Friday, October 26

Taking the Plunge

Lots of people have front yard gardens instead of lawn--I wouldn't exactly be a pioneer in creating a front yard garden, not even in my own suburb. My reasons for wanting to eliminate the lawngrass are many and varied, some selfish and others almost noble. All are very viable, defensible reasons, though. So actually putting my plan into action should have been no big deal, right?

Right. I mean, I'd already increased the front yard garden area exponentially since purchasing the house. I have been talking about systematically removing my lawngrass--not just this summer, but since I bought the house in 2004, for pete's sake--with a confidence that bordered on glee. And I even purchased the plants to landscape the remaining lawn area during various fall clearance sales.

And yet there I was, looking at the nursery pots all spread out over the grass, immobilized by my thoughts. All of the doubts that I had been keeping at bay began to tap on my shoulder one by one. Questions about resale value and what, really, the neighbors would think swirled through my head. The grass looked greener than it has since I've lived there, as if it were thumbing its nose at me for "giving up" and deciding to remove it. I swear that I could even hear my former father-in-law ask incredulously, "Really, Kim, you're going to dig up a perfectly good front lawn to plant these things?

I changed up a few of the perennial pots, then walked to the far end of the yard to look again at the shrubs I had lined up. Clearly, I was procrastinating. I finally reminded myself that I would likely be here in this house for the next twenty years. Even if I have to rip everything out at some point and sow a lawn in order to sell the house... well, I figure that I might as well enjoy having what I want in my front yard in the interim.

I took a deep breath and plunged the shovel into the ground at an angle, tipping up the end to loosen the sod. Once I got going, the combination of work and repetition eased my anxiety. I started thinking about pleasant things, like how much less time I'm going to spend mowing and whether I should use something like Karen's beautiful eco-grass to edge the sidewalk and fill in the tree lawn.

I rearranged the layout a few more times and pilfered plants from the rest of the garden to fill in the spaces. (The bergenia on the left, for example, should add some winter interest near my viburnum.)

After finishing the hard labor, I decided that I just might have enough time to mulch the new bed as well. I threw the last shovelful of mulch just as the first solar landscape light popped on... so unfortunately I didn't get any "after" pictures to share. That will have to wait until tomorrow.

But I did have just enough fading daylight to allow me to admire my handiwork. I stood in the exact same spot on the front sidewalk where I had wasted an hour earlier in the day, but this time I felt much less like a fraud. I didn't just talk the talk, I walked the walk--and I have an interesting new front yard to show for it. My back aches, my arm muscles resemble Jello... and still, I feel very, very good.


Anonymous said...

Hey, congrats on the new front-yard garden. I felt a few qualms when I ripped out all my front lawn too, but they disappeared as quickly as yours did. I've never regretted it either. I look forward to seeing your "after" photos, and the continuing "after" photos as it all fills in.

Colleen Vanderlinden said...

Good for you! I can't wait to see the "after" either. It is a little bit of a cruel joke that the grass we can't wait to eliminate looks its best in spring and fall, just when we're doing our heavy-duty planting!

Congrats on the courage, and what I'm sure is a garden that will give you plenty of joy over the years.

Anonymous said...

That's a crazy lot of work and I applaud you! (I so hate digging sod that I think I might just smother my front yard this winter - my neighbors already think I'm toons because of all the shrubicide...) You OWN that garden - now more than ever! Pausing to consider resale values is a little like being a renter who has to ask permission. And I'll bet as your front garden grows more and more beautiful over the years, one or two or ten of your neighbors will follow your example!

Gina said...

kim - congrats on taking the plunge! isnt it crazy how married we are to grass?? I find myself thinking the same thing. "i really want to plant the entire front yard but what about resale value???" I keep trying to tell myself WHAT ABOUT ME? I live here NOW so I'm the most important person, right? not some what if stranger out there that I have to worry may hate that there is no grass.

cant wait to see the after pics!

Unknown said...

Ouch! My muscles ache just looking at all you've accomplished--and I'm in awe. You get two green thumbs up from me, on this, Kim, and I know the pleasure you'll derive from having the yard the way you want it will go on for many years.

Greg W said...

Good for you for promoting the lawn to nature revolution! I’m sure the neighbors will welcome the break in the lawn monotony that has plagued out neighborhoods for far too long. I’ll bet they secretly want to do the same thing and you may have provided them with the courage to do so. I can’t wait to see what final arrangement you decided on. Personally, I think a landscaped lawn adds to the value of any home. Greg at Utah Valley Gardens

Anonymous said...

Very nice! If I weren't leaving my current house in a year and a half I'd be thinking about doing the same. (It's not resale value so much as that I don't want to do that much work and spend that much money just to enjoy it for a single year.)

Anonymous said...

