As you saw yesterday, our before was pretty dire. We smartly hired someone to do the complicated stuff for us, which included tearing down the old porch structure (minus the roof which was sound), rebuilding the balcony and replacing the bottom porch with a deck, rebuilding the retaining wall of the basement stairs, adding gutters and building a new fence. They did a great job and when they were done, my husband and some family & friends added the slate patio and the garden boxes and together we added the various plants. The plant situation has been evolving since the first year and I think now everything is where it's going to stay. The only thing I added this year were a couple vines that will eventually grow up the fence I hope. In deciding on the plants, I always knew I didn't want a flower garden back here since we have something like that in the front. So in the back we decided to go lush and green with lots of hostas, grasses and ferns. I would have loved to have that slate patio get all mossy between the rocks, but it's just too sunny. I tried so hard! I also tried 'steppable' type creeping plants but those died too. This meant that there was a lot of exposed dirt and sometimes mud which got messy especially with kids. So last year, we finally got the river stones (I think that's what they're called) and they have improved the situation dramatically. They don't stay in the crevices as much as I would like, but for the most part we're satisfied with the solution. My husband also built my kids a sandbox and for two years (maybe three?) we had a teepee frame over it waiting to be turned into a full-blown teepee. We even went as far as buying material for it but never ended up having it made and this spring finally took it down and rebuilt the sandbox (it was starting to rot) with a more durable design and wood. He also made a simple lid for the sandbox. And finally last month, I repainted the trim and doors on the house. So I'm calling it good for now (except for the trim on the balcony which I hope to get to this season). We spent a good bit of money on this project and oddly enough despite our initial excitement and continued work on it, we really didn't use the yard that much except for in the early spring and late fall because of the mosquitoes and the heat which was kind of ridiculous. We tried a number of non-toxic things to beat the mosquitoes. Last year we got a highly recommended concentrated garlic liquid and sprayed it all over the yard. I think it made the situation worse. This year we couldn't take it anymore and we hired the Mosquito Squad to come spray their natural stuff. And it works REALLY well. I can't even believe it really. So, I'm happy to report that we have been using both our front and back yard a lot more this summer---we ate outside tonight! It's amazing what the lack of mosquitoes can do for your attitude toward the out-of-doors. I hate DC summers (like, I would gladly move based on the heat alone, hate), but since we've had the treatments, I find life outside much more tolerable. And yes, I know that summer hasn't really started here but there have been a number of hot days and I've handled them with nothing but smiles.
So, on to the photos. Let me refresh your memory with this lovely shot.
A view in from the alley; the white stuff on the brick is chalk in case you were thinking our house had been graffitied. We keep the graffiti in the alley around here thanks. I don't love this view--it looks a bit cluttered with the bars on the windows, the stuff hanging on the house and the chalk drawing on the house but in real life, it's fine.
Trumpet flower vine (wish I could have gotten a photo of it when it was flowering) that is starting to finally take over the space under the balcony; it bloomed for the first time this year and was so pretty
The table (that you can't really see b/c it needs to be repainted) came from West Elm. It was a bit big for the space and my husband oh so bravely removed the legs, cut a few of the slats out and expertly reattached the legs. It's his proudest carpentry achievement to date. And my plants on top of the table are sad, light lovers that I have been torturing inside until now. The tall one is an avocado plant that I grew from just putting a pit in some potting soil. Now what do I do with it though?Flowering oregano and green beans in the background
Overall I'm really happy with the space especially now that we're using it frequently. There are a few things I would change. I think the use of the horizontal cedar boards on the balcony are a bit overkill especially when you add in the horizontal boards that we used for the garden boxes but on the other hand, I rarely see them. I'm always standing under it so it doesn't bother me unless I'm out in the alley. We never use the balcony so we don't see it from that perspective either. Oh, and a big one is that I wish we would have treated the cedar the first year so it would have kept that lovely cedar look but alas, it's too late for that. I want to eventually make better use of the garden boxes. We took it really easy this year and just planted a few things.
Now that I've showed you my yard, I want to see yours! And for a gentle push, there's a BIG giveaway involved. Come back tomorrow for details.