Appreciating Progress

Summer is flying by and my list of projects is still pretty long.  I’ve been super busy with photography clients recently thanks to wedding season, which is a good thing but it doesn’t leave much time to work on my gardens and I was getting frustrated by the slow progress of things.  But then I realized I need to remember we’ve only been in the house three years and have made some big improvements in that time.  So today I thought we’d take a look back at just how far we’ve come!

The biggest change is the back yard.  This is what it looked like during the final stages of construction before we moved in after winter had hit.  It was a completely blank slate.

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And here’s what it was looking like about a week ago. Some of this is just temporary as we add other features in stages, but it’s filled in pretty well for our weekend and evening DIY efforts.

BackCorner

This was the main area of the back yard the first spring we were in the house.  A big field of bare dirt and gravel with the hideous chain link dog run we patched together until we could get the fence in and the yard hydroseeded.

YardBefore2

Now it’s functional and pretty. Eventually the grass will grow back in where we tilled to do the rock garden, and it will look seamless.

BackLong

And just look at how many of the projects I had planned that have already been done!  The gravel patio, fire pit, egg table, raised garden box and deck landscaping are all done or in progress.  And a few of these ideas ended up being changed in favor of a better idea, like putting the strawberries in the gutters around the corner and switching the sectional seating on the deck for a dining table.  There’s definitely some fine tuning and clean up to do, but it’s a space we can enjoy now rather than a bare patch of dirt.

DeckLabels

BackCenter

The raised garden box used to be surrounded by dirt and had a few measly little plants in it that eventually drowned from the rain off the roof.  Now it’s surrounded by pea gravel for a finished look and has a healthy crop growing thanks to the new gutter we had installed.

PlanterPlantedFront

GardenBox

The biggest change is the landscaping around the deck.  It looked like a wild patch of weeds at the beginning of this season.   Now its something you actually want to look at!  And it will only get better and better as the seasons continue and the plants fill in more.

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DeckLandscape2

Last season we had the new sectional seating on the deck which was nice, but the change to a dining table works so much better for this spot and has gotten a lot more use.  Plus the dogs appreciate being able to “look out” from the edge of the deck this season and the Hubs and I enjoy the shorter walk to the chicken coop from that side of the deck thanks to the stairs he put in.

Patio1

Deck

I had planted these two bushes on the side of the deck at the end of last season and was extremely frustrated when the dogs ripped out the bush on the right before it could establish new roots.  But it ended up being a blessing in disguise because it made a spot for the new steps and rain barrel for the gutter.

DeckBushes

DeckSide

Around the corner we’ve gone from an awkward cubby to a defined planting space and chicken run.  I had planned for a large garden in this space but soon realized that the exposure wasn’t right for that plan so it became the chicken space instead and it’s perfect for that.

YardBefore3

ChickenCornerView

The revised plan for this side cubby has mostly come to pass.  We did add a storage shed, although it’s more for the chicken equipment than the yard tools I’d imagined but again it works for our needs.  And I’ve decided that I won’t ever use a potting bench so I don’t need one, although I’m sure the Hubs would still love to find a spot to install a smoker!  I’ve started on a plan to disguise those not so lovely septic pipes which are inconveniently in the middle of this space so watch for that update soon.

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ChickenCubby

Even the chicken space itself has seen improvement.  Going from the original run to a full on chicken yard that’s super secure.  Plus it gave me another little spot to plant.  The lobelia I planted along the side met destruction thanks to Brinley’s rapt interest in the chickens so I pulled them out and put in grass seed so I can pull up the curtains and let the chickens enjoy sections a little at a time.

Final

ChickenSide

Chick BlocksThe new strawberry gutters are doing well too.  It seemed like the strawberries had a slow start, but pretty much all of them now have buds, which should soon be yummy desserts or garnishes for my sangrias!

 

Strawberries

StrawberriesFlower

Along the fence the giant wheel the Hubs brought home for me has finally found a purpose with the new planting bed.  I think next year I’ll just have flowers in this spot so I’m not worrying about the dogs getting into edible crops, which will all be raised and together over by the garden box.  I’ll probably need to do some weed control in this spot come fall since I was in a hurry to install the bed and didn’t kill the grass underneath before hand, but some newspaper and another layer of dirt should do the trick.

