The Yard: A year in review

by Rainbow Bobbins

IMG_1066Cheers to one year! And to boyfriends managing the lawn.

It is hard to believe that we moved into our first house one year ago! I love our big back yard and the gardening potential. Upon moving in we had grandiose plans of all the improvements that would be made to the backyard. But, these things always take way more time and resources than I imagine. For us the process has proved to be slooooow — and i’m cool with that. Having a soft spot for lists and before & afters , I put together this way too-long rambling post tracking progress and dream-plans to refer back to when we celebrate our 2 year house anniversary next year:

Award for most progress goes to the understory of the left fir tree. When we moved in it looked like this:

under-right-firAnd now:

underfir92013I transferred four ferns from other parts of of the yard to this area, transplanted trilium, planted new ferns, hostas, one grass, spiderwort ‘sweet kate’, Kerria Japonica (Japanese rose), one huerchera and one begonia in a pot. Aside from the transplanted ferns these plants are all pretty young. I can’t wait to see them all re-emerge in spring – ideally everything will fill-in and overtime I’m hoping that my shade garden will look like Steve’s Garden featured in Art of Gardening Buffalo.  That would make me happy.

Fastia from aboveSo far this year I feel like I’ve done more chopping and killing of plants than planting and cultivating. One that was particularly sad to see go is was the fastia japonica (above) on the left side of the yard. This was an oldie. Two huge ferns were hidden under these shrubs. I love these plants but we wanted to remove them and plant bamboo for more privacy from our neighbors who are ALWAYS OUTSIDE SMOKING. Ugh. Getting the plants and roots out took me a few months (i’m slow and easily distracted). Now it just looks a mess. DSCN9366Hmmm…worse before it gets better? See that stump with the grass in it? It is cute but INFESTED WITH TERMITES. What do I do with that? Next steps: remove stump, build short retaining wall (see start on left), add soil and plant Fargesia Robusta bamboo. My goal is to get this done by the end of October. Another big, pretty old shrub on the chopping block is this Forsythia gone wild:

IMG_1503This thing takes up about 13×15′ of space. At least. Probably more. It has re-rooted and spread. I cut it back and removed the grass around it earlier this year — but you can see above how quickly it grows (top pic from last week, pic below from March of this year):

DSCN7401It was a hard call but I have decided to take it out. I have big plans for a pretty ‘garden nook’. The nook will have a vine maple, evergreen hydrangea, some paving stones, planters and a place to sit and relax next to the vegetable garden. I plan to build a arbor for privacy and to obscure the shed with some sort of vine. Definitely longer term – the next few months will be root removal – I’ve started on the branches:

DSCN9352I swear cutting down old plants makes me sad. At the same time, I love it. So satisfying. I don’t feel like I’m a rose garden type but the house came with one and I decided to go with it. So far this year I planted 3 new roses, transplanted old ferns out of this space, planted tons-o-tulips and added bark – here is the before and after:

DSCN7182See that grass invasion? Below is the after – of course in a prettier season:


DSCN8730I’ve definitely spent the most time and energy in the vegetable garden located in the back of the yard. Below is what it looked like when we moved in September 2012:


DSCN7543April 2013

DSCN8029Early June 2013

DSCN8375Early July

DSCN8670August 2013

So, the plans for the next year? I mentioned the bamboo and the garden nook. Aside from that I would like to remove some, wait, a lot of lawn. We have too much and we don’t believe in wasting water to keep it green – clearly:

DSCN8738Too. much. lawn. I plan to expand the garden beds on all sides for a variety of plantings and to increase privacy. I want to put in some hardscaping to distinguish the vegetable garden from the lawn. We would love a big flagstone patio at the base of our deck but that might be a 2015 project. Fire pit is a must. Maybe limb-up the fir trees to allow sunlight to reach the veg garden. I would like a espalier apple tree for the veg garden and I need to train the grapes. Maybe some cedar raised beds for carrots and other veggies? And then there is the front yard –but that is a dream for a different blog post….do you have any big yard plans for the coming year?