We moved into our little house nearly 18 years ago. After 4 years we did a huge renovation of the house, and a few years after that an entire make-over of the back yard, turning our home from super-ugly to super-stylish (in my eyes anyway).
Unfortunately everything we tried in the front yard has been an utter failure. We lived with the original 1970’s style concrete porch, curved concrete paths and feature-less flower beds for several years before Mr.B improved things greatly by ripping out the horror growing there and planting 3 Magnolia Little Gem saplings. Two of these have been stupendously successful, and have grown way beyond their limits, for reasons that have only recently become apparent*.
During 7 years of Australia-wide drought the flower beds became a dust bowl, resulting in a seemingly constant, fine layer of dirt coating our white weather-board house, and most of the inside floors too. The welcoming of chickens to our front yard didn’t help the situation. Nobody ever mentions the amount of chicken poo that gets all over the place in romantic, back-yard chicken keeping blogs (I know I don’t). I got thoroughly fed-up with the constant sweeping and vacuuming, and not-very-regular hosing down of the house. In short, we had a pretty grubby house most of the time, despite my efforts.
We tried several mini-make-overs during the intervening years, once even laying a tiny lawn under the trees. Anyone could have told us that wasn’t going to work. Too much shade and competition from the gigantic Little Gems. In the end we just put down a load of mulch in a vain bid to keep the dust and weeds down. I like to think we were going for the ‘White-Trash’ look – a car wreck propped on bricks would not have been out of place. The front yard project has been languishing in the too-hard basket, until now.
Only 17 years in the making . . . drum roll . . . I present, for your viewing pleasure, our new, improved front yard!
We decided in January that this would be The Year of The Front Yard. A combination of our joint centenary birthday celebrations, and my over-energetic medical condition made me bully Mr. B into drawing up plans following my extensive inspiration trip to the land of Pinterest.
My vision was to keep the traditional Victorian worker’s cottage vibe, but with a contemporary twist. Since the inside of the house has not a remnant of the original interior left, it seemed unfitting to go for the cottage garden look. I wanted the porch tiled, with a nod to the classic, and chose patterned encaustic tiles that are so ‘on trend’ right now, but have a tradition going back hundreds of years. I knew from dusty experience that the tiny yard would have to be paved, and decided on a layout that would be a feature in itself since I didn’t want fancy pavers in such a small area. I allowed for irregular planting beds, and filled them with smooth pebbles to keep the dust down, but still allow for planting later on. I wanted monochrome simplicity, but not boringness.
I made it my mission to have the front yard presentable in time for our party in March. I followed up leads and sourced tiles and stone, interviewed landscapers and paving contractors, and presented schedules and quote to Mr. B. I meant business this time.
Lucky for me that our landscaping contractors, Heath and Darren, of Distinctive Exteriors, proved to be unshakeably patient in the face of cranky neighbours, undeterred by our angry and unwelcoming dog, unbelievably efficient and extremely good at their job. I helped things along by staining the porch surround pavers a darker colour myself. Start to finish in 5 days, completing the day before the party. Grateful is an understatement.
I still peek out of the front door from time to time, just to check out our amazing front yard. Mr. B says we should have done this years ago!
*During an initial site visit a landscape designer questioned our choice of Magnolia Grandiflora for such a tiny urban space. Apparently they can grow to 20 meters and are ideal for parkland. It seems our Magnolia Little Gems, which grow to 5 meters and are ideal for small, urban gardens, may have been mislabelled at the nursery . . . and that may be another story later down the track.