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DeckAngle

On the other side of the house the gifted garden is starting to fill in.  It looked pretty full when we put it in that first summer, but adding the grass next to the rock border became tedious to maintain so I’ve appropriated all of those rocks for the deck landscaping and have begun the switch to the same block edgers we used over by the wheel bed.  I need to figure out what I’ll do around the deck we plan to add on the back corner of the house next year since I’ll need to tie that into this bed somehow so I’m moving slowly on changes over here for now.

Finished

Side

This is how the bed looked at the beginning of last season.  Just a few things coming back and lots of holes to fill in.  Now I’ve got a good base of plants to create the cottage style garden I want over here.

GardenView

BackSide

Out front we’ve went from construction city to looking like a home.  It still isn’t where I want it to be but at least there’s landscaping to welcome guests and dirt isn’t splattered against the house every time it rains.  I’m working through several ideas to change things up out here next season so I can decide on one and start some of the prep work this fall.

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FrontCorner

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FrontCenter

The front bed was the first space I planted around the house and I was so excited to have any kind of landscaping that I didn’t plan much ahead when selecting or placing the plants.  Several didn’t survive the first winter, and those that did took a while to come back in the second season.  This season I’ve fill in some of the holes and am starting to figure out what works best out here.  I’m planning to revamp this whole area next season but need to finalize the plan before I do anything else.  For now I’m just enjoying the colors the different flowers bring.

FlowerbedFinished

FrontFlowerBed

FrontBed

This little cubby in the front has been an awkward spot since the beginning.  It at least gave the house a bit of finishing when we first set up the space, but it had the same issue as the other side where several of the plants didn’t survive the first winter and the rest didn’t show much last season.  This season I’ve filled in a few spots and called it good until I can figure out the best way to make this spot function better.

FlowerbedSmallFinished

FrontFlowerbedSmall

FrontBed2

Our freebie raspberries looked quite spindly when they first went in last year, but produced a fantastic harvest well into the fall.  This year they’ve come back even fuller and are budding like crazy.  We added a haskap bush in front of them and moved the water tank over by the shed so the hose can gravity feed when we need to water.

Raspberries

Raspberries

Even the view from the driveway has improved.  The Hubs massive shed hides the ugly meters on the side of the house and the rain garden has become a nice focal point as you approach.  I’m still waiting for my clematis to grow in over the tire wall but when it does I will be amazing.  I’m hoping to get fireweed to fill in behind the tires and dwarf dogwood to cover the ground in front, but those are both low priority projects.

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RainGarden

This garden has become my home for “lost” plants who need to winter over or no longer have a spot when I change things elsewhere.  This casual approach has created a nice variety and the foundation of what will one day be a very lush space.

View

RainGarden

And lastly, the spirea bush I planted just outside the fence when I got the ones on the side of the deck was looking quite dead earlier this season.  I was planning to tear it out, but luckily hadn’t gotten around to doing it because a few weeks ago I noticed green on it’s branches.  I pruned it back to encourage the new growth and that seemed to work because now it has one stalk of blooms!  Hopefully next season it comes in even more full and completely fills this spot, blocking the view of the leech field pipe just out of the photo from the laundry room window.

Bush

 

As you can see there’s been some pretty good progress since we started this little adventure.   I’m trying my best to appreciate how things are now and enjoy the little bits of joy I find when out in the yard.  If I hadn’t been so busy I would have ripped that spirea out weeks ago and wouldn’t be blessed with these pretty little blooms now.  So I’ll continue to tinker and tweak, which is what every gardener will tell you they are always doing. 🙂
BushFlower

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Junkin’ Up the Yard!

Welcome back for part two of how we’re using the cool ‘junk’ we picked up on our recent vacation. Here’s where things ended up outside along with a little garden update while we’re at it.

Star

The big rusty metal star the hubs picked out at the junk show for $18 had to be hand carried on the plane. We were sure it would be considered a weapon thanks to the top point sticking out of the only bag we could find that kind of fit it, but TSA said as long as it went through the scanner it was ok. I’m very glad it made it through because it looks fantastic on the front porch!

