Back garden makeover, part 2: before & after

by Yvonne on August 6, 2013 · 15 comments

in Landscaping

Here are before and after pictures of our back garden.


Backyard bed shortly after we moved in

Backyard bed after, early August 2013, what you see from dining room

Backyard bed after, early August 2013, what you see from dining room. Beyond the Japanese maple is the new shrub border

I described the garden in this previous post. Conditions: sandy soil and part shade; by mid-afternoon the lawn has dappled shade cast by three mature oaks. It is very comfortable on hot days.

back garden makeover

We had our work cut out with the dead lawn, which we reseeded last August

A large Norway maple was cut down by the owner last year. (How lucky for us.) Notice how thin the grass and hedge had become in its dense shade…

maple stump

Norway maple stump in the area where we decided on a shrub border. To start, we simply covered the thinning grass with a thick layer of wood chip mulch

Shrub border with Hydrangea 'Quick Fire' and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low')

Shrub border with Hydrangea ‘Quick Fire’ (in bloom) and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’) around the stump

Existing woody plants: three mature oak trees, a ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese maple, privet hedge, spirea, a forsythia, rhododendrons along the back and diseased euonymus (which we removed). Perennials that were here I divided; they included daylilies, hostas, ladies mantle, trilliums (in spring), ferns, autumn joy sedum (moved from the front yard) and heucheras (also from the front yard). We brought a number of hostas, ferns and other shade lovers with us when we moved from our country garden.

West side of garden

The other side border, with an oak smothered by ivy and existing hostas, which I divided, and daylilies, also divided and moved elsewhere

other side bed, after

Hydrangea ‘Quick Fire’ (back); existing hostas, sunshine impatiens and my favorite standby, purple oxalis (Oxalis triangularis) in front of existing spirea

I think the fun of gardening isn’t about plants or digging in the ground. (I’m not a fan of digging and do as little as possible.) For me, it’s all about transformation. I seem to choose places that need makeovers and then I get tremendous satisfaction contemplating the before and after.

Overview: the back of the house and the lawn

Overview: the back of the house and the lawn. The Japanese maple had grown lopsided because of Norway maple shade. Now it should grow out

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Nelson August 7, 2013 at 12:35 am

Wow, Yvonne. What a drastic, wonderful change you made in your backyard! It’s so beautiful.


Yvonne August 7, 2013 at 9:23 am

Thanks, Kathleen. It’s been fun to do. More to come as I divide plants each year to fill in more spaces.


commonweeder August 7, 2013 at 9:09 am

I love to see before and after stories. What a wonderful improvement. Just beautiful. And I am really jealous that you can have some cool shade near the house. Lucky you.


Yvonne August 7, 2013 at 9:22 am

Hi commonweeder: Don’t I know it — I was thrilled coming from a sun-drenched property into cool shade. I love it.


Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening August 7, 2013 at 10:01 am

Well done! I have been redoing and inventing gardening beds around my new house, so I know that the process of reimagining a space in a different way can be the most difficult but most important part. Your new areas seem to have filled in better than mine. Perhaps because I have clay soil and you have sandy.


Yvonne August 7, 2013 at 10:10 am

Hi Kathy: Our soil is wonderfully easy to dig, and we’ve had plenty of rainfall this summer, so the plants have been doing well. I mulched a good deal with chopped leaves and wood chips. The houses in this area were built in the late 50s on what used to be an apple orchard. Our next-door neighbors still have an original apple tree on their property.


Salix August 7, 2013 at 4:20 pm

Simply fantastic, Yvonne!
You can do wonders with any size of garden.


Yvonne August 7, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Thanks, Lene. It’s been fun, and I look forward to things filling in a bit more. I have lots of plants I can divide.


Steve August 8, 2013 at 9:31 am

I never knew you to be an “annuals in the ground” person! I’m strictly perennials and shrubs, and native when possible. I do love how lush and green your lawn is! Any secrets?


Yvonne August 8, 2013 at 11:51 am

You’re right, Steve, I don’t usually do annuals, with the exception of the purple oxalis, a summer bulb that I overwinter and replant each season. There were a few blank spots in the garden and it was too late to divide perennials, and I wasn’t about to blow my frugal budget on new plants. (My mother was sick and dying with a brain tumor over the spring and early summer, so I was away a lot and had limited time to garden, hence the long months without a blog update.)


Yvonne August 8, 2013 at 11:54 am

Forgot to answer your lawn question: it’s new grass, Eco-lawn mixed with Kentucky blue. We’ve had a lot of rain this season, and we fertilize it twice a year in spring (slow release end of May) and in fall (winterizer fertilizer at end of October). That’s the only trick, besides mow high and grub out dandelions.


Steve August 9, 2013 at 8:45 pm

Sorry to here about your mom, we went through something all to similar last fall- needless to say fall cleanup weekends were few and far between.

We’re trying Eco-sense weed b gone (iron based) to combat weeds in the lawn this year- with mixed results. Similar to your old property, we are surrounded by acres of “weeds” on all sides. I suppose manicured turf is a thing of the past.

Looking forward to future posts. Hopefully you can carve out a sunny spot for some ornamental grasses, rudbeckia, and joe pie. One of your looks I most envied.


Yvonne August 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Steve: Turf grass researchers recommend applying the iron-based weed products at least twice, a couple of weeks apart. I haven’t tried that myself yet. I did find, as you have, that a single application is not very effective. As for the combination of ornamental grasses, rudbeckia, and Joe Pye, I’m not sure I have enough space or sunlight, but we’ll see how it goes. I hope I have more time to experiment in the future — this spring was tough. There may be one spot in the side yard where that will work…

Ute August 8, 2013 at 12:45 pm

As usual, you did an outstanding job. It looks very beautiful. Mike and I will see you tomorrow and maybe have coffee with you in the backyard.


Yvonne August 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Thanks, looking forward to that…


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