Friday, May 20, 2016

the backyard, part I - the money pit

When we bought our house, there was a lot of "that's so easy to fix" and "that's not expensive to do." That's totally something only new homeowners would ever say! The trouble is that even when you buy a house that's been completely redone, it just ain't done! It's not your home until you make it your own. Every project is nauseatingly expensive and nothing is cheap nor easy. Nothing! I'd show you our laundry list of home improvement projects, but you might say, "why don't you just move??" No house will ever be perfect and this house is far from being our dream home. All that really matters is that it is home, a good home and our home! We are here for now and for a while, so we are making it as close to our dream home within reason. DM would laugh and say, "we??? how about what you want?" Truth be told, I am extremely picky, and anyone who knows me well enough, will know that I'm not easy to persuade or convince of changing my mind. I have a vision down to the littlest details. I'm not easy to work with and I'm hoping for my husband's sake, he learns to just tune me out and give in. I care more than I'd like to about a lot of things, but I am just a passionate, persistent and determined person. I wish I could buy a home and love it for the solid roof and energy efficient windows it has. Unfortunately, that is not me. I love and live to make things beautiful.

Our biggest project, which we never anticipated upon purchasing our home back in 2012, was and still is our backyard. We have one of the biggest properties in our area and I'm not so sure it's such a good thing anymore. A big yard was very important to me and still is. However, our house didn't come with a beautiful, mature garden. Instead, it was an eyesore -- full of overgrowth, from ivy to juniper, every weed under the sun, and volunteer trees all over the place. In case you didn't know, volunteer trees (or any plants for that matter) are trees that sprout up on their own without intentionally being planted (ie: a seed landing, sprouting and growing).

I spent months before we moved just dreaming about gardening, pruning and smelling the flowers. Boy have I learned a thing or two since then! Most who know me well, know I love to garden...but I'm not talking about just sticking some annuals in the ground -- I like to really get down 'n' dirty! I've needed to overcome my greatest phobia -- bugs. I've learned to respect their space so long as they don't touch me or come in my home. I've learned that you win some and you lose some (plants..due to disease, pests, neglect and winter). I've learned about some obstacles, which in our case is always large rocks anywhere we went to plant anything, big or small. I've learned about organizing, planning for the future, dividing, propagating, under and over watering, weeds, grass, trees, etc. I always knew I wanted to do it, I just didn't know how much I would want to be out there doing it. Some neighbors might think I'm a little crazy. I am out there just about every day! Some people are passionate about shopping (which I also am), and I am just overly passionate about gardening -- being in there, creating, watching, learning as things grow and die. Yards have really become more of a priority over the past few years. It's not longer just a green space to let the dog out to pee and kids to run and play. Yards are a place to farm your own produce, lounge in your outdoor living room, hang string lights and whatever else your heart desires. This is the story of ours.

I'm happy that we've been taking photos of the progress we've made. And now finally, in our 4th growing season here, I can say I'm starting to see our blurry vision become clear. We are almost there! Now I'll take you on a visual journey of the challenging, backbreaking, burning-holes-in-our-pockets, educational journey of gardening and landscaping our yard. (just warning you, I've added 300+ photos. Actually, I'm gonna go ahead and split this into a two part post).

01.2013 - at least charlie likes the yard. poor guy needs a fence so he doesn't have to be tied up!
 The overgrown forest in the middle of our yard. Impatient may as well be my middle name because before we hired gardeners to cut back all of the overgrowth, I went out there with a little handsaw cutting down half of one very large juniper. It took me hours and a lot of muscle. It took the gardeners about 5 minutes to do that and 3 other large ones next to it.
woah, our house was so empty! 
the ornamental grass was the first thing to go. i don't care how easy it is to grow, i'll never like it. :X
04.2013 - our first growing season and everyone working hard! (we found our cast iron outdoor dining set at a local midcentury thrift store. i love that it has a glass top!)
...even charlie!
I hate cutting down perfectly good trees, but this was growing out of our big rock and wasn't really safe. the workers' grinders kept breaking once they hit the rock. this took up hours.
I could barely look at this big, old, beautiful oak tree being cut down :( it was awful but needed to be done.
 this was just a teeny portion of what was covered in ivy.
we had 2 gardeners quit on our excavation project on us
because our rocks were damaging their machines :(
 05.2013 - bought 2 double bloom weeping cherries for the front & a kwanzan cherry for the back!
 the best house warming gift was this window bird feeder from my aunt!
06.15.2013 - spotting bunnies will never get less exciting for me.
 high five!
 begging for a kiss that he never gives!
and then it happened! careful what you wish for :oP

06.19.2013 - baby bunny I brought in from the busy road on the side of our house.


04.2014 - Our first annuals for our second growing season.
Could never resist those ranunculus, even if they only do bloom 6 weeks!
SOMEONE ate every last tulip we planted! I have more to plant this year, but I'm worried the same thing will happen again! Is there a trick to it?? Everyone around me seems to grow them just fine!

