DIYing a Yard Back to Life

Nancy T
by Nancy T
I instantly fell in love with this restored Mid-Century house but all but abandoned yard as soon as I laid eyes on it in the Fall of 2013 so we bought it. This is what the front of the house looked like from the road.
It was very unloved, overgrown and dark and moving in I knew that at least some of the trees had to go .... (Oh ya, did I mention I am in love with my house & yard)
So, the next spring (2014) one of the very first things I did in the garden was have 6 large tree's on the property (front, back and side) cut down. All but 2 of the trees I have removed where Douglas Fir trees. I live in the PNW and because Doug firs grow like weeds around here I refer to them as 'junk trees'. I don't hate them but feel they belong in the forest and not in the landscaping.
I am a tree lover not a tree hater and having so many trees removed was a hard decision but after consulting with a 'tree guy' we decided it had to be done. One tree was removed because it was huge (170') and growing too close to the house (within 8 feet).
Another one was removed because it was deemed unstable due to the previous owner having had it 'topped off' years earlier. 'Topping off' a tree (removing the top of the tree to allow either access to either more light or a better view, actually weakens the tree by removing 100% of the crown. The crown of the tree is where the largest number of productive leaves grow. The removal of the crown stresses the tree by basically starving it and so the tree responds by sending out a massive number of shoots from the latent buds below the cut.
These lesser branches are weak and are never as strong as the original tree branches leaving the tree susceptible splitting, insect & disease and reduces the tree's ability to produce food. In our tree's case, over time, the lesser branches had split from the tree and caused the tree trunk to begin rotting.
The rest of the tree's were removed to allow more light (even the neighbor's were happy to see them go) into the house & garden and to improve the look of the yard. However, I soon found out that often after you remove one tree the neighboring tree(s) proves to be small, misshapen and unsustainable so they need to be removed too.
Disposing of a yard full of rather large logs proved to be very easy. We had people stopping to ask if they could take the logs before the tree removal company had even finished. All the logs were split, packed up and removed within a week and we did not have to do any of the work!
One tree was left in the front because it was large, healthy, beautiful and birds were nesting in my favorite little birdhouse. I believe it is an Atlas Cedar but I'm not sure.
After the tree came down we were left with a sad front yard. I knew I want to put in a mixed border along the front of the house between the yard and the road.
To my surprise I found several small, struggling shrubs and patches of flowers. There was an azalea, a rhody, barberry bush that had been pruned to the ground and a patch of daisies. (I added the pink rhody you see bloom because I was starved for some color)
I began by clearing, cleaning, weeding and transplanting a few boxwoods that had been planted in the back yard (I was unhappy with their location)
Doesn't look pretty but you gotta start somewhere, right!
Here is the Barberry bush that was almost pruned into extinction - it has proven to be quite a fighter and is making a nice comeback
This is how the border looked at the end of May 2015. This spring I added many different kinds of shrubs, grasses and perennials to the border. I can't wait to see how it looks next spring.
I'm thinking about adding a split-rail fence along the edge of the border to separate the parking strip from the yard (I'm dying to grow some clematis along it.)

Any thoughts? What do you think??
Nancy T
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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  • Chi14221906 Chi14221906 on Nov 06, 2016
    But what did people do with the logs? They were wonderful. Did people just burn them?

  • Sher Man Sher Man on Jul 10, 2021

    I saved some stumps from a pecan tree that was cut down. Put rollers on the bottoms and used for plant stands. They also make good seating like around a fire pit. A log culled out laying on its side also makes a beautiful planter. I would imagine a tree that size would have been a chainsaw artists dream. What did you do with the slices?

  • Maria Garcia Maria Garcia on Jul 10, 2021

    What a difference cutting those tress down made it’s coming along beautifully! I’d love to see the end result I hope you post! Great job

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  • P P on Jul 10, 2021

    Beware! Barberry is now considered invasive in some parts of the country

  • Ellis Ellis on Jul 13, 2021

    Is that bamboo in the background? Watch out, it can be very invasive. (Our town has made it illegal to plant it, because it grows so rampantly. It was sometimes the source of neighbors' feuds!)

    But your plantings look lovely, and I definitely like the idea of a fence with clematis growing on it!