One Big Mess

Soybomb26July 10, 2011

We bought this house last year and while we've managed to tackle the inside, with the exception of the kitchen,the outside has left us feeling a bit overwhelmed. We are a bit embaressed by its current state but know what it's possibilities are(given we can ever get there).

We've tried to stick to working on one area at a time but can't seem to do it. We have had a few trees removed & have plans to remove more, been attacked by yellow jackets multiple times & ripped out over 120 azaleas, no joke. The previous owner was a little old lady who said the yard "just got away from her".

Something is blooming year round, which we love, but it's also planted all over the top of each other. We do have an overall plan but I need some help deciding on what can go & stay to help create a more coheasive look. Sorry for the picture overload but I figure what better way to give a visual than with pics.

Any help is greatly appreciated, thanks!

Link to photos-;authkey=Gv1sRgCNq-2onG48CO2wE&feat=directlink

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My suggest : stop to do anything before a nice designing and plan.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 7:44PM
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    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 8:05PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

What a terrific house and garden, so much potential, and so much mature material to work with. My intuition tells me you'll best be served by having a really good local plantsman/landscaper come take a look at the existing garden to help in the editing and planning. I looked at all your photos, but there would be no substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.

In this case I agree with designshare, stop and get some professional help before you do things you may regret later.

Best of luck on your house and garden, and keep us posted on your progress.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 8:18PM
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Thank you for the images designshare, while I like the second one, I guess I should have stated that we are not looking to add much to our front yard other than reworking some of the existing beds (2 near front porch)& the picture of the front yard showing all of the ground cover, sago & alfies. We are in need of ideas for the rock wall on the south side of the house though.
The idea for the rear yard(westside)is to have an outdoor kitchen, garden area and a few other features as indicated in the photos. I know that's hard to decipher from the all the photos.

Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2011 at 8:34PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Designshare deals mostly in fantasy, and knows it.

If that's a yard that "got away" from the PO, I'm worried about what they'll be calling mine when I move on... this is not so much a big mess as an apparently very well designed yard that has reached and perhaps exceeded maturity. Thinning and some renewal is exactly what it needs, and sounds like what you're doing.

I like how Catkim described the expert you need... as a plantsman person as well as a landscaper. Mainly the former, I think, because pruning is going to be a big part of what you do here.

I wonder if it would help to explore exactly what "embarrasses" you here. I see nothing to be embarrassed about. There is lots of creative work, but it is not hokey, and the plant selection is good. Nothing is done in bad taste, it is not weedy or neglected in that sense. The worst thing is that there is some work that is undone, but if you can't tolerate that, you are in for an embarrassing stay in this property with the large yard :-)

I wonder too if you might also consider keeping a diary of what you enjoy as it blooms or otherwise shows its features (fall colour, spring emergence, etc). It is easy to get overwhelmed in summer, for example, and rip out things that you enjoyed in March, and it might also help you see what gaps there are if any.


    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 2:21AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Good advice from catkim and karinl.

If it were my yard, I'd try to make a diagram on paper; that helps me brainstorm. I have nearly two acres, and I need to see things on paper: it helps me think about parts of the property in new ways. Your brain may work differently.

Some ideas for the rock wall:

= Those are odd little ledges. Are any suitable for seating? (Doesn't look like it, but I figured I'd ask.)

= You could add a bit of wall at an angle to the existing wall to create a sense of enclosure. Build a fire pit or use it as some other type of gathering area. The pavement suggests it may have been intended for something like that.

= Could you pipe water to the top of the wall so it would trickle over the ledges and end up in a pool? Or since you're planning a pool where the fountain is now, collect the water in a narrow basin at the bottom of the wall -- perhaps a foot across, with a screen of low plants on the side opposite the wall. Run the piping up the front of the wall and cover it with a funky new outcropping of stone. [It appears this area is quite close to the house, so I'm assuming it wouldn't be too expensive to get water to the area.]

= Add more small rock plants to the wall wherever there's a hollow that will hold enough soil to support them.

= If you don't want to do anything with the area, plant tall ferns on either side of the wall. If not ferns, something similar which allows glimpses of the wall here and there. Emphasize the mystery (I gather the wall's history and purpose are pretty much a mystery).

