Summer is the time to work outside, especially here in the northeast. So when it got warm I switched gears from mostly inside projects to mostly outside ones. A lot of projects got tackled this summer – the meadow out back was tamed, and I began cutting down the giant forsythia bushes alongside the house that were threatening to eat the place.

In July, we really got going on the landscaping out front. The landscaping around the house was put in place in 1997 – I know because not only do I remember when it happened, but I happen to have both the bill and planning grid from the nursery. Grandma saved everything. When first planted, the landscaping was very nice, but I do not believe that they gave much attention to the adult sizes of the plantings. Over the ensuing 15 years the various items had grown together, and the deer devoured several things, resulting in Grandma replacing a few shrubs.

Generally speaking, we are minimalists, so the idea that less is more is pretty much a given around here. The landscaping wasn’t terrible when we moved in – in spring 2011 Mary and I came over and re-did the mulching and such for Grandma. But it needed some re-thinking regardless and some items were definitely overgrown. So you have an idea, here is where we started, this photo is from a few weeks after we moved in. I raked all those leaves by hand. (this year I have a “leaf sweeper.” Fool me once.)

The landscaping is filled with blue holly, firebush, euonymous, astible, birds nest spruce, sea green juniper and a rhododendron that keeps hanging on no matter how many times the deer eat it down to nothing. I had a few goals when it comes to landscaping the house, they are:

  • It needs to be mid-century compatible.
  • It should be relatively simple to maintain – no shrubs that if you turn around double in size.
  • As much as possible, it should be items that deer do not want to eat. They are brazen in our neighborhood.

So Mary and I went off and started hacking away at various things, like the forsythia at the top of the property that needed to be cut back, the overgrown sea green juniper encroaching on the driveway, and trimming back the lilac clump that was out of control:




Then, on the weekend Mary was away on her bachelorette party, I got cracking on the landscaping around the house. I yanked out a lot of stuff from the main bed and spent a lot of time reshaping it. That black edging on the ground in one of the pictures? I put that in in 1999 or so. On top of problems with the density of plants in the main bed, we had another more serious issue – over the years mulch and dirt had been added, and the bed was sloped backwards towards the house. This is an issue because if the gutter overflows (which before we moved in would happen periodically when it got plugged – I would come by and unplug it), it caused a huge cascade of water to pour down. This water would then fill the basement window well and leak into the basement. Not cool. Not cool at all. To resolve this I spent 8-10 hours shaving off the top several inches of the bed and re-grading it so that water would naturally not fall into the window well and flow away from the house in a natural swale. I then took the trailer loads of dirt this generated and filled in a rocky gravel area in the meadow and leveled out low spots.



In the end I basically ripped everything out except the holly, astible and one andromeda plant. This particular holly is not deer proof, so it will need to be covered once the snow flies, but now the bed is much more manageable. I added blue fescue grass which supposedly the deer do not like very much either (we will see.) Next year I plant to yank out the juniper around the driveway and replace the drawf spruces next to the kitchen door, but this year I did not have time (or energy) to try and tackle those projects. Once I was done with the new plantings and ensuring all of the grading was correct I stopped by the local Agway and kept loading up my car with bags of mulch until I had the whole thing done. Next year I’ll borrow a truck (much cheaper), but this year I just needed to get it done. Here is the finished product:


4 thoughts on “Landscaping

  1. John

    Was just about to ask about your landscaping. Like how it curves around the house, did the same to my ranch house. Can I suggest you extend the curve around the side and perhaps along the front to tie the bushes and lamp post together and then a wide curve that ends at a right angle to the drive and continues across to tie the bushes to the left in. This would unify the individual look. Most people are afraid to extend the landscape into the site and use to many different plants when a group of 3,5 or 7 of the same type has more impact. Just a thought.
    My niece is named MaryGrace a combination of my two grandmothers.

    1. Douglas Camin Post author

      Hey John –

      I have been considering extending the beds around the driveway next year when I replace the overgrown (but now cut back into a boxy look) sea green junipers. Mowing around the lamppost beds because of how small they are is a pain and one of the goals in redesigning the landscaping was to prevent unnecessary hassles like that. I took several of my landscaping ideas from a website I found of a gentleman in Ohio who did landscaping for years and now sells various stuff via his website, but offers pretty extensive tips on landscaping. One of his biggest suggestions is exactly what you mention – don’t be afraid to go big. So when I come back to this next spring, that’s a distinct possibility. Of course I just went to grab the link and can’t seem to find it easily in my bookmarks. Hopefully I’ll be able to remember it eventually (I’ll post the link if I do.)

      Mary’s name also came from her family, including her grandmother!

      Update: Found it! – I liked what he had to say about beds and planting, and his example properties are usually midcentury in style.


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