Excavator

Nearby, the cool metal excavator I found for $20 found a home in the front flower bed where it appears to be digging up spots for more plants. It’s definitely something you won’t see in everyone’s garden and that’s just what I like about it!

Trellis

Several items ended up in the gifted garden including the cool trellis the hubs surprised me with. It works perfectly for the troilus that started blooming soon after we got home. I still can’t believe this piece was only $23!

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The trio of rusty pulleys we got for $10, $20 and $30 are the perfect “dog proof” garden art. They have since been knocked over by those energetic fur balls, but ‘eh – it makes it look more authentic so oh well.

Pulleys2

Pulley

We also picked up this massive pulley at an estate sale last weekend for just $25.  I love the little number tag on the side!  It’s found a home down in the rain garden.

PullyHook

Back in the gifted garden, I adore how these metal quail figures we found at the junk show look in the garden too. I’ve wanted some ever since I saw some just like them in a family friend’s amazing garden so I made sure to snag a few when I spotted them at the show. They remind me of living in the desert and watching the little quail families dart between the tumbleweeds. 🙂

Quail

My last find of the day at the junk show, a cast iron campfire cook pot now holds Johnny Jump Ups the neighbor brought over.  I admit this picture is a week or two old because those plants behind the pot are now massive!  They were also gifted to us by the neighbor but I have no idea what they are.  They sure seem to like this spot though, because they are 5 times this size now!

JumpUps

This little stained glass lady bug – an appropriation from my sister’s garden – now adorns my marigolds in the front yard.  He’s so cute I might have to make a few more, and possibly do some dragon flies and butter flies while I’m at it!

LadyBug

Beyond the junk things are still blooming.  We got home just in time to see the iris, which I was so happy about.  I have a few varieties including water iris, wild iris and arctic iris.  They each have slightly different colors and leaves but they’re all beautiful to me.

Iris2

Iris

We also have a few poppies blooming.  These were another gift from the neighbor – have I mentioned how much I love having a gardening neighbor?! 🙂  The fact that I’ve done nothing to them and yet they seem to be doing quite well makes me even happier.

PoppyWhite

Poppy

The hydrangea I planted this season is also blooming!  I’m so excited to have this one establish itself and grow bigger and bigger each year.  The blooms started out pretty small but now they are  almost full.  I’m torn between cutting some to bring inside and letting them continue to grow.  Thus far I’ve just let them grow, but as the season wraps up I might go ahead and snip a few.

Hydrengea

Hydrengea2

I do need to add a little support for it though since the back side seems a bit heavy for the thin stalks.  I’m thinking one of those large rings might work well since it’s not very tall yet.

HydrengeaBush

My lilies are also making an appearance after teasing with tightly sealed buds for weeks.  I have several varieties of these as well including pink, orange and yellow.  I made sure to get a few shots of them to enjoy right away since I know they won’t last long. LillyPink

I love how the orange lily compliments the little excavator in the background. 🙂

LillyOrange

YellowLillyThe lambs ear I brought back from my mother-in-law’s yard is doing well in the rain garden.  It’s certainly not going gang-busters, but it’s green and healthy after an overnight trip in a ziplock baggie on a plane, so I’m not going to be too critical.

LambsEar

I added some bushes I got for $20 on the buy/sell page to the side of the deck to get that landscape started.  I don’t remember the names of these right now so I’ll have to dig the tags out of the gardening cabinet, but I believe they are both varieties of spirea.  The one on the left gets pretty purple flowers and the one on the right has small white flowers.

DeckBushes

My Columbines are doing well, both in the rain garden and the gifted garden.

ColumbineAnd after some pretty lush leaf growth all season the campanula is finally blooming.

Speedwell

My freebie raspberries are slowly getting established, so I’m just letting them be for now.

Raspberries

But there is a potential harvest this year if these little guys come in a bit more and ripen!

RaspberriesHope

That is of course if I can keep this big boy out of them!  He stopped by the other night during a huge downpour and thankfully seemed more interested in the weed patch just in front of the raspberries.  Good thing I haven’t been able to keep a super tidy landscape yet!  Luckily, the raspberries are close enough to the back yard fence that the dogs typically keep the moose at bay.