I think that you should go out to the store and buy one of those big work lights on a tripod, because leaving us without a picture of the finished product is too much of a tease. Although, I'm pretty sure you made it look great. :)

Hey that Eco Grass stuff sounded good until I saw the price. $272 for a 50 pound bag? Does it come with a lawn mower? That's crazy!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

That bottle of procrastination must have had a big shot of courage in it. I am happy you sucked up the courage and got the job done. Good for you!! I can't wait to see the planting. You deserve a rest now.

ellipsisknits said...

Does not having a front lawn really bring down resale? I can see (maybe) not having a back lawn, but nobody plays in the front yard around here anyway...

I'd heard landscaping actually raised property values - I assumed because the buyers don't realize they'll have to do so much work to keep it looking that way.


Unknown said...

Still raining here, so no pictures yet. That's okay, I like it when Ma Nature pitches in and waters my new plantings for me! :)

Pam, that makes me feel a lot better, to know that you had a few qualms, too. Now I just hope my front yard garden turns out half as well as yours did!

Colleen, thank you--and good point about the "fescue season" being about the same as the heavy-duty planting season. I just figured the grass was being cheeky. lol.

Kris, I'm smothering my back yard right now because I hate digging sod, too! This front yard is at just enough of an angle that I was worried about "mulchslides" if I tried to lasagna it.

I like the way you put that, that pausing to consider resale value is like being a renter who has to ask permission. And one or two of my neighbors did stop by to see what I was doing and ask questions like, "How do you pick out plants, anyway?" So maybe there is hope that someone might follow my example!

Gina, were you in my head while I was having that same conversation?! lol. Seriously, that's almost verbatim what I was saying to myself. And then I added that way back when, before someone got people to buy into the fact that grass lawns were a necessity, people with natural landscaping probably thought that people who were planting lawns were crazy... maybe we can slowly reverse that trend?

jodi, I wasn't going to mention it... but yes, my muscles ache today! Thanks for the green thumbs up. :)

countrybowgw, thanks for stopping by and commenting! "Lawn monotony" is right. Around here, many people just have grass and yews (as foundation shrubs) in their front yards. I hope that the landscaping does add value, but if not then at least I'll get to enjoy it for the next twenty years, right? :)

Jenny, I don't blame you one bit. If I were moving in a year (or maybe even two or three) I probably wouldn't have done alll of that work, either! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. It's always nice to discovery new garden blogs this way.

Anthony, lol! Well, it will look great if you put on your gardeners' glasses--you know, they're like beer goggles, except that they let you see what the whole thing will look like when the shrubs and perennials fill out. *grin*

Yeah, that Eco-grass is pretty crazy price-wise. I think that High Country gardens has some short fescue mixes and a few other turfgrass alternatives, like buffalo grass and blue grama grass, and I'd bet you could find some other sources in the US for cheaper, too. I am toying with either the blue grama from HCG (which I want to use for the "lawn" in the backyard anyway) or planting a swath of the beautiful prairie dropseed along the edge of the sidewalk in the front yard.

Lisa, you're right--lol--it must have had a big shot of courage in it! And yes... I admit that I did sleep in this morning. A lot. :)

ellipsisknits, I think that the prevailing wisdom is that landscaping raises property values... unless the garden gives the impression of requiring way too much "work." The plants that I have put in the front yard are fairly low-maintenance AND drought-tolerant, but who knows if someone at an Open House is going to realize that, you know?

lisa said...

Great job, Kim! I say enjoy it all while you're there, and if you do end up moving, well then dig stuff up to take with!

Laurie and Chris said...

I can't wait to see the after!!I bet it looks great!

kris said...

Hi Kim - I'm looking forward to seeing the new garden too. Congrats to you for making a dream come true! I think we gardeners have pictures in our mind that others just don't get until they become a reality. It's when we let those doubters' comments get in our way that we start to doubt ourselves. How boring would it be if we all had little front lawns with grass and the same little shrubs against the house get the idea. I love that you did this for YOU - and if it turns out not to be what you wanted after all, you'll just try something different later!! Way to go!!

growingagardenindavis said...

It took me several re-landscapings to completely eliminate my front lawn...and I kept thinking I wasn't going to take it ALL out...but I have never regretted it. I think it adds so much to the look of your house, even though we can't really see the finished product yet. I can't wait until it stops raining!

Ki said...

Good for you! It is difficult isn't it to make changes? Especially something that is so sacred -the LAWN, that is. A new house was built a block away from where we live and though the people have moved in since spring they only have lawn on their 1/2 acre. The guy is a true believer of grass for he fertilizes, mows and waters it like crazy. I hate to think about all the pesticides and nitrogen his one yard produces but it must be prodigious. It looks extremely weird to have just a large house and grass with no trees much less shrubs to attenuate the starkness.

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