Soil Conditioner Piled on a YardSome of you follow my tweets @BuildingMoxie.  And I know some of you (*cough* @TitusBuilt) know that I took the week leading up to Memorial Day to check- in (foursquare that is) with a number local supply houses.

What was doing?  Was I getting my ducks in a row for a long overdue grass planting session, essentially bringing the Pennington Seed #Seed4Yourself program full circle?  Nope! (Not just yet.)

While I was playing errand boy for a few small things on my wife’s (frequently-alluded-to) flip project, I was also out, well, pounding the … pavers.  Ha! That is – I was out gathering ideas, information and pricing on a handful of large, it’s-time-to-really-dial-this-yard-in, items.  My yard todo, you see, looked something like this:

  • a new patio and walks
  • pond redo
  • timber stairs (to edge out the kids’ playset area)
  • plant . . . things
  • add ground cover
  • general seed and lawn repairs
  • Mulch &
  • Much Much More.

Now . . . I certainly would not consider myself an experienced Cedar Fence Intersection Bare Rear Yardlandscaper.   With my own houses, my work has pretty much been limited to light fence and walk work… oh and OK, maybe a little lawn work, but nothing like what I am about to undertake.

What I mean — when I worked with the builder, I did have a small focus on “grade” and then of course on stabilizing it, but any plant/planting or hardscape work was left to someone else.

Learning How to Landscape (Building Moxie Style)

So . . . equipped with a little knowledge (gleaned from a library book) and some pics of my yard, I ultimately found my way  to local garden center  – Poor Boys.  When I walked in, a look of fear on my face (or Vinca Minor Label Nurserymaybe it was – absolute cluelessness), I was greeted as if they knew I was coming.  I mean – maybe it was that they had dealt with my type before, but in a matter of minutes (working from the suggestions of specialist Michele Betley), I had a pretty clear . . . path.

Now, one my favorite features of our yard also happens to be one of it’s biggest . . . shortcomings.  Big trees = dense shade.  And I mean dense as in – it is all but impossible to do anything let alone grow anything in certain areas of our yard.  Or so it has sometimes felt.  But what I came away with  was plan of attack on at least two areas in particular.

A large maple, and maybe you have seen one of my two unsuccessful attempts at growing grass under it . . . , would instead receive a ground cover called Vinca Minor.

Laying Out Garden Define Bed with Garden HoseA back corner of the yard, pretty much bare of any growth, would receive a garden-encased planting.  This area fortunately gets some sun and on Michele’s recommendations I recently planted it with a pair of Skyrocket Junipers, a smaller juniper, a pair of Gold Mops, a Butterfly Bush (this may not be getting enough sun), and a lovely flowering Little Henry Sweetspire.

Once my wife and I decided on the shape of the bed (I liked an irregular shaped triangle that fit only the bare spot), I built the bed up slightly using top soil while integrating a soil conditioner.  I did this mainly to get the bed off of our cedar fence.  I lined the back edge of it with flat stone.  I thought about incorporating drainage, but did not, feeling that the natural pitch of the yard and a high stone border would work well to shed any water aside…Trimming the bed as I did with field stone actually accounted for the largest majority of work.  I have a rich abundance of this stone, which had been retrieved over the years from the various beds that scattered around the once overgrown yard.

Little Girl in Plant HoleWhile the Little Henry got the bulk of the attention, the pair of junipers I named after the girls.  on the left and Evyn on the right. This of course got the girls engaged and they had fun helping plant their namesakes.

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The hope is with this back corner, and yes I know I should have worked in a powerwashing of the fence (the misses overruled) . . . the addition of a few lively colored annuals to this bed with actually help draw the eye to the once void area of the yard, essentially making the yard feel a tad bit bigger.


And anyway, this is where I’m at and I still lots to do.  But as I go, I can’t help but feel that it is a little bit like building, but with plants.

Stepping Stones Rows of Vinca Measured by Story Stick

Much like a wall in a home can provide partition, and in some cases, it can be bearing.  It always includes such things as plumbing or electrical, and it is contained by drywall or some other finishing material.  It is then papered or painted and then usually has with things mounted to it.

Finding Level Running String Line Garden Bed

I realize — this is the way I want my landscape to come together, almost structurally.  And a good build can only be determined when and if I can successfully bring all of this various elements together as a whole.

Thanks for reading.  Next: Patching the grass as my stone border’s edge and a giveaway of . . . cash.  ~jb