Thank you Ke$ha.
If you follow along on Instagram (@tmhostess) you’ve been inundated by our very slow yard progress. To hear us tell it, it’s as if TD and I are the first people who ever yarded.
This is because we’re not really yard people. Though Via Corona sits on a nearly 8,000 square foot lot, one of the big draws of the property is that most of it is hillside. If I were to guess, only about 3,000 of those 8,000 square feet are flat. Take away the footprint of the house and garage, and we’re talking maybe a 1,000 square feet of yard able yard. Of that, about 400 is on the far side of the garage and currently under the supervision of Stanley the giant carob tree. We’re going to leave him and his fellow flora alone for a couple of years. Say hello to Stanley:
Take out the other side yard and we’re left with less than 400 square feet of front yard space. [TD here. I have cagily avoided lawn care in every sense of the word since I last mowed one during a lunar eclipse on August 17, 1989. My father and brother are yard guys. And so, while I’ve nodded knowingly through the years as they spun yarns about triumphantly overseeding or aggressively thatching, I secretly hoped I would forever be one of those cold and timid souls who knew neither overseedation or thatchery. I almost made it. At a minimum I now have a place to stand while I shake my fist at the clouds and say dumb things like, “I don’t know what could be going on in my life that I wouldn’t have time to stop at a pay phone!” Note: I actually said this once because I am stupid.]
When we started this whole adventure, those 400 square feet were 400 too many. As the schematic shows, the space is long and narrow. There is sort of a little courtyard space to the left and then what we’ve dubbed the bocce ball court to the right (positive thinking). Like the rest of the Via Corona, this long strip of land did not start out with much in the way of personality.
It didn’t help that construction disturbed or destroyed virtually everything that had once taken root in Via Corona’s rock hard soil. Case in point, the decent-sized plumeria which you can see propped up in the left corner against the wall. Without calling in Jim Rockford, we share an OJ-did-it level of certainty that the previous owner stole the plumeria before we had a chance to put it back in the ground. There’s also the bougainvillea you see below. Like Batman or David Hasselhoff’s career – it appears to be unkillable.
But wait, you say — there’s hope! Despite the fact that the former owners went with an “Arizona desert” theme for the yard, there’s a sprinkler system. Alas, while there are sprinklers, there is no system. The levee is dry. Please drive your Chevy elsewhere. Good day, sir!
Did I mention that we didn’t budget for this space in the overall reno project?
And so this, my friends, this is what Via Corona’s front yard looked like upon completion of the exterior.
Over the winter holidays TD and I patched (well, TD patched), primed and painted the wall. It was super fun and definitely motivated us to get cracking on the yard. Not.
In fact, I have NO shame in admitting that our plan was to basically ignore the elephant in the room until we had the energy and funds to have someone who knows what they are doing come in and address the issue.
But then my mom came to town.
She is a certified master gardener and although my parents live more than a thousand miles and four states away, I got the distinct feeling that our front yard was embarrassing her. Not kidding, she was out in the front pulling weeds before she’d even unpacked.
When your spry but north of 70-year old mother says that you are going to weed and plant the yard. That’s what you do. Within a couple of days we’d pulled out all of the weeds from the long bed and made trips to all of the local nurseries. [TD Here. I had thumb surgery smack in the middle of this gardening adventure. I’ve never been so happy to be temporarily physically disabled in my life! My mother-in-law is truly a wonderful woman, but she has more energy naturally than I’d have if I received a blood transfusion from a 22-year old while shotgunning a sixer of Four Loko. She gets up every day at 5 am (as does her daughter), so when you’re visiting and you roll out of bed at 7 am you feel like a complete slacker. You just kicked off the covers and she’s already fed the birds, made breakfast, run an Ironman triathlon, punched a mountain lion in the face, etc. etc. etc. That said, lovely woman. I think she even likes me! Now back to our story.]
After my parents left, TD and I spent the month following pulling out all of the Arizona rock (aka gravel), amending the soil and planting jasmine, roses bushes and Mexican feather grass. The idea on the jasmine is that they’ll climb the wall and hide the leftover “rock” feature that pops up every eight feet or so. In preparation for this, I created a wire trellis for each. This meant I got to buy and use (remember, TD is indisposed at this point) a hammer drill. Should you have a need for a hammer drill, give me a call. I’d be happy to fulfill your hammer drill needs.
We originally planned to install decomposed granite (DG) in the courtyard space, put the chairs back and call it a day.
Unfortunately (or fortunately), two things happened. Our research revealed that installing DG close to the front door isn’t a great idea because it tracks into the house and can damage the flooring. I was not about to have anything threaten those pretty floors we put down (except cat barf).
The second thing that happened is that we just couldn’t leave well enough alone. What started out as an attempt to make the front yard “presentable” turned into a little bit of an idea monster. When your mission creeps, the only thing to do is get out the graph paper.
After watching many YouTube videos (I’m pretty sure this the 21st century version of saying “hold my beer”), we decided that even with our limited DIY skills, we could hustle our way through a cement paver and grass patio.
And so, over the fourth of July weekend, armed with a bottle of sunscreen and hours of the Pandora Bruno Mars station, that is what we did:
Did you see that blue party bucket in the slides above? That is what we used to haul the sand, gravel and dirt because neither one of us has a car big enough to bring home a wheel barrow.
It’s been about six weeks since TD cast his (grass) seed and things are looking very green. We’ve added a couple of citrus trees (Eureka lemon and blood orange) to match our lime and olive trees [yes, we have a cocktail garden going] and we’ll eventually add climbing roses to either side of the wall at the entrance of the Yanni path. [TD again. Color me stunned that this project a.) actually came together and b.) didn’t cause an untimely divorce–especially considering geometry was involved. I guess this is what being a yard guy is all about — capturing the feeling of landing a lunar module or jumping a Harley over 14 Greyhound busses just by laying 11 pavers and not permanently maiming yourself or terminally pissing your wife off in the in the process. The contractors even asked who we hired to do the job. To quote a former boss who once quoted the estimable R. Kelly in the most monotone voice imaginable, “I believe I can fly.”]
For the first time since we bought the house, the front actually looks inviting from the street.
A note about pottery. It’s expensive. If you live within diving distance of Los Angeles, I highly recommend Pottery Mfg. & Dist. Inc. The place is huge. While you could easily drain your retirement savings on outfitting your insides and outsides with drool-worthy vessels and acoutrements, they also have a ginormous section of second run and slightly “off” items. We spent a couple of hours there one afternoon and probably spent half of what we would otherwise on our glossy black pots and bowls.
Speaking of training things up the wall (we weren’t? well, now we are), everything we’ve planted in the long bed has gone a little crazy.
As of this writing, two of the three jasmine have summited the wall and the third isn’t far behind.
What once was our view from the front step (you haven’t lived until you’ve had a rusty bathtub in your front yard)…
is a little more respectable these days.
I’m hoping this means my mom has written us back into her will.
As is obvious, there is still much to be done. Later this fall, once the temps have cooled a bit and our South-facing house spends more time in shadow, we’ll finish planting the beds in the courtyard space. We also have plans to sod the bocce court (aka that giant strip of dirt still taking up most of the front yard) and lay the remaining six pavers. Of course this all assumes we’ll be able to keep everything alive. We’re cool if you want to place bets on how that’ll turn out.