Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Landscaping Time!

I should probably start by saying I love working in the garden.  For stress relief, nothing beats working outside to transform an overgrown yard.  And now that the summer is here, we've turned our attention to landscaping our Mid Century Modern project.
The starting point..... there's a house there somewhere, but it's hard to see from the street!
As you can see, it's ready for a refresh, but we have debated long and hard about how to approach it.  In general we want to:
1) Utilize what's there, where possible. We don't want to rip everything out and start with little 1 gallon shrubs
2) Revitalize the soil and plantings - there is so much shade that we needed a soil test to get started
3) Keep the mid-century feel as much as possible
4) Do as much of the work ourselves - aka: this won't be a quick project

Now I'm not an expert on mid-century landscape style.  But as I've done some research, I've found that it's typically done with bold, rectilinear plantings.  So that means lots of mass plantings of single species - just the opposite of your typical cottage garden!  I can see where that would work well in California, on a nice flat, square lot.  But here in Maine with our rock outcroppings and rugged landscape, we have to be a bit more creative.  We have over an acre of property with lots of different elevations, so it's a bit of a challenge.  And since we can't do everything at once, we decided to break the property into manageable projects.
There are huge faces of rock across the east side of the property-  look closely you get a peek of the house!
Rear Courtyard
With that in mind, we started on the areas right around the house.  First up -  the courtyard by the back kitchen door.  This is the entrance we use for groceries and also were the grill is, so it gets a lot of activity in the summer months.
Courtyard Before
It has this great circular garden area and a large patio space.  The light fixture didn't work anymore, but Richard did some repair and now it's a great accent!
We went up to Fernwood Nursery in Montville to look at some specialty shade plants.  Their nursery is renowned in Maine for their shade plant selection and we had a great time picking out some new plantings.  Don't they look great?  Astilbe, hosta, Brunnera and Stachys....creating a true green & white garden.

The gravel infill between the rocks isn't exactly the look we want!
On the other side of the house, we wanted to do some planting around the deck new deck.  We love how the granite thrusts up around the edges of the deck, but wanted to soften it with some greenery.
 The solution?  Steps of rock with ferns and ground cover filling in the spaces.

But the ferns really soften the hard edges!
The third area we focused on was the walkway to the front door - it was ready for some big updates.
Our starting point.  Steel front doors and overgrown plantings

BIG granite pavers for the front walkway!
With our bold new blue doors, we wanted an equally bold walkway.  After a lot of thought, we decided on granite pavers for the walkway.  They are rugged, in keeping with the exterior of the house and provide clean, simple rectangular lines to the front door.  They can also take a lot of winter abuse - so shoveling and salt/sand to keep them safe won't be a problem.

New doors, new walkway and new plantings

To accent them, I planted a combination of ornamental grasses and black-eyed susans to give some color and texture.
And look at the side by side difference!!  The new front doors, with the giant window above, provide a nice focal point as you meander up the new walkway.

Our starting point.....
New Doors, New Windows, New Walkway, New Landscaping..... and siding is coming soon!
I bought these fabulous fish a long time ago.  Somehow, they never looked quite right at our old house.  But I love them here!
 And as you walk out the front door, it looks pretty nice too!
Earlier this spring, I gave the giant rhododendrons a haircut, to bring them into scale with the front yard and to thicken them up.  It might take a couple of years to get them to the point I want them, but so far so good.....  The neighbors have commented that you can finally see the house from the road!  Of course this also highlights how badly the siding needs to be replaced - but we'll be doing that this fall.  Can't wait!
Before:  Overgrown shrubs, leaky bubble window, not-to-building-code deck
Now:  Work in Progress, but lots of updates!
Look closely and you can just barely see the house in the background.  Taking out some of the bushes and tree limbs has really helped with curb appeal.
Before..... there's a house back there somewhere!!
We've had a couple of sessions with tree cutters, to eliminate some ailing trees and get some more sunlight into the yard.

We've started figuring out how to get rain/melting snow away from the building.  We used river rock to help the natural drainage paths that exist in the mossy area under the giant oaks.  The first big rain was last week and it seems to be doing the trick!

Of course there is so much more to do!!!  We've tackled only a small portion of the property, but this will take multiple iterations.  Hopefully when the siding and landscape are complete, this place will start to look like new!

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  1. We bought a 1971 contemporary in Brattleboro, VT, that had been owned by the same family until 3 years ago (there was a intermediary owner here for a year but she didn't change much) and the entire garden needs a refresh. We will probably tear most everything out and have "a moonscape" as our landscape architect puts it, but I know there's no way I can prune the dozen or so 50-year-old rhododendrons, most of which are 8-10 feet tall and wide, so they look good. I'd rather have a properly mulched moonscape than a colorless mishmash.

    1. A dozen rhodies!!! Good heavens, that would be so hard. Thankfully I only have a few. And we tore out a bunch of things that were sun loving and miserable in a shady yard!


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