* Between The Sea (the Med) and The Alps -- {Pronounce: ontruh la mair eh lay zalp}

Monday, February 2, 2015

Creating some missing curb appeal

Curb Appeal 01Despite having a completely different home improvement project planned for starting after the holidays, I ended up on a roll and just completed my third garden project down at our lower parking area. 

Coming after the massive hillside project just above this area I worked on last fall, also unplanned, I'm a bit worn out in the landscaping department.  But just imagine what I may get to look at during the springtime.

Not only is our property spread over a fairly steep hillside, our living space is almost at the top, while our entrance is all the way at the bottom.  Which means the area most people might leave in a more wild state behind their house is all out in front of us for the whole world to see.  As we did not inherit beautifully maintained gardens, I've concentrated on developing the areas around the house at the expense of this vast area we can't hide away from anybody.

Somehow, perhaps due to the gorgeous fall and winter weather we've been having, it just finally seemed to be the priority over the planned interior project to attack the first thing anybody can see at our entrance.

Curb Appeal 02
Original street view

While I created the little trashcan planter from scratch the first half of the month, I completely redid some lost garden area along the fence this second half of the month.

Photos can be kinder than real life.  This area is a mess of dead evergreen trees covered with ivy and a sticky vine weed.  But at the moment, it's hiding our woodpile from the street.  The wood would probably be more attractive!

Curb Appeal 03
Inside, the parking area for visitors
As we enter through the gate to the left, we rarely see the street side view.  But for years, I've just ignored the inside view because I couldn't do anything about it.

When I finally decided that now was the time, I really only expected to take out this agapanthus (lily of the Nile) and generally clean out that area, as we have nowhere else to put the wood.  Or so I thought.

Curb Appeal 04
So appealing
Curb Appeal 05
Look at that root system!
I knew this would be a horrid task, and it did not disappoint.  I don't know how many years it's been there, but it's obviously been way too many!

Curb Appeal 06
Doc Leo battling the monster
Curb Appeal 07
It's almost as big as he is

As I wanted to protect it to plant elsewhere, we tried to be as gentle as possible. 

I first pulled the leaves up so we could see where the root system was.  They apparently grow fairly shallow roots; there are pieces of it all over.  Then I used some available manpower to get it out of the ground.

Curb Appeal 08
Yay, we conquered the monster!
Over the years, if they aren't divided, they just keep growing babies on top of each other rather than spreading out, like the irises do.  I have no idea how many individual ones were planted originally, but this massive clump pulled out in four very heavy smaller clumps.

However, I really like this plant, and I've got a lot of bare property where I can replant the individual pieces.  Unfortunately, I don't have the ground prepared yet for most of it, so I'll have to find some temporary spot where they will hopefully regain their force until I'm ready to use them permanently.

Curb Appeal 09
Just a fraction of the total
Curb Appeal 10
Ready to re-establish

I think harder than digging up this huge monster was trying to separate the individual plants.  Their big fleshy roots were so intertwined, it took forever to separate them.  As I knew they would never survive being tortured without trimming, I sadly cut off all the pretty leaves and trimmed the roots.  The experts say that these will sulk for a few years before deciding to bloom again, but I'll be happy if they just survive and leaf out again.

Curb Appeal 11
Such a country setting

Once we had the monster out and separated, we ripped out the dead or barely surviving evergreens.  As I didn't know what else was in the ground (including several acorns trying to become oak trees), I tried to break up and turn over the whole area.

Unfortunately, the original garden hadn't been dug down very far, so digging up huge rocks and mixing good dirt into the clay base became a necessity I hadn't planned on.

Curb Appeal 12
The new, open look at the entrance gate
Meanwhile, the Doc restacked some of the wood so I'd have a bigger area, and I was so surprised to see the road continuing past our property.  I've never seen this view before; it's now so pastoral!

On the other hand, I decided I didn't like how the gate was so in the way of all this now open area.  It has to open as far as it can for the car to enter (it would be so much better if we could just drive through that pillar!), but then it gets in the way of getting to the mailbox.  The whole thing was badly designed in the first place, but we're not going to change it.

Also, I've never liked how those added concrete blocks look at the base of the fence, another bad design.  I think it just accentuates the height differences as the street slopes while the parking area remains more level.

