amis au fil des ans

just a few good friends, sharing adventures in family, arts, and sometimes heavy machinery

Archive for the category “landscape”

searching for shade

ok, so everyone is off growing babies and i’m left to the blogging…whoops, that was a bad plan!

i did take a few photos of one of this weekend’s projects – magnolias.  after paying someone with heavy machinery to take down our 50+ year old oak tree and a random olive tree in the middle of summer, hubs and i immediately went through tree remorse.  not one to wait around, we ran out and bought two 12′ tall magnolia trees to start the process of replacing what we’ve taken away.  it’s no comparison to the tree that spread like an umbrella over our entire house, backyard and garage, but…it’s helping a little!

here you can see the olive tree on the side of our house.  it was super ugly and the branches kept dying.  birds would sit on the branches and chuck little berries (olives?) at you like bb’s out of a pellet gun.  it had no redeeming qualities.

the olive tree enjoys its final evening

After removing an olive tree

two new magnolias, ready for growth spurt

so you may be asking yourself – what’s up with the stump?  were you too cheap to pay the guys to grind it out?  in what appears to be a mis-communication, we remain owners of this tree stump.  not one to get bent out of shape over little things, i’ve tasked hubby with creating something like this:

courtesy of this old house


weed wacker

you may have heard the term florida jungle before.  it’s a bit of a metaphor – no, there really isn’t a jungle in florida, however with our tropical climate and nearly year-round growing season, it is definitely a good place for an active gardener.  that said, i am now truly a believer in the phrase florida jungle, because i have officially experienced one first-hand.  for blog purposes, let’s call it: our newest rental home.  🙂

it all started back in march, when our realtor took us to a property that he felt was a “great deal”.  of course, in this housing market it seems that really anything is a great deal from a buyers perspective, but this one came with a disclaimer – keep an open mind, and look beyond what your eyes first see.  awesome, can’t wait.

i looked up the home online to get an idea of where we were going.  there was only one pictures on the mls listing.

ok, right off the bat, let’s just call it what it’s not; it’s definitely not an executive studio apartment, and it’s not going to have granite counter tops and new appliances, but whatever, i’m an adventurous girl and i like to explore old homes (it was built in the 1930’s).  besides, we were looking for a bit of a project, something to really challenge our creativity (and frankly, we wanted something cheap).

here are the details:

multi-family duplex, each apartment has approx. 1,200 square feet – 2 bedrooms, 1 bath.

brick exterior with some wood siding

only appliances are a fridge, stove, and window heating/cooling units

we start with the upstairs, which is currently home to a woman and her adult son, who have somehow managed to cram about 4,000 square feet of stuff into a 1,200 square foot apartment.  we had to walk in a single-file line through the place, trying to determine how big the rooms really were since it wasn’t immediately clear how far back the walls went.  no, i am not exaggerating.  this was unfortunately before i bought my wide angle lens, so the pictures don’t really do it justice, but here is a taste:

dining room looking into kitchen

dining room

we leave the upstairs apartment, and i’m not sure what i’m thinking.  while they did have a lot of stuff, overall the apartment was pretty clean and didn’t seem to have many issues.  there were however random thoughts of calling one of those tv shows that help organize people’s homes for them…

then we head downstairs.  same floorplan, same amount of space.  i’m expecting a similar experience.  this apartment however was much dirtier; definitely in need of some serious disinfecting and cleaning.  oh, and the tenant informed us that he’s pretty sure the house has termites.  terrific.  here are a few pictures:

wow.  yup, that was definitely a pile of dead leaves on top of the water heater, which is in the kitchen.
we head outside, and i’m feeling like i definitely deserve some fresh air.  ok, i’m adventurous, but that was a little rough.  we get into the front yard and i turn to my husband and realtor who practically in unison begin with their high-energy comments “wow, what a fantastic house!”  “did you see those floors…gorgeous!?!”  “such a diamond in the rough!!”  i’m looking at their faces, waiting for an hysterical laughter follow up, but after a few seconds of silence i realize the truth: they are dead serious.  i can already see how this story is going to end.


we take a quick spin around the exterior to check it out, and this is when i first came into contact with it: the florida jungle.  from my estimation, the lot is about 200 feet deep.  that’s a lot of land in the urban core.  it’s also a lot of land to leave neglected for years.  what in the heck are we going to do with that??

...and way more growth

i’ll save the details of the following months for our next stop at the local pub.  you probably already guessed that we bought the house.  we immediately embarked on operation facelift, and let’s just say it involved lots of sweat, scrapes, bruises and cursing.  however, with our trusty team in tow, we deployed frank johnson and his home improvement team, along with doug floyd and his fearless landscapers to help us turn this place around.  we finally managed to get everything done including a full tent fumigation to kill the many species of insects that were actively chewing on the home.

here are some of the updated pics (click to enlarge):

family room




so it’s been about 9 months that we’ve been waiting for the right tenant to come along, and finally today they are moving in.   i’m quite unsure how i will spend all of my free time.

oh, wait, whatever happened with the jungle??  well, it took a few weeks with a team of professionals, but it is now a clear lot, full of all kinds of hidden treasures – a parking block, an old clothesline tree…you know, treasures.

in summary, we completed the following:

– backyard – removed all plants and weeds, kept most trees.  trimmed trees that we over the house or growing into the house

– frontyard – added grasses, azaleas, palms, laid mulch on whole yard

– inside – renovated upstairs unit including new shower/tub surround, cleaned up/ repaired sink & toilet, repaired many wall issues, installed new fixtures, added washer/dryer hookups, built hot water heater cover, repaired roof, and most importantly, CLEANED

