Yes, despite the time of year I really did mean to type ‘projects’ instead of ‘presents’ … although being able to cross some things off my TGGR List does feel much like a gift! About two weeks ago I was able to have a few more taken care of, although not by any means completed. Here are some of the before-and-after highlights. In the ‘before’ photos red ribbons denote plants or areas to be ripped out; yellow ones are things that needed moving.

(Disclaimer: Between my upper and lower back, and the poison ivy risk, I cannot take credit for any of this except the inspiration and payment.)

Three Berberis atropurpurea directly in front of several rhodies have been a thorn in my side (often literally) for four years. I finally got them all hacked back to a couple feet high without looking like I’d been in a street fight but I wanted them gone, baby, gone.
I am thinking a couple of nice evergreen azaleas that will screen that low fence opening but never get tall enough to obscure the rhodies. This is an eastern exposure so they’d work nicely (in more ways than one.)


I had to hunt up a photo from last year of this small but miserable corner area. There’s a sad-looking variegated aucuba near a VERY large pine, and the understory had become filled with Rose of Sharon saplings plus some wild blackberry and poison ivy thrown in for good measure. My neighbor’s side of the chainlink fence is basically a junk dump. Luckily I don’t see that area often but the R of S population had gotten way out of control.

R of S dug out (I hope), landscape fabric and Timberlite mulch down. Originally I asked them to bring the mulch out right next to the pine but was told that roots made the area un-diggable for the edging so that’s as close as they could get. The area in front of this refurbished corner is going to be paved either next month or next spring – more on that debacle later – and so when all is done I’ll probably throw down some extra fabric and Timberlite afterward. The aucuba looks happier already.



One of the many oak stumps left after last December’s massacre of the not so innocents; because of the shape I call this one the Clover Stump. Enmeshed in the roots are variegated euonymus, ditch daylilies, English ivy, and the remants of three poison ivy plants (dead but still toxic roots.)
Not anymore. Well, except for the P.I. roots of course. I have no idea what I’ll be putting here but it will have to be shallow rooted to fit amongst those oak roots. All suggestions welcome! 🙂



The crape myrtle (sole survivor) bed had been cleared out by another team earlier this year, or so I thought but they obviously left a lot of the orange daylilies behind – plus the remnants of the disused sprinkler system. There was poison ivy all through this bed, especially where the daylilies were, so there was no way I’m touching it myself for a while.
Much better. Hopefully. This bed will need a year of constant Poison Ivy Patrol before replanting.



This is called Denny’s Bed because under normal circumstances my bronze/brass figure named Denny (the) Crane presides here. Earlier this year I was sure the Hellish Houttonyia had NOT yet invaded this bed. The summer months proved me wrong, bigtime.

I realized that I had not been clear enough that “clear everything out of this bed” meant the leftover conifer stump as well. And didn’t realize it until after they left. Duh. Oh and this bed, as well as the Lantern Bed on the other side of the mini-bridge, will need at least two years of Houttonyia Patrol before planting anything. I am thinking along the lines of dwarf conifers.



This is the second of two beds right next to the back patio. The one that was totally infested with poison ivy was cleared out this spring. This didn’t have P.I. (that I know of) but the phlox got totally invaded by wild garlic, nutsedge, and that sneaky little variegated ornamental grass with designs on world domination.

I may be able to plant this one up next year, depending on what rears its head in the spring.

And now for some more serious work in the front yard:

Part of the surprise miniature Grand Canyon that appears in this post. The north end  (not visible) also needed a carpet of prostrate juniper ripped out and two rhodies relocated.

This is after filling and rough grading. On the advice of the boss, the planned topsoil is being deferred until after Eddie the Brickmason can rip up and redo the front walkway, a job originally scheduled for early November but MAY get done this month but maybe not. It’s all about the weather. More digging and grading and filling will be needed for that job, and it’s too late in the year to put down grass seed anyhow, so the topsoil may need to wait until spring. The area has already settled – again – and so clearly needs more of something additional.



This is the most noticeable difference: the driveway bed. This was, frankly, a mess. One section of prostrate junipers fully invaded by wild garlic and grass. The other, larger, section totally overrun with goutweed. An invasive variegated ornamental grass. Poison ivy in several areas of the streetside end. Depressing any way you look at it. (In this bed, yellow ribbon meant “keep” and everything else to be ripped out. It was easier that way…)

After the great rip-out. A new addition is a mountain laurel that was languishing along the front walkway. This particular bed has accidentally pointed itself toward eventually being populated heavily by red flowers – probably the only area of the garden that will have any. An existing crape myrtle is red-flowered, and this spring I moved a red camellia from the front porch area to the backyard where it hated being in full sun all day so back to a southeastern exposure it went. The mountain laurel has red buds opening to banded red/white flowers. (The forsythia is yellow but we’ll forgive that.) So I’ll have some thinking to do in the future about reds and jewel tones in general. No orange though. I have seen enough orange daylilies and tiger lilies on this property to last me twenty lifetimes!!



The final two shots are of the area that once was covered by the wood porch. Since the exterior renovation it has a new brick entry (what in this part of the country would be termed an “oversized stoop” since it’s 8’x8’) and still has its 8-foot-deep roof overhang, now supported by columns instead. The masonry work already messed up this area and it will be messed up yet again by Phase Two. However, in the meantime I could do this:

I’m a big fan of keeping at least three feet of ground around any house foundation clear of plants and as dry as possible. This is especially important here where basements are naturally damp. I also wanted a dry surface path to all four of the hose bibs. And then of course there’s the gutter runoff to consider. All solved nicely by a layer of Timberlite mulch corralled by heavyweight aluminum edging. This is the north end of what I now call the “portico”, with a bit of poetic license.

This is the south end. Yes I really did have all the oak trees on my property cut down a year ago. Everything you see is from my neighbor’s blankety-blank trees….
Those rocks will eventually be gone, but no sense addressing them before the ripout/rebuild of the adjacent walkway.

I really do hope that the Home Improvement Gods smile upon me enough to allow Eddie to do the masonry work (foundation repair, front walkway, side patio, and partial rear strip) later this month. If so, there will be some even more dramatic before/after photos in the next TGGR progress report. Fingers crossed!