Saturday, February 26, 2011

OK, brace yourself...

Here's photos of what the yard looks like *after* my clean up today. I didn't have the courage to take any as it was before that.
Let me open with something that I know you will like... This is my treasured Bertoia and my fabulous wood table. The Bertoia should probably not be out here, but it's under the roof line and it just looks so good out there! I will say, when I actually sit in it, I use the fake sheepskin/flokati that is normally inside. It prevents waffle butt beautifully. The little table was under $10 from what I remember. I found it in the basement at an estate sale with my mom a few months back. I think it's home-made and I just love the way the base looks kind of like a retro rocket. My idea was to clean it up and give it a fresh coat of paint, but I parked it out here while figuring out where to put it inside, and it just looked so good with the Bertoia, I left it. The metal edging around the top picks up the metal legs on the Bertoia beautifully. Oh, and the chair is from a local antique place, and although it was expensive, I'm assuming it's a knock-off. The things we do for waffle butt...

The view while standing on the stoop. Mmm, brown, brown and more brown. You can see the weird patch of sod the HGTV people put in to smooth out the curve. Before, it was straight across. We had to WATER that patch, as well as one on the front of the bed. Sod does not like being planted in the hottest part of summer. Trust me.
Here is the other side of the driveway that I mentioned before. If it looks familiar, you are probably just thinking of Chernobyl. Or Siberia. Oh, the house to the left across from ours (the one that is kind of beige-y/greige-y was one of the small "neighbor projects" on our episode of Curb Appeal: The Block. It's cute, and a nice family lives there.
This is that same little stretch between driveway and fence. The bermudagrass here really never got dug out; I'm convinced. I think they just sprinkled a tiny bit of mulch on top.
From the front. At least the house looks pretty...
Here where the bed is supposed to widen again where it meets the street has basically disappeared. We get really heavy water run off up here, so the mulch washed away really quickly, as did the plants they put in. I think once we get a divider in, I'd like to put in rocks instead of plants. But we'll see. Monkey grass seems to do fine.
Close up of what used to be a planted bed... Gross.
Another angle. And Roxanne's lovely Retro Red Radio Flyer. It was a gift from her cousins, and it's so cute now that she's starting to be able to actually pedal it. She just can't steer well, so she just yells a lot if you don't hold onto her while she's riding.

Getting Started...

Today I went ahead and did about an hour's worth of work in the yard (who needs to do midterms anyways?). Roxanne and Justin even helped a little, too! Roxanne decided to go after all of the wild onion weeds. I can't get anywhere near her hands now, since the smell is making me nauseated...

I didn't do much, just pulled about an 1/20th of the weeds, and (I think) all of the dead annuals. The flower perennials I pulled the dead parts off but left the roots in the hopes that they will come back and be just as lovely as last year. The stalks were so insanely brittle, they just cracked off with almost no effort at all. I also discovered that one of the camellia bushes that has been struggling had a large vine root next to its' roots, so I got that beast out. Hopefully it will help the bush recover. That being said, this one particular bush seems to have been half dead ever since it was planted. It's weird, because it always has some green leaves, but then lots of brown. It's probably got some really super common problem that if I knew ANYTHING about gardening I would immediately recognize. Oh well. At least that stupid vine is out.

We have vines all over our property, as does our neighbor. The backyard looks like the jungle in some areas, and we spent a lot of time last summer cutting the vines back and ripping them out, etc., but then we realized that even if they are weedy vines, they were giving us more privacy. Which is significant since our neighbor on one side uses a line to dry all of his and his wife's unmentionables, and it's kind of unpleasant to look at someone's underwear during a cookout and/or picnic. The backyard will probably remain neglected for a couple more years. It's functional, and hidden beneath the overgrown stuff, it's obvious it was beautifully landscaped at some point since you can see lines of monkey grass and there is a gorgeous hydrangea bush that I trek my way back to in the summer time to get beautiful blooms off of. The scratches and bug bites are SO worth it. Oh, that's the other thing... There is a slow creek behind our fence (it runs between our house and the one that backs up to ours) as well as some other serious drainage issues that cause our backyard to be kind of swampy for days after it rains. Make that weeks. That kind of water everywhere makes our backyard a mosquito haven. Gross. I looked at getting a bat box, since they supposedly eat mosquitoes, but I talked to several people who have tried that, and they say it's pretty ineffectual. Apparently bats are picky and might not like your bat box, and even if they do, it might take years for them to get established enough to actually make a dent in the mosquito population. However, the county sent us a letter a while back about a proposed drainage plan in our neighborhood that should address a lot of these issues. Of course, the meeting they scheduled to show the plan (which apparently includes taking some of our property) was in the middle of a work day, so we asked them to send us a copy of the plan. No word yet. Shocking, I know.

