The Cool House: landscaping
Showing posts with label landscaping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label landscaping. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Landscaping or revealing the Cool House

Yard after landscaping
Those Cool House readers who follow me on instagram, Facebook or the twitters will be aware that the past month has involved a lot of heavy work around the yard. Six months after the big tree came down we lost a couple of large branches of the plum tree in the front. This was a sad and a shock but it did open up the view to the south west. We saw dogwoods beginning to bloom, pretty specimens that we hadn't appreciated before. We also noticed how forlorn and frankly tatty the border in front of the kitchen patio had become.  The Guy spoke to the landscaper and before I knew what was happening they had decided to demolish half the front yard.

Front yard after landscaping

I had my own issues with the landscaping but they were round the back. I'd never felt the bridge fitted in with the architecture of the house, and although we'd had it mended three times it was again in serious need of repair and I was ready to see it gone. I also hated the mess of a pool and collection of debris that ran along the dry bed that was supposed to be a gentle bubbling waterfall and stream. If the front yard was getting a facelift I was determined the back would have a boost, too.

Backyard after landscaping
The process was not without out its challenges. You cannot imagine my face when I realized that I'd be without a privacy screen of plants for at least two weeks. Staring at soil is not at all therapeutic, plus most of the work was done in sweltering temperatures. The removal of the old barbecue base involved some serious power tools and moving the stones atop the waterfall drew blood from at least one landscaper. But at last it was done, the new lawn grew, the plants-mostly hollies, azaleas and rhododendrons-went in and the sprinkler guys added new zones so everything would be happily watered and ready to grow.

Yard before
Let's look at where we were a month or so ago . Above is a collection of photos taken in the yard over the past 12 years. Below is the front yard on demolition day. The house was hidden and lots of  trees had passed their best. At least one was completely fried. Although I lost some of the layers of privacy in the short term, in the long term we gained so much more.

Yard awaiting demolition
Of course the greatest benefit of all this yard renovation is that we can now appreciate the
unique Andrew Geller architecture of the house.  Remembering what it was like when we first viewed the house in 2003, when there were so many trees enclosing the house that we thought we had been misled by the realtor's flyer, it's a completely different reality.  Now the house can shine in all its glory, for us and every passer-by to enjoy.  This little video below encompasses how I feel now I can relax and kick back, reveling in this glorious Indian summer in the yard. Total and absolute bliss.

Friday, September 04, 2009

When angels come to the rescue... ::UPDATE::

UPDATE: the Angel drove me in his truck to get the Crepe Myrtle I had seen earlier this week. That's above and beyond!

We have a host of house angels who go the extra mile for us. This week's star is definitely the landscaper and his crew... Meanwhile, did you doubt that I wouldn't be able to control my plant procuring self until Spring? There were bargains to be had:

I scored three huge - well they will be eventually - red toned hydrangeas and three prolific mopheads, "Nikkon Blue", at the 50% off section of the nursery

but the biggest deal was this yew that cost $7! Fingers crossed they survive the winter.

Super Landscaper to the rescue while I was at the Goombas event, planted everything, fixed the break in the sprinkler line, put on a new head and changed the direction of the others so the whole area gets watered. I told you he reads the blog...

Monday, August 24, 2009

The final yard

We were so impressed with the repaired stone step that we got totally carried away with plans for the neglected north side of the yard. The landscaper agreed that we should take all the junipers out and seed the entire area. This morning an area of some 3000 sq' was cleared of debris; desperate shrubs were pulled up; trees were trimmed. The whole area has been opened up, allowing us to get up the other stepping stone path (the one I made The Guy move 4" to the right last year) without being molested by the holly or juniper.
Just an aside but tell me, what kind of sadist plants prickly shrubs and bushes along a path?
Anyway, we have (almost) decided on a fence style, so by late September (hopefully) we should have the start of a lawn that will balance the whole front yard and some privacy for the pool, too.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Spring clean up

