Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Backyard Makeover, Part 1

When we moved into our home three years ago, we were blessed to find a giant corner lot with pretty garden beds and lots of open space in the backyard.  It sits at the curved end of a crescent, so we have a big pie-shaped yard.  Coming from apartment living, our dogs were ecstatic!  And we were too.  We finally had our own little slice of heaven to call home.  

Naive as we were, we didn't think much of those garden beds in terms of upkeep, since everything living in them was "low-maintenance".  We figured we had time to get to them eventually.  But in our neighborhood, something evil and mysterious took hold that first summer: and they called it Rye Grass.

Before long, all our beds were overtaken with a hideous, destructive and rampant grass hearty enough to survive a nuclear holocaust.  Soon it was coming up through the patio stones, and was choking out the existing healthy plants.  No matter how much of it we pulled out by the roots (back-breaking work, I can assure you) it seemed as if we'd won the battle... but in the end, we lost the war.  Within two or three days it was back with a vengeance.

Finally in the summer of 2011 we had to call in the experts.  We had the beds excavated completely, and had new soil put in.  We decided that sodding over most of the beds was the best answer for us right now, and it certainly makes for a more peaceful and zen yard.

Right off the patio, the grassed-in area makes for easy mowing and puts a spotlight on a pretty miniature maple tree.  Plus, the absence of the bed-o'-weeds makes for easy breathing for those of us with seasonal allergies!

The side walkway, which formally joins the front of the house to the backyard, is now free from its rye grass invasion.  I planted six beautiful lime-colored hydrangeas and, in between each of them, I put in solar-powered garden lights, which cast a lovely glow in the evening.  I also put in black cedar mulch (also called cedar chips) which not only helps keep weeds at bay but also gives the appearance of rich, healthy black earth.

The addition of the pool was the pièce-de-résistance in this spacious backyard.  We had it installed the first summer after we moved in, and planted our own version of a rock garden around the pool's edge.  Unfortunately, we lined the bed with the most inexpensive weed barrier cloth (also called geo-textile) we could find.  That was a mistake.  Three years later, weeds and grasses of every description crept their way through and destroyed all the work we had done.  Then we had to pay professionals a lot of money to have it all removed.  Next time, we won't opt for the cheapest solution!  

On the far side of the house, our landscaping company recommended installing a Celtic border, which helps water drain away from the foundation.  It's basically a bed made of river rocks, about 1.5 feet wide.  It's nice and tidy: the perfect solution for a mostly-shady side of the house which tends to stay a little wet.

Now the backyard is welcoming and neat, not a eyesore and source of endless work.  There are quite a few phases left until its transformation is complete, which include the addition of a patio door into the house and a new patio, building a pergola/poolhouse, creating and decorating an outdoor living space, and landscaping with large potted plants (elevated plants are a bonus when you have dogs!).  But for now, we are definitely one step closer to our little slice of heaven.


  1. I like what you did with your side walkway. We are on the hunt for the perfect solution for us and this post is definitely going in my bookmark folder. Thanks!

    My best, Lynn

    1. Hi Lynn, thanks for writing! How are things going with your side walkway? Good luck! Val


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