This lovely home in a local neighborhood was in sore need of updating, and needed additional space to house a young family with children. The addition was in progress the first time I saw the house. On this miserably wet and cold March day, the prospects for the outdoors did not look promising. Contractors had driven machines over every inch of land they owned. Water was sitting on the surface of the soil everywhere. It seemed like every move my clients made uncovered a new problem requiring attention. When a house is under major renovation, the landscape is last in line-as it needs to be.
It wouldn’t be possible to install a landscape at this point. Some years ago the New York Times ran a feature about landscape costs-the thrust of which was that it can, and frequently does take as much money to build and furnish a landscape as a house. I don’t know that I would go that far, but a landscape is a considerable investment. Though property values have been under siege in our area of late, it is still true that for most people, their home will be the biggest investment they ever make-for better, or for worse. Thus I have no problem recommending to a young family that they invest such that fifteen years later, should they decide to move, a landscape that is in place will make that home they want to sell look settled, finished- irresistible.
Some very important investments in a landscape are not fun. This property was the lowest property in the neighborhood, and water would stand and not drain for weeks after a heavy rain. The regrading and drainage work necessary to correct this problem was very expensive, and not so satisfying. It was about as much fun as buying a new hot water heater. I have seen many landscapes, installed both by home owners, and professional landscape contractors, where drainage issues were not addressed. The plant material is struggling, dying or dead from the lack of an investment in the drainage. For the sake of the future, some things cannot be skipped over.
These clients knew they wanted stone for their terrace and walkways. Bluestone is a gorgeous natural stone that gives a space a solid and serious look. They also wanted their stone wet set in mortar. Mortaring stone to a concrete substrate insures a level surface that presumably does not move, or require maintenance. I say this with one caveat; the winters in Michigan will heave up just about anything. I made sure the installation was expert.
Their decision was to stage the installation of the landscape such that they could have their mortared stone. The first year, their yard consisted of stone, and lawn. Year two saw the boxwood installed in the rear, and the yews in the front. This year, some of the garden. Next year, the yews designed to back up the boxwood here, and maybe an arbor. I do admire their willingness to wait, in order to have the landscape they wanted. Get a plan, pick a part to install you can handle, do it, and proceed again when time and money permits. This seems like such a logical and good way to proceed.
The front porch, originally only inches wider than the front door, was redone. The new porch absorbed an awkward space between the original stoop, and the adjacent bay window. Four years later, with the exception of one stone that is shaling probably from salt damage, the stonework is beautifully intact.
The front walkways from the drive and streetside meet in a circular stone landing midway to the door. Perhaps there will be a sundial someday, or a sculpture, or a high school graduation picture being taken.
The landscape in front does indeed have a spare look, but it is a very elegant look. They are taking their time. When they are ready for the next step, perhaps a new, and better idea will surface. Everything about this project is forward thinking.