Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The BIG Reveal--Befores & Afters!

Okay peeps. Remember how I mentioned earlier this year that I was sick and tired of my backyard lawns and was planning to get rid of them? I was visualizing replacing them with something like this checkerboard motif?  

Courtesy of Pinterest
But then I also found this photo on Pinterest.

Photo courtesy of Pinterest
I really like the formal-informality of it. I like the idea that the elements are mismatched and interesting and form a design hinting of both whimsy and antiquity. Is it my (admittedly somewhat fantastical) imagination or does this circle look like an unearthed relic from the past? 

Well, hot dang. In early March, I caught the vision and it was time to say bye, bye lawn! 

There were two lawns to get rid of. I've always referred to them as my "North Lawn" and my "South Lawn" because this sounds kind of elaborate and fantastical like my imagination. Like I live on a many-acre estate or something. Hardly. But anyway, first, the North Lawn: 


Here is a photo taken last summer of a section of the North Lawn.

You can see that it's not very big. Maybe 15 feet at its widest.
Hardly estate-worthy.

Here it is in late summer. No matter how much water and fertilizer I dumped on it,
by the end of summer it always looked like this.
I hated it.

Here it is after the application of lawn death this past March. 

A muddy, icky mess. 

Me no likey! 
At this point, I was committed. And a little terrified. 
Fortunately I have a son who is a great scavenger. He found bricks. 
I found more bricks at the Habitat For Humanity ReStore near my work. 
I'd go there on my lunch hour, once or twice a week to get a bunch of whatever they had. 

My hubby, bless his heart, dug the lawn out and leveled it off.
I laid an old bed sheet which, by the way makes a cheap weed barrier. 

Then, I started playing with the bricks and other pieces.
Lots of adjusting and filling in and leveling was in order.
To the left, you can see the beginnings of a gravel pathway.

Getting closer to completion.

Still some leveling and a few more pieces to finish up. 

It's still not perfect. I'm letting it settle and will continue to work with it until it's just right.
But it looks much better than a stupid, needy, never satisfied lawn. 
And now, the South Lawn

Early summer. It looks so pretty, doesn't it? 

But not for long. 
For reasons that elude me, I didn't pick a photo depicting the peril of 
the late summer South Lawn but I'm sure you've seen a dead lawn before
and know what it looks like.

Speaking of dead lawns, here is a photo from March of this year.
Bye, bye you sad, sad grass. 

Once the dead grass was gone and I caught a vision for how this area would look,
I  laid another sheet and began arranging the bricks. 

Patience was demanded of me while I worked my magic.
And it didn't hurt that we had less-than average rain fall. 

It took lots of moving and shifting to design a pattern I liked. My daughters helped. 

Once I got the bricks mostly in place, I added soil.
On the right is the gravel pathway, not quite finished.

This hedge would be removed and new sun-loving plants would inhabit this border.

My idea was to plant low-growing Thyme in the spaces between the bricks.
I already had a bunch of it in another spot so I dug, divided and replanted. 

Here, the Thyme is taking hold. 

I added low-growing "Stepable" succulents too. 

Notice the hedge is gone and I've got a few of the new plants situated.

Here is a more recent photo. Catmint, Gaura, Sedum, Eryngium, Echinacea, Buddleia lindleyana.
Behind the newbies are the established plants, variegated Dogwood, Lespedeza thungergii, Spiraea, Fejoia, etc., 

Still working on the other border. 

And here it is just a few days ago, coming along nicely.
I'm still waiting (not very patiently) for the Cannas in that back corner to get tall enough to see.
They're taking forever! 
So there you have it.
It's a work in progress and won't ever be "finished" but you can be sure
that when it's getting close, 
I'll have some other grand idea to try. 
It's how I roll. 

Thanks for visiting! 


  1. Your garden is absolutely beautiful! It must have taken a lot of time to get it looking like this. I have two kids and a full time job so I don't have that time to put into my garden. Even though I don't have time I would still like it to look nice. Is there a good gardening company you could recommend to me?

  2. !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Grace! This is your best Before and After! I did love the pictures of your lawns with green grass, but you are right - it was not pretty there in the end of summer. You got a great idea, and the result is stunning!
    I have a part of the lawn which needs to be changed, and your example is very inspiring for me. Just wonderful! Congratulations!

  3. Very nice! I admire you for having a plan and going for it!

  4. Grace this is wonderful.....I love it, love it, love it and agree with before and after I have seen....such creativity!!

    Can't wait to see it evolve!!

  5. WOW Grace!!!!!! Both areas are gorgeous. What a lot of work, but so worth it and so much nicer than the lawn areas. You did a fantastic job.


  6. You needed something more t do and think about! ;-). Seriously, it's wonderful! And it is also wonderful how it became a family project!! With you as the engineer, project coordinator and finisher! Hugs!!

  7. Love it! I particularly like the south lawn change. I can completely sympathize with your feelings about your end of summer lawn - mine look like that at the beginning of the summer. I've been debating what to do with my particularly awful front lawn but I have the complication of a big old Magnolia tree sitting in the middle of the space. Replace the lawn with ornamental grass, enlarge the surrounding beds and extend the stone paths from the side garden, try some grass plugs? Deliberations continue.

