Thursday, January 27, 2011

Years in the Making

Fer at My Little Garden in Japan is hosting a blog carnival this month called New Year Gardening Resolutions.  We were asked to share any plans we have for our gardens this year.   Before I get to my project agenda for this year, first let me share a little history with you.

I have been working on some major changes in my backyard for a couple of years now.  A busy schedule and an injured arm have created some delays, but I am hoping that this spring I can complete the project (as much as any garden is ever completed). 

As with all of my landscaping projects at home, they all begin with...
"the stare."  
I stand out in my yard and stare at it until something comes to me.  Whenever my husband sees me standing out in the middle of the yard staring, he just shakes his head and says, "Now what are you up to?!"  Anyway, sometime in late spring 2008, the staring commenced in my backyard.  I wanted to decrease the size of the lawn area, add more pathways, and increase the bed areas.  The ideas started to flow.  I got out a garden hose and laid out the proposed lawn, bed, and path areas.   I liked it!  So I drew my ideas on paper.

Below is my rustic drawing of my backyard illustrating the "bones" of the layout.  The areas shaded gray within the dashed lines were lawn in 2008.  All of the areas in white were beds that were already established around the perimeter and inside of the pathways.  The pathways on the top and right side of the drawing were already in flagstone.  The pathway in the middle was nonexistent; it was lawn area.  The pathways on the bottom and left side of the drawing were grass pathways between beds.  Someday I'll have to do a post and show you how we started with "nothin' but dirt" in the backyard...but I digress.

A year later, in late spring, early summer of 2009 I removed the grass pathway and replaced it with flagstone creating what is now the flagstone path on the left side of the drawing.  There was quite a slope where the path entered the backyard (lower left side), so I decided that steps were needed.  First I had to extend some drain pipes in this area. After doing that, I started to level the area and added a row of boulders to hold back part of the slope. When I got to that point, I was a little overwhelmed with the "how to" of building steps, so I hired out that phase of the construction.

At that point it was July, and 100-degree temps tend to put the kibosh to major landscape projects.  When autumn came, along with cooler temps came an extremely busy landscape schedule for clients, so like the shoemaker's kids with no shoes, I was the landscaper with no time for landscape projects at home.

Winter brought much needed rest; but starting in February of 2010, my client landscape schedule geared up once again and went into overdrive.   As time allowed between jobs, I started to work again on my backyard project.    More drain extensions need to be added, and another "boulder curve" was added to stair-step the slope on the other side of the yard (lower right side of the drawing).

In June of 2010 I lifted the existing metal edging outlining the old lawn area (see dashed line on drawing), and moved it to enclose a smaller peanut-shaped area that is currently the lawn (see green shaded area marked "lawn" on drawing).

Then I started removing grass by hand using a pick-axe, shovel, and rake.  Slowly but surely, I got all of the grass removed, and I started to add decomposed granite to the areas that would eventually be pathways.

By mid summer all of the grass was removed from the pathway areas, and I had added decomposed granite as a base for the flagstone that I was planning to lay in the fall when the temps cooled down a bit.

Summer in Texas, and once again, it was too blasted hot to work.  And besides that, the pain that I had started feeling in my right forearm in the spring was hurting more and more.  We went on vacation in July and I thought the rest would do me some good, but my arm continued to hurt.  I tried my own brand of at-home therapy, and still the pain persisted.  So in August I broke down and went to the doctor.   That's when I got diagnosed with radial tunnel syndrome, and the Gimpy Gardener saga was born.

When I got the news from the doctor, at that moment, all landscape projects were officially on hold.  I first thought it would just be a couple months of recuperation and I'd be back to work.  Long story short, my arm was not well in two months, so I decided to go ahead and hire out the flagstone work so my project could proceed.  So in October of 2010 the flagstone work commenced.

After the flagstone work was completed, I wanted to plant dwarf mondo in between the flagstone.

 And 65 flats of mondo later, the pathways were complete.

Now to the point of this post (finally) tell you what my landscaping projects are for 2011.  If you refer back to the drawing, the areas shaded in gray on each side of the path are the new bed areas that were created by removing the lawn and adding the pathway.  They are just expansions of beds that already existed.

This is what those areas look like in January of 2011.  

To finish off those beds, I plan to:
  • Add several yards of compost
  • Add flagstone to create an area to hold the bench
  • Add plants
  • Add mulch 
I have already added a Peaches and Cream Japanese Maple on one side and transplanted an Oak Leaf Hydrangea.   To the other side I transplanted two Japanese Maples: Mikawa Yatsabusa and Orangeola.  For the rest of the plantings, I will do some dividing and transplanting of existing shade tolerant plants from my garden.  I might add another Endless Summer Hydrangea.  I plan on adding an Oakland Holly behind the Peaches and Cream Maple to give it an evergreen backdrop.  Other than that, I will just be keeping my eyes open for an interesting new plant or two.

Last year I had 3 crape myrtles removed from the east side (left side of drawing) because of the increasing shade.  I plan to add one 'Forest Pansy' Redbud tree in that area to give some height and color.

