I spend a lot of time in winter, staring out my windows, analyzing the structure of the garden and conceiving of changes to be made in the next year. Houzz just posted on this topic, and started with the statement:
"Winter is the best time of year to take stock of your gardens and plan for the future. It's the time of year when gardens are laid flat, exposing their bones and allowing you to see the base of their structure. Take advantage of this time to restructure your design, order new plants or start plans for new hardscaping."
Some of the gardens featured on Houzz are a wee bit over-the-top for the average person, but nevertheless, check out their photos, drool a little, and think about how you can apply the principles inyour garden!
For me personally, I am really enjoying the view of my new trellis out the dining room window (above). The snow makes it especially nice since you can't see that those chairs are actually fronted by an unfinished pit of mud, rather than by the nice patio that I didn't get to completing last year!
So now you know what (some of) my plans are for this year! What are yours?
Yesterday was beautiful, wasn't it? (As long as you didn't have to drive somewhere!) I got outside and hung this wreath on my new trellis while the kids toboganned across the Adventure Garden. I get glimpses of the wreath from the kitchen and dining room and it really puts me in the festive spirit!
The best part of the snow is you can't see the unfinished patio (a.k.a. mud pit) area in front of the trellis... an unfinished project from last year! Here's hoping the snow stays!
Do you decorate in the garden?
In May I always have too much going on! It's always a rush to get everything planted (not to mention this is the busiest garden coaching month) but by June things settle down again and I can let the rainy season take care of all my new plantings, so it always feels worth it afterwards.
But this year I'm behind because of the late spring (I haven't even finished cleaning up last year's leaves yet!) and currently I'm out of town for a week (that darned real job getting in the way of gardening again!) so I'm just crossing my fingers and hoping that hubby remembers to water the veggie garden and that frost doesn't get the tomatoes that I didn't have time to protect before I left (there was none in the forecast but you never know - it was a bit of a gamble.)
I'm also behind on blog posts and responding to emails so I'm going to a rush job tonight of updating you on what I've been up to in the garden...
- got the rest of the veggie seeds in but not the seedlings or marigolds yet as I had planned
- had a brief distraction from regular spring activities when I unexpectedly found a bunch of Calgary Carpet junipers for CHEAP! and immediately had to plant 12 of them in my front yard (you can ony see 7 here) to fill the hole where a spruce tree used to be (more on front yard plans soon, and sorry for the shadows in the photo below, no time these days to wait for the right lighting either!)
- dug out concrete piles from where the greenhouse used to be to prepare for the new patio design as part of the north patio project (actually, I was on kid duty while hubby did this job); the section to the left of the board in the photo below is where the patio has been pulled up, which I started doing a couple of weeks ago... and look, I've already started planting! I just can't help myself - bare soil is just not safe in my yard!)
OK, I'm sort of caught up. Must go rest now...
I've been too busy to tell you about it until now (May is crazy!), but recently I decided to consult with an experienced garden designer to help me with some major design issues in my backyard. (It turns out she helped me with the front too, but I'll save that for another post.)
I always shake my head when I see people who have planted things in the wrong place (a cedar under a spruce tree? egregious!) and think - they would probably save money overall, as well as time and frustration, if they just hired a garden coach to help them find the right plants for their garden. Well, the same applies to me getting help with my own garden design.
I've been thinking about getting help myself for a while, but could never quite admit to myself that I needed it. Until now. And now that I've done it, I wish I'd done it ages ago, as it was well worth the investment!
Why did I need help? Well, for one thing, sometimes you just need the experienced eye of someone who is not so close and attached to your space as you are. Plus, there are some MAJOR design challenges in my yard (listed below.) Here's my drawing of what my backyard currently looks like, including the major spruce trees that I am unwilling to get rid of (there are others that are not shown that are, in my mind, doomed):
My problems with this yard:
Enter Sue Gaviller, a designer whose work has been featured on this blog before. I took a few design classes from her this spring and she is great. I was little afraid she was going to arrive and say "You've got to get rid of all those spruce trees" or something similarly impractical. But she was extremely good about working with the major features of my yard which are admittedly not optimal, but are too big and/or expensive to change. So here's what she came up with:
I love it! Although I won't be putting a pergola in the spot where the greenhouse used to be (just a screen against the fence), I do like how the patio curves on either side, getting rid of the awkward triangle of space between where the greenhouse used to be and the existing retaining wall. As Sue says, the curves allow for better flow and also deal with the problem of messy and heaving patio stones around the base of the spruce trees.