  8. I love it, Grace! It has a very "knot-garden" sort of feel, doesn't it!

  9. Fantastic!!! Love the addition of the thyme--perfect. They both have an oldy-worldy feel. Maybe the odd brass garden accessorie will give them a mysterious steampunk vibe. Well done! :):)

  10. Wow! Grace, that is absolutely fabulous! Well done. I've tried doing something like this in previous gardens, and ended up with a very sad, sorry mess. I am just no good at it. It didn't help that Nigel was not supportive of the idea of scrounging bricks and pavers. Kudos to your husband for his help.

  11. Wow are the quintessential energizer bunny! I love zero scape too...grass either needs cutting or water, but fortunately, you don't have dogs....they need grass. :)

    Your garden is absolutely wonderful. I would love to come over and walk through it with you and have you name all the beautiful plants. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Grace, this was ambitious of you but look how great it turned out. Well done! I really like the idea of stepables in your south lawn. Gives that same checkerboard effect without the mowing. Very inspirational but your garden always is....

  13. What fun Grace! I can't imagine living with dead looking grass either. Now that I think about it, that's exactly the reason we pulled all our grass out from the front - we couldn't keep it green all summer long either, no matter how much we watered! Your solutions look fantastic! Great job.

  14. Oh Grace, you've outdone yourself! I so admire mixed pavement and want to do something similar myself in an area of my garden. Still collecting interesting things to go in it!

  15. It looks fabulous ,fits in much better with the rest of the garden ; and no mowing, weeding , watering.
    I've been digging out the last of my lawn , it's quite a large space, taking my time , as it's getting too hot for heavy labor !

  16. I love the whimsy of these spaces. I've been removing a little bit of lawn each summer over the last few years. I never thought of using an old sheet or old fabric as a weed barrier. Great tip! I bought my first Gaura last week - I love it!

  17. Oh my goodness is this ever stunning! I have completely moved me with this post! The transition is just OUTSTANDING!!! I could so ditch my lawn and plan to remove a little more each year! Way to go and I just love how you incorporated those plants in between the stones in your last space! So brilliant! Happy gardening! Nicole

  18. Grace that is so impressive! At first I was thinking your lawn was near perfection and you'd miss that green carpet but I guess that was just a passing moment? These creations are so much more delightful. Give yourself a big pat on the back.

  19. These are wonderful. I love bricks and I love pieced work.

    The first thing that came to mind was an old, old gospel song called Down on My Knees. "I was down on my knees, down on my knees..." I can appreciate the hours of work that went into these two projects and the constructive staring that preceded.

  20. Awesome! I love your creativity on both your north and south lawn-no-more areas. They both look so inviting and that they are uniquely yours makes them all the more special. Great job!!

  21. Hi Grace, What a wonderful imagination you have! Everything looks beautiful. Your rusty old garden ornaments made me turn green.....not the organic green but the green eyed monster green. Haha. It did remind me that Andy has a little pot-bellied stove that's been sitting there forever......I think I'll talk him into letting me have it! Cuz if Momma aint happy.....

  22. I love it! So much more interesting than a water hogging lawn.They will both look amazing when the plants fill in. Have you thought of adding low-growing plants to the first patio, too? I love how you used so many different types of bricks to make it unique. :o) Very cool!

  23. Oh, Grace! beautiful!
    You have made so hard work. Some years ago I decided to do a patio as well and as I had many bricks I started my work. It was very hard! I admire you!

  24. Grace, that is totally inspired, and it's a gorgeous idea. Wow, I have always wanted to do this, have the perfect nothing will grow there area...who knows, one day..


  25. Grace, it is wonderful, and worth every minute of your hard work.

  26. Both patios look fantastic, Grace! I look forward to seeing the plants in the second one fill in.

  27. And I bet you have not missed the lawn for one second!

  28. Wow ! Gracie girl !!
    This is perfect (I love the low growing thyme and assorted little plants : ) ... it will make such a difference when you are in the garden now .. no fussing with lawn.
    I am so impatient waiting for our landscaper to do his magic soon too.
    The new fence is supposed to be started either Wednesday or Thursday.
    So I will post before and after pictures too .. but it is the stone work that I am most excited about .. waiting for that is killing me.
    Your garden is such a wonderful secret garden .. you never know what you will bump into while you explore it ! Enjoy girl !!

  29. Such a herculean task for such a petite woman...Amazons R Us?

  30. My goodness Grace, you have done a fabulous job of taking a vision, and making it a reality. And what a big job! It's such a good match for the inspiration picture too. Good work!

  31. Grace:
    Quite the undertaking, but you have created amazing results. I especially love the randomness of the stones that you chose to work with, and the texture that it will bring to the property, even without [and heaven forbid] the presence of plant materials! Kudos!

  32. Your garden posts never cease to amaze me. What size lot are you on? I don't think I've ever asked that. I feel like compared to my wee plot, you're on acres and acres.

    My lawn is so pretty and green right now. Well, except for where the dog pees. But like yours, once August hits, it's brown and ugly no matter how much I baby it.

    I always love all your photos. I must pin them all now. :)

  33. (My third try leaving a comment, first from my phone, then ipad, now laptop. Hopefully, third time is the charm.)

    "Applying lawn death" is one of the truly satisfying sadistic acts in the garden. Another: squashing slugs.

    Your fellow lawn killer,
    Christine in Alaska

  34. I currently have a small patch of fescue in the back yard. It's mainly for the dog. It's not large, 8 x 12 and I have to resod every year because of dog urine burn. I understand why you needed to change it out.

  35. Who needs a lawn? They both look brilliant Grace although my favourite is what was the 'South Lawn'. You must be delighted.

  36. Very nice! I feel inspired. It looks fantastic!


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