Wow, I'm rambling today! Back to the yard, I finished up by spraying Ortho Garden Grass Killer. We haven't used it before, but we had the bottle, so I figured I might as well try it before we spend hours and hours trying to dig up the bermudagrass. It looks like we'll need to respray in a week, but then it should work in one to four weeks. We'll see how it's looking, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it at least helps get some of the grass and weeds before we have to really dig everything up... We still plan to get some free mulch in a couple of months, so we are trying to get started on getting the other stuff under control before we get that figured out. Oh, and we do plan to get the plastic divider, too. We thought it would be easiest to try and fight off the existing bermudagrass first...

Thank you again for all of your suggestions! They were very very helpful. I definitely felt better about taking out dead plants knowing that I wasn't ripping out anything that might come back! I also remembered my 1955 copy of the Better Homes and Gardens gardening book. I might start reading in there to get ideas about period-appropriate plantings, etc. It's such a great book, and it was published the year our house was built, so it must be fate.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Other vantage points

Here are some more photos from other angles of the house right after it was finished. It shows more of the enormous size of the flowerbed that is now half covered in bermudagrass. Also, you can't see it, but to the right of the driveway is all flowerbed. It's only a few feet between our driveway and the neighbors busted chain link fence, but it's probably the worst looking patch of flowerbed. It has some more knock-out rosebushes and some more camellias, but other than that it's pretty just weeds and grass now. Oops.

My sister watering the lawn; isn't she sweet?! As you can see, the flowerbed curves around and widens again as it hits the street. It's really a pretty big area.
This was taken the day of the reveal, and I feel like the plants already look hot and uncomfortable. It was late summer, so I'm not sure it was an ideal time to be planting these, but again, what do I know? Maybe I should have asked for gravel and succulents only. Maybe if we didn't live in Georgia... Or if anyone had asked my opinion. :) When the water main broke and flooded our basement, this raised bed in concrete was SO flooded. It was gushing over into the driveway. I will say that the contractors replaced the water main and fixed most of what we asked them to in the basement. But holy cow, I never want to deal with that again.

Just for funsies...

Just in case some of you reader viewers haven't seen it, here's what our house looked like when we first moved in (October 2009). So even as I feel wracked with guilt over the sad state of our current landscaping, I can at least remember how it used to look. That banana tree had beer cans planted in the roots. Seriously.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We need yard help...

OK, so I'm going to sound ungrateful here and complain a little about our HGTV experience. Which maybe is unfair, since I could really just blame the landscapers... In any case, our yard is not nearly as pretty as it looks in the photo in my blog header. We did our very best (in all seriousness, we really did) to maintain things and keep the yard looking as it did the day of the "reveal," but things have worked against us... The biggest issue that we have run into is with the grass creeping back into the flower beds. We kept up with weeding for several months, but the grass growing back in has been IMPOSSIBLE to take care of, and in our frustration, we kind of let the weeds go, too. We have bermudagrass, which if you know anything about, is OUT OF CONTROL. If you look at the link there, the line that sums it up best is: This is a very aggressive grass and flower beds or other areas will be quickly overrun if not kept in check. Once established it is very difficult to remove due to its extensive root system. Yes. That is exactly right. So the problem is that when the landscapers came and planted the dozens and dozens of lovely new plants, they did two things that seem wrong, even to me, an admitted idiot when it comes to plants. One, they did not really add any soil to the flower beds. The plants are mostly planted in straight up Georgia red clay, so a lot of them didn't make it, in spite of our best watering/feeding efforts. Two, they didn't pull up the bermudagrass in many areas of the flower bed. They may have churned it a little, but they didn't pull out the root systems, so it started growing back through the mulch, etc., almost immediately. After spending about three hours removing about 3 feet of bermudagrass+roots in one section of the flowerbed, Justin called it quits. Since then, they have more or less been neglected.

So now I'm trying to figure out some low cost fixes... Not easy. I did find some special spray that is supposed to kill grass but not flowers, but I've been too nervous to use it. We have so many lovely rosebushes planted in the yard, and I would hate to accidentally kill them. My other thought was to pull out as much as we can cosmetically (as well as try and figure out which plants are annuals and which are perennials so we can pull out the dead plants that are not going to come back in spring... which will be nearly impossible for us) and then get some free mulch to put over the flowerbeds. I'm thinking some pretty brown mulch might soften things up and match the warmth in the railing. Oh, that was the other thing: the black mulch that the landscapers used was VERY thinly applied, which made the weed/grass situation that much worse. They didn't use any kind of barrier between the lawn and the flowerbed either, so it has been tough trying to keep the grass from creeping in on the edges, too.

