I moved around a lot during the 1980’s and the first thing I thought about when I moved into a new home was how to connect the indoors with the out of doors. This was well before the craze for outdoor living — but then again, I spent 5 years in Southern California in the late 1970’s where the weather invited everyone outside year-round. The Porch, above, is an eastern version of California living with a deep roof to cool the house in the summer and comfortable seating to talk with neighbors [It’s an addition to a 1905 home in the Takoma Park , Maryland historic preservation district that we remodeled in 2005.]
I’m sitting in another home just a few blocks away. It was built in 1917 and I’ve been here just about a year. And I’m frustrated beyond belief that I don’t yet have the money to build the addition in the back that will connect me to the out of doors! My response is to spend most of my spare time working on the landscape — so when the remodeling is completed I’ll be living in a much more mature landsacpe than if I waited.
BEWARE – DO NOT LANDSCAPE WITHIN ABOUT 8 FEET OF THE PLANNED REMODELING OR ADDITION. If you landscape and plant before remodeling, everything will just get trampled. But for most of us, there is still a lot of room to work on the foreground or background that we can work on years in advance.
So I’ve spent my time in the front and the back rear of the year. In the front, I’ve put in a low fence so my dog can be outside with me but that doesn’t say “keep out” to the neighbors. I’ve stained it a blue/grey — a color that tends to disappear into the landscape. I’m planting on both sides — often the same plants — to further fuzzy the line. I’ve created an inset at the front gate — a 6 foot by 3 foot inset — to further welcome visitors. It’s almost like a small foyer. Concrete stepping stone — meant to look like rock — connect the new paver parking pad with the house and help create a more naturalistic planting area. I’ve planted 7 trees in the front — 1 zelcova and 6 tall crepe myrtle that will eventually grow to create archways over the walkways and entryway.
In the back, I’ve planted 12 trees — 6 overstory trees including 3 River Birch, 2 Red Maples, 1 Willow Oak and 6 understory trees including 2 Dogwoods, 3 Purple-Leaf Plums, and a Stewartia. In addition, I’ve planted probably 15 shrubs. I’ve also created a mid-ground and back-ground by adding a swale and berm. The berm is held back with a “wall” of very large logs. The swale and berm help control run-off on the slope and keep water on my property. Even after only a year, I’ve created a sense of privacy that will only increase as the years go by. I’m also creating welcoming shade that will cool my home and my life.