– bugs – full tent fumigation



return to creativity


hello again!  betcha thought i’d never return, huh?  so as you know, i’ve been a little preoccupied for about the past month, but i think we’ve gotten things stabilized again and i’m finding some time for fun stuff.  today was a fantastic day, because i was able to tackle a home project that has been weighing on my mind for OVER A YEAR.  why has it been on the to do list for so long??  two reasons: time, and weather.  the time excuse is obvious, but seriously the weather has been miserable for so long…hot, hot, hot, dry and hot.  not exactly a good time to plant a bunch of new things.  this week mother nature delivered a true gift – 60 degree weather!!  i honestly can’t tell you the last time that i worked in the yard with a sweatshirt on.  wowsers!  so the story goes like this – this little nook in our yard used to have a few azaleas when we first moved in, which ended up dying.  i added the brick border using left over patio stones from our patio project, and i kind of like that they’ve moved around and aren’t exactly even anymore.  i have added a few annuals to this spot to just kind of keep it pleasant looking, but once they died…well it was pretty gross.  so i ripped nearly everything out (the tea olive tree was a wedding gift, so it’s relatively new), and the rest got a facelift.  i used the same process and ideas as the rest of the back yard – multiple textures, heights, and a combination of bushes, flowering trees, perennials and grasses.  i’m sure it’s not a style that would be popular for everyone, but in our eclectic neighborhood it fits right in.  the reason why i picked this style is because it attracts butterflies and birds, and is also tolerant of the little paws that love to pounce on plants as they chase lizards.  i finished it off with cypress mulch, which smells soooooo good!!  what do you think?


you may be asking what are all those plants anyway, so here you go:

(1) tea olive tree (VERY fragrant, truly awesome)

(1) pink lady camellia tree

(3) ligustrum bushes

(2) japanese ewe bushes

(4) mexican heather perennials

(2) loropetalum bushes (purple leaves with pink flowers)

(2) green grasses

(3) white grasses

(2) chrysanthemum perennials

(1) persian shield perennial

just take it one day at a time…

as i threw up my arms in defeat 2 days ago my wise 3 year old reminded me to just take it one day at a time.  honest.

me:  we need to hire someone to do all this yard work.  it is too much for mommy and daddy to do.

e:  why?

me:  because mommy and daddy are sore and tired and there is still so much to do!

e:  that’s ok.  just take it one day at a time, mommy.

how right she is!  i have this issue of needed immediate gratification and wanting things done yesterday.  so with those wise words in the background b and i are taking it one day, one wheelbarrow, at a time.

over the past few days we have done a lot.

added gutters to the first story on the front of the house.  (big issue with all the rain water from the second story landing right in front of the living room and going into the basement.)

set up our new rain barrel to collect rainwater from one of the new downspouts.

rearranged some of the plants on the hill and added a few more grasses and junipers.  and a butterfly bush for the girls.

cleared out the vines and stumps in front of the house, to the right of the house, and this horrible awful section in the front right yard.

moved 800 lbs of boulders that we discovered when we cleared out the vines and stumps.

laid a small patio off of the family room door and setup a couple chairs and cocktail table.

spread lots and lots and lots and lots of tree chips.

next to come is the play structure!

remember…here is the before:


here are some during:


and finally…some after:




before and after…

and i know it isn’t much.  but it was.  we dug away and moved so much earth from along the wall to to steps.  so much dirt.  oy.  seriously.  i need compliments on this.  can you see the 18″ wall in the first picture?  NO!  can you in the second?  YES!  we are getting mulch delivered next week and i think i will put in a few more junipers and maybe even a huneysuckle ground cover.  just worried it will overtake our yard.  we also need to grow more grass on the top of the slope and define the grass line some.  maybe add in a landscape border?  that could keep the honeysuckle at bay…

anyway…forward (???) progress is being made!



ever bite off more than you could chew?

b and i are very good at that.  we have a hate-hate relationship with our yard.  so last week we had a company come and tear out everything in the front yard and take down 4 trees and now we have to do something with it.  but it needs so much work that it sends me into a mild panic attack just thinking about it.  but we have to do something.  we just need the something to be in the low low low low low financial requirement category and the something has to be in line with our master plan.  some pictures to give you a framework:

front before and after:


right side before and after:


back before and after:


master plan includes a new front entrance-way, pergola, play structure, garden, flagstone patio around the house and off of the sunroom, and a fence.

i think the steps for this year will be as follows…

1.   excavate more of the land in the back right of the house to expose more ledge (rock).  both for 2 reasons.  1:  we like it.  2:  it will act as a natural retaining wall and can (hopefully) save money by using what is natural versus creating something man-made.  we also need to address some drainage issues since during the rainstorm yesterday it was discovered that we have a waterfall coming through our basement window.  sigh.

2.  level the front, right, and back yards.  the front yard will remain on a hill but we need to level the top part so we can put a fence at the top of the hill and do a low maintenance mulch garden down the slope.  b wants to rework the steps and path to come up by the driveway as opposed to the sidewalk.  we also want to level the area to the right so we can put a play structure for the girls.  the back left we also want to level so we can put up a pergola for an outdoor sitting area.  did i mention we also want to remove all the vines and ivy on the ledge?

3.  update the sprinkler system.

4.  lay sod and spread mulch.

5.  install a fence.  (note:  this is a pipe dream as my budget is $0 and clearly the above items will not be free.  but…a girl can dream.)

next year we will get the play structure for the kids, do some plantings, build window boxes, and hopefully get a couple raised garden beds.  main concern with the garden is that it will have to go in the front yard as that is where the sun hits.  i think as long as we have a good fence that should be fine….?

the following year we will tackle the new front entrance-way, pergola, and patios.

totally doable…right?

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