Backyard makeover, part 2

I’ve been eager to get to my big spring project—creating a new landscape for half of our backyard. Now that I’m retired, I have nothing better to do all day than “putter” in the garden … or work like a dawg, whichever way you want to look at it. If you don’t enjoy this kind of stuff, you call it yard work. But if you love it, you call it gardening. I love it, and I’m so happy that I get to do it every day, for as long as my 60-something bod can take it.

Here’s the plan … not necessarily to scale, but close.

Planting plan for backyard landscape.

It’s always wise to start with a plan–although most of this was in my head.

And here’s where I started. What a mess! Last fall while the new cedar fence was being installed, we erected a temporary wire fence to keep Diggety Duke out of this half of the yard. We left it up all winter to keep him from creating more craters in the mud. The fence also effectively kept us out of that half of the yard, and nature took over. I love Nature, but … she doesn’t always consult me on gardening plans.

Overgrown ferns and weeds in corner of backyard.

I had to start somewhere!

The old fence boards sat in a pile for six soggy months. Eric thought maybe he’d save some and make picture frames or boxes out of them. Yeah … maybe someday. He wisely decided to scrap the entire pile. We don’t have time for crafts, and we aren’t keeping what we don’t need. (We already have plenty of that!)

Pile of old fance borads.

The cats liked sitting on this board pile. They were the only ones who appreciated it.

I happily realized that I wouldn’t have to reseed the resulting bare patch because that portion will be paved with diamond turf pavers to provide an off-street parking spot (should we need one), a project that Eric began a few years ago. Ultimately, we will need to seed, but not right now.

Diamond turf pavers.

Pavers will create a secure parking spot.

I began in the far corner. The two sword ferns, which I inherited from my parents’ property, needed their annual trimming. The one next to the gate had grown so much that it interfered with the gate’s swing. It would have to be divided. I trimmed both ferns; the other one (behind the birch tree) had been damaged during the fence project, but these prehistoric plants are tough—it’ll come back just fine.

Overgrown ferns and weeds in corner of backyard.

I had to start somewhere!


Fern partially trimmed of old fronds.

Off with the old fronds, exposing spring fiddleheads.

Damaged sword fern with broken fronds.

This damaged fern looks sad but it will recover.

Corner of weedy garden with garden tools.

In the midst of weeding.

Then I weeded and leveled out the soil in the corner until it was below the bottom of the fence. Eric reset some basalt rocks to hold the upper tier of soil and created a short rock wall (to the right of the birch) to hold the new fern. I am lucky to have him to do the heavy lifting, otherwise I’d be in traction now.

Weeded and reshaped rockery.

Starting to look better …

I tried to separate that big ol’ fern myself, but I hadn’t eaten enough Wheaties. It was incredibly stubborn, but Eric finally persevered. I planted it in its new home and surrounded it with a nice cozy blankie of leaf mulch. We only lost a few fiddleheads in the process. Now I’ll have three sword ferns!

I transplanted a hellebore, our prized black trillium, an autumn fern, a tiny purple painted fern, and a variegated hosta to fill in the area. Not done yet … room for more plants!

Backyard corner with fence, rocks, and plants.

Now this space has potential!

Long-haired black cat lying in garden.

Lacy kept me company.

Next, I turned my attention to the corner at the house. I spent three days weeding this garden section. Eric mowed the shaggy lawn. (The fence boards were gone by then.)

Overgrown backyard with weeds and pile of fence boards.

I hate to admit our yard had gotten this bad.

We’d mulched this mostly-muddy garden with laceleaf maple leaves, which helped keep the weeds and mud at bay. The mulch also enriched our soil, which is great anyhow, but now it’s teeming with earthworms, who are wriggling mad when they’re exposed. That makes me happy. (That we have them … not that they’re mad.)

Earthworms in soil.

How many worms can you see? (I did not stage the worms!)

I roughly outlined the course of our dry-creekbed rain garden with a rope, then there was nothing to do but dig for several days. I don’t dare complain about digging in fluffy glacial soil with NO rocks … but I did have to take frequent breaks for my back. My biggest challenge was finding new homes for the hostas that survived the fence project. Several were in the way of the creekbed. On one of my morning walks, I found a beautiful little Japanese maple to be the star attraction of this section. (That sounds like I filched it out of someone’s yard, but I actually bought it from our nearby Ace Hardware.)

Dry creekbed rain garden being dug out of garden bed.

Seen from the bedroom window, the creekbed will follow the rope outline.

Acer shirasawanum 'Sensu'

Acer shirasawanum ‘Sensu’

I lined the trench with weedblock fabric, but I ran short of staples. It didn’t take long for the cats to mess with it.

Rain garden trench with weedblock fabric.

Almost ready to rock and roll!

This project is coming right along … it’s so much fun to go out to the “jobsite” and get dirty every day! Now, BRING ON THE ROCKS!!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it





7 thoughts on “Backyard makeover, part 2

  1. Barbara H.

    It’s a lot of hard work but it is so rewarding to see organized beauty emerge from the weeds.

  2. Nine Dark Moons

    “If you don’t enjoy this kind of stuff, you call it yard work. But if you love it, you call it gardening.” – HA! i never thought of it that way, but it’s so true! I love it. I wish we had a yard to putter in and do some gardening. Someday! Looking great so far, I’m so impressed with all you’ve done! The creek bed idea is really cool. Cats are so funny. Has Duke stayed out of the new garden areas?

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Hi Alison! Yes, Duke has stayed out of the new garden–but ONLY because the ugly temporary wire fence is still up and he can’t get there. It’ll have to come down one of these days, and I’m still not sure what I’ll use to keep him out of the gardens. I don’t want fencing to be a garden feature! 🙂

  3. Donna O.

    Love seeing the progress in your backyard! I’m getting some good ideas from your gardening “plans” that I can use in my own yard. I didn’t know you could divide the sword ferns. Got a couple in my backyard, and one is taking over the space. Keep up the good work!


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