Skip to content

First Steps Toward A New Front Garden

November 3, 2013

front garden beforeI spent quite a lot of time during my summer months in Maine making plans for a new addition to the front of my house to be built next summer. I signed a contract with an architect and had several meetings with him as we worked our way from conceptual drawings to measurements to pricing drawings. I also interviewed several contractors (most recommended by the architect); and hired one of them after talking with several of his references (all of whom gave rave reviews).

The addition will add a new master bedroom and bath, a new foyer at the front entry to the house, a screened porch at the front of the house, and a small deck off the new bedroom. And all this will be accompanied by a new front garden. For more than a decade, I’ve been focusing my gardening efforts on the area at the back of the house; and during that time, I’ve become increasingly dissatisfied with the way the front looks.

This addition provides an opportunity to take out almost everything I’ve done before and start over with a clean slate. The row of scraggly lilacs that never really got established along the front of the property will come out. The too-small and crowded iris bed will come out.

iris bed before

The frequently reworked border under my bedroom window that just never got beyond the hodge-podge look will come out.

bedroom border before

The overgrown forsythia and mock orange shrubs in the front yard will come out. The only planting that will remain is the Circular Bed at the turn into the driveway; the rest of the landscape will be completely rethought and redesigned.

new holding areaExcavation for the new addition is going to begin in the spring, probably several weeks before I am able to get home to Maine at the end of the school year. For that reason, many plants had to be moved out of harm’s way before I left for Gettysburg in August. I spent three intensive weeks on these first steps toward a new front garden. First, I removed the sod and moss from an 6’ x 15’ area and dug soil amendments in to create a temporary flower bed as a holding area for plants. (This took two weeks of heavy work, even with the help of my friend Joyce who came and put in several hours working with me one afternoon.)

moving dayliliesOnce the new holding area was prepared, I spent another week moving plants. All the daylilies from the row at the front of the property were loaded into the wheelbarrow and moved. (This took several wheelbarrow loads.)Then I moved all the plants from the bedroom border. Finally, I moved tradescantia and Siberian iris plants from the Iris border. Even cramming in as many divisions as I could, I still had to leave about half the Siberian irises behind in the old location. I may be able to dig some of these up in the spring and set them aside to give away or to be replanted elsewhere.

bedroom border after iris bed after

I came right down to the wire on this job, getting the last of the plants moved to the new holding bed the day before I was to leave for Gettysburg. When the planting was done, I hooked up a soaker hose and asked my next door neighbor to come over and turn on the water a couple of times during the coming week.

planted holding area

When I was home in September, I was relieved to see all the plants looking happy and healthy in their new location. Some were even blooming. Next fall, after the construction is done and the new front garden has been designed, I will be able to start moving many of these plants to their new homes.

36 Comments leave one →
  1. November 4, 2013 5:44 am

    What a job! Now you have your own little nursery for choosing plants when you begin the new garden.

    • November 9, 2013 8:24 pm

      Marian, That’s exactly the way I’ve been thinking about it. It will take me several years to design, dig and plant the new front garden; and as I work on it, I can combine old plants with new ones. And since my remodeling includes some new windows looking out on this part of the property, this area will eventually become part of a new planting on the side of the house.

  2. November 4, 2013 5:48 am

    How exciting Jean – both the extension and the opportunities that you will have to create something in the garden. The plants seem to be doing beautifully in their temporary home. You must find it exhausting sometimes, taking care of two places?

    • November 9, 2013 8:26 pm

      Cathy, The two-garden lifestyle does get a little crazy at times — mostly times like this when there is a big job to be done and a short amount of time to do it. Although I will miss my garden in Gettysburg when I leave it in a few months, it will be nice to have more time for my Maine garden and to be able to work there at a more measured pace.

