Lawn and Garden

Happy May Day!

Has the sunny weather gotten you motivated to clean up your outside?

This is the first spring we are enjoying in our new house, and it has been very educational to see what the previous owners planted. (Our last house was technically a condo, so we did ZERO work in the yard.) We made the offer on this house in late winter, but because the owners were retiring down to Florida and their house was not yet built, we closed several months later, in mid-May, and so missed the peak flower season in between the two events. Plus, moving was just TOO crazy to do much outside last year. We loved seeing the azaleas bloom (calling dibs on the family Easter egg hunt next year!) and watching the hosta come up. There was also one rogue tulip, one lonesome crocus, and a few straggler daffodils that popped up as sweet surprises.

We headed over to the Burke nursery in our excitement (HIGHLY recommended for any locals – they have a very knowledgeable horticulturalist on staff who can help you identify your plants and offer suggestions on maintaining your purchases. We first only bought pansies and impatiens from the flower department because the majority of that first purchase was to build a vegetable garden! (More on that next week!)

Coming home in our excitement to plant flowers and seeds, we quickly learned that the bulk of making a yard beautiful is legwork: raking leaves, picking up dead branches, cutting back trees and ivy, pruning bushes and ALL. THE. LIRIOPE, and then stuffing bag after bag after bag and dragging them to the street. Weed, prune, weed prune, weed, prune. Dig up ugly plant, haul it all away. It is hard work!

Not to even mention the whole maintaining the grass thing, which is a task completely unto itself. AND then there’s the mulch, which is kind of like putting on eyeliner all along the yard…eyeliner that weighs 50 pounds per bag and requires 65 bags to do your entire property. Cleaning up the yard really reminded me of being a musician. Everyone wants to play an instrument because they want to play tunes, but it’s only after they get started that they realize in order to actually be good at it, you mostly have to spend all your time doing long tones, scales, and etudes. The big difference here is you can actually see all of the hard work in the build up to the performance. Playing a concert is like planting the flowers. It is really beautiful to get to that point, but there is apparently a ton of work beforehand!

Please excuse the obviously really poor quality photo and just notice the FIFTY TWO bags of yard waste we put out that week.

After hours and HOURS of the “chore” part, I now feel like we have a better understanding of our property – and I really think (hope!) that the previous owners took a year or so off of some of these “maintenance” tasks like pruning bushes. Hopefully if we can stay on top of things, we won’t have to do such a big and exhausting push every March to just get things back in order.

We have 3 thoughts in going forward for future years in this house:

  1. Make a list of the individual chore/maintenance tasks that have to be done in the spring and see what can be affordably hired out. There are so many neighborhood kids asking for odd jobs to make a little money. We already plan to book 5-6 weekends of leaf rakers for this fall because it was just too much to keep up with on our own.
  2. Draw out and label the current landscaping, with as much drawn to scale as possible. My skills here are very poor (went to music school, not art school), but the process of doing so should help identify what vision we have for the future. Even making small changes are best planned out.
  3. Have a professional walk through the property with us to provide feedback on current plants and suggestions for improvements and maintenance. We have learned from a friend’s casual pass through our yard about the lilac bush, boxwoods, vinca, euonymus (which I hate btw – one has already been ripped up and replaced with a peony), and bleeding heart, but it is so helpful to research each plant individually to understand how to best care for it.


How do you all handle the outdoor spring tidying? Do you hire someone to cut the grass and let the rest grow wild? Any green thumbs out there who want to offer up tips? What about other beginners like us who are ready to learn? What resources have been the most helpful to you?

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