when I think I was googling for "peach colored toilet parts.". I do like the community there.