A Very Creative Landscape Upgrade

There’s been a lot going on around here lately. I swear, it was just the middle of May, and now we’re almost a full week into June!

My last couple of posts were about Memorial Day weekend. Tuesday through Friday of that week, I was working a bunch of hours to get a job done.

This past Saturday was picture-perfect weather-wise. It would have been a great day for a motorcycle ride. And a wedding shower. That’s what we were supposed to do. But I wasn’t feeling well. So I laid around, indoors. All. Day. Long.

That is so not me. What a waste of a beautiful Saturday!

Sunday, I was feeling better. Still not great, but well enough to do some planting. Which is good.  That planting was important. Because Monday the landscape crew was scheduled to finish up at our place. I needed to get the plants into the ground before the mulch was spread.

See? I was so busy last week, I didn’t even tell y’all the landscapers were coming. Or that they had started.

They actually began work on Wednesday. We had them convert our backyard, clay-based, mud pit into a peaceful retreat. They also tore all of the grass out of our side yard, where there was a small but treacherous hill, and built a wall to make a planting bed. While they were here, they weeded and mulched all of our existing planting areas, too. They also planted two bushes I’d bought months ago from another nursery, but didn’t have a place for, other than beside the house.

Wanna see some pics?

The Side Yard - BEFORE

I had planned on shooting specific “before” shots on Tuesday. But then I ended up working until after dark. Luckily I have some pictures from a month or so ago after the fence went up.

The Side Yard - BEFORE - looking in from the back gate.
The Other Side Yard - BEFORE

Those stepping stones helped with the mud somewhat. But it was still always a mess back through there.

The Side Yard - BEFORE

It’s hard to tell in pictures just how steep that little hill is. And it gets steeper toward the back. It was very difficult to walk on. And Hubby had a heck of a time mowing the grass.

Back Yard - BEFORE

I don’t have any decent before shots of the back yard because it really was an ugly mud pit. The patio was okay, except it was all uneven. There just wasn’t a lot to brag about, know what I’m sayin’?

Not that I am bragging per se, just showing y’all what a difference a really good landscaper can make.

Side Yard - DURING

Hubby had been complaining that the patio was dirty. I’d never given much thought to how dirty. Or what a difference power-washing would make.

Patio during power-washing.

Hubby didn’t just clean it to make the surface look nice. One of the issues with this house, which we were aware of at purchase, was that the patio and stupidly designed back steps had settled into the ground. The patio was rather wavy and water, instead of draining away from the house, settled in pools.

That was one of the landscaper’s big projects. Remove all of the pavers four feet out from the house, re-level the ground, re-install the pavers and replace the sand between the joints with special polymeric sand that is designed to lock the pavers in place and keep water from penetrating. Hubby had to wash all of the old sand away to make room for the new stuff, which looks like sand, but feels more like brick mortar.

Meg was not thrilled with the pile of stones in her path.

That was the scene on Thursday evening. The crew from Creative Design Landscapes, based in Bealeton, was a hard-working bunch. There were five laborers that did all of this work in four days. Three and a half, really, when you consider that they only got about half a day in on Friday because of the crazy storms that blew through.

Look closely at the top of the wall toward the left of that last frame and you can see the mortar they used to keep the stones from moving around. It looks like a dry-stack stone wall, the mortar just helps keep the stones from shifting.

Anxious to see the after shots? Here ya go…

The Side Yard - AFTER - from just inside the back gate.

We love the way the walls turned out. They used 4 1/2 pallets of stone in the side yard and 1 1/2 pallets in the back. I am so glad we didn’t have to move all that rock ourselves!

Stepping stones in pea-gravel base. No more treacherous grass mowing required.
Steppers going up the back hill.

And no more slippin’ and slidin’ to get up that back hill!

Planting bed.
View from the opposite direction.
Side yard as seen from just outside the front gate.

Isn’t the neighbors’ hydrangea gorgeous?

Freshly weeded and mulched flower beds.

There were lots of plantings here at the house, but everything was overgrown. The original owners of this house had a green thumb. The previous owners were either clueless or just didn’t care enough to maintain the stuff.

Front beds, different angle.

Oh, and we finally moved the birdbath to the front yard. It had been sitting on the back patio, pretty much where the movers left it, since October.

K looking at the birdbath.

One of our next project will be removing that tree with the dead ivy all over it. It’s a mulberry tree, which makes quite a mess. Even when the dogs spend hours picking up the berries for us!

Ignore those brown patches in the lawn, okay? Three girl dogs have that affect on grass, especially when coupled with weed eradication.

