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outdoor landscaping

April 19, 2010

The weather here has been amazing the past few weeks.  Sure, it turned a little cooler over the weekend, but really, the spring here in western Michigan has been wonderful.  And that means that we’re spending increasing amounts of time outside in our garden.  The previous owners of our house did a wonderful job planting a pretty huge floral garden.  This year, we want to also plant a vegetable garden.  So I anticipate that much of my summer off will be spent hanging out in the yard with the dogs (yessss!).

We’ve not done much work to the actual landscaping of the yard, but we did have a few trees removed last November.  Here’s what the house looked like before we moved in last spring:

And after removal of the huge trees near the house:

Do you see that super-classy propane tank in the front yard?  Nice, right?

The foresters that removed our trees had convinced me that they would take the entire tree – that none of it would go to waste.  And when they told me that, what they actually meant was, “we’re taking the good stuff and leaving you with the leftovers, sucker.”  I hate being a sucker.

So this lovely mess of branches and trunk was left for us to clean up, and since it was blocking the fence that usually hides our propane tank, our brand-spanking-new shiny white propane tank is front and center like a big classless lawn ornament.  Sigh.

We’ve cleared out the branchy mess in the foreground, but still have to move the stuff in the background before we can get to the propane tank.  Anyone with a chainsaw and some spare time is welcome to come help.

Here’s a shot of the back of the house before the big tree was removed:

And after:

I was a little sad to see the trees go.  I watched the forester scale the tree with his chainsaw, and just as he was about to cut, he goes, “These trees have been around so much longer than you or I – took them hundreds of years to get this big!  Yet they’ll come down so much faster…”  Ouch.  That was a little like a stab to the heart.  And then he fired up the chainsaw and did his thing.

But now that they’re gone, the moss has stopped growing on the side of the house, and so much more light comes in through the windows.  And I don’t hear the loud thunk of small tree branches falling on the house in windy or rainy weather.  These are all good things.

Also, now that the tree is gone, we’re going to need to work on some new landscaping.  We thought we should replace the loose stones on the back patio with crushed concrete, and I’d like to change up the planting bed with the tree in it.  (Anyone have positives/negatives/advice about crushed concrete patios that they’d like to share?)  Jason wants to tear out the holly bush to the right of the brick pathway, and he’s also going to build a nice little pergola above the brick walkway near the driveway since it’s a pretty sunny area that will be excellent for hop-growing.

We’re also going to need to do a bit of landscaping around the front of the house.

As a reminder, our 5′ brick wall gave way to heaving soil during the spring thaw, and the entire wall needs to be redone (because it’s leaning out):

And we’ve finally made the decision that it would not be a good idea for us to DIY this repair for a few reasons: 1. we have no clue what we’re doing, 2. we don’t want to wall to fall again anytime soon, 3. the quote that we got from a reputable landscaper was really reasonable and it’s worth it to us to spend the extra $1500 to have it done right.  We’d likely spend that much in mistakes.  And the landscaper has been working with us to find solutions to keep our cost lower: we will build the wall about a foot shorter than it is now (to save on supplies), but bring it out two feet (to save on labor – because the landscaper won’t have to dig out behind the wall).  We may also be able to save some moolah by taking the wall apart ourselves, which I assume is a feat much less technically challenging than putting it back together.

The previous homeowners put in an awesome series of retaining walls (they look even better when things are blooming), and I’m just crossing my fingers that the rest of the walls will stay put.

(As a side note: another potential summer project will be to re-roof and re-side the little room you see extending off of the side of the house.  Right now it’s not used at all, but Jason is certain that he can put it to work as a brewery…  I suppose we should also consider getting rid of the giant satellite dish, however, friends have suggested that we set up a control station in the basement and convince guests that we use it to communicate with aliens.  A viable option, if plan A fails.)

It seems our landscaping/summer to-do list gets bigger every time I walk outside…

Anyone else have landscaping to-dos for the summer?