 Charlie bear hurt his leg on one of our adventures. :( My poor baby. His leg will never be the same. He's okay and still runs like a maniac to chase the wildlife in our yard and patrol anyone passing by, but we have to be cautious with how much we exercise him now when swimming, walking or hiking.
04.26.2014 - planting our 7 trees, exactly 7 feet apart on the side of our street for privacy. cannot believe how fast these babies grow!!
I was pregnant and could only be a cheerleader and make sure he dug the holes the right size. O:)
it ain't easy!

the next spring (2014), when the grass was tall from all of the rain and before the gardeners come for the first time, we had a little bunny nest
05.2014 - dm got a mower for his birthday and quickly realized we needed to just hire gardeners to do it so we wouldn't be "the crazy house" on the block with a 2 foot high lawn.
 3 years later and the branches on our kwanzan cherry have doubled!
(that teeny red Japanese maple in the background was replanted into 3 or 4 different locations until we finally gave it away.)
❤ 06.2014 - the first blooms in my peony garden! 
charlie bear is so beautiful! (his markings are classified as an irish spotted newfoundland.) 
 sadly, the rhododendron I dreamt of planting isn't doing as well as I'd thought. I think I chose the wrong varieties because I was too focused on their short-lived blooms rather than their year-round foliage. lesson learned!! 
my tall bearded iris. I bought this on a whim and didn't know how much I'd grow to love it (pun intended). they are actually getting ready to bloom any day now. these things grew like crazy and I'll have to dig it up to divide it very soon. what I love most is that I subconsciously planted it in the same location as my mother's in the house where I grew up! such sweet sentiments.
 double bloom pink knockout rose (p. 2013)
 I chose not to prune it over the next few seasons and
am now regretting that because it's getting too leggy and not as full as I'd like.
my favorite part of the garden is my collection of peonies and roses. the peonies are the easiest and most rewarding plant by far! the roses are teaching me a few lessons over the seasons and might deserve a whole post of their own.
07.03.2014 - extremely large and extremely NOT ready to give birth.
5 days later, I did
(see that big tannish/yellow/skin colored fence behind me? the landlord of the sweet renters behind us put that up. it's now the bane of my existence!) 

07.19.15 - here he is 1 year later. my little munchkin who I cannot live without.

rewind a little to the beginning of last season (2015):
05.06.2015 - weeping cherries in our front yard.
 teaching him to be gentle and respect all living things since day 1.
05.07.2015 - I've been told that children become passionate about
the same things as their parents...
 first of countless times in the dirt.
I learned to accept it and find the joy in it with him fast!
flowering almond!
me being frustrated and fed up with the weeds. I started to dig up the barn grass that I despise so much. I learned from my lawn service that if I rub the blades with round up 1-2x, it will soak it into the roots and kill it! (that's a work in progress this spring) 
 used to hate hostas and have grown to love them. anything with a blue-green color wins my heart.
 05.10.2015 - my first mother's day!
05.23.2015 - the finches loved our apple tree. too bad we cut it down later on--you'll see why!
chives in my copper planters on the deck.
and this is why. that apple tree is pretty for a short period of time. it basically only had 2 big branches left when we moved in. the rest of the time, apples fall all over attracting possums, chipmunks, bunnies and squirrels who half eat the apples, then leave the rest to rot with ants crawling all over them, waiting to be picked up by my baby boy right there! they fall on us, we slip on them, it's impossible to keep up with cleaning them up. just awful!
every spring I have pots sitting and waiting to be planted!
this year it's more roses and tulips and daffodils.
the whole gentle concept is always a work in progress!
 perched up on big rock. my sedum garden is well on it's way!
 the one time I didn't prune my hydrangeas, they did their best.
I wish I didn't prune this year. we'll see what happens.
this garden bed has never made sense. this year I finally figured it out,
so all of those plants you see will be relocated.
06.28.2015 - I was so scared that after we cut down the apple tree, all of these beautiful birds wouldn't come back. After all, it was their home base! It poured all day and I was in the kitchen baking G's practice birthday cake (which would also be his smash cake). Our yard was like GCS for birds that day!
our table was their birdbath!
 this guy was my favorite of them all. I mean, c'mon...look at that mohawk!
 even the chipmunks were going nuts that day!
 mid flight!!!!!
 watching me, making sure it was safe to go in our window bird feeder.
see those apples on the ground? that's nothing compared to what it looked like in a few weeks! and g was only getting more and more interested in them!
06.29.2015 - okay, okay. I lied. this isn't a blog post just about the yard.
I didn't let the cake get to room temperature long enough, so it was still pretty hard and difficult for him to smash :/
07.01.2015 - his first painting.
lesson learned: use one color at a time, otherwise it's just brown!
 07.04.2015 - pretty sure this thing was rabid. nothing scared it away.
AND he chewed up my bird feeder!
07.05.2015 - after G's 1st birthday party!
 07.06.2015 - 12 hours worth of apples fallen on the patio.
top left: black squirrel. middle right: chipmunk.
bottom left: rabbit the size of a hare!
 07.17.2015 - that'll be this squirrel's last apple in our yard...
what's done is done. it wasn't as happy of a moment as I'd imagined.
I do not enjoy cutting down trees.
 and to make things worse,
we finally all tried the apples--and they were really good!!
07.30.2015 - the apple tree is gone. it was directly to the right of the bbq. rip.
 07.21.2015 - year 2 for the green giant thujas.
 these roses above, along with the 4 photos below are plants that didn't return this spring :( </3
^^ ice plants vv
 guara plant is pictured above. I hope I can replace them this year. they are so delicate and pretty. (update: my mil & fil found them for me!)
09.01.2015 - sprinklers!!!
dew on my lamb's ears 
❤ 08.04.2015 
note the excess of weeds! we hired a lawn service to fertilize and spray this year (04.2016). It's our last attempt at having real, nice grass. We've had the entire yard raked up 2x, put down seed and added an in-ground sprinkler system. This is our last hope. Nothing else has worked! So far, so good...but like everyone says, grass always looks good in May.
just this spring (04.2016), I finally planted my baby trumpet vine right where his left foot is! :D It looked sad for the first couple of weeks, but as it's getting warmer, it has perked up again!)
I love my lamb's ears. I keep dividing and spreading them to make solid borders.
that lavendar on the left there has been moved 3 times now. I just put it in the big rock in the back.

summer nights, playing outside 'til papa gets home from work.

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