Our poor house’s front yard is so lacking… the front walk is dark, the bushes are too tall and mismatched, and the grass struggles to grow because the shade is too deep. We’ve been pondering how to make it better without spending a ton of money, and I think the answer is to remove everything on right side of the yard along the path (starting at the rhododendron blocking the window), reshape the grass so that it abuts the path, and add one or two small bushes (mini rhodie?) under the left window where we’ll have a gap, and find a lot more hostras and ferns (which tolerate the shade) to fill in the low level and add organized texture.
I’m planning to attempt to transplant the azaleas (and maybe that rhododendron, depending how much digging is involved) to the backyard, but I’ll wait until after they bloom. In the meantime, I cut down then dug up four of the other shrubs along the walkway. The gap is great – very reinforcing that this will make a huge difference. The plan is to bring the lawn to the path at right about the same spot that you see the darker turned-over soil.
If we can’t get grass to grow there, we’ll probably mulch it unless someone can recommend a non-invasive shade-loving ground cover that’s okay to walk on and that looks tidy without special maintenance? (If that’s not a request for a magic bullet, I don’t know what is. We’re 99% sure that no such thing exists, other than moss, and the soil drains too well to even support that.)
I’ve been noticing that this “outside twice a day” toddler program on weekends has been having a great effect on the backyard. We’ve been out weeding and pruning months earlier than our norm, and parts of the yard really look great as a result. This weekend, weeding finally dropped on the priority list in favor of large-scale shrub maintenance.
I finally finished taking back the shrub outside the kitchen window (this is an in-progress shot):
It was overgrowing the pathway, and the moment of truth came when I realized that one of the MASSIVE 20+ foot things up the street was the same bush. I’d been noticing that my attempts to politely cut it back a bit weren’t having much effect, but I guess I thought it just wanted to be a *little* bit taller and bigger and then it would be satisfied. Seeing the monster version was enough to bring on major surgery. It took three afternoons and an unbelievable about of work with the clippers and the saw, but I think we’re finally down to a spare, balanced shape that will grow out well over the next year. I was please with myself for just doing the whole thing in one go instead of thinking that I’d do part now and the “other half” in six months when the first part grew out (my standard shrub-pruning mistake.) Hopefully I didn’t kill it. I keep wondering what Kevin’s dad will think of my work – I can’t decide if he’ll be impressed or shake his head and ask “what I was going for, exactly”. :-)
Next up were the huge laurel bushes in the side yard.
These are pretty in a certain sense, but hard to prune, huge, and blocking the walkway to the side yard.
When I realized they were sending out enormous runners at the house, that was the final straw.
So now they look like this, and I’ll dig up the stumps soon.
Here they are from the other direction – dramatic improvement.