I hope you've enjoyed this journey through my backyard project.  If all goes well, I will be sure to post pictures of the plantings in the new bed areas.  Please visit again to see the completion.

Until then...

I hope you can start (or complete) some wonderful projects in your garden this year!

Toni :-)


  1. Wow Toni! You have done so much work and it looks fabulous! I know how you feel, as a Master Gardener I am always volunteering in other peoples yards or project and don't spend enough in my own. I love all the mondo grass (65 flats...Wow!) and the flagstone work. I look forward to seeing your photos from your completed project.

  2. Loved the look back and seeing your design progress. You garden is looking so good. I know what you mean about the carpel tunnel. I ended up with a bad hip doing the flagstone work and digging here. It will need to be replaced at some point. I learned my lesson on doing a man's work. Now, I get the guys from work to do all of it except the planting. My front yard rock bed was what finally did me in.

  3. What a great documentation of your stone work process Toni! Your garden looks lovely and inviting! I had to chuckle at your husband commenting on your daydreaming or staring. I hope you arm is improved. Ouch! Take care.

  4. My gosh , you are good Toni! I love looking at all the photos of your gardens... they are absolutely amazing with just the right touch of professionalism and yet they don't have that "hired a landscaper" look that we often comment on at garden walks here in the north... excellent! Larry

  5. Your garden looks great! I really like those stone steps. I want something like that for my future garden. Wish you the best in your coming projects!

  6. Wow, that is such a beautiful transformation! I've admired the design of your garden ever since I discovered your blog, and now I know why it looks so awesome. You have put a lot of planning and a lot of time into it. I so wish my own dear hubby would get on board with what's in my mind. There's no way on earth he would ever allocate funds for hardscaping like that. I can only dream.

  7. Toni, wonderful work. The stonework and the curving beds all add so much to the beauty of your garden landscape. I've really enjoyed my tour. I hope your arm heals; I know what it is like to overdo it in the garden and stones are very heavy. I look forward to seeing your 2011 dreams come true!

  8. Love the hardscape and the details.

  9. "The Stare"....I like it...good name for what I'm sure that most of us do.

  10. I've been "staring" at my back yard all winter Toni! I can see it from right here at my computer. You've inspired me to get out the paper and pencil. I had some landscaping software that I used to play with but it no longer works (vista). You are doing a wonderful job and I just can't wait to see it in the vibrant colors of spring! Keep it up!!

  11. great post Toni, it's very interesting to see how you developed your original design, take care of your arm and your self, I think chosing the plants is the best bit, looking forward to see your progress this year (and future years now I've found your blog) Frances

  12. Hello Toni,
    I spent several hours last summer deweeding between my paving stones. What a brilliant idea to beat the weeds at their own game!

  13. Toni, Your design with the curving flagstone is beautiful. The lines are so clean. I really admire how you made the plan and then stuck with it over a number of years and setbacks. It's coincidental that you mentioned 'Forest Pansy' because my large specimen just split in half all thee way to the ground with last night's huge snow and ice storm here in PA. I am sad (my friend said it will open up new opportunities in the garden). Carolyn

  14. Just beautiful. Can't wait to see it this Spring and Summer. Bummer about your arm, I had elbow surgery that stopped my gardening last summer too.....

  15. I think that is the longest post I've actually read, not skimmed, and I enjoyed every word. It's fun to see your landscape change.

  16. I very much enjoyed this post! I love your flagstone paths. I hopefully will be adding flagstones to my lady garden this year to make my pathways there more substantial. You have certainly done a lot of work - digging up all that grass must have been brutal! I wonder if it contributed to your arm problem? I look forward to seeing your lovely garden as it progresses this year.

  17. I can relate to gardening with injuries -- so much more work! And it's no fun to try to follow doctor's orders if they mean you can't get in the dirt and play. These garden designs are beautiful, excellent job!

  18. Oh my mercy, your flagstone paths are GORGEOUS....they are the stuff of my garden daydreams! :) I hope I can garner up enough energy someday to add hardscape like yours - just lovely.

  19. Toni, I love your backyard transformation! The flagstone is beautiful! I also like your idea of adding mondo grass. Unfortunately it is not hardy in my area. One day my yard will hopefully be what I have envisioned. Will you come stare in my backyard with me please???

  20. Thank you for sharing your garden and ideas in detail. I agree with everyone else's comments; it is just very beautiful. I recently thought of doing flagstones with dwarf mondo grass myself, though not nearly as ambitious as yours, at least not to start. I may even have gotten my flagstones at the same place you did, because mine look like yours. I enjoyed your garden, and now believe I'm on the right track after seeing your accomplishment!

  21. Then click Delete to remove the selected agents from the Unified CCX database. Unless you follow this procedure, agents deleted in Unified CM will continue to appear in the agents list in the Unified CCX Resources page, but they will not be able to log in as the Unified CM authentication will not be successful best 22 inch self propelled lawn mower