Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Backyard Renovation: Complete!

Our backyard renovation project is finally complete.

After the plants were planted, the last piece was laying the sod. The guys brought in rolls and rolls of grass and cut it to the mold of the new yard. 

The end result was a beautiful carpet of green:

I love how the grass now flows throughout the yard and my eyes keep moving all around each different area of the property.

We added some lights near the steps and the seating area, as well as soft lights looking up into the Crape Myrtle and River Birch trees. At night, it is simply magical.

It's hard to believe this is the same backyard we had a few months ago!

Remember how it looked this spring?: 

 And how about the wooded, barely useable space under the canopy of trees?:


Or the steep slopes, overgrown shrubs and moss covered rocky soil?:


I couldn't be happier with the end result of our backyard. I absolutely love it. It's so peaceful, beautiful and will provide me with endless hours of enjoyment for years to come!

Many thanks to the team over at Bayview Landscape Architecture who helped make this all possible. 

See the progression here:
Part 1: Tree Removal
Part 2: Retaining Wall
Part 3: The Fence
Part 5: Seating Area

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Backyard Renovation Part 6: Planting the Plants

Well, Hurricane Sandy has come and gone and thankfully we had removed all those trees before the storm! We were luckier than most in the area, sustaining minimal damage to the backyard. Although we did lose power for almost two weeks. 

With all that behind us now, we can focus on finishing up the backyard project. The week before the storm, the plants were brought in and incorporated into the landscape. I've never been so excited than when I saw a truckload of plants pull up in front of my house!

I enjoyed working with my landscape architect on choosing and placing some of the plants. I wanted evergreens in certain areas, some plants with fall color, some with spring blooms and then some purely because I liked them!

As each plant went in, the backyard suddenly transformed into a place that filled the senses. Wonderful smells, textures and a softness to the landscape appeared.

Behind the decorative wall (which was there all along, but now seems to take center stage) is a gorgeous Crape Myrtle. I just love the fall color on it and next year the late summer blooms will be lovely. I wanted to keep many of the plants above this wall low so that I could see over them onto the lawn and watch the kids playing or just let my eyes continue their gaze to the back of the property.

Along the side and to the back, we planted Cryptomeria trees, Cherry Laurel and Rhododendron for evergreen privacy. Hydrangeas, Ilex and Liriope dot the area in front of the old Oak tree.

This is the view from the seating area. The fence makes such an attractive backdrop to the plants and the surrounding trees. Along the fence are Clethra, Viburnum, Skip Laurel, Holly, Variegated Weigela, Red-twig Dogwood, Nandina and Rhododendron. Behind the fence, a new River Birch tree peeks through.

 Hydrangeas, Nandina and dwarf rose bushes accent the lower wall.

Now that the plants are in, I'm anxious to see what it looks like when the sod is laid. Then, it will finally look like a real backyard!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Backyard Renovation: Part 5 - Seating Area

Once the boulder retaining walls were in place, work began on the seating area in the part of the property still "up on the hill." This was an addition to our original plans for the backyard and now I'm so excited for it!

Stone slab steps were brought in and laid into the slope.

 Then flat, irregular shaped stones were placed in a circle to create the seating area.

 And the remaining boulders were placed into the slope - both decorative and functional.

The end result is so beautiful. I can't wait to sit up here and enjoy the view once the project is all finished.

Next, the plants go in, then sprinklers, lighting and finally grass! We are almost there!

See the progression here:
Part 1: Tree Removal
Part 2: Retaining Wall
Part 3: The Fence

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Backyard Renovation Part 4: Boulder Retaining Wall

The backyard is really starting to take shape now! After the trees were removed, the retaining wall was set in place and the fence was erected. The next step was to create the more decorative retaining wall with boulders and a seating area above it. 

The boulders were brought in and were moved around one by one using the machine equipment.

The area above the slope was cleared, leveled and prepared for a stone-laid seating area.

The machine operator would pick up a boulder with the scooper and then use the "thumb" to hold it in place and carry it to where it needed to go. This job required a lot of patience! Some of the boulders didn't fit properly or weren't the correct size and he'd have to bring it down and get another one.

A small boulder retaining wall was set in place to protect the seating area.

Once the placement of the retaining wall around the seating area is set, they can bring in the steps and then lay the irregular stones for this spot. Once that is complete, the bigger/lower retaining wall can be finished with the remaining boulders.

See the progression here:
Part 1: Tree Removal
Part 2: Retaining Wall
Part 3: The Fence

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Backyard Renovation: Part 3 - The Fence

After the trees were removed and the retaining wall set in place, the ground was leveled again to reduce the slope even more. And then the fence was installed.

