After waiting out The Winter That Wouldn’t End, I found myself avoiding going out into the front garden to to take care of the plants and clean up all of the dead leaves and debris (mostly cigarette butts, grocery bags and flattened Styrofoam cups, with the occasional dead mouse thrown in just for excitement) that had accumulated in front of our house. Sometimes I forget that the front of the house even exists — once we’re inside, we tend to hole up there like hermits.
Rake in (gloved) hand, though, I forced myself to do it, and I wound up feeling like I want to make an effort to make the front of the house look pretty again. When we first moved in, one of the first things we did was take care of the outside, which was just dead grass and weeds at the time. It was — and is — very important to us that our neighbors see that we care about our community when they look at our house. At the time, there wasn’t much going on in the way of landscaping/flowers/plants on our block, but over the years, I’ve noticed more little gardens and flowerpots appearing here and there. I’d like to think that’s at least in part due to us. Maybe. Front gardens matter.
In 2009, we started working on the exterior of the house itself. We had the bricks repointed and the wood cornice repaired and painted by a contractor, and we gave the porch a pretty substantial overhaul ourselves (here’s a before and after). We still need to have the exterior of the original windows repaired and repainted, but that will take time…and money. It can wait. The house isn’t going anywhere. I just never want it to look like this again.
I made this little path a few years out of fire bricks salvaged from our chimney repair. I didn’t do it the “right” way with crushed stone and sand underneath and all that, I really just dug out an area, set the bricks down, and packed dirt into the cracks. I was prepared for it to get out of whack with the first heavy rain, but it’s been just fine. After the winter I do have to re-set them a bit, but I like how soft they look, especially now that there’s a bit of moss growing between them.
Under the porch there’s a set of slate steps leading down the the basement entrance. At the bottom are my favorite bricks, arranged in sort of semi-herringbone pattern. They were buried under several inches of dirt when we bought the house…a happy discovery that makes my little path seem pretty silly! I love that these mossy old bricks are still almost completely level after more than 120 years.
That’s the whole house! Our property ends precisely at the edge of our house on either side — the white cornice belongs to the house attached to ours (we’re first in a row of four identical houses). It’s CRAZY to see how much the boxwood row as grown in five years. This is what it looked like when we planted it! It’s also crazy to see how dedicated I used to be to planting stuff…and how good our carpet roses used to look. They’re so scraggly now that I didn’t even bother taking a photo. Sigh. Maybe this weekend I’ll head over to the garden center and pick up some colorful things to plant! The main problem I’ve had is that the garden gets SO much daylight — like super intense sunshine all day long (I took these photos in the early evening). There are no trees on our street, so shade is non-existent. Even plants that are supposedly tolerant of full sun have wound up croaking after a month or two.
I’d also like to rip out all of the grass between our garden and the sidewalk. It’s impossible to keep looking nice, and mowing it is a pain since all we have is an electric edge-trimmer. Maybe juniper or something else low-lying? I’m sure people will step on it, so it needs to be pretty durable.
And for the Sylvester-fans (you know, this guy), you’ll be happy to know the neighborhood tough guy is still hanging in there and keeping guard over our house. Another neighbor (she calls him “Beauty” — UGH) feeds him, too, and he has at least a couple of porch beds to choose from these days. He’s a good kitty.
That gray cat just appeared out of nowhere last weekend, stretched out under the boxwoods like he owned the place. I don’t know what his deal is, but he’s super-friendly. I think he probably belongs to someone. I don’t like other cats hanging out on Sylvester’s turf, though, so hopefully that was his single appearance.