I also really like the new shape of the lawn because I knew that the random curves I had before didn't relate to the rest of the yard. The "arc and tangent" theme utilizes both straight lines, and circles and partial circles, for a semi-formal look and seems the best way to tie the yard together since I already have some straight and curved lines in the existing layout that I can't change.
This year will be the year of the north patio project, which I have already started working on. We'll be building the screen against the fence and reshaping the north patio. Stay tuned to see how it developes!
I had a GREAT holiday week-end, how about you? In honour of Earth day and spending time with family, I didn't turn my computer on over the week-end. I spent lots of time trying new recipes, working in the yard, and hanging out with family. I feel rejuvenated!
So let me fill you in on what I am now calling the 'North Patio Project.' Here's what I did this week-end (snow is still melting today in shady spots and it was generally too wet to walk around the garden):
Friday: french toast for breakfast; started lifting patio bricks around the area where the pergola screen is going go to (I've made some changes to the plan which I will tell you about later - sorry this picture doesn't show it well but essentially there was an awkward triangle of patio bricks between a retaining wall and where the greenhouse used to be - I am digging it up to turn it into garden space); lit a fire in the chimnea and had our first meal outside of the year (BBQed hot dogs and roasted marshamallows - yum!)
My five-year old helped pry an amazing number of bricks up from around this tree! The bricks used to go right up to the base of the trunk and were heaving and always covered with fallen spruce needles and cones - it looked awful! By making a mulched space around the base of the tree, it already looks better and I will have a place to sweep the needles to, making it easier to clean up the patio. I will be lifting a lot more bricks than what is shown here, but at least we made a start!
Saturday: homemade muffins for breakfast; errands in the morning, including a trip to the garden centre to buy vermiculite for the new raised beds (read about how much to add here); a little more brick lifting, plus a trip to the playground in the afternoon!
Sunday: Easter egg hunt!; eggs benny for breakfast; amazingly warm day and started putting the seedlings outside to begin hardening them off; continued lifting bricks and digging out the gravel from underneath; cleaned and set up rain barrels; siblings and their family over for supper, kids running all over the backyard, hooray for being outside!
Monday: I am fortunate to work for a place that makes Monday a holiday too! Perhaps just a little more brick-lifting is in order today. Plus I think I'll walk around the garden and see what's coming up. I tell ya, after a long, snowy winter and no sign of spring until 3 days ago, a few days outside in the yard has me feeling fantastic! What did you do this week-end?
Here is my latest idea regarding what to do with that awful hole in my patio which resulted from taking down the (even-more-awful) "greenhouse" last year. It includes a tall, 3-panel lattice screen in front of the fence with a sitting-height frame all the way around the area, and benches on the front side for extra seating facing other parts of the garden. A small, half-octogon cobblestone patio is set at the back of the area to set a couple of chairs and pots on.
Orignally, I had wanted to build a pergola on top of a raised deck in this spot. I thought it would be a fun play space for the kids and I had the design all figured out! Then my husband recently announced that, well, he didn't really feel like building it this year. After my initial disappointment (and frustration, I admit), I decided to come up with a new plan. After doing some serious thinking, these were my main criteria for the design:
My new design meets all these criteria, don't you think? Unfortunately, the new concept won't really suffice as a playhouse for the kids which was an original criterion but hey, I'm willing to give up on that criterion to get something built sooner rather than later. Selfish me! An added bonus of the new design concept is that the lattice screen will provide a place to hang a wall fountain without the extra parts (tubes, wires) showing. I happen to already have electricity in this area thanks to the old greenhouse. I am pumped to get started! Bring on spring!
Here are a few more pictures to help you visualize what I'm talking about:
Above: here's a photo showing a free-standing lattice-screen wall of a similar style to what I want. photo taken from: http://www.tonbridgefencing.co.uk/wooden_fencing/trellis_fences.php
Above: And here's a photo showing kind of what I imagine the whole area will look like when it's done. A focal point on the wall and a beautiful place to sit softened by a few plants. photo scanned from a book by Canadian Gardening Magazine:
Liz Primeau (2004). city gardens, Creative Urban Gardens and Expert Design Ideas. Toronto: McArthur & Company.