At first, when our landscape architect suggested the Split Rail Fence to us, I didn't really like it because I didn't think it was particularly attractive. But now that it's in, I love it.

It adds a little bit of rusticness to the woodsy surroundings. And they added a vinyl mesh behind it to keep any balls, toys or kids (!) in the yard. When the plants are in place, I really think the fence will just blend with the scenery beautifully.

Next task is to build the a seating area and steps above the decorative retaining wall. Once that is done, the boulder retaining wall will be put into place. It's really starting to take shape!

See the progression here:
Part 1: Tree Removal
Part 2: Retaining Wall
Part 4: Boulder Retaining Wall

Monday, October 15, 2012

What's Blooming: October 2012

Today is Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! Here's a look at what's growing and blooming in my Long Island garden this month.

The Montauk Daisy (Nipponanthemum nipponicum) is in full bloom. All summer long, my husband asked me "What's the deal with this plant? When is it going to bloom?" Just wait, I told him. And sure enough, when everything else is starting to settle into the coolness of autumn, these beautiful daisies open up and smile at all who pass by.

The Sedum 'Autumn Joy' has morphed from the vibrant pink of last month to a beautiful deep maroon color, more fitting for this time of year.

I love how the Hosta leaves begin to change color, similar to the tree leaves. The golden yellow against the fading green is simply lovely.

A few Black Eyed Susans remain, looking more attractive next to the deep color of the sedums now.

And the Burning Bush (Euonymus alata 'Compactus') is starting to live up to its name. The leaf colors will all turn a vibrant shade of red and truly look like it's on fire. 

We are busy working to complete the backyard renovation project in the next two weeks. Have a look at what we've done so far!

As always, any thanks to Carol over at May Dreams Gardens for hosting the monthly Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Backyard Renovation - Part 2: Retaining Wall

We've successfully completed the first phase of our backyard renovation project - tree removal. A row of overgrown shrubs, six trees and various dead limbs of other trees.
Sunlight is now streaming into the backyard and I'm amazed at the space we have.

Once the site was cleared, the equipment was brought in to begin work on the leveling the ground and build the retaining wall.

Measuring from the bottom of the slope, the wall is 5 feet high but nearly flushed with the ground level. I was fascinated watching the workers put the wall in. All the different layers - soil, sand, gravel and mesh - for drainage.

It took them about a week to complete the wall, but I think it looks fabulous. I'm still fascinated how the wall can't be seen from the house, but only from down the hill. But I guess that's what makes it a true retaining wall!

The last piece of the wall was the placement of flat stones to finish off the top.

Once this is complete, we'll make sure the ground is level and then start to work on the more decorative retaining wall on the other side of the yard.

See the progression here:
Part 1: Tree Removal
Part 3: The Fence
Part 4: Boulder Retaining Wall

Monday, October 1, 2012

Backyard Renovation - Part 1: Tree Removal

When we moved into our new house nine months ago, I knew our first big project would to redo the backyard. It was very wooded, overgrown and, frankly, not a safe place for children to play. Still, there was something "wild" about it that was fun in the snow and even in the early spring when the trees were just opening and the moss covered the floor. But we rarely used it.

Here's how it looked in April:

 View from one side of the patio. 
The property is up on a hill, so the houses behind ours are down a steep slope. 
It's actually very private up here.

 Looking east, across the yard. 
From where this photo was taken, the yard slopes gently downward (east) and steeply off to the right (south).

View from highest elevation looking back to the house and patio. 
Can you see my blue house behind the overgrown shrubs??

 A very neglected yard has become overgrown with weeds, maple saplings and piles of yard waste.

During the summer, the tree canopies were very dense and very little light came through. It provided a nice break from the heat, but the mosquitos were unbearable!

 View of the backyard from the upstairs windows.

In the early spring, we met with a landscape architect, who drew up beautiful plans for our yard. I mainly wanted a large grassy area for the kids to play, but also enough gardens for me to "play."

After months of surveys and getting approvals from the town, we finally got the green light to begin the project! The first step was to clear away the overgrown shrubs and cut down a bunch of the trees.

A worker removes the andromedia, rhododendron and mountain laurel behind the patio wall.

 I was fascinated watching these guys climb the trees to cut the branches!

 Clearing the final trunks away.

 Finally - sunlight streams in! I can't believe the transformation.

The clearing. Wow!

Dappled sun the next morning. A lot was removed, but it still looks wooded and tranquil.

Over the next few weeks, the ground will be leveled, a retaining wall will be constructed and a fence will enclose beautiful new plantings.

See the progression here:
Part 2: Retaining Wall

Part 3: The Fence
Part 4: Boulder Retaining Wall