(PS If you’re seeing this through a reader, I updated my header so you should click over and take a peek!)

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2010 11:34 am

    I have never fully seen the outside of your house! It is stunning!!! I love the wood shingles! Now, the bad part about broken up concrete. For some reason I have a ton of it in my yard. No one will take it away. No company or anything. So if you ever plan to get rid of it, you are more than likely stuck with it. I started using it as landscaping in our backyard because it was free, did the job. I like the way it works, but wish I didn’t have so much of it. Can’t wait to see what you do!

  2. April 19, 2010 1:58 pm

    I have a stone patio and paths. The stones look nice but they are a lot of work to maintain. I spent hours weeding them. The previous owner/s (POs) did not keep the weeds down. It has taken me three to four years before a newly weeded area has become manageable. If you make sure the weeds do not establish on your patio it might work out for you.

  3. Brian permalink
    April 19, 2010 5:21 pm

    Two suggestions – read up on “How to install a retaining wall” so you can make sure the landscaper guy does it correctly. The one that collapsed looks like it did not have enough gravel behind it for drainage. The crushed concrete idea, are you talking recycled concrete? A lot of recycled concrete has metal pieces in it from rebar that was in the concrete from the previous use. The dogs could cut their paws on the metal pieces. Also, the dogs would bring into the house a lot of the crushed gravel on their paws.

  4. April 19, 2010 5:57 pm

    I love your shingle house its so cute and charming. Your retaining walls are very pretty! Is the crushed concrete patio your thinking about doing like a peppble concerte patio?

  5. April 19, 2010 7:04 pm

    Ahhh, I am so jealous of all the landscaping/walls you already have. We have such a blank slate. And, I’m sure Chris would be there in a second with his chainsaw if he could (he loves that thing…)!

  6. Marcella permalink
    April 19, 2010 9:14 pm

    Your home is gorgeous – thanks for sharing with all of us! My husband and I desperately need a series of retaining walls around our old farm house, and have been looking into different “faux stone” block options. Do you know whichcompany manufactured your wall blocks? Thanks much, and good luck with the re-construction.

  7. April 20, 2010 10:32 am

    Since I live in the desert your images of the beautiful woods are like heaven to me. So pretty.

  8. April 20, 2010 11:50 am

    Great to see your progress – I love before and after pics!

    I too hate to see ancient trees have to come down. There is one beside our cottage, but we are hoping some drastic cutting back may be an alternative to having to get rid of it altogether.

  9. Tami permalink
    April 20, 2010 12:54 pm

    I like the stones/bricks of your wall. Lowering and moving the wall out farther is a great idea, it will soften the landscape. Also…What if you left a small opening in the wall for a future walkway to the front door? Figure it at an angle between the driveway and the corner of the house or front door. You could slope the grass there as a path for now. It would be welcoming and draw people to the house/front door.

    If you are looking for a landscape tree to fill the void of the big ones you took down, you might want to look into the Spring Snow Crab Apple (remember the tree right outside our kitchen window?). They don’t get too large and have great pink buds/white blossoms in spring. Ours are blooming right now and the scent is terrific! The best part is they don’t produce fruit, so…no messy apples on the ground, no annoying angry hornets buzzing around the messy apples and no deer stamping the ground eating apples off the tree.

    Looks good, hope to see it in person some day.

    PS….on the Spring Snow tree…no angry hornets, but lots of nice friendly honey bees right now.

    • MOM permalink
      April 21, 2010 10:41 pm

      I agree with Tami, or one of those pale pink flowered crab trees we have in front of our house. They don’t leave any fruit either! And the hibiscus bushes at our front door smell heavenly right now and when they are done, the lilacs will be blooming…I love this time of year!

  10. April 20, 2010 10:10 pm

    Wow you guys are going to be busy, but it will be beautiful because it already is. Can’t wait to see your progress! Love the new header by the way!

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