Tentative landscaping attempt

If you remember what the house looked like when we bought it, it was completely naked outside, though the builder put in a teeny tiny crabapple tree (dark red leaves and pink flowers – should be quite gorgeous when it matures) after we made our offer. It’s been left alone this entire time, but for the past month and a half, I’ve been trying to figure out what we should plant, how to do it, and what it might look like a few years (or decades) from now. I want flowering trees, bushes, and perennials, no prickly bushes (remembering childhood moments retrieving tennis balls and frisbees from behind thorns – ow ow ow), trees whose leaves are so small that they don’t need raking (like a honey locust) or can be used for mulch without shredding (Korean maple?), and plants with interesting limb structure (weeping tree?) and/or bark (red dogwood?) such that the yard will still be interesting to look at throughout the LONG Minnesota winters.

Had you asked me even a year ago if I’d be spending a considerable amount of my waking hours thinking about lawn care, trees, and plants, I would have laughed and laughed. I mean, the only plants I’ve kept alive to date are aquatic ones (though I do a pretty good job with those, I must admit). I helped my grandmother weed dandelions when I was a kid, and two or three times in high school, I helped plant annuals around the house, but that was about it. I was all set to hire a professional landscaping company to design and install some greenery (thanks to a huge influx of cash from my parents, specifically for landscaping – thanks Mom and Dad!), and after I made the first phone calls, Matt suddenly says, “Naw, we can do it. Let’s try it ourselves first and not spend senselessly.”

He measured the entire property “by foot” (placing his shoes heel-to-toe and counting the paces of each dimension), rough-sketched it out, and refined the map with a ruler. We’re starting small with the idea of gradual improvements over the next few years. This is partially because we’re afraid that we are going to kill things in our ignorance. I’m reading a lot about stuff before we buy (zone, sun, water, fertilizer, mulch, final size, prone to which diseases, etc.) because I’ve also been reading a lot about what a pain it is to remove dead bushes and trees. Heh. Our first plan of attack is the tiny area between the front door and the garage, bordered by a sidewalk. It’s about 8 x 18 ft.


First things first, we laid out the “no grow” zone. Matt and I dug a shallow trench next to the house, lined it with landscaping fabric, and covered it with pea gravel (banked slightly towards the house). Annuals, perennials, and grass doesn’t grow well there, plus it’s too close to the wall to mow, but weeds flourish ‘cuz that’s what they do. The fabric and gravel will smother the weeds over the next few weeks, and our plan is just to leave it like that permanently. The trench probably should have started a little closer to the house, but there’s 1-3 inches of gravel on top of the fabric, so it should stay put. (If not, we’ll just buy larger rocks!)


We bought 5 Java Red Weigela (wi-GEE-la) bushes. The landscape designer we spoke to said these should bloom all summer long. They are tiny little bushes right now, but they are supposed to get 4-5 feet tall over time.


We planted 4 at first, but then I remembered that Japanese superstition about 4 = death, and no way was I going to have death sitting in front of my dining room windows, even it was all cute and flowery and I’m not superstitious. Matt rolled his eyes, but I went back to the nursery to pick up a 5th shrub. Anyway, if you walk out the front door, it looks like this:


There’s a fringe of weeds between the edges of gravel and mulch. We’re getting a weeder/edger today, so that will take care of any errant growth in that area. From the street, it looks like this:


The 5th bush (on the right) is pushed closer to the other 4 because we discovered (while digging) that the gutter runoff tube did not run directly away from the house but rather angled right under where we had hoped to plant #5. Hopefully once they grow and fill in all of the spaces between them, it won’t look so asymmetric. Sometime in June, I’m going to tear up a foot of the grass in front of the bushes and plant annuals.

For the other side of the front door, we just put down the gravel-over-trench and a single shrub. We went for a honeysuckle bush, the Arnold Red. From what I understand, these flowers will produce bright red berries later in the summer.


It looks a little lonely by itself, but we’re not sure what else to put there just yet.


When I was a kid, my mom and I would take turns moving the lawn sprinkler around the yard all summer long. I hated that job (wet shoes, ugh), but what I hated most of all was wrestling with that heavy, slimy, dirty hose at the end of the day when it was time to haul it into the backyard. We never had a hose reel. Wish we had!


Matt and I bought this thing called a “ReelSmart” – it’s a self-winding hose reel! (I love the gadgets, I truly do.) You flip a switch, water runs through the beige hose (normally stretched out to let the water run out somewhere farther away), and the reel turns itself, you just have to guide it back into a tidy coil – no need to crank a water-laden hose! Dad, I’d send you one for Father’s Day, but they’re heavy to ship and probably very easy to find near you, so I’m sending you a check instead! 😉 They’ll hold 100 ft of hose, which is enough to wrap around our entire yard.

8 thoughts on “Tentative landscaping attempt

  1. New house, new challenges, new things to ponder, new Wigelas! They look lovely, good luck in this new endeavor!

    P.S. Even though I’m not superstitous either, I would be superstitous enough to get a fifth bush, too :).

  2. Nice shrubs! The hummingbirds love honeysuckle. Maybe you could flank it with butterfly bushes and have your own little nature preserve.

  3. I’m glad you got a 5th bush. Plants always look better in odd-numbered groupings. You’ll do fine on your own. Just go slowly and look at other people’s yards to get ideas.

  4. Pretty pink flowers! I remember hearing about a couple here in the bay area that tried to get the house numbers changed in a really ritzy area because the house they wanted to buy had a “4” in its house number!

  5. Oh boy – the fun of landscaping! If you need any plants (iris, daylilies, columbine seeds, etc) I will send you some in the fall when I thin my beds 🙂

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