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The photos below show my latest ideas for a playhouse... or a teahouse... or actually a playhouse to eventually be turned into a teahouse. But first, this lovely spot in my yard is where it's going:
Yikes! It almost hurts me to post this picture but this is what my north patio has looked like all summer! We took down the nasty greenhouse last spring and this empty spot has been just sitting here growing weeds. But actually, that's OK, because I've been waffling back and forth on what exactly I want to put here. Now I've got the winter to finish planning and deciding, and my husband has promised that this project will be the top of his priority list next summer.
Originally I thought a "treehouse" would be fun, and I posted a picture of an inspiring playhouse previously. I wanted something that was fairly high to eliminate the imposing view of the side of my neighbour's house (only partially seen above.)
But now I'm leaning towards something lower down, that adults will actually be able to use when the kids aren't using it. I'm thinking longterm here - the kids won't need a playhouse forever!
And to save ourselves the work of trying to lay a patio in this spot to match the already existing patio (a big pain in the &^$%, believe me, we've done it before), we're thinking of building a pergola/house with a slightly raised deck for a base. I like the base of this one (below) for its openness and style:
Above photo from the LA Times.
I wouldn't go quite so Asian for the style of the rest of the structure though, as it wouldn't fit with my yard. So I kept looking for more inspiration...
Design tip: renovation and design options can be overwhelming so one way to figure out what you really want is to collect photos over a period of time of things that catch your eye, then figure out what are the key elements that the photos have in common that you liked. Here are the pergola photos I've collected this summer:
But let's be realistic here. I'm not going to have such a beautiful "adult space" for a few years still. I was thinking our structure could be used for the kids for a playhouse for a few years first. We could put temporary walls on it but an easier way would be to add curtains:
And finally, I'm leaning toward a covered roof (so more of a teahouse than a pergola) because our structure is going to be situated between two large spruce trees in my backyard (practically everything is between two large spruce trees in my yard, but I digress...) A solid roof will prevent everything underneath from getting covered with needles, cones and sap. But I'd like to keep it as open as possible to maximize light. The roof and curtains on this one (above) are perfect.
I should have been more diligent in keeping track but I believe all unlabelled photos above are from www.houzz.com.
I certainly wasn't counting on getting started so early in the year, but who knew March was going to be so nice? With the help of some friends, we got a good start on removing the ugly "greenhouse" this week-end. Something I've wanted to do for several years now. Hooray!
Did you get outside this past week-end? My hubby took the two older kids out Sunday afternoon and while the youngest had a nap, I suddenly found myself all alone in my own house in the middle of the day for the first time in I-don't-know-how-long! Excitement!
Of course, I had to get outside and do something. Since the pruning is already done. I decided to take a peek under the "greenhouse" to see what's under there. I've been talking for years about taking this ugly, rotten, behemoth down. It only gets about 2 hours of direct sunlight.
It doesn't look pretty. Besides the ant, wasp and mouse nests that I have already seen evidence of, it looks like there are cement piles that the corners of the structure are resting on. This will be no small job. But with our retaining wall project melting into the forgotten recesses of our memories, hubby is committed to getting rid of this thing; this will be the first project of spring.
So last year I said one of my goals for this year was to get the so-called greenhouse cleaned out so it would be ready to tear down... Here's what it looked like last year (scroll down to the second-last picture). This spring the first step was to get the potting bench moved out onto an otherwise unused spot of patio on the north side of the house:
... kind of cute, don't you think? And the best part is, now that I don't have to step over junk and clutter to get to the potting bench at the back of the greenhouse, I actually used it this year for the first time in 5 years!! Hooray!
But the rest of the "greenhouse cleaning project" is not nearly as fun and is sadly unfinished. The inside is still cluttered with many things that I don't feel like dealing with right now:
If anyone wants some free ceramic pots or wire hanging baskets, please let me know and they're yours!
I'm still hoping that we'll get the greenhouse taken down next year - it is shaded by trees, rotting, and a haven for mice, ants and wasps... and the kids are dying for a play house in this spot!! Hopefully by next spring I'll have enough energy for another go at this.