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Monday, May 21, 2012

A Landscape Plan

Like most people who own an older home (in our case, a home about 126 years old), there's a lot of work that often needs to be done. This goes double when the home has been neglected, for the most part, for many years and has had many, many owners (like ours) that did nothing with it.

One of the bigger projects that we want for the house is to give it new life with beautiful landscaping.

I often take pictures of my flower gardens for my blog, but I don't usually show anything other than the flower garden I'm featuring or small parts of the yard and shots of our big front porch. There is quite a bit that I leave out when I take pictures.

There is good reason for this.

The majority of our yard is terrible looking.  Not in a weedy, unkempt way, but just a whole lot of nothing or a whole lot of ugly and old.

Our house sits on a small knoll; we live in one of the oldest sections of town and the land must have been quite hilly there. Many of the homes sit on a small rise above the street. Some have retaining walls, some have yards large enough where they have engineered the yard to slope softly down to the sidewalk and street.

Our lot is rectangular; it's longer than it is wide. This is a very common shape and size for the neighborhood we live in. Ours has a retaining wall that encircles more than half our lot. Because our house is on a corner of two intersecting streets, we have nearly 250 feet of retaining wall.

Pictured above: Ugly and old. 

There was once many large stately trees in our front yard and in the back yard, but they were all gone by the time we acquired the house. We were told by the previous owners that they had cut them all down because they didn't want to rake leaves.

The retaining wall is very old; it's concrete. It looks like old Depression-Era WPA concrete. It probably is from about that time period, because that's when they widened the streets and put in sidewalks, and probably cut off the long, gently sloping yard into an abrupt hill that required a retaining wall.

Above: Horrible steps that may kill you.

The front walk and these steps were probably done at a later date. You can see part of the ugly concrete retaining wall that is in front of our house. Needless to say it detracts from our house quite a bit.

 We also have a smaller porch in the back, with a walkway and another set of steps. The walkway and steps were probably done at the same time as these, but don't look nearly as bad. In that walkway, the person who did the concrete pressed a penny into it when it was wet.  I can't remember now the exact date on the penny but it was sometime in the late 1960s. 

Above: The horror.

In the above photo, I was standing on the sidewalk by the back steps looking at our back yard. It is very evident the poor condition the concrete wall  is in. There is also this perfectly hideous chain-link fence. I have nothing against chain-link fences, they have their uses and their purposes; but I did find it extraordinarily strange that someone would choose this type of fencing to encircle the entire back yard of the house and wouldn't plant anything around it to screen it's ugliness. The people we bought the house from had only lived in it for two years. They were the ones whom had put in this fence. They had a young child; presumably they wanted the yard fenced so the child could play in the yard without wandering into the street, however, I wonder why they would have chosen this type of fence. From what I understand, chain-link fencing is rather expensive or, at least, no more expensive than a wood privacy fence.  A wood fence would have looked much more attractive, and also would have provided privacy. 

So, you may ask.....why am I showing these pictures? 

They are going to be part of my "Before, During and After" posts regarding a VERY big and expensive project that we are finally in a position to do here at Le Beau Paon Victorien!



We chose a landscape company, after shopping around for the last two months, and have finally given them the "go ahead". It is a family-owned business and one of the sons is a landscape architect. Because we are doing such a large and expensive project with them, he offered to draw up a landscape design for the rest of the yard at no cost. Most of the time these kinds of services cost some money; I have heard of people paying $300-600 for a complete design.

He took pictures and measurements of our yard and then he and I looked through a stack of gardening magazines that I have been collecting for years ( and marking with sticky Post-It notes) to see what I liked and what I wanted to have in my yard and to get an idea of my style. 
Above:  My Stacks; kitchens on the left, gardens on the right.

We knew it would be really helpful to have a professional put everything together as far as the layout and what to do with "trouble spots".  And, what's nice about it is that we can pick and choose what things we may want to have a professional landscaper do ( like a patio and pergola) and what things we may want to do ourselves. They can also lay out and prepare all the planting beds for me and then I can do all the plantings myself, using transplants from family and friends or whatever I like. We can also do areas in piecemeal, as we are able to afford it, but still have a cohesive design and know where to put what. 
It's very exciting.

We also had a land surveyor come do a new plat survey for us, since we didn't have one for our lot and there hadn't been one done recently. We wanted to make sure we knew exactly where our property lines are. (It turns out they were pretty much where we thought they were.)

A couple of weeks later, our landscaper brought me this lovely design.

  The big grey area in center is our house, the smaller grey square, upper left, is the garage. This is looking at our house from the side. The front is actually on the right.

Our landscape architect did some research on Victorian gardens, also and used elements that would reflect a Victorian style. He said he really had fun with it; he doesn't get to do many designs like this.

This is a close up of the back yard. I love how he did a circle patio, with a half-circle pergola. He also made a potting area for me behind the garage! This design pretty much has all the elements that I want (including two gates with arbors over them! woohoo!!) and is really very much like I envisioned how I wanted the yard to look like.
No chain-link fence! No overgrown weigela! No old concrete! A wood privacy fence with two gates! A rose arbor! Patio! Pergola! Lots of flower gardens!

Of course, we can't afford to do ALL of this right now, even though it would be nice to have them come in and do it all!
And, we can change anything about this plan that we want; we are not beholden to the Plan, so to speak.

But, it's fun to dream, and to plan....and to see ideas from my head take form on paper!

For right now, the only part of the landscaping project that we are doing is the retaining wall and the front walkway and front steps because they are in such bad shape. When they demolition the concrete wall, they are also going to be taking the chain-link fence out.

Our landscaper guy is going to price out some of the other areas in the design for us also, just in case we save up enough money that we might be able to have them put in the planting beds in the front that are on the design or extend the ones that I already have in place, maybe yet this year, in the fall.  We'll see!

The stone we chose for the wall is called saw-cut Lannon stone. It comes from a local quarry and takes about two weeks for the quarry to cut it. I think he said we needed 3 tons or something! Yikes!

I'll have more pictures as soon as the project is underway!  Thanks for stopping by~

                                              Above: Yuck.



Bead and Needle said...

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, I can't wait to see this come to fruition! How fun, Katie! In the meantime, Happy Monday - hope your week is wonderful!

Chari at Happy To Design said...

Hi Katie...

My friend, I love these old homes!!! I'm sooo excited for you...your landscaping plans look fabulous! Ohh yes...please do keep us posted...I love watching the progress! Best wishes to you on your new adventure...may it be all that you hope and dream for!

Thank you so much for coming by and leaving such a sweet note at my place. I sooo enjoyed your visit, my friend!

Warmest wishes,

Pam said...

I googled Lannon stone and it's gorgeous! I'm so excited for you. I think just removing the fence (yuck) and the retaining wall should make a huge difference.