You might enjoy kaitain4's photos of the stone walls he added to his property. I can't get the Picasa links to work for me -- perhaps he closed his account, or perhaps Google just hates me today....

a little old lady who said the yard "just got away from her" -- They could put that on my tombstone. There are weeds at the unplanted end of my veggie garden that are taller than I am, and wildflowers in the creek that have probably reached the 10' mark already.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 11:18AM
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CatKim: thank you for your response. I agree we need to have a professional come out and look at the property. The last thing we want to do is regret something.

Karinl: a very well designed yard that has reached and perhaps exceeded maturity, you hit the nail on the head. The house is over 30 years old. I know that the PO put a lot of love & care into her yard. She actually stopped by yesterday afternoon to see how we were doing and kept telling us how good we have it looking. We have done a large amount of pruning and trimming. When we bought the house only the top of the Jap. Mag. In photo #3 could be seen for the azaleas. They were also taller than the fence and crazy out of control in photos #7 & #9. The yard was a main selling point for us when buying so I guess embarrassment was the wrong word, overwhelmed is more like it. I think the number of projects just seem to outnumber me at times, however I keep looking at the big picture and knowing it's going to be so worth it!
I have been keeping a photo log of the yard over the past year, as we wanted to wait a full year to see what may bloom. I'm glad we did as I've been able to identify a large number of things that we've since decided to keep.
Missingtheobvious: I do have an overall plan sketched out. I'll try to scan & upload it soon.

In regards to the rock wall, in its previous life it was a large cement koi pond. The very large oak tree( it was removed a few months ago) that was behind it ended up cracking the concrete so the PO filled it in and planted misc. plants on top. We are still investigating to see exactly what shape it's in. It does have water ran to it. Our first initial thought was to dig it out, fix it up and restore it to its former koi pond glory but then this brought to light a few negatives for us.
1. We'd get more joy out of a pond in the rear of the house, where we already have a smaller pond planned to be installed.
2. Keeping a pond in that location would be a pain to keep clean. We had a small pond at our last residence and know the maintenance & upkeep involved.

None of the ledges are big enough for seating. We defiantly want to incorporate a focal point, we were thinking of a pondless waterfall feature. I'm liking your third idea and would be curious to hear more.
Thank you for the links love looking at others projects in progress and thanks everyone for the input! I've lurked on this website for years so sorry if my first post sounded whiney. We do love our new home & yard I could just do without the yellowjackets, :P

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 5:15PM
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I love the house! Where is the property? It's a bit neglected, but not nearly as bad as your description of it.

1 - As long as nothing is dead or dying, leave it for a while. Take the time now to make a measured plan of the house, property lines, and the current hardscape and plantings.

2 - Take photos from the house looking out and from the edges looking towards the house ... make sure you overlap the views.

3 - Use tissue overlays on the site plan, and a paint program on COPIES of the images to sketch out your ideas.

4 - Plan what needs to be done and when, so you don't have to burrow under something to run pipes, etc.

5 - THEN you'll have a much better handle on what needs to be done, and who should be doing it. For example, it's cheaper to have all the tree removals done at once, but if it's a budget-breaker, do them yourself or plan a way to keep them. Renting a brush hog to wipe out all the doomed azaleas in one weekend might be worth the expense.

TIP FOR PLANT REMOVAL: Craigslist post with a "Free __plant names__, you dig" might get you some help. You'll have to supervise tightly and don't put your address in the listing or you may find a bare lot.

Here is a link that might be useful: DIY Landscape design

    Bookmark   July 15, 2011 at 6:54PM
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"I know that the PO put a lot of love & care into her yard. She actually stopped by yesterday afternoon to see how we were doing and kept telling us how good we have it looking. "

This is one relationship I would work to foster. Obviously she cares about the grounds and knows more than anyone on earth what everything is and why it was put there to start with.
Surely she has photos of the place as it evolved? That might be a good source of ideas and help you see what has become hidden.

FWIW you have the degree of mature growth that those of us starting from scratch can only dream about.
Tread carefully.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2011 at 10:36AM
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