Do you see what that is? No, not the cute dog with the dopey expression on his face. Up a bit. In the glass? That bright circle in the middle? It's my flash bouncing off the window because it is so freakin' clean. It's taken three years but we The Guy has perfected a system that leaves the windows cleaner than before he washed them. Hurrah. Who knew it was more difficult than rocket science?
Not to be outdone, I rearranged the laundry room (again) and I will reveal the new, great plan to make this room a fully functioning space again at some point in the very near future.
And the landscaper/font of all house knowledge guy came out and cleaned up the yard, including hauling away the dead azaleas (yes, it turns out we lost a couple this winter) but unfortunately he also took the branch that was holding up the fence, so I suspect that will be falling down again soon.
But the yard looks good, and what's better I can see it now through my sparkling windows.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Rude Awakening

I was woken at 7:59 AM this morning by landscapers. Leaf blowing landscapers. On a Sunday morning. The last Sunday in December for goodness' sake. Why? What is so damn important that they had to remove every leaf on the property while many people were still in dream land? I think it may have something to do with someone being desperate to sell their house.
Full disclosure: I had been up at 4:40 with the cats and had gone back to bed so I may have been a tad more grumpy than normal. But still. I wouldn't normally still be asleep at this time but today I was in the middle of a dream where I was accompanying a famous person who had undergone a face-lift to an auction of antique objets d'art of a questionable nature where I had been given a handwritten children's book of breath-taking beauty by a small boy who asked me to find it a home in a library so all the children could read it. Yes, it was that fast-paced. This dream had it all, drama, pathos, scandal (there was a sub-plot involving the neighbors' affairs and pornography and another involving a second book) and love. In great detail. A whole novel or screenplay and I didn't get to dream it through.
I know I have been guilty of making too much noise too early but at least I can plead ignorance. This past fall, though, all residents received a letter from the Village stating what we may or may not do to our properties and landscaping on Sunday was a definite no-no. I don't care about code violations but I didn't want to experience my own Porlock moment on the last Sunday of 2007.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Our environmental impact

Today is Blog Action Day, the day when bloggers worldwide blog on a single topic and this year it's the environment.
We're still trying to do our part to save the planet but I have to say that since we moved from Europe I feel that we've become a lot less environmentally conscious.
For example, in Belgium we sorted all our garbage. We had to as the law changed to mandate it. We were forced to buy separate garbage sacks for household rubbish, bottles, cans and cartons, paper and vegetable matter. Everyone grumbled because the sacks weren't cheap and the price varied from commune to commune but there were fines for non-compliance and eventually people got with the programme.
When we moved to the US in 2000 we attempted to keep up this regime but there was no separate collection and thus no incentive to sort. Then when we moved to this house in a different district we found that we could recycle our bottles and cans (but not cartons) one week and our paper the next. We can also put out bundles of twigs and grass clippings but not kitchen compost. So we sort of recycle. But the garden waste goes into the same truck as the ordinary household waste so I guess even if we sort, the garbage collection guys don't. Doesn't that sort of defeat the purpose?
We have replaced all the outdoor lights and most of the indoor bulbs with the compact fluorescents but once again in Europe we would have done all of them by now because they are more readily available and we know everyone else does it.
Further than that I can say that today I'm running neither the air conditioning system nor the heating, which has to be good news both for my wallet and the environment but that's a matter of climate and not a conscious decision on my part. When we do run these system I keep the airco at 78F and heat at 65F. We strip off in summer and wear layers in winter.
Outside we don't do too well either. We have a pool, although we don't heat it and a sprinkler system that uses a lot of water, although I do use a landscaping firm that has "Environmental" in its name and the tree spraying firm I employ only uses environmentally friendly products (hot oil). That's still a big environmental impact.
On the renovation front we try to be as green as possible - bamboo floors and silestone for example, and re-purposing the previous owners' furniture but I'd like to do a lot more, including solar panels. But we have a long way to go to renovate in a truly sustainable manner.
I also try to ensure that all the products and furnishings we use are made in factories that comply with International Labour Standards.
The sad truth is when we were forced by the government to do our part, we did it, and while I like to think we are environmentally aware we are not coming close to do all the things we could do to ensure that we are impacting the environment in a positive way.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dividing the hostas

This is as far as I got dividing the hostas this week. Ten hostas split, oh about a hundred more to go.................

