Before + After: Landscaping Progress

I know, I haven’t really given you a proper introduction to Lil’ Spot. So here’s a quick backstory. Our 882 sq. ft. kit house was built in the 1950’s by a couple who emigrated from Eastern Europe. They built this little spot with their own hands and took great care of it for 60-some-odd years. When they passed on it was sold as part of their estate. Lucky for us, we were first-time home buyers looking for fixer-upper to cut our teeth on home ownership and renovations. Here’s what it looked like the day we closed on it, 4 years ago this April:

curbside house

I must confess that today it looks almost exactly the same from this view. My Dad always says, “You fix the inside of your house for you, you fix the outside for your  neighbors.” So the front has been bumped to the bottom of our very long list of renovation projects. Sorry, neighbors! We did swap out the mailbox (a wedding gift from friends with number decals I added), painted the front door a nice dark navy blue (Benjamin Moore Hale Navy) and replaced the screen door with a more modern full glass door (sans eagle).


But we haven’t done a thing to the poor overcrowded boxwoods, hydrangeas, azaleas, mountain laurel, dwarf pine and japonica. We also haven’t ripped out the last hedgerow of invasive barberry and privet. Or fixed our broke-ass concrete path and crumbling steps. Or painted our peeling porch. We’re not proud of it. We’re just busy. And not made of money.

Over the last 4 years we’ve really focused in on the back yard, where we spend most of our time in the warm months. With such a small house, having a big backyard makes us feel like we have more living space. Here are some BEFORE snaps from 2010.


View facing North into our neighbor’s yard. With a tin-can-man that is funky but I kind of love.

Our neighbor to the south has a small yard that is mostly occupied by a well-maintained vegetable garden. We love learning about growing vegetables from the elderly couple that owns the property. They even share extra plants with us.

I’m sure those ginormous laundry line poles didn’t escape your trained eye either. They’re retired since everyone has electric dryers these days. But they’ve found a second life as nesting sites for nuthatches and training poles for woodpeckers.

Don’t mind the John Baldessari-esque dots. I’m protecting privacy here, it’s serious business.


View facing east. This chain link beauty is still there and I’m doing my best to hide it with plantings.

Oh, and then there’s the infamous pear tree. There was so much that I loved about this tree. The scale was perfect for the house and I adored its cute lollipop shape. In spring there were fragrant white flowers and it provided privacy from the 2-story house to the north. Plus, it produced dozens upon dozens of pears each summer. But…it produced dozens upon dozens of pears each summer. And we couldn’t keep up with them. And they tasted like crab apples. And they attracted bees. And got stuck in our lawnmower. And STUNK like rotting fruit. And…we eventually decided it had to go.

pear tree

Down she goes…

pear tree coming down

I think I actually teared up. Poor tree. We’ll never forget you.

Also I should mention the teeny-tiny sad peach tree planted in the middle of the yard. We gave it the college try but it just wasn’t thriving. Plus, we noticed it had developed an oozing fungus and an ant infestation. Buy-bye, little nasty tree.


The last corner of our backyard was occupied by this crazy contraption covering the steps to the basement. Complete with corrugated composite, sheet metal, rusty poles and plenty of jagged wire. A wonderland for young children looking to get tetanus.

basement contraption

So, here’s the BEFORE + AFTER of our backyard plan, illustrated by yours truly.

Garden Plan - BEFORE + AFTER - Existing Plants

BEFORE garden plan (with a creative way of spelling “lilac” for your enjoyment.)

backyard plan before + after

AFTER garden plan

I justified cutting down a beautiful, mature fruit tree by planting not one, but SIX other native trees in the yard. Do you think I overcompensated? The pictures I took are horrendous so I made this list instead:

trees added to lil' spot

We also put in a pre-fab shed since we don’t have a garage. It’s wonderful, I would like to move in like a hipster. Maybe one day when we replace the siding on our house it will match. For now, it’s just so dang cute.

garden shed and climbing rose

our cute shed being upstaged by the climbing rose

We also planted a native perennial garden along the chain-link fence. In our hood we don’t put up tall fences because then you don’t get vegetable plants from your neighbors. Just a little privacy goes a long way so we did switchgrass and red osier dogwoods in the back row and filled in with purple coneflower, lavender bee balm and purple agastache. This will be the second year for this bed so we’ll see how it all fills in.

native perennial garden

the shed in action; native grasses and perennials

Last summer, my kick ass Dad built a huge, awesome deck on the back of the house. He’s turning 65 this year and can still rip up a driveway, drill for pilings, pour concrete and build a freakin’ deck! Yee-haw. The deck has by far been the biggest improvement to our yard, especially paired with the renovations we did inside which allow for direct access to the backyard through sliding doors off of the kitchen.

The deck is home to our Beetlejuicey black and white striped patio umbrella. I can’t tell you how much I love this umbrella!

patio umbrella

Actually, yes I can. I love it just a little less than the set of 4 original Russell Woodard Sculptura chairs handed down to me by my mother-in-law, which were passed down to her from her mother. I feel so lucky to have them. When we were growing up my Mom chained our porch furniture down after some problems with theft in our neighborhood. Don’t think I haven’t considered the same for these babies.


Russell Woodard Sculptura Chairs + West Elm Table

And that’s pretty much where we are these days. This year I’m letting things grow in and become more established. I’m resolving to water when my garden needs it and learn about pruning and caring for the plants that I have.

Is anyone still reading?! Holy Marathon Blogpost! Sorry to post so late tonight. I gotta go make dinner and watch some trish-trash on the TV.

Loveyoubye, Mags


  1. This was so much fun to read Maggie…and wonderful to see what you and your cute hubby have created there. Lots of work, but well worth it. Thanks.


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