“Makeover.” The word is magical. The Clueless montage flashes before my eyes.
Last we talked about the front yard, it was almost Christmas… oops. One flower bed was looking pretty good, while the other I had just started to overhaul. With a mini jungle of forgotten shrubs and invasive monkey grass, that planter was a little piece of chaos to greet visitors (“Hi, we’re a mess!”) to the house.
This is what it all looked like back when we bought the house in the spring of last year:
Here the house is again in October:
The lovely yellow door had been painted. The left planter had been completely redone. Mums were planted in the right planter to bring a sense of order to the bushes.
In December I finally started to work on that monstrous planter:
I tilled and tilled and uprooted those mini-trees (via chaining them to the car and driving away… not kidding). This was a blood and sweat kind of project with a team of exactly 1 person (myself) most of the time working solely during naptimes.
The only artifact that remained of the old planter was the small azalea bush on the far left. I put down newspapers and weed cloth before mulching as a defense against the inevitable roots that remained in the soil. I started with 5 small privet bushes in the back ($5 a pop from Lowes clearance) and 4 fountain grasses in front of them (Walmart). On the right is a rosemary bush that started from a teeny herb my sister gave us as a housewarming gift. The small tree in front is a Japanese maple I found at Aldi for $12! Woot! The patchy grass was grown from a bag of bermuda grass seed (somewhere under $20 from Lowes). The planter was so big, I figured I could make it appear smaller by putting more grass down. The hope was that the sidewalk wouldn’t define the planter, rather it would look as though the sidewalk just cuts through the lawn.
After much brainstorming, I decided to make a mulch retainer (see the messy blueberry bushes in back) with lambs ear. It is so so so easy to propagate (you literally uproot a lambs ear plant and separate the roots to form smaller lambs ear–make sure you have a leaf and a root–that you will plant in a sunny spot and water regularly). All of the lambs ear in our front yard started from one plant less than a year ago. The biggest roadblock we hit in this project was deciding on and acquiring something to separate the grass from the mulch. I really wanted rock, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for and really didn’t want to order a whole pallet of rocks for way too much money. So I waited and waited. And as is often the case, waiting paid off. A neighbor redid her sidewalk, leaving big rocks of broken concrete on the side of the road for the trash guys. Or for resourceful neighbors 🙂
This is what it looks like now. We have come a long way, and I am so pleased with it. The rocks aren’t exactly what I had in mind, but for $0, they are leaving me more than pleased.
This is what newly propagated lambs ear looks like. It’s small and kind of fragile at first, but (as you can see with the lambs ear in the blueberry area) it takes very little time before it’s hardy and full.
This little rock situation is very low tech, but one of my favorite features of the planter. The gutter and sump pump both drain here, making mulch a no-go. I simply put some scrap wood down, tilled and leveled the ground as best I could, and then covered with (3 bags of) egg rocks. At first it was prime weed territory, with the rocks being very poor deterrents. While searching for weed solutions, I stumbled upon the idea of salting the ground. Salting is a very straight forward way to keep anything from growing in an area. It’s not a good idea for in the bed itself, since the salt could easily hurt the plants I do want there, but since this spot is a good space away from them, it works. After a month of incredible rain and sun (mow-the-grass-twice-a-week weather), there are just a few little tufts of centipede grass that I need to pluck out. Not bad at all.
I’m loving our little Japanese maple. These grow so slowly, so I know that we’ll probably be long gone (ahem, moved, not dead we hope) by the time this looks like a proper tree. Sometimes I love the idea that we leave little legacies like this behind when we move: trees planted, bookshelves made, and the like. If you’re looking closely, you can see some of that ever invasive monkey grass still working hard at sprouting up through the weed cloth and mulch. The weed cloth and/or newspaper are great options for keeping out most weeds, but grass like this shoots up through the tiny fibers like a little knife. Very annoying. My current plan of attack is to just keep weeding the area and each year apply more mulch.
A few other fun changes around here include this awesome copper rain chain I may or may not have received as a birthday present from my sweet mother-in-law. We’re still on the lookout for some kind of pot to collect water below it. Not sure what we’ll use yet. Also, check out these lovely shutters Mr. P whipped up in less than an hour one day.
One challenge we’re facing with these rocks is our new and slightly desperate need for a weed eater. A lawn mower definitely cannot handle this. But there are worse problems to have, and this one is very easily resolved.
So what do you think? What changes have made big impacts in your yards? Any tips on boosting curb appeal?