At some point today, it occurred to me (what with all the 9/11 coverage all the time), that yesterday (9/10) was the 8th anniversary of us moving into our house! Though how we ended up here is an interesting story in and of itself, I'll save that for another time ... I can still remember moving things in that September of 98 and how excited we were to be moving into such a lovely old neighborhood.
Of course one of the first things we thought of was to start planting some things, but as it was fall we put that aside for the following spring, when we first started planting up the place in earnest ... and thankfully our landlady (from whom we eventually bought the house in 2000) had no problems with us putting in plants in the small bed that already existed at the front of the house. There wasn't much there ... just some yellow iris a bit of bee balm, some meadow sage and a few perennials we eventually dug up and disposed of in following years (mostly lamb's ear, invasive dead nettle, some non-aromatic oregano and hostas). I know that sounds heartless, but at that point we just didn't care for the generic things that were trying to take over the bed for which we had great intentions of making more colorful.
Spring of 1999 was when we started to let our imaginations go wild and we quickly filled the small bed with perennials and annuals ... which made us want even more space! What's more, I hated mowing that awful slope to the sidewalk you can see in the first picture. We did move out a bit further the following year, but since we didn't own the place yet (we were negotiating at that point) we were still being a bit careful about how much we dug up. But, once the sale was final in July of 2000, we started making plans to do away with the awful slope and building up some sort of retaining wall that would house a lot more flowers ... and we also started digging and planting on the north side of the house (the shade garden we call the "Woodland garden") as well.
In late 2002, we had a great stroke of luck thanks to our neighbor across the street. He had taken over a vacant lot on the corner and wanted to fill it in as a garden, and given that he is a lawyer who sometimes barters his services for in kind payment, he had just had a boulder border built around his lot and had a lot of them left over. He approached us about giving us some if we would help him get his lot planted up (this too is another long story best left for another time). So, in late November 2002, a guy came over with a bobcat and dumped a huge load of boulders and rocks in the front of our yard! There they stayed throughout the winter until the spring of 2003, when we got some help from friends in getting them placed where you see them now.
About 200+ bags of dirt and a few truckloads of donated dirt later, we got busy expanding our front boulder bed and we must have planted at least a hundred or so new perennials and annuals that spring and summer. (See the second photo, which was taken in early July of 2003, right after the boulder bed was built.) And the rest, as the saying goes, is history now. We're still working on the overall design of the front beds and have made some placement mistakes for some things, but as the transformation continues, we learn more from our mistakes. It's pretty full now, and with the additional hundreds of bulbs we planted last fall, we finally feel we are getting close to where we want it to be in terms of having year round interest. Of course, being the quirky gardeners we are, we are constantly tinkering with areas of the beds, trying to find the perfect combinations of plants ... that's the challenge and joy of working on our ongoing project. The conversion is by no means complete (when is a garden ever completely done??) but we're pretty happy with how it has turned out so far.
Note on the photos:
The first is undated, probably from around 1996-97; source is from the county assessor's website listing of the property.
The second is from July, 2003, right after the construction of the boulder beds.
I still need to take a wider shot of the front this fall to post here at a later date, but at least the older photo does give a sense of the dimensions of what we have done.