After living in apartments for 7 years, last year, when we were looking to buy a house we knew we wanted a yard. And ultimately, this house’s yard was a big part of it’s appeal. It’s a big yard for the area and price. It’s sunny and shady. It has serious potential- but it was- and remains nearly a blank slate. After living here almost a year, and thus now having experienced what grows where and what blooms when we have a better picture for what we want to do and what needs to be done. But its still a big undertaking- and so I’m putting this out to you all- where do you start in a nearly blank slate yard?
From chatting with neighbors and also assessing the general state of the yard, we figured out that about 10 years ago the last people who truly did any significant yard work moved out. Since then the lawn was mowed (albeit poorly) and rarely watered in dry spells. Bushes that were planted either died off (azalea) or grew untrimmed. Daylillies spread everywhere. As did the terrible invasive vine, black swallow-wort, which is a huge problem here in the northeast. My goal is to fill in the blank spots in the beds that circle the fences, to use mainly local (or localish) pollinator-friendly perennials, and combat most of the invasives. This is also not our forever house, so no need to go crazy. We share this yard with our upstairs neighbors, who pretty much let us have our way with the yard, but it’s not entirely our own (and if they move, sentiments can change). Also, we don’t need to beautify it in terms of re-sale value- that is thankfully not a concern in our super-selling area. We want something nice, practical, sustainable. So I’ll show you what we have, what some of my thoughts & plans are, and I welcome all comments.
This is our front yard beds. The spring bulby things have faded, but they’re there in spring. We recently put down new cedar mulch and the small boxwood in the lower picture. I ripped out a half-dead yew and last fall we planted a heavily discounted hydrangea that we are pleased to see coming back hail and healthy (top picture right next to steps). I’m thinking of planting some giant allium next to the hydrangea. Behind the boxwood we’d like to put in a large ornamental fountain grass to cover up the foundation. But other than that I’m at a loss. We’re looking for a medium height sun loving hardy perennial (or three) the fill in that front bed, and lower varieties to go in front of the boxwood & holly. Oh and yeah, we’re working on the grass- that’s where the crabgrass was killed.
Our backyard has lots of empty patches. We recently put in a raspberry cane. Maybe we’ll do currants too. In the top picture you can see just a part of the daylilly problem. Large sun/part sun perennials (or flowering bushes) are really needed to fill in this area- but maybe we’ll work on that after we replace the decrepit fence. The area by our garden is the best off. It is perhaps the only part that still retains the beauty and care long ago previous owners took. There’s lots of wild violets (we even have them popping up in our grass- which I don’t mind). Also bleeding heart, ferns, some other sort of lily that hasn’t bloomed yet so I can’t identify it and wild geranium. The area that directly abuts our neighbor’s garage is very shady and contains sad stumps of lilacs. Last fall I hacked apart ferns, violets and hosta to plant in this shady spot and have been pleased to see that they all came up this year. This area will continue to fill in, but helping it along with more shade loving things – that attract helpful insects as our garden is right there- is preferred. Also to do is edge the entire back yard. That’ll be quite the project.
Our side yard is all sorts of miserable. Immediately next to our deck is a rhododendron that is pretty well off- except in the month of July intense sun hits it just so to really cook it- the rest of the year it’s ok- it’s just a really funny angle tucked into the corner of our house. You can see more wild violets popping up in the left (and our compost bucket). But other than that, this bed is bare. Along the side of the house is were the evil invasives grow. There are also several clematis. And a sad rose. Honestly, it will take a backhoe to remove the tangled knots of invasive swallow-wort in here. I dig them up when I can, but their roots are tough. The clematis might be invasive too- but the planting seems intentional and there seems to be debate whether all the wild clematis in this area is the native one (virgin’s bower) or a very similar looking import- sweet autumn clematis. We have milkweed growing here too (YEAH!) and I sprinkled in a perennial seed mix- so we’ll see what pops up. Those beige sack planters are where our squash babies live. This side gets a good deal of sun. For this area my goal is to loosen the death grip the invasives have, and fill the area with perennials or self-seeding annuals- kind of let it go sort of wild- but in a good way.
So there you have it. An embarrassing but honest look at our yard. I didn’t even share all of its goodies (by that I mean baddies). Ideas? Thoughts? Have you tamed a wild yard? Did you battle invasives? Have you moved into a blank slate (or worse- a jumbled mess?) I’d love to hear your stories!
I’ll be sharing this on Tuesday Garden Party at an Oregon Cottage and Green Thumb Thursday at Grow a Good Life.