Moose

So that’s how we junked up the yard.  Do you have ‘junk’ in your gardens?  I’d love to see it, so share a photo or a link below!

Peter Cottontail Gets a Facelift

BeforeHappy Easter!  I thought I’d share a little Easter craftiness today.  I’ve had this cute little bunny yard stake for several years and as you can see, the Alaskan spring weather has done a number on it. So I decided it was time Peter Cottontail get a facelift!

I had the hubs give him a good coat of white spray paint.  I had planned to touch up his facial features with craft paint but then I remembered I had a bunch of colored sharpies so I picked out a cute pink and went for it. Once he had a pink nose and grin he did look a little girly so I decided to give him a little bow tie to help balance out the pink.  I pulled a purple ribbon left over from our wedding invitations out of my supply stash and fluffed until I was happy with the shape.

Now he looks good as new.  In fact you could say he was resurrected, which is a perfect reminder of the real reason behind this wonderful holiday!

After

Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten any landscaping in yet thanks to the slow spring thaw and the need to wait for the builder to come clean the lot of all the debris they left in the snow. So I propped him up next to the garage with some rocks.  Maybe next year our landscaping will include a bunny trail that brings some other cotton-tailed friends to the yard.

Planning by the Yard!

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m ready for warmer temps and the chance to get the yard landscaped. I’ve already shared my plans for the vegetable garden that will fill the alcove between the house and the garage and mentioned that we plan to add a deck off the Master to match the one off the Family Room, with a stone patio between for the hot tub and fire pit.

We also plan to fence in the cleared area behind the house and along the side, which will be hydroseeded to create a lawn for the dogs. We decided on using the hog panel fencing with a strand or two of electrified rope I have from an old horse pasture back home to keep what belongs in, in and what belongs out, out.

I’m considering planting my berry bushes along the bedroom side of the house within this fence so they are protected from wildlife, but I might need to add a layer of protection from the dogs since Tequila has figured out how to pick her own berries and I’m sure it won’t be long before she teaches Stoli and Bacardi! I’m anticipating blueberries, raspberries and salmon berries if possible. My strawberries will be grown in the freebie barrel I picked up last summer.

I also plan to install posts around the yard which will become mounting spots for Tequila’s favorite toy, the over-sized balls on a rope that Uncle Mark and Auntie Mere sent some time ago. This set up should prove much tougher than tying it to a tree branch, which only lasts a few minutes. I also want to use the posts of the fence to hold bird houses and feeders in strategic spots where we can see them from inside the house. I’m sure Luna will appreciate that.

Our wine bottle tiki torches will return, although I’m not sure if they will be hung on the remaining fence posts or from the posts of the pergolas we’d like to have over the decks. The pergolas might not happen until next season, so I may start with some on the fence and add more once the deck covers are finished.

Out front, I plan to do flower beds on either side of the front porch, with a walkway of some sort to garage. Because we intend to use the space off the front corner of the house for extra guest or trailer parking I anticipate adding an odd shaped area of grass between that and the front flower beds. I also want to DIY one of these pot fountains between the garage and the front door. Since my vegetable garden will take up most of my ‘gardening’ time I want these beds to be filled with bulbs and annuals that bloom in sequence such as:

  • Tulips
  • Daffodils
  • Iris
  • Daisies
  • Hydrangea
  • Lilacs
  • Salvia
  • Lavender
  • Hosta
  • Basil Lime (natural mosquito repellant)
  • Smoke bush

My rain garden will be located just down the driveway in a lower-lying area to collect run off rain water. I’m envisioning this space being my ‘cutting garden’ with:

  • Fireweed
  • Wild geranium
  • Forget Me Nots
  • Lupine
  • Daisies
  • Iris
  • Campola
  • Salvia

Here’s my horribly simple rendering of the birds eye view of all this glory. It’s not exact, but you get the idea of what’s going where.

Landscape

I anticipate there will be some trial and error with different plants in various locations, so feel free to make suggestions if you know of things that grow well in the Pacific Northwest, particularly Alaska!