Tuesday, July 22, 2014

We are officially no-mow in the front yard

In the list of Things I've Spent the Majority of My Life Doing, removal of sod is quickly catching up to sleeping, reading, and perusing the Annie's Annuals website. For the record, those latter three things are way more fun than sod removal.

Despite the fact that everyone I know loves smothering, I have not had good results with it. The neighborhood cats dig up my newspaper, things never properly decompose, and the sod always seems to come back to life. I've read reports online from people who claim that, within six weeks of applying the smothering layer of choice, they had lush, crumbly topsoil. I call bullshit.

Anyway. I had very little sod left in the front garden but it needed to be removed very carefully with a pickax, so I wouldn't disturb the roots of the 75 year old dogwood tree. I had this stupid strip along the new pathway just to make mowing awful for Greg. You're welcome, buddy.


I used the same rock I've used throughout the garden and did a terrible job preparing the ground. I want people to know that I DIYed this.



And along the property line . . .




The hope is to give my neighbor a level surface to run his lawnmower along. And I'll have a clear demarcation of where wood chips or mulch should begin.

Now I just need to fill in this area in with dry shade plants. I have three Amsonia hubrichtii planted around the dogwood, along with Geranium macrorrhizzum, which will hopefully disguise the abrupt transition from fine hemlock mulch to cedar chips.


I planted a tiny variegated flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum 'Variegata') in this area (just to the left of the pouty Sesleria autumnalis), since that native can take an awful lot of abuse. I've also got a smattering of random hellebores and volunteers like Persicaria 'Lance Corporal,' Phlomis russeliana, and Parahebe perfoliata. Anybody have a favored 3-4 foot dry shade subshrub or evergreen plant? I need some variation in height.


I also need a bench or comfy chair so I can sit under the dogwood with a glass of wine in the evening. And groundcovers. I need something to knit this mess together.

Before

Who needs lawn? The whole front garden was designed to be watered twice a month or less. It's crazy but it's fun and we have zillions of pollinators.

June of this year

We don't miss mowing at all.

53 comments:

  1. Woo hoo! Great before and after, I'll keep my eyes out for variegated dry shade plants...congrats on being no mow!

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  2. The before and after are so amazing. I love it. I have to ask, though, what's up with your neighbor's mounds in the front yard? Also, what every ended up happening with your annoying flipper neighbors who were trying to talk to you over the fence?

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  3. WOW...those last two shots are amazing...what a transformation...it's hard to even remember what it looked like before. It's amazing how we all seem to resist those last little bits and pieces in our gardens...I wonder what holds us back? I just FINALLY removed the Privet the other day and am starting to finish the path to the front door. Why didn't I do it earlier...why did it take 5 years...who knows. Anyway, love how it's all tied together now...it already looked great and now it's even better! Maybe instead of a plant (or in addition to) you could place a large, sculptural object (large, empty pot) or something in the midst of everything...to anchor the area and contrast with the billowy plants?

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  4. Isn't the pick axe the best tool ? Your garden looks fantastic ! I'm still double digging the last THIRTY or something feet of lawn …the last , the last !

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  5. Ha! Those mounds are from when he decided to build a deck behind his house, then changed his mind. The delivery of crushed basalt had already happened, so he just left them there and let the grass grow over it. And the other house next door is under contract, so keep your fingers crossed for good new neighbors.

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  6. Ooh, that's such a good idea!

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  7. That's impressive considering how huge your lot is!

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  8. Hahaha! Well, they're a very unique front yard feature. And yeah, I definitely hope you get decent neighbors who know that you shouldn't holler at people you don't know in their backyard!

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  9. Thanks, girl! If you could make my front garden look like you're, that would be great. :)

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  10. We refer to them as "the burial mounds."

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  11. The burial mounds! Makes me think of wights in The Hobbit. But how cool would it be to put a small round green hobbit door on the side of one of the mounds?!

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  12. Let's get together at Casa Heather and Greg. Soon.

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  13. Well, obviously with regards to the smothering/lasagna layering, you didn't do it right. ;-) I've had great success with it, and no bull shit (either in my statement or in the lasagna -- plenty of horse shit, but no bull shit.) Anyway, your garden looks great. I like Scott's suggestion of a big empty pot.

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  14. It looks phenomenal!! Your last picture is what I aspire to have my front yard look like when I can work up the courage to remove sod again (the amount I removed from the side yard last year has left me a bit traumatized).

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  15. bye-bye leaning, meat-balled foundation shrubs! Always amazes me that our first instinct is to plant like we drew as kids, a shrub in the space between every door and window. What an amazing transformation you have wrought! I have a can of paint the exact color of your front door I've been itching to use somewhere -- looks amazing with the siding color. Well done, you!

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  16. Shhhh, you'll let everyone know that I don't know what I'm doing!

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  17. Thanks so much! I totally feel your pain--sod removal is the worst.

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  18. I never thought about it that way--you're totally right. I just need the rainbow I always had drawn over the roof. And thanks :)

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  19. Bravo! I love all the contrast and textures : ) You have transformed you little cottage in to a jewel!!!

