Sunday, December 10, 2023

Three Projects


Our new front porch!

Greetings! It's been a busy fall and I'm only now able to post about the three projects I've been working on this autumn (now that winter is pretty much here!). 

But I wanted to post one last time before winter. Here's what I've been doing:

1. Plant Moving

In September I did my first project: moving plants out of my long Rainbow Border, which I'm eliminating, as I mentioned in my post earlier this year. I planted many of these in front of the addition on the west side of our house.

Going, going.... The Rainbow Border didn't look too bad this year at the end of May, its peak moment, but it's gotten pretty weedy, and many plants don't grow very well so close to the red cedar windbreak behind it. I moved many plants to a bed in front of my house. (That bed doesn't look like much at this point, so I won't show it -- I hope it will start to look good next year.)

2. New Front Porch

The biggest (or at least most expensive) project of this year was the new front porch that we've been hoping to have for several years now.

Here it was back in 2021, when it still looked OK. But I had to paint it every year or it looked terrible because the paint wouldn't STICK to the wood. 

You can see what it looked like if I skipped a year of painting it. Plus some of the supports had become rotten, so the front steps sagged a bit when people walked up them. Not good.

And even worse was the big HOLE that I had
to cover with a paving stone so no one would 
put their foot through it!

My builder and his son goofing off for the camera as they start demolition back in early October.

Two days later: this utter demolishment wasn't really an "improvement" but it was a necessary phase. My husband remarked that every time he got home from work that week, things looked worse than when he had left in the morning. You can see that the old concrete steps under the porch had listed a lot as they settled.

After two weeks, we had functioning steps again, in a new layout. We had the steps moved to the right, in front of the basement door, and extended the deck out farther toward the front. Now there's more usable space for sitting on our front porch.

We also replaced the cracked old sidewalk around the porch.

It's much nicer with a white metal railing and matching lattice, and I left a small planting bed under the deck overhang, where flowers will be set off nicely in front of the lattice.

3. West Terrace

I also did a lot of work this fall on the other end of our house. In 2011 we had an addition built onto the side of house, and because the ground sloped up so much to it, we had a retaining wall built there.

Here you can see the fairly new retaining wall back in 2013.

I planted tiny boxwoods around the two beds on either side of the white pergola, and planted all-white flowers in both beds, as well as white-flowering wisteria on the pergola. On either side of the steps up to the addition (seen at far right), I planted mostly blue-flowering plants. This looked pretty orderly for about five years.

But by last year it was pretty out of control. I did trim the boxwoods, but I had planted them too closely together (like in my Herb Garden) when they were tiny starts. Then in 2020 I became worried I might transfer the Volutella blight which afflicted the Herb Garden to these boxwoods, so I didn't trim them for a couple of years. Also, the wisteria never once bloomed in the ten years they grew (rampantly) there--maybe it wasn't sunny enough? But they were a lot of work to keep trimmed back, and they made the pergola area dark and creepy-looking. And the beds were getting weedy too....


So in March I asked my son to use the weed wacker (with steel blade attachment) to saw all the boxwoods down to six inches in height. 

The sheer carnage of the area was pretty impressive.

By September, only six months later, the boxwoods had regrown about eight inches of fresh, healthy-looking foliage. I was surprised how quickly they regrew, as boxwoods are slow-growing shrubs. But I've realized that they're only slow to establish and once they've established roots, they are actually quite fast-growing.

Double-Uggh. You can see how badly the nasty runner grass has invaded this bed. I had my husband spray these weeds....

Then we got to work:
  1. My husband cut the wisteria off near the ground and sprayed the stumps with tree killer. Then I painstakingly cut all the twining branches off the pergola, using a hand saw and loppers, and asked my son to haul them to our burn pile
  2. We moved the pergola to another area
  3. My son and I dug out the front row of the boxwoods, as well as every other one in the back row. I donated these to a local group to plant in a public garden. 
  4. Then I had my husband spray the remaining weeds again, I dug over the entire area to loosen the soil, and removed some viney weeds with big root systems.

Still a bit weedy, but much better, with properly spaced boxwoods. You can see that the steps here really need to be replaced too.

Then I moved about fifteen or so tree peonies and intersectional peonies from another area close by, into the two beds on either side of the central area where the pergola had been. I mulched them before winter, and I hope they'll survive....

The tree peonies were in my North Island (located to the right in the prior photo). They are very beautiful plants and were expensive, but this area is so large that it's difficult to maintain. So I moved them closer to the house so I'd be able to take better care of them and enjoy them when they bloom. I'll also plant some annuals for later interest in those terrace beds.

These were definitely worth saving!

Then my very helpful son laid pavers on sand and gravel on either side of the rotting steps. Before, there had been a few more boxwoods in these two beds, but I moved them to the place where the pergola had been before in front of the steps, making an "X" shape, like a parterre. Most of these pavers and materials were leftover from my new Diagonal Garden project of this spring, plus a few from under the pergola, so these paved areas cost hardly anything.

Now we have a nicer place to sit on the two benches that were in a different garden area. My builder wasn't able to replace these steps before it got too cold to work, but the materials are stacked here and in my garage, for whenever we get a warm week.

A sunny, sheltered spot, even in December.

So that's the changes I made this fall in my gardens and other areas -- changes I've been hoping to make for some time.

I moved all my houseplants inside in early October, and I've been enjoying sitting among them on sunny days. I finally just got the last of my spring bulbs planted the other day, and now it's time for the holidays already.

Thanks for reading, and I wish you the very best for the holidays and rest of winter, until it's springtime again! -Beth


  1. Things look nice, Beth! It will be fun to see your gardens next spring!

    1. Hi Beth, Thanks so much for stopping by to read! I look forward to seeing what's going on in your own beautiful gardens next spring too. Merry Christmas to you and your family! :-) Beth

  2. We had to replace our front steps this year too. In the 20 years since they were put in, they had sunk so that last step was about 4-5" higher than the rest - not safe! The mess of rock and dirt will remain to be dealt with this spring. Maybe by then I'll come up with a plan.

    Your garden redesigns are looking good. It's always a pain when the carefully thought out plans become too much to keep up with. Or when the plants age out past their prime or turn out to be ill-mannered thugs. How nice to have a couple of spots to sit and catch your breath while working out there, or to sit and ponder the next projects. Odd how what looks good on paper inside the house perusing plant catalogs suddenly isn't such a good idea when I get outside and face what's really to be dealt with.

    Hope your holidays go well!