Landscape Plans

Our jungle/backyard. It looks tame in this picture, since we ripped all the morning glories off the fence.

Our backyard is a jungle, with the most pervasive weeds imaginable and little to speak of other than our neglected vegetable patch and our highly chlorotic oak tree. We do have some prolific basil plants (basil must thrive on neglect), and two hardy ice plants from our wedding centerpieces, a rosemary, and a geranium are doing well. But everything else is weedy. The morning glories, which we thought were cute when we first moved in, have crept into the lawn weeds, the garden, all over the fence. When you pull one out of the ground, two sprout back in its place. And our chain link fence, ugly in its own right, goes the extra step toward ghetto by having the tops of the wires pointed up, barbed-wire style. You can imagine my embarrassment when telling someone I have a degree in horticulture.

Our ghetto fence, with sharp things on top!

Yes, our backyard is a jungle, point established. For the last three years I’ve been dying to remedy this, and the day has finally arrived! Our original plan called for replacing our ghetto fence with a retaining wall and wooden fence above it. The retaining wall is necessary to level up the backyard (it currently slopes 18 inches over three feet just before the chain-link fence and washes soil and debris out onto the sidewalk). We also originally planned for a sunken parking space at sidewalk level which would serve as patio space most of the time, and as a parking space only when street parking is unavailable. I was really going for the level change to make the backyard space feel larger and to make the car less visible when it’s parked there. The idea was that the retaining wall around the parking space would serve as a seat-wall, and we could have a fire pit down there and have a nice little space.

We have to conform to a rigorous set of design guidelines due to our historic home and its location. Since we’re trying to add a feature that currently does not exist (the retaining wall), we’ll have to go before our city’s board of historic preservation in a town-hall style meeting to get approval. We submitted our plan and met with a helpful member of the historic preservation committee, then tweaked our design a little bit.

After our design seemed acceptable in terms of historic preservation, we met with a traffic engineer (also from the city) to make sure our sight triangles were clear and our curb cut wouldn’t impede traffic flow or safety (safety is so BORING!). The traffic engineer was concerned about our gate blocking the sidewalk, which I thought was ludicrous because people park on our sidewalk whenever there is an event downtown and they never get parking tickets. But I held my tongue. I sound ungrateful, so I must point out that this person was also very helpful and gave us some good advice.

So after the safety meeting, we had to move our gate and fence back to accommodate the sight triangles, which meant changing the design yet again and resubmitting it to the historic preservation committee. Since we are giving up four more feet of lawn space (our yard is only 30 feet wide), the sunken driveway was out. We could have kept it, but I didn’t like how far it jutted into the yard at this point. The proportion was all wrong. On the plus side, the non-sunken parking space is more affordable, as less excavation is needed.

This entire process has taken about two months, and we’re still not finished. We have been given a meeting date of September 8th, which means that one week from today we will be standing before the board of historic preservation. This panel of architects and historic preservation experts will decide if our design is complimentary to the surrounding neighborhood, and will ultimately decide the fate of our backyard. Fingers crossed!

The plan for our backyard, created in Google SketchUp

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