Images and text by Gabrielle (some of the photos were by Ben Blair too!). This project is brought to you by Lowe’s. Find everything you need to bring sunshine to your Mother’s Day in the Lowe’s garden department. #springiscalling
I prefer a really low-key Mother’s Day, with my big request being that I get to sleep in. : ) But this year, I thought it would be fun to use Mother’s Day as an excuse to get a project done in the yard. I know I’ve been sharing lots of photos of the interior of our house over the last few weeks. But wrapping up the living room details marked a break in the interior work for awhile. Spring is here, and we’ve turned out attention to the yard. And the yard definitely needs attention!
It is a wild, wild place. Last summer, just days after we moved in, we had a consultation from a tree expert and his landscaping crew. He told us that based on the layer of accumulation on the ground, he thought the yard hadn’t been touched for 20 years! I can totally understand that. The previous owners were in their 90’s, and it’s overwhelming to take care of. Plus, the wildness has its own beauty, and it can be appreciated simply by sitting on the decks that surround the house and taking in the view.
I confess, I am very intimidated by our yard. Tackling the interior is doable for me, but making a master plan for the yard requires a skill set I don’t have. So we intend to contact a landscape architect who will help us draw up a garden design — some thing that incorporates our ideas, plus the realities of the landscape and climate. We’d like the design to be something we can implement over a few years so we can budget accordingly.
But in the meantime, we don’t want to ignore the yard, so we’ve been slowly, but surely cleaning up the thick layer of sticks and leaves and nature, and adding it to the community compost. And as we clean up, we get to know the property a little better, and get ideas of how we can make the most of it.
Off to one corner is a little shady grove that we thought had potential as a sort of hideaway — a place that’s off the main paths of the yard, where we could go to get a break from the sometimes-chaos that is life with a big family.
So we started clearing it out. The whole family helped. We dragged fallen branches and lopped off dead ones. We raked and shoveled leaves. We climbed into the trees to shake down the fallen Eucalyptus bark that was caught in the branches overhead. The castoff pile grew and grew until it was about 6 feet high and 8 feet long and five feet wide. It was an impressive pile! And proof of the work we’d done. We we’re proud of it! But only for a couple of days — and then we hired a team to come clear that pile out. It was a bigger job than we could do ourselves.
Once it was cleared out, the little grove was really shaping up! With the old growth gone, the sunlight could filter through the leaves, and there were now pathways to access the clearing.
Now it was time to make it pretty.
We started by hanging a hammock — a big one with room for more than one person.
We hung handsome lanterns overhead.
We added pots and flowers — I kept everything in a certain palette — coral and yellow and peach and green.
Next to the hammock, we put a little table. It’s actually a plant stand, but I think it’s just the right size for a glass of lemonade and a book.
We gathered unused stones from other parts of the yard to make a little footpath. And we added moss. As you can see, the moss came in little roundish clumps. I hope it thrives and spreads and fills in the spaces!
We grabbed a blanket from the house and added a pretty outdoor pillow.
For the finale, we hung a curtain of ribbon in the same palette as the flowers.
Back in New York, we used to take the kids to the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx quite often. We had easy access from our house and we all loved it there. The entrance to the children’s garden was book-ended by ribbon walls — simple grosgrain ribbon in bright colors, hanging all the way to the ground. I loved those cheery ribbon walls! And I’ve wanted to copy them ever since. This seemed like the perfect excuse.
The ribbons at the Botanical Gardens lived outdoors permanently and didn’t seem to sustain much damage. I’m hoping the same is true of ours! But if not, and we have to take them down in a few weeks or months, that’s okay.
The ribbons were easy to install — all we needed was a step stool and some scissors — and they make the whole thing feel magical. When June saw the little hideaway, her eyes lit up like she’d just discovered a new world.
In fact, with two of us working, the whole hideaway was installed in just a few hours. A day of clearing out with the whole family, then a few hours on another day to pot flowers, hang ribbons and a hammock. We took a completely unused space and made it the happiest spot in the yard. Not a bad payoff!
This is the view looking up, while laying in the hammock. Just looking at the photo makes me relax. : )
Yes, I worked on it too, but I consider this little hideaway my Mother’s Day gift this year. And I think it’s a great one. We love the space!
What about you? Are you thinking about any projects for your yard these days? Or if you don’t have a yard, maybe a little something on your patio, porch or balcony? I get really excited about yard projects! I’d love to hear what you’re working on.
P.S. — This is what it looked like when before we cleared it out: