Posted by: jsmcfadden | December 5, 2010

Down by the street

Time to talk about the front yard. 

When we moved into this house in 1986, the lawn sloped gently down from the house to the sidewalk. All the grass was straw-colored, dried out. Two cypress shrubs were overgrown near the building, on outside edges of the two front windows. A wax-leaf privet hedge marked the property line between our neighbors’ front yard to the east and our yard. There was one tree, six feet or so up from the sidewalk and almost in the middle of the east-west span of the front yard. A tall, shady tree it still is,  but even back then, not really healthy, having some sort of infestation which caused the bark to split and a new branch every year to refuse to leaf out.

We watered that summer, and the grass grew green.

Then, when John left Macy’s in 1990, he dug up the front yard. This was a good expenditure of energy directed toward a positive end result: a more attractive first impression. Soon he had planted a row of Japanese boxwoods to each side of the tree, stretching east from the driveway to the property line, making a more “public” yard of 6 – 8 feet wide down by the street, and the lawn area behind the boxwoods up to the house.

Pittosporums and some green mound junipers were planted there down by the street, and a couple of variegated euonymus shrubs. A row of dwarf agapanthus. And, at the driveway edge of the boxwood line, a pink breath of heaven. These plants flourished  and filled in much of the space between the boxwoods and the sidewalk. So the yard looked green; there was height and color and texture variation.

Within a couple of years, additional improvements were made in the front. Most significantly, from the boxwoods to the street were added river rocks, collected from a hospital campus in Davis that was being demolished. John’s school scored some cabinets, room dividers, and drawers from inside the building.  The whole family had spent several Saturdays up there, gathering rocks, filling up buckets and boxes and whatever else we could find that would hold them in while we transported them in the S10.

A few more years passed, and plumbers who guaranteed to restore front yards to their previous beautiful condition as soon as their work was done didn’t do so, and so John rototilled the whole planting area down by the street and we redid it without a couple of the pittosporums which had been covered with dirt, walked on and generally disrespected. Then new things were planted, and some stepping stones so the mail carrier didn’t have to step on plants as s/he headed straight for the mailbox.

The lovely pink breath of heaven is the big shrub at the far left of the planting bed, just at the brick corner of the garage. You can see the boxwoods, the trunk of the tree, and the river rocks that connect the sidewalk to the planting area.

I love this corner of the yard. This photo, taken in 2005, shows John’s brick driveway widening project, as well as the nicely-trimmed cypress shrubs by the front windows of the house. Near the point of the bed are some snap-dragons. You can see the red carnations, and the alyssum next to the big rocks which outline the planting bed. The agapanthus are blooming in this picture.

This picture is May of 2010. It’s a close-up of that front point, in front of where the snapdragons used to be. I love the idea of these little flowers spilling over the big rocks. Notice the dark grey rock in the lower left — the big one that isn’t completely shown in the photo, the one with a white quartz stripe hitting the edge of the frame. Keep that in mind for context as you see how things grew and spilled over the summer and early fall. This next picture was taken in October this year.


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