Tagged: landscaping

3 days of magic: front yard reveal

It’s been a while since we had a good old-fashioned project reveal, don’t you think?  Our front yard has been in a sad state for several years now, so we made it a top priority for 2012. In April we took the first step and hired a landscape architect. Then when made a few tweaks to the design and got bids from three installers. After selecting JP Landscape Services (based out of Duvall, WA) we eagerly waited for the magic to happen. They originally thought the job would take 4-5 days to complete, but with a last-minute delayed start on another project they were able to double-up up their crew at chezerbey. Best of all, what would have taken us at least two months of nights and weekends (not counting all the frustrated sighs and dirt-kicking) took the professionals 3 days. THREE DAYS. But before we show you the money shots (and there’s a lot), let’s get a glimpse of how it all went down:

Day One:

Work started last Wednesday morning, but while waiting for the crew to arrive Kyle was able to snap these “before” shots for a little context.

Weedapalooza? Check.

Sidewalk to nowhere? Why not?

Day Two:

On the first day the crew scraped the site clean, regraded, took away extra dirt (can you believe we still had extra after all the foundation work from last summer?) and set the salvaged pavers. Here’s what it looked like on a rainy Thursday morning before I left for work:

Truthfully, even this prep work was very exciting. It was also reassuring to see that the installers seemed to know what they were doing and weren’t cutting any corners.

We mostly let the crew come up with the paver pattern for the south side and think they did a great job! They had to compensate for a slight slope from one end to the other, but walking across the final placement it was impossible to tell.

While we were at work, the crew spent the rest of Thursday bringing in new compost and amending it into the existing soil (for a total depth of 4″-6″). By the end of the day they had also sourced most of the plants and delivered them to the house. There were a few varieties that weren’t available at the time so we did some last-minute scrambling to find replacements.

I didn’t have a chance to take photos on Friday morning, but the changes were less drastic than the previous day. Or maybe I was just thinking ahead to the surprise that would await us that evening. 

Day Three:

Friday was spent installing all of the plants and the final 2″ of mulch. After work that day, I met Kyle at the hospital for a pre-birth tour that I scheduled weeks ago. While it was certainly worthwhile, we both made a beeline for the exit as soon as it was over. The yard awaited!

Oh. Well, hello there. 

[We didn’t have enough salvaged concrete for the front strip, so we picked up these 2’x2′ pavers for about $15/each.]

For those with a good eye, that is indeed a new (though yet-to-be trimmed out) window. Although it makes a world of difference in the basement, it does look a little goofy from the outside. But good news – it no longer matters because we now have a screen of nature in front! Oh, and gas meter – no one will even remember where you are this time next year. Grow plants, grow!

Have I mentioned that we decided to make Felix a part-time outdoor cat? No longer limited to running the diagonal length of the house, he seems happier, has more of an appetite and is not nearly as snarky as he used to be. A win-win for all.

Overall, we are THRILLED with the results. There are still a few missing plants (some groundcovers and herbs) that need to be added and of course everything will fill in as it matures, but the current density is plenty to be excited about. We were also pleasantly surprised with just how well the salvaged pavers turned out. [Score one for the planet and our checking account!] Although there are still a few loose ends to tie up, the guys did a great job with both the install and clean-up and we would definitely recommend them to anyone in the area.

While you’re at it, you should hire our landscape architect too (Mark Garff at The Watershed Company) – he was involved throughout the installation process and helped us make last-minute decisions when certain varieties were out of stock. Kyle and I debated how modern to go with the landscaping, but in the end we feel like Mark struck a good balance that shares our design approach with the outside of the house. Although we took more freedoms on the interior of the house (and will probably do the same for the backyard), we decided to be more subtle in the front. This was driven mostly by budget (no sense in changing the basic 1910 form of the house just for the hell of it), but it was also a personal design challenge. Now that the front is really, truly done (hallelujah!) we’re confident that it is entirely possible to make a 102 year-old home feel modern, efficient and clean while fitting in with the existing neighborhood and being responsive to our climate. Not to be all self-congratulatory, but for us, this is what good design is all about. 

But back to the yard. This evening was warm and sunny so Kyle and I sat out on the stoop with pints of ice cream taking it all in and marveling at what could be accomplished in just three short days:

I confess that I still don’t know the names of all the plants (Latin or English), but I’m determined to learn. After all, we’ll be spending a lot of time together this summer.

landscaping, it’s really going to happen!

It’s been over a month since we last wrote about our landscaping plans, but that ball has not stopped rolling.