  3. November 4, 2013 6:27 am

    Ahhh, Jean, I can surely relate! Adding on to your home is going to be such an adventure. The additions sound wonderful, too. You’ll have such fun planning and planting your new front gardens. And you’ll have the fun of decorating new spaces inside as well. I did the reverse of your approach. I did the front & side garden work first, and am now working (finally) on the back. Having a ball, but it’s a lot of hard work, as you well know. Hope all your transplants to the temp garden do well over the winter. Retirement is coming!

    • November 9, 2013 8:29 pm

      Ginny, It is exciting. For a while I was just feeling overwhelmed by the scope of the project. But now that I have plans from the architect and a contractor I have confidence in, I’m feeling more relaxed and able to enjoy the project. The summer will be a little crazy as I live in a construction zone. I’m still hoping to visit you and your garden in spring when my work schedule will be lighter.

  4. November 4, 2013 7:43 am

    What fun to redo your home and your garden. You’ll be busy for several seasons and that will be a good introduction to the next chapter. 🙂

    • November 9, 2013 8:32 pm

      Judy, It is fun, and I will be busy for several seasons (which I’m looking forward to). When I tried to explain all this to my younger sister, she replied, “Not everyone would put a smiley face after stating that they will have 5 years worth of yardwork to do! ” (Can you tell she’s not a gardener? ;-))

  5. November 4, 2013 8:27 am

    You have one of those rare gardening opportunities to completely design an area from scratch — and a new backdrop for it all when the addition is put on. This will be exciting, and I am sure you have plans going in your head (and on paper?) already. The success of the holding bed is just the first tangible step, but oh, what a lot of work that was already!

    • November 9, 2013 8:35 pm

      Laurrie, It is exciting to start over from scratch — especially since some of the plantings were inherited and some were put in by me in my novice gardener days when I had no idea what I was doing! I have lots of plans in my head, but nothing on paper yet. I’m actually working with a landscape architect and have had one meeting with him thus far. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

  6. November 4, 2013 8:49 am

    What a huge amount of work! But how exciting it will be to have a chance to get everything exactly as you like it. I often long for a complete do-over.

    • November 9, 2013 10:24 pm

      Sarah, The complete do-over is a dream — a lot of work, but also a chance to wipe out my old mistakes. (Trying to work around them has not been successful.)

  7. November 4, 2013 9:05 am

    What an ambitious project! I’ll look forward to seeing it all come together!

    • November 9, 2013 10:25 pm

      Cindy, I’ve been dreaming about this for years, so it’s exciting to finally have something happening. And this time I have some ‘before’ pictures (which I don’t have for my back garden) for comparison purposes.

  8. November 4, 2013 11:56 am

    Jean, best wishes on all the changes to your home and garden! Your plans sound wonderful; when it is all done, you will be able to really enjoy your space. I look forward to reading about your projects and their completion.

    • November 29, 2013 7:35 pm

      Deb, I am excited about this project. And, unlike the house addition which is full of scary unknowns and makes me anxious, the garden project is something I feel more in control of. It will take several years to complete — but what else is retirement for? 🙂

  9. November 4, 2013 12:19 pm

    Congratulations on accomplishing so much! And plan ahead for when you won’t want to spend so much effort on gardening. Maybe add a lot of evergreens that will manage themselves? Best to you as winter approaches!

    • November 29, 2013 7:38 pm

      Shenandoah, Thanks for reminding me that I need to plan for aging in place. Since my house is surrounded on three sides by woods — mostly tall white pines and hemlocks — and since these trees are always trying to seed themselves in any open space, I don’t need to garden to have lots of evergreens. Honestly, this is the one part of my property that is not shaded by tall trees, and I want to keep it more open. Maybe some dwarf evergreens (e.g., Mugo pine and dwarf junipers) as part of mixed borders, though.

  10. November 4, 2013 10:41 pm

    How exciting! Still, the preparation certainly involves a lot of work both on the front and back ends of the project. Best wishes for creating the home – and garden – of your dreams!