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  20. LOVE IT! I call bullshit on the whole sod-turns-into-soil thing, too. Smothered sod turns into zombie sod that will sneak up when you least expect and kill something you love. A shovel is the only remedy. Here are my east coast/totally different zone so what the hell do I know recommendations: epimediums, variegated sedum, variegated hellebore, heuchera, especially the ones that look like they've survived nuclear fall out, Solomon's seal and northern sea oats. Salvia koyame and corydalis might do well for you, too.

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  21. I will have a couple of Sarcacocca (about 2 and a half feet) you could have. Most people love the smell...not me. I'll dig them out when the fall rains come.

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  22. Ooh, I didn't realize they could take dry shade. I like the smell :)

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  23. Ooh, I've never heard of that Salvia before--I'm definitely going to check it out. Thanks!

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  24. Congratulations! I'm still slowly chipping away at my lawn but, with drought-related restrictions looming here, there's an increased incentive to get a move on. Re dry-shade tolerant plants, check out Arthropodium cirratum the next time you're on Annie's site - it's my go-to plant for dry shade here and it's reportedly hardy to 15F (although I can offer no personal testimonials on hardiness).

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  25. You gotta love that before and after shot! I bet you could flip back and forth through those all day. Bravo. Do you have any ferns in there? I have an existing one in my rock wall that does appear to mind that it never gets watered.

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  26. Ooh, thank you for that suggestion! How have I missed that one before?

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  27. I don't have any ferns in this area yet, but I am a fern floosie, so I don't see that lasting. One site mentioned this fern as tolerating dry shade and I am intrigued: http://www.greatplantpicks.org/plantlists/view/544

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  28. Greg must be thrilled with the no mow situation, and it looks so good. Smart you putting that line of rock between your neighbors lawn and your garden. Can't wait to see it in person so time soon!

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  29. Great work there Heather, the transformation is superb! So much better with having no lawn there and having great planting instead. Impressive before and after photos!

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  30. Sadly my first try at Arthropodium passed away this last winter here in Seattle when it got down to 22F. I was so psyched to have found it too and planned on spreading it liberally about in my dry shade. I'll probably try again, but I'm much more dubious now about the 15F promise.

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  31. Oh bummer. Our winters have been so unpredictable (6 degrees, what) that I was hesitant on that one anyway.

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  32. I love before-and-after comparisons like this! Congratulations on ditching the lawn and creating such a beautiful garden in its place. Your neighbors must love the view! For dry shade, have you thought of 'Soft Caress' mahonia? Pam/Digging: http://www.penick.net/digging/

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  33. Looks great even without the before photo. Congratulations on getting rid of that last bit of lawn. I like the idea of wanting people to know you did it yourself. The difference is amazing and all that work shows as it should.

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  34. I love Soft Caress! Oh . . . that sounded weird.

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  35. Wow!! I love the after!!! it is beautiful! I think having hummingbirds in the garden is invaluable...I wish I could have them. mmm...Maybe I should go back and see more gardens...like yours!

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  36. What an amazing transformation! It looks fabulous! I have couple of dry shade faves - for ground cover Alchemilla alpina, which seems to tolerate both hot, baking sun, and dry shade - and everything in between. For height, I've had good luck with a Lonicera 'Baggesen's Gold'. It is holding its own on the north side of my giant Magnolia, where it has major tree root competition, and gets very little attention - or water - from me. I'm pretty sure any of the other variations of Loniceras would work too. Lemon Beauty has nice variegation.

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  37. Do you not have hummingbirds where you live? What is your coldest temperature? I wish you would come back to portland!

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  38. If you need some of that Alchemilla, I'd be happy to share. They are usually hard to find in the trade.

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  39. I have some--I got it at the last plant exchange. :)

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  40. Dry shade shrubs, evergreen - wanna get to platinum on your Backyard Habitat? Gaultheria shallon, Vaccinium ovatum! Looks great, Heather!

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  41. I have those two in the back garden but I like idea of incorporating more salal in the front. Thanks!

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  42. Mahonia repens? But you already have that too, I bet!

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  43. I have M. nervosa but not repens. You like that one? I think it's aquifolium that gets leggy and scraggly, right?

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  44. M. repens is the lowest growing one, probably the most well-behaved and cute rounded leaves. M. aquifolium can be a mess. I had a 9-foot tall screening hedge of it. Loved the privacy, but had to take it out -- too close to a pathway, and very pokey!

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  45. Ah, good to know. I've been pretty pleased with how nervosa has behaved so I'll have to try repens.

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  46. I´m Lisa, from Spain! we don´t have hummingbirds in Europe...The closest things are hummingbird moths :)

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  47. I had no idea you didn't have hummingbirds! I'm learning so much from you. :)

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  48. Oh good. Figured you probably did, but wasn't sure. :)

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  49. Looks great! And remember, removing sod is the Lord's work. Getting rid of it, however, is a pain in the ass. I've used some as a base for topsoil in raised beds. I've also created sod bulwarks along the alley in case I have to defend our block against an assault by White Sox fans.

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  50. Fantastic! The "after" looks so smart and stylish.Welcome to the no-mow-yard club!

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