The other side yard - AFTER. No more muddy path!
It looks so much brighter over there.

Now we’re getting to the best part. The back yard. Are you ready?

Clean and flattened patio.
Flagstone paver patio expansion and stone retaining wall.

Chris Bergen, the man who owns the landscaping company, explained that there was polymeric sand used on the flagstones, too. The surfaces will look a bit lighter than usual for a couple of weeks until the slight surface film is worn away.

Flagstone patio with hammock, bench, and dog in place.

I had to ride up to the nursery on Monday afternoon to select plants. Chris had planned a variety of stuff to be planted, but I wanted to change a few of his selections to add a bit more color. Those pink and red flowers with green leaves in front of Belle are astilbe. Originally they were going to be white. Also in front of Belle are some coral bells, which I chose for the red foliage. Chris had also planned for hosta, as seen behind Belle and in front of the hammock, but I opted for the smaller, blue-leaf variety.

New porch (still in progress)

We didn’t have a porch before. There were three steps leading right up to the door. Which made it very hard to open the door. And the steps had not only settled into the ground with the rest of the patio, they’d also pulled away from the building.

New porch (still in progress)

Once Hubby adds that final board and paints over the primer, I’ll post another pic.

Yet another future project will be a little roof over the door and porch.

Patio and porch

You can’t appreciate how much nicer that porch is unless you have seen the original, poorly designed steps.

Here’s a before shot that comes from the house listing beside an after image.

Click on the image above and you’ll get a clearer view. Look closely and you’ll see that the pavers were raised by a couple of inches to achieve the right degree of slope needed to facilitate water runoff.

Back patio from a slightly different angle

That’s one of the anomalies about this house that we will never understand. It’s a well-designed and well-built house full of nice finishes (pocket doors, top-grade door hardware, high-end bathroom fixtures, etc.). Yet there’s also stuff like steps that look like they were built by a junior carpenter. Electrical wiring and outlet placement that makes very little sense. Hose bibs in the stupidest locations.  And so on…

For example, there’s no hose bib on the back patio. It’s on the opposite side of the house, about a third of the way up from the back corner, at the top of that crazy hill. The stupidest location ever.

Relocating the hose bibs is another project for Hubby.

We are so glad that we chose Creative Design Landscapes for the job. We were very impressed with Chris, the 33-year-old owner, and his hard-working crew. The pride and professionalism was evident from day one. They knew it was a multi-day job, but every day, they cleaned up the job site, removing trash, placing debris out of the way, sweeping the dirt off the patio, etc. And they were working independently. Yes, Chris stopped by at least once a day to check on their progress, make sure we were happy, etc. But he wasn’t standing over his crew, cracking the whip, telling them what to do, not do, etc.

We would recommend the company to anyone and would use them again in a heartbeat.

If only we had room for one of these outdoor kitchens, as seen on Chris’s web site…

I want one of these!

Oh, and a pond. A big backyard pond full of frogs. A fire pit would be cool, too.

Perhaps after we move out of the city. IF we ever move out of the city.

With a yard like this, and so many nice amenities in walking distance, we may never want to leave!

So, what do you think? Quite a difference, isn’t it?

11 Replies to “A Very Creative Landscape Upgrade”

  1. Awesome. I need to get me some of those landscaping fairies that come in and do all the weeding and mulching and stuff.

    The yard looks beautiful. I really like the patio extension are with the retaining wall. Very beautiful.

  2. Looks absolutely lovely! I totally hear you on the outdoor kitchen and the pond. The cats would go nuts with the frogs though. 🙂 Glad to see you weren’t ill for too long.

  3. Thanks, everyone! Annelies, your yard would be great for a pond! The cats would only go nuts until they caught one of the little hoppers. From then on out, they would forever leave the things alone. Mike brought one into the house once, for Moses to play with. They have poison glands behind their “ears” so as soon as she picked it up, it squirted, and she spit it out. All kinds of foam was coming out of her mouth, flying all over the house as I was running after her to catch her. It was a mess.

  4. Very nice! I love seeing before and after pictures because they show the dramatic transformation. Good work.

    (And, damn you! You keep giving me new reasons to visit.)

  5. ShyB, I have a feeling I’ll see you here soon. 🙂

    Michelle, they like it too much! The mulch is stinky in a smells-great-to-the-dogs kind of way. Which just means they’ve all been scratching at it and, unfortunately, snacking on it. K has discovered a bird’s nest, and now she’s obsessed. We can barely get her to come inside. She’s our OCD dog.

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