Garden reflection and scheduling realities

Our work has almost exclusively focused on the house for the past six years – and for a good reason. We wanted to move in, have the garden apartment and 2nd floor unit ready to rent, etc.

But the house is only half the adventure. The other half is the landscape around the house, which has been buried somewhere at the bottom of the task list. And it starts to get to me. I am a landscape architect and I feel that I am keeping myself out of my own playground.

Some readers may know about the Elmhurst pilot project, that was not only about a sustainable landscape, but also a functional and beautiful landscape. Cathy and I have similar plans for this project.

One major accomplishment, thanks to Cathy’s hard work, was the acquisition of the adjacent vacant lot to the east. That got us talking and thinking about the garden again, except that the long to-do list of house projects is keeping us from the yard tasks.

For our sanity’s sake we took on small ad hoc projects such as carpet weed treatment, planting some sedges in the front yard, and building a raised vegetable planter. But our yard resembles a building material storage depot, not a garden.

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The glass half full

Recently my parents visited. They have a garden to die for! I knew their interest was as much in the yard as in the house. I dreaded the thought of their eyes catching a glimpse of the mayhem that is our yard.

Fresh from the airport, they stepped out of the truck and instead of heading for the front door, they headed right into the yard. I felt like hiding under a rock – which isn’t that difficult in our yard.

To my surprise, the only thing they saw was the glass half full. They loved the amount of space we have and didn’t stop talking about and imaging all the options and possibilities. In short, they didn’t see mayhem, they saw potential. You have to love my parents!

The exterior tasks

Besides the focus on getting the garden apartment and second floor rented, another good reason for stalling on the yard projects is lurking in the corner.

Building a landscape (or a garden) follows a certain process. The different tasks are sequenced so as to avoid doing things twice. Site clearing, earthwork and hardscape installation comes first followed by soil improvements and planting.

And in our case, finishing the construction outside of the building is the task topping of the list. There is the looming demolition and rebuilding of our back porch, plus the foundation wall insulation from the outside.

It looks like the porch will be torn down and rebuilt before too long. I hope to tag on the foundation wall excavation right after that, weather permitting. Are we really getting a step closer to building a garden?

Relates posts:

From wish list to reality

What to do with the carpet

Front yard clean up

A timid start

The back porch project

Following the control layers

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About Marcus de la fleur

Marcus is a Registered Landscape Architect with a horticultural degree from the School of Horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from the University of Sheffield, UK. He developed a landscape based sustainable pilot project at 168 Elm Ave. in 2002, and has expanded his skill set to building science. Starting in 2009, Marcus applied the newly acquired expertise to the deep energy retrofit of his 100+ year old home in Chicago.

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