Curb Appeal 13
A new drainage pit
Another problem we have is that the whole parking area has built up over the years with sediment running down the driveway when it rains.  So now, instead of the water just continuing to run across the parking and over the side, it runs over the flagstone entrance and tries to cover it with dirt.  Now just seemed the time to do something about that until the day I can totally bring down all the excess mounding!

Curb Appeal 14
One section leveled down to original height
So, I dug a trench in front of the stones and filled it with some of the millions of rocks I dug out of the garden and planter areas, hoping it would act as diverting drainage.

At the same time, the Doc decided he could move the entire woodpile he'd just restacked to another spot, which then opened up the whole area I was wanting to develop.  Of course, that meant I had a whole bunch more dirt to dig up and turn over and rake out rocks from. At least this had once been a garden already, so it actually wasn't as hard to do as most everywhere else I've been working.  I'm just tired of digging up rocks.  Notice how much higher the unprocessed ground remains.

Two things you might notice.  First, there is no gate!  We decided to just take it off, and later we'll somehow attach it to the other half to make one big gate that's out of the way.  Second, you can see how the Doc took out a number of concrete blocks at the fence.  I think it looks so much nicer now, and hopefully ground covers will hide how rustic it looks (as if it wasn't a rustic look in the first place).

Curb Appeal 15
A pretty garden area
Curb Appeal 16
Almost looks refined

Finally, all the prep work was done.  Sadly, I don't think all this looks like it took over two weeks to accomplish.  But I think future upkeep will be much easier.  For the Doc's birthday, I was able to design the new garden shape.

As you can see, I've created a pathway to the mailbox, and I've placed the curve inside of any risk of car tires wanting to drive over it.  As we need most of the whole area for visitor cars, I've brought the garden back in on the side.  Eventually, I'll be continuing a small border along the rest of the fence, enlarging the garden a bit more.  We've brought down a bunch of compost created from the fall hillside project's weeds, and now I'm ready to plant it up with various things I've dug from all over the property.

And now, here it is!  Isn't this much more exciting than the original pictures up at the top?  It's only taken us 13 years to get to this point.

Curb Appeal 18
A small oasis
Curb Appeal 19
So much more civilized than before

I've continued the drainage ditch from the flagstones to around the end of the garden so excess water can drain down the hill, then filled the whole area with more of the rocks I've dug up.  (Just keep thinking about great looking shoulders and forearms!)  I've planted some creeping thyme in-between the stepping stones to the mailbox; I think that will give a much softer look than so much mineral elsewise if they take.

Curb Appeal 20
Loquat tree

Years ago, a friend gave me this loquat tree he'd grown himself, and we in turn gave it to our second daughter as a 30th birthday present when she was here ten years ago.  She'd loved the one in our FL neighborhood.  We've stifled it all these years in a pot, but now it will hopefully be happy finally and really take off.  (So, happy 40th, Nana.) 

Curb Appeal 21
Italian rock
A number of years ago, we carted this huge (and extremely heavy) rock back from Assisi, Italy, home of St. Francis, otherwise known as San Francisco.  It's really pretty, but it's been lost where we had it before.  I think it adds a bit of character here in its new home.

Against the fence, I've planted two climbing roses and two bush roses.  The fence looks so bare, but I didn't want to create a similar solid hedge we'd just taken out!  I've also planted a number of ground covers at the base to flow over through the fence.  And of course I've installed a number of rejuvenated agapanthus, kind of a keepsake concept.  There are a few other things I've gathered from here and there; we shall see how they all take and fill out by summer.

I kept the front area free of perennials so that I can plant some colorful annuals.  A friend from California just brought me a package of California golden poppy seeds, which I will plant there along with some pretty blue forget-me-nots.  I had this combination in Paris, so this will be a doubly sentimental section.

Curb Appeal 17
The new Street View Garden
While I have to leave the majority of this very open and empty level open and empty for all the vehicular activity it was designed for, at least now I've created a few pretty areas in places where cars just don't need to be!  And none of it cost me anything except wear and tear on my time and body.  Everything (compost, decor, plants) I've either made myself, found on the property already, or was given to me by various friends over the years.  We'll just have to take another look at it all next summer to see if it was worth it!

1 comment:

  1. I've been so busy with my blog, I haven't taken any time to look at your superb blog! You guys are absolutely amazing in the huge jobs you blithely tackle and accomplish. This is fabulous and looks so much nicer. Great vision and great success!


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