Friday, May 18, 2007

May flowers

pink rhodo
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
As absolutely nothing is happening in the house at the moment I thought I'd treat you to a few photos of the yard. It's looking particularly lovely this year, a lot of the plants I put in last back end are flowering now and the hostas I split and replanted are getting established. Considering that when we moved in we thought that apart from some serious pruning we wouldn't need to do anything to the garden, we seem to have spent an awful lot of time and money on it. But never mind, neighbours out walking stop and comment on the improvement to the landscaping, so I guess we must be doing something right.

orange rhododendron

pink azalea

white azalea

pink and purple azaleas

Monday, August 07, 2006

Everything in the garden is lovely

Well, most of it. These lilies are almost over and only the everlasting hydrangeas are still blooming. Except for a couple of tubs, I don't bother with annuals as I'd rather put the money into something that's going to give me a few season's pleasure. But it does mean that I don't have much of a summer display.
I'm giving some more thought to the side entrance of the property. Last year the neighbours wanted to "improve" the entry to the cul-de-sac but we never got around to a proper plan. I've heard via-via that an ornamental half fence is being proposed in place of the arborvitae but there is no fence that will go with our unique house so I'm sure I don't want to go down that road. I nixed the moss stone border idea as large trucks back up the cul-de-sac and it's a tight turn. The garbage truck and delivery vans already move the boulders that are there now. I don't need to spend the $$$$ it costs to lay the moss stones only to find I have pebbles after a few weeks.
Another suggestion was large boulders, which I'm more amenable to but I need to think about planting shrubs there that will fit with the stones, the evergreens and won't be destroyed by the snowplow and the sand in the winter. I'm also thinking if I want to remove the arborvitae I'll want to do it before the big boulders go in.
Nothing will happen before the fall, but these things have a habit of catching up with you if you don't have a plan.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fixing the Gate

Managed to do a temporary repair to the temporary fix on the garden gate last night. Rushed out to the Mom and Pop hardware store before it closed at 6 pm so I wasn't forced to waste an hour looking for what I needed in Home Depot. $10 worth of brace plates, extra long screws and some gungy stuff to harden rotted wood seemed to a bargain. Didn't used the gungy stuff but the brace appears to be holding the pieces in place. Had to stop when darkness fell and someone was in danger of getting their finger screwed to the post. Must buy a flashlight next time I go to the hardware store.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Yet another rhododendron

Originally uploaded by modernemama.
Happy Fourth of July, American friends.
I'm celebrating with this photo of the rhododendron that I moved from another part of the yard a month ago.
It's obviously a special kind as it's blooming in July and it hasn't bloomed before so I guess it likes its new home in the dell in front of the dining room.
Taking that photo is the most taxing thing I'm going to do today. Yesterday I powerwashed the brick patio around the pool and the walkways and it tok four hours. My back is killing me and one muscle in my right arm is still clenched but at least the moss is gone. Most of it ended up on my legs but I had a fair amount in my hair too. Had to rinse off with the hosepipe before I could get back in the house for a shower.
Next job: washing the windows but that can wait until the weekend.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Need some landscaping done

I'm trying to decide what to do with the yard to the north of our property. It used to be fairly heavily treed with a couple of beautiful azalea borders but years of neglect have led to about a foot deep of accumulated debris, tree branches and weeds. Last year we got the tree guys in to take out the dead and decaying trees and they also took away the heavy branches and tree limbs that were on the ground. We then weeded and got rid of the debris: sprinkler hoses, bricks, bluestone pavers (we recuperated those by extending the path) and dead bushes still wrapped in hessian that never got planted.
What remains is ivy, smaller branches and some old tree stumps. Now what we need is a digger to come in and haul away the top 4-6" of ground so we can get a clean start. This area is about a tenth of an acre so it ain't gonna be cheap. What I was wondering is if someone were to tip off the FBI that Jimmy Hoffa was buried here would they dig over my yard for free? And could I sell souvenirs to finance the new landscaping?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


