Thursday, 22 August 2013

Rearview makeover

To say the least, the back of my house and my back patio was a little lack luster when I moved in. 

I'm happy to report that that has since changed.  It's only taken me three years, but whatever.  Didn't you ever hear the story of the tortoise and the hare? It may have taken a while, but things are finally starting to look fabulous. 

It's not like I was just sitting around waiting for the yard to magically fix itself, I had a lot of projects on my plate and only so much time and money to dedicate each year. The project took on three phases. 
Year 1: Planting and furnishing
Year 2: Refacing the back of the house
Year 3: New patio stones

Year 1: Planting and furnishing

It was my first spring in my new home and everyone else's yard seemed to be blooming and I had a boring grey slab.  How uninspiring!  I also have a teensy tiny downtown yard, so I couldn't just plant myself a forest.  Strike two.  But I was determined to make something out of this opportunity, so I started to think vertically.  I had dome ugly chain-link fence and a cinder block wall as my view, so I resolved to cover them organically.  I removed the last row of patio stones along the chain-link fence and planted 3 different varieties of clematis.  They are all white, but have different flowering times so I should potentially always have something in bloom.  (there was a small incident with a clematis massacre and my neighbour which has been sorted, but we're in the re-growth phase now.  I am the most impatient gardener ever and the wait is eating away at me) 

On the cinder block wall, I mounted some lattice.  I used 1" by 2"s to secure it to the wall and to give the vine space to climb.  I also mounted an old ladder that was hanging around along the long cinder block wall.  I planted a very quick growing silver lace vine to crawl along that.  The hydrangea is finally really starting to grow as they take a couple of years to get settled in.  The silver lace took off in a flash and hasn't looked back since.  It's great, but I find myself trimming it back every week.  I also installed some solar powered twinkle lights through the vine to light the path.  The hydrangea should bloom early summer and the silver lave blooms late summer, so again there should be flowers at different times.  I also planted some other plants like hostas and bleeding hearts(my fave).   

As far as furniture goes, I didn't have the space or budget to go too crazy, but I did get my essentials.  I purchased a hexagonal table with six chairs and an umbrella.  I also got two lounger chairs with a small table to put between them.  This has become my favourite spot for catching some rays with a good book and a cold drink.  

Year 2: The exterior of the house.


I knew this would be a bigger project, but I was ready.  The previous owners seemed to have a fondness for mirrors and faux-brick that I do not share, at all. So I needed to some up with a cost-effective way to get rid of it.  The first step was to remove it. All of it.  Demolition can bring me so much joy... and scrapes and bruises.   

Well, now that it was all down I needed to find something to replace it with.  Siding seemed like the most common choice, but it can be expensive and it wasn't really the look I was going for.  A visit to the local Home Depot provided me with the perfect solution.  I grooved wooden panel that is sold in sheets similar to plywood.  I would mount these and stain them to the colour of my choosing. So off to my local paint store I went to pick up some opaque wood stain.  oooOOOoooo! Any colour I want? Pink? Green? Purple? I chose grey.  So adventurous. 

On the inside of the stairway to the basement (that's the door on the left). I primed and painted the faux brick an off-white colour. Now when the light comes in from that clear plastic roof, it bounces lots of warm light into my kitchen.  It also made the stairwell look much cleaner and fresher.  And well, with all that new fresh look going on, I decided to spray paint the screen door also.  I chose I colour similar to that of the stairwell so that it just blends in when you look at it. I few days of solid work and it looks like a whole new world back there.  

Year 3: Patio Stones 

This year brought upon a totally spontaneous project. My front yard was in need of some MAJOR sprucing up. I pulled out all of the patio stones in favour of planting a garden.  My neighbourhood needs a little more green space, I think.  As I was pulling up these patio stones, my synapses started firing as mt biceps were lifting - I should use some of these in the backyard.  And so i did.  With some guess measuring, I figured out a pattern to incorporate these front yard stones with the pre-existing backyard stones.  Genius.  Now I just have to carry all the front stones to the back, remove the unnecessary back stones and bingo-bango I'm almost there.  Umm... not quite. 

When my brain had this brilliant idea, I don't think that it told my body how much hard work it was going to be. In case you don't possess Superman-like strength, I will warn you that these things are heavy.  Well, maybe not the first one.  After the first one you think, "hey, this isn't so bad".  After a few more, you start wondering why you thought this was a good idea in the first place. Oh, and for the love of all good things wear gloves! The edges are sharp and rough and you'll end up with tiny little cuts all over your hands. 

Once I removed and repositioned the existing stones, it was time to get started on the new ones.  My first step was to dig out some of the dirt because the new stones I was bringing in were higher than the old ones.  And then I had to make sure that everything was level.  I then rolled out A weed barrier an a layer of limestone which I also managed to salvage from my front yard.  I laid out the stones using my trusty level along the way.  Once I got them all wiggled in there nice and tight, I top it off with a layer of sand to settle in any of the gaps.   

And now my back patio is done and I've been enjoying it all summer.  But as the rest of you home owners know.  Our work here is never done.  It's only a matter of time before I'm struck with another bright idea. 

oooo... is that a fire pit?