    • November 29, 2013 7:40 pm

      Thanks, Kris. I’ve been thinking about this project for years. What’s changed now is that the planning has become much more concrete. Right now I’m exchanging ideas with a landscape architect (more about that in a later post), but I’m excited to actually start digging and planting late next summer.

  11. November 5, 2013 11:48 am

    Jean, it looks glorious and those are really happy plants. Reminds me of my mum saying: Happy plants, happy home! I wish you luck with your work on a new front garden. I will keep my eye open for your garden update post in the spring.

    • November 29, 2013 7:41 pm

      Jamie, Thanks for visiting. I definitely plan to keep a chronicle of the front garden project here as it unfolds.

  12. November 7, 2013 8:49 pm

    oh my goodness Jean. what a huge addition to the house! and big changes to the garden. Sounds very exciting. You must be thrilled to be having so many wonderful changes coming your way. and your home will be so very comfortable once its done, what a nice way to start your retirement. congratulations.

    • November 29, 2013 7:43 pm

      Marguerite, It is a big addition that is really going to change the look of the house and how I live in it. Since the existing house is only about 900 square feet, this will add almost 50% more space. Living in a construction zone won’t be such a relaxing way to begin retirement, but it will be worth it when it’s done.

  13. November 9, 2013 9:58 pm

    That will be exciting to look forward to all winter. It will be fun to start from scratch. But what a ton of work to do in such a short time! Congrats on your upcoming retirement. 🙂

    • November 29, 2013 7:46 pm

      Tammy, I am looking forward to a winter of garden design plans and plant lists. 🙂

  14. November 10, 2013 2:43 am

    Hello Jean, i am so glad that my blogger friends around the world thought of me these times. Those in FB also brought their positive energies and prayers. I in Metro Manila and my family in the province are not directly in the typhoon path, so we are fine. Thanks so much Jean, these concern and prayers mean very much to me.

    • November 29, 2013 7:48 pm

      Andrea, I continue to think of you and hope communities are beginning to recover in the Philippines.

  15. November 10, 2013 4:18 pm

    What a huge and wonderful project! Talk about planning for retirement. And I’ll bet the seed and plant catalogues and gardening magazines are going to inspire AND drive you nuts this winter! Here’s wishing you the best builders and contractors who can get the house moving at a pace equal to your gardening.

    • November 29, 2013 7:50 pm

      Emily, This project has been in the vague planning stages for so long that it’s good to finally get moving on it. I have a team of architect, contractor and landscape architect working with me on this; and they are all great.

  16. November 11, 2013 5:46 pm

    It is great to see you were able to move plants you wanted to keep. It is hard work but will be so worth it once it is all done.

    • November 29, 2013 7:54 pm

      Donna, I’m happy to let unsuccessful plantings (like my row of scraggly lilacs) get dug up and composted, but I love many of these plants. Among the daylilies I moved are some simple, trumpet-shaped yellow ones that are nocturnal and wonderfully fragrant. These were passalong plants that I could never replace with purchases; I think they might be an ancestor of ‘Hyperion.’ I was happy to discover that they had formed such large clumps that I often had to divide the clumps into 3 or 4 pieces to lift them out of the ground. I’m planning a fragrant night garden to go under my new bedroom window, and quite a few clumps of these daylilies will certainly be part of that planting.

  17. November 18, 2013 4:15 pm

    You have a strong back – that is a lot of work, but endlessly rewarding, yes?

    • November 29, 2013 7:55 pm

      Jayne, Thank goodness for strong backs! One of the things I’m looking forward to in retirement is being able to do projects like this at a somewhat more leisurely pace.

  18. November 25, 2013 3:18 pm

    Planning a new garden is an exciting experience, especially when one start with a blank slate. I’m looking forward to the progress reports and ultimately the new look.

    • November 29, 2013 7:57 pm

      Allan, I am feeling like a little kid on Christmas eve as I think about this project. I decided to work with a landscape architect to make sure I start with good bones, and I just got his first set of ideas. You will definitely see progress reports here in the months (and years!) to come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: