Windhorse Way

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Starting a Garden

It’s officially spring (although it does not quite feel like it yet) and I’m obsessing over garden design. Our house is on a half-acre plot, which I think is the perfect size. It’s large enough to have several different ‘zones’ but it’s small enough that it’s not too much to maintain.

Here’s my plan-in-progress. At the moment all we have are three very large trees in front, the world’s biggest forsythia hedge to the left, and a row of four pine trees in the back. There’s one small bush to the right of the driveway and a bunch of patchy grass. We want to fence in the yard for our dog, so that’s the first real project we’re going to tackle. My goal is to have 1/3 grass and 2/3 plants and hardscape. We’d like to cut down on mowing as much as possible so I’ve been reading lots of books on no-lawn yards.

Our house is a Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouse, built around 1850 or so, with a 1940’s addition in the back. The two front doors are a unique design to Pennsylvania Dutch farmhouses in and around Lancaster, Chester, and Bucks counties. The house has always been a single-family home, and the reason for the two front doors is apparently to maintain the symmetry of the architecture. I’ve been trying to keep the style of our house in mind when designing the garden, and am pretty excited that I get to start with an almost-blank slate here. At the moment, the house looks like it’s just plopped in the middle of a yard, and it’s quite exposed to the road. Our street isn’t too busy, but we do get a lot of farm trucks going by, and a lot of bikers going for springtime rides (our street is nice and curvy). I’d love to develop the garden so that our house looks like it’s part of the grounds instead of sticking out.

Here’s our barn. I love that we have a barn! We also have this weird gravel driveway that has a handy turnaround spot but sticks out like crazy. You can also see our neighbor’s poor dog in the back behind the barn. He lurks out there on a chain all day and night and not only makes me sad but also sets off our own dog. We’re going to put a fence back behind the barn and the pine trees and then around the other side of the barn, around the driveway, and meeting up with the patio you see at the bottom of the photo. It will then meet up with the side of the house, so the driveway isn’t fenced over, but the whole back yard is.

Jeff loves brewing beer, and wants to have his brewing gear in the barn. I had the idea of decorating the area right in front of the barn like a German beer garden, with picnic benches, strings of cafe lights, and umbrellas. To the left of the barn we might put an small garden shed or a chicken coop.

Here’s the side yard. It will be fenced off from the far side of the house across to the back of the forsythia. This is the southern side of the house, so it gets the best light. Unfortunately it’s also where we keep our trash cans so it will always be a bit of a utility porch. I’ll probably put a small raised bed by the house, and a path from the side porch across to the front yard, for bringing the trash cans out to be picked up.

Here’s a pretty good view of the whole yard, from the top of the barn steps. The muddy patch in the middle of the yard is our septic field that got dug up and repaired before we moved in. I’d love to build a pergola or porch roof for the back porch. There used to be something like that but the previous owners tore it down because it was really rickety. The back of the house looks so strange with no windows and no porch though! The house paint color and the door are also a total eyesore, and I’ve been thinking of other colors to paint the doors. As much as I love barn red, it does not work with this yellow-green at all!

And here’s the other side porch, where visitors come in. This is the north side of the house, so it doesn’t get the best sun, but I’m planning on planting a nice shade garden here.

And finally, the fence of doom. Our neighbor put up a super high fence and has it facing in towards his house. As you can see, the grass isn’t even doing so well here, so I’m not sure what I can plant. Maybe some hydrangeas? I hear they do well in partial shade, and they certainly can grow high enough to disguise the fence. Also they remind me of my grandmother’s house in North Carolina, so I’m very fond of them.

I’ll leave you with some inspiration photos from my cottage garden pinterest page. Almost all these photos are of gardens smaller than ours, but all the amazing plants make them look so much larger. Maybe in a few years my garden will look like these beauties!