That's what May is for, getting ready for Summer.
We got the pool open on Saturday. It took five hours to drain off the water on top of the yacht sail that serves as our pool cover. Apparently a new cover runs $2,500 or so and the last homeowner didn't want to part with that sort of cash, so she went to the sailmakers down at the marina and got them to make a cover for the pool. It does a great job of keeping the debris out but the winter rain and melting snow collects on it making summerisation a time consuming task.
After the water is off we rake up the leaves, tons of them, and allow them to turn to mulch. Then we roll up the cover and put it away and bring up the pool steps and diving board. Add 30 lbs of what is effectively baking soda and we're good to go. Except this is New York not Florida and the water temperature is an uninviting 62 F. That little issue won't be solved this year, the heater didn't repair itself and we didn't win the lottery, so no heated pool for us this summer. Still the frogs don't seem to mind.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Big landscaping project

front yard
Originally uploaded by modernemama.

Extreme gardening this week. We had to move a huge maple that was sitting on top of the fir tree. This was a seedling from another maple in the back of the property that had grown 4' in the two years we have been in the house.
It was the lesser of two evils: we could move the japanese maple or chop it down but it was compromising the 100' conifer that the house was designed around, and we don't want to lose the big specimen tree, it's the focal point of the yard.

(that's a view of the fir towering over the chimney from the other side of the house).

It took all Saturday to dig out a pit 6' diameter and 3' deep to accomodate the rootball and all Sunday morning to dig out the maple. The soil is great though, all loamy from the leaves that have decomposed over the years. We've had the soaker hose on it since we moved it to its new home and we can only cross our fingers now.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


This is what I found while raking up weeds in the yard this afternoon. I rubbed my eyes a couple of times but it was what I thought it was and it was alive. No more than 3" long with an orange swipe on the side of its head it was looking right at me. I shot into the house to get my camera because I knew no one would believe me, and of course, when I got back he had disappeared. There was a fair amount of scuffling from inside the dell but I didn't want to go poking around in there in case I trod on him and squashed it. I've spent the afternoon looking up turtles on the internet and I think I've identified it as a bog turtle. It's strange because the yard isn't boggy at all, although the dell acts as a flood barrier (see below) and it is well shaded with tons of pachysandra and other low growing plants (and a few weeds). Also according to NYS Department of Conservation they aren't found on Long Island, but then again coyotes aren't usually found in Central Park.

Monday, April 17, 2006

"Dora Amateis" Rhododendron

"Dora Amateis" Rhododendron
Originally uploaded by modernemama.
The azaleas and rhodendendrons are coming into bloom. We are spending our time mulching and weeding and generally enjoying the Spring sunshine rather than tackling the icky caulk in the bathroom. You've gotta smell the flowers sometimes, no?

Monday, July 18, 2005

Too humid for me

he past week has been so humid it's been horrible: grey skies, dripping trees and the occasional violent thundershower to liven things up. We haven't seen the sun in so long we've forgotten what it looks like. Even walking the dogs in this weather leaves you melting and breathless, so we've severely curtailed outside work.
The other reason that we are not chopping down trees or clearing undergrowth is that Steven broke the loppers taking down a maple and I can't summon up the courage to go to the Home Depot and buy another pair. HD is too big, badly laid out and the lighting is terrible so I go into it as little as possible, which is still way more than I want to.
I have spent the time when I should be outside enjoying the sunshine painting around the new windows and touching up the walls here and there. Thanks to central air I can do this any time, and I feel guilty that it's taken me several months to get round to it. In my defence I can say that it is fiddly work and I was hoping that a painter would come and do the job for me but that doesn't seem to be happening.
We now have nice new asphalt on the cul de sac side of the property that matches the asphalt the village put in on the road last autumn and the neighbours on the other side have paved their drive too. I don't think our drives need doing yet but they are a different colour from every other piece of road around here, and I guess it's something we will have to do before too long.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Now the neighbours are swarming

