Saturday, November 28, 2020

2020 Retrospective


Well, if you look hard enough you can find beauty in this year.  This was our first full year in our 1914 craftsman bungalow.  Our first two months were spent creating plans for the property and our improvement wish list.  Little did we know that we'd make so much progress towards that list in 2020.  Amazing how much more time a person has at home during a pandemic!

Starting off the list was our studio makeover.  The property contained a building that's 12'x32' and a complete mess.  Originally it was a carriage house, but it had gone through a number of conversions through the years that left it in pretty bad shape.  We carved the building into two sections - a studio and a workshop.  We stripped the building down to the studs and began remaking it into something usable.  In March of 2020, we finished the studio.  The studio serves as a workout space and a home office.  Little did we know that we'd get so much use out of it in 2020!  We have planned the back workshop portion and expect to start work on that project in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned for further updates on that.

In parallel to completing the studio, we started planning out the landscape makeover.  We had a particularly rainy spring in 2020 and experienced some localized flooding.  From that we learned the drainage around our 1914 home was terrible.  Water is the enemy of an old house, so we began the effort of laying over 100 feet of drainage pipe.  Come May 2020, we had gutters installed on all three buildings and tied it into our new drainage system.  It wasn't a romantic project, but will help prevent damage to the old foundation.  It took months to complete, but had to be finished before breaking ground on the landscape hardscaping.

From there, we decided to remove 400+ feet of concrete from the property.  From past experience, we knew this was something we wanted to hire out.  Sure glad we made that decision.  The crew was here for a week removing concrete, and making a long cut down the remaining concrete driveway to install drains.  2020 was the year of drainage.  Glad that portion is over!

Once the concrete was removed, we had a blank slate and could finally start laying in the hardscaping.  We built a paver patio made from recycled rubber tiles, and a concrete paver patio area and pergola.  For this project, we moved approximately 9 tons of gravel and sand using an old dilapidated wheel barrow.  This is one of those projects you reflect back on and swear you'd never do by hand again.  Whew, we are very glad that this project is done and we reap the benefits of our labor on a regular basis.

We are finally at the stage of planting and layering in the softscaping.  We have started this effort and hope to finish it up before the end of the winter.  In the meantime, we've moved our efforts inside and have started stripping the painted woodwork in our living and dining rooms.  

This was a very big year for us.  It was a difficult year, but I can't imagine how we would've gotten through it without all the projects we accomplished.  When I reflect back on 2020 in the future, I will remember it as the year of the pandemic and the year we got so much done at our new house.  Hopefully I'll be doing that reflection while sitting in our beautiful landscape enjoying wine :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Potager Nook

Sometimes procrastination leads to the best decisions.  We'd been trying to figure out since this spring what to do with the northeast corner of our house.  This area is part of our kitchen potager garden, and is the utility corner for cable, telephone and electricity.  We tried planting this area with veg, but nothing grew well in the mostly shady area.  It gets flooded with morning sun, and then remains shaded most of the day.


This weekend we built a small brick S curve patio with recycled bricks we had laying around.  Instantly, the area was transformed and now has a purpose.  We tested the nook today with our morning coffee and we love the area!  It is a great spot to enjoy morning coffee and to admire the garden.  Finally, a solution for an otherwise dead and difficult spot.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Potted Plants for Interest


We have a decent amount of concrete hardscape up the South side of the house that we decided to keep for our patio area.  However, we knew we needed to soften this with plants and with the help of Tree of Life nursery, we identified a number of natives that would be good candidates.

Today we got this Burroughsia Fastigiata planted and absolutely love the outcome.  The pot matches the scale, and we are very pleased with the free flow feel and growth pattern of this bush.  It is amazing how a plant in the right spot can change everything.  This pot is along the approach of the back yard landscape, and is serving as great visual interest.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Big Day

 Well, we got our first rain for the season and we just couldn't wait any longer to start getting the landscape in.  We made our first big trip to Tree of Life nursery with a focus on getting all of the trees and the plants for one of the main garden beds.  Earlier in the week we received the water feature and got that installed.  The following is a preview of the finished product:

We're happy with the area, and especially like our new water feature.  We think it will add a lot of life to the landscape by drawing in birds, bees, dragon flies, and all the wonderful forms of life that water attracts.  Here is an overview of the plantings in this bed from left to right:

  • Byrd Hill Manzanita (back left)
  • Euphorbia Misera (front left)
  • La Cruz Manzanita (mid left)
  • White Sage (behind water feature)
  • Eriogonum Dana Point (right side) x 2
Here's the original design we're working from and the expected scale when grown in.

We are looking to put one or two Salvia Cedrosensis in the bed, but the nursery was out.

We also got the California Bay, Toyon and the Ray Hartman planted.  It has already completely transformed the feel of the landscape.  All of the hardscaping took a tremendous amount of work, but seeing the plants go in is a real treat.  We are still looking to add some larger landscape rocks to soften it and add a more natural feel.  

More about the plants can be found on this list.