After carefully reviewing the design, talking with neighbors and reading your awesome comments, we decided to make a few tweaks. Some plant choices and locations were changed but the biggest decision was to nix the patio area on the south side of the front yard. We realized that the entry stoop is large enough for 2-6 people to gather on and that we didn’t really need a second space. Plus, as soon-to-be parents we were nervous about having a hang-out space so close to the 36″ (+/-) drop from the top of the retaining wall down to the sidewalk. Finally, eliminating the patio (and associated grading and stonework) would save us a worthwhile chunk of change.

So our landscape architect Mark came up with the revised plan below [click to enlarge]. In lieu of a patio, we now have a simple path that connects the stoop to the existing sidewalk on the south side of the house. For the pavers, we’ll be using some of the smaller concrete pieces that we reclaimed from last year’s demo project.

With a finalized design in hand, we had two choices for moving forward: 1. buy the material and do the install ourselves or 2. hire it out. Since it never hurts to get bids, we contacted three different landscaping companies (that came recommended from Mark or other friends). To reduce costs, we limited our scope to the colored area you see below [click to enlarge]:

The side yard gates made a good demarkation line between Phase 1 and Phase 2. We still have some construction projects slated for the backyard so it will be a little while before we tackle that area. (Although I’m guessing a mobile toddler might dictate that schedule.)

Two of the three bids were similar in price (the third was just crazy), but all were more than we had optimistically hoped for. We thought about scaling back the scope or delaying the project yet again, but I think deep down we really just want it to be done. Done by someone else. So that’s what we’re going to do!

As fervent DIYers it makes us a little uneasy to hire someone to do the work (since labor is usually 50% of the overall costs), but we’re also really, really excited to hand this off to the pros. What would undoubtedly take us a couple of months of nights and weekends will take a professional crew 5-6 days(!) to complete. (Ok, sometimes I fantasize about sitting in a lounge chair with an umbrella drink while the work is being done, but the reality is that we’ll probably be plenty busy in the nursery or basement.)

Even though we won’t be getting our own hands dirty, we’ll be sure to document the whole process to share with you as it happens. This is a big milestone in our nearly 6 years of remodeling chezerbey and we can’t wait!

landscape plan!

We did it. After nearly 6 years of rocking a minimalist (err, brutalist?) yard, we finally bit the bullet and hired a landscape architect. But before we show you what he came up with, let’s get everyone up to speed on the traumatic history of our yard. It all started in ’06, when we became the proud new owners of some diseased shrubs and dead grass:

Poor little sad house.

Even though our house has received a major facelift since then, our yard has not:

But those days are numbered because BAM! Look at what’s in store! [Click to enlarge]

True, we had every intention of landscaping at least the front yard last summer, but that whole foundation drainage project took a wee bit longer than expected and we simply ran out of time. Not this year though; we have a baby deadline (apparently it’s a million times harder to get stuff done after that happens) and we’re tired of the constant weedapalooza. So we hired our friend Mark, who is a landscape architect at The Watershed Company, to put together a planting plan that we could use as a template of sorts to make our landscaping dreams come true. Although we had a general design in our heads (you may remember this site plan that we shared with you last summer), we mostly needed help with the actual plant selection and layout. Fortunately, after an on-site consultation a few weeks ago (where we talked about our basic goals and ideas), Mark came up with something that really filled in all of the missing pieces while also making some great modifications and suggestions in the process.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking, “of all the projects you’ve tackled yourself, you decide to hire someone to help with plants??” Although we pride ourselves in our DIY approach, keep in mind that architectural design and construction are our territory. Plants are not. Although we could take the time to do the necessary research on species, proper spacing and location, we knew that just wasn’t going to happen. It’s too big of a project and we firmly believe in hiring talented folks to help out when in over your head (just like you it’s a good idea for people to hire an architect). 

This is a first pass, so we’ll definitely be making a few tweaks here and there before we bust out a shovel. (Remember all of those pavers that we salvaged from our demo project last summer?) We also realize that this project will be a lot of work (and $$), so the plan is to tackle the front yard and backyard planting boxes this year, while saving the remainder for later. Depending on costs, we may also scale back on the quantity of plants, allowing us to fill in over time.

Finally, If you’re like us and don’t have a mental image bank of all plant types, get ready for your mind to be blown with a cornucopia of vegetative goodness! Along with the draft planting plan, Mark also sent us a booklet of all the plants that he’s listed. For your viewing pleasure, I took the liberty of making the montage below. As you’ll see, it’s a combination of mostly drought-tolerant and Pacific Northwest-friendly trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials, groundcover, and herbs. Don’t worry, we won’t be using every species listed, many of them were just presented as different choices for a single area. In fact, we showed the plan to our plant-savvy neighbor tonight and she gave us some great insight into the options she liked best.

Color! Life! Excitement!

So what do you guys think? We have complete trust in our landscape architect, but this is very much new territory for Kyle and I so we’d love to hear your constructive thoughts or suggestions. 

Yay plants!