As if we didn't have enough to contend with dealing with those pesky bees, now we have the concerned neighbors too. Not concerned about us, you understand, but increasing their property values.
We live on a corner property and it's a beautiful site - lots of trees, azaleas, rhododendrons and spirea along the main road and hostas and conifers along the cul-de-sac. The entrance to the cul-de-sac is not signposted and it's easy to miss; which is annoying I suppose if you live on it. Apparently this is a problem that those neighbors want to remedy, and soon. I'm kind of laid back about the issue: it's a test of my visitors' ability to problem-solve and their desire to find me. But obviously it's grinding away at some folks nerves.
The entrance is in fact marked by two pillars with lamps on them, one is on my property and one on my opposite neighbor's. The lamps don't look as if they've worked since 1970, although there are wires coming from them. I tried changing the bulb and turning on all the switches in the house but nothing worked. My landscaper thinks they may both be wired to the other property, but who knows? The entrance is also marked by four Arborvitae, large scrappy conifers that builders put in because they are cheap and form a screen really quickly. Before we moved in the neighbors stealthily removed the lower branches of these and some junipers that were beneath them, a move that apparently did not go down well with the previous owner.
Anyway, we have been approached to see if we could cut down the four trees on our side and replace them with a beautiful bed containing at this point I know not what. The plan will be revealed by the neighbor who owns the tres chic garden centre at a bloc party this weekend but I know a sign with the house numbers on it figures in it. The idea was sold to me as something we will all benefit from, as our house values are sure to go up. We also need to re-asphalt the cul-de-sac before it becomes a hazard to motorists. So I am waiting to see how much this is going to cost me before I consider it as we have other priorities this year. I see the urgent need for paving the road, and it would be nice to have the lights working but as for the rest - chopping down my trees? Bloody cheek

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Taking in the view

An inspection of the trees on the property revealed that one was being eaten by termites, another had a large hole in the base and a couple more were in the wrong position or just too ugly to survive. Time to call in the tree guys.
Last year we had eight trees taken out and it really opened up the yard. This year we decided to take out eight, prune a bunch more and clear out the north side of the property that had been used as a giant dump over the years. As usual it takes a whole day and is as noisy and dusty as you can imagine but we also had a couple of "whoops" moments to contend with. They managed to let a large segment of white pine trunk fall on a 10' rhododendron; goodbye rhodie. More seriously a branch of the linden tree they were pruning caught the gutter on it's way down and bent it into an unusual shape, rendering it useless against the heavy rains that hit us last week. C'est la vie. It's over and the yard is cleared again. I'm just glad it wasn't the power-lines they took out.
Now I get to have a power struggle with the landscaper about the north side area. I want to put in lawn; it's light now and maintenance will be minimal. He says the snowplow will pile snow up there and ruin the lawn and shrubs with a bluestone path leading to a bench under a trellis would be really expensive, sorry, attractive. He's left me a garden design book and promises to bring photos of designs he has planted elsewhere. Luckily he can't start until spring so a get some time to plan my counter attack

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I know this is nothing compared to what the people in Florida have been through, but we just got whacked with 4" rain in 10 hours and guess what? We have water pouring in one of the windows in Steven's office. Pete was in the middle of flooring this room when he left yesterday; this morning there was a lovely water trail all down the newly spackled wall and on the floor. I mopped up, effected a repair with duct tape and placed towels strategically. When Pete arrived he cleared out the gutters thinking that might solve the problem but the rain kept coming down and inside. So, muttering something about needing a new roof, he set off to track down some tin to form a bridge between the roof and the gutter. It seems to have worked but we are expecting more rain (this is very localised, really it's just over our house) so we will wait before we finish that room. I'm also now waiting on the roofer and the gutter guy. AAAH!