I'm open to any and all suggestions. We are so proud of the outside of our house and we don't want it to end up looking like we don't take care of our lawn. For now, we still have the winter excuse, but soon, we'll be fair game. And again, I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I think it would have been nice if they had given us some extra information about the yard. We were never told what any of the plants were, or how to take care of them, which is fine, but I think it would be smart on their part to help educate homeowners like us. I mean, part of the reason we got on the show was because our yard looked like crap, and we said in our audition tape that we had never had a yard to actually plant things in before so we didn't know where to start. But I know the bottom line is the big before and after. I mean, I'm pretty sure that's mostly the reason I watch the show!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mid-Century Modern Playground!

When I was a kid, I used to go to Piedmont Park often with my Dad and my sister. We would ride bikes or roller skate, and play on the super awesome modern art playground. I went back to see the playground about six years ago, and it was in sad shape. It was a mess, and a lot of the equipment was roped off and not in playing condition. *BUT* this weekend we went back with our daughter and it is all shiny and new! And still the most amazing looking playground I've ever seen. It was designed by a Japanese-American scupltor named Isamu Noguchi (!!!). It was originally built in 1976, then refurbished in 1996 and 2009. There have been a lot of things that I'm not super proud of in terms of Atlanta's infrastructure, planning and restoration projects, but this playground makes me glad to be a Georgia peach. There's a fantastic article about the playscape here at, which is a fantastic art website in general. Here are some of my own photos of the playscape. Some contain my little monkey child and my handsome husband. Some don't... Taking pictures of a playground without feeling like a creeper is not easy. Trust me.
The twirly tower thing is the coolest slide ever. You wind up the staircase on the inside, then slide down the outside. It's all very metal/concrete modern, but awesome. The block formations are in a few areas of the playscape. They are so cool!
Another view of the tower. And my family. :)
Towards the middle of the playscape is this cool mound. It's smooth, and while you think kids would be less than enthused by a round semi-circle, they all seem to love it. It's neat because it is near a large sandpit that is a similar size (and is also a circle) so it almost seems like you could just pick it up and plop it on top. Of course, I'm sure it's really about art and positive and negative space, but either way, it's lovely.
Here's the giant sandpit. My daughter loves sand. Especially getting it in every nook and cranny on her body.
There are also several of these geometric shaped monkey bars (or maybe just two...) but they are amazing looking. Kids love all of the holes in these pieces. Peekaboo possibilities are endless.
Check out this swingset!! Gorgeous. I love the color they chose.
My daughter loves this one. It has monkey bars across the top in the inside. Look at the pretty gray inside!
Here's Roxanne standing on the mound again. You can see the awesome swing set again. And some more of the playscape itself.
Another slide. This thing is incredible. Clean lines, fantastic materials, and it never gets congested with kids because it has the three slides. Roxanne can only do the middle (little) one for now, but someday she'll be on the big ones!
Tada! Lovely!

Friday, February 11, 2011

A new room to decorate!

OK, a new excuse for my infrequent postings. I'm almost 13 weeks pregnant. So half of my brain is being taken up with thoughts of baby at any given moment. The other half is trying to cover my non-in-utero family, my job and school. So a little crazy. But in a good way. Mostly. I fully admit that I cannot stop thinking about decorating another kid room. I've been reading blogs lots and lots and looking for ideas. Just as we didn't with Roxanne, we won't find out the baby's gender until delivery, so it's got to be gender neutral stuff. For now, I'm thinking vintage kid stuff, but in a cool high brow/not too babyish way. We'll be transforming the playroom/music room into the baby's room. It's tiny and oddly shaped, so even just deciding where to put the crib is a pain. The crib itself is a pain... We planned to just use Roxanne's again, but hers was recalled since it's a dropside. ALL dropsides are recalled. We can get a part that is supposed to disable the dropside feature, but I keep reading that you should still just replace dropside cribs. So far, there have been 36 deaths associated with dropside cribs. The worry wart in me says we should just get a $130 crib from IKEA and rest easy. But we like Roxanne's crib. And cribs are expensive... In funner categories, here are some things I'm looking at and feeling inspired by. Yay for babies!

We *need* one of these Queen Buzzy toys, since Roxanne has dubbed the new baby "Baby Bumblebee." On a floating shelf? Adorable? Yes. This one on Etsy looks lovely.
I saw a posting on OhDeeDoh the other day about vintage WPA posters (or reproductions thereof) being used in kid's rooms, and I love the concept. Ebay has a fantastic selection. I also love this one that I can't borrow an image from... It's not WPA, but I love the graphic on it!
We're also thinking about dressers, etc. I've been keeping an eye on Craigslist for a nice long, low six drawer dresser. Preferably a handsome teak MCM one... We could put the changing pad on it, which would be great in such a small space. We've also got to decide on wall color. Even though I love the color in there already, Justin thinks it's depressing. I say soothing. We'll see... At least I have a good excuse as to why I can't help paint...

Hope everyone has a great weekend!