garden makeover

You asked for it.

garden makeover

When I blogged about not having anything to blog about earlier this week, some of you were kind enough to say that you’re willing to tolerate posts about the Less Than Interesting stuff which is basically all that ever happens around here at the moment.

This post is your fault.

Nah, I’m just joking. See, the thing is, I’ve always kept journals. I got my first diary when I was ten, and each new year after that was marked by the opening of a brand new journal, in which I would meticulously document every tedious detail of my life, just in case I became famous one day and my biographers needed some info on what I had for lunch on the 16th of January, 1994, or something equally important. When I started this blog, I stopped keeping journals. There just didn’t seem to be much point, when the blog was there to serve as the record of my life instead. But then, as I mentioned in my previous post, somewhere along the line the blog stopped being about my life, and so all of those little details were lost to the mists of time. What will my biographers do NOW, I wonder?

Well, today I’m here to help them along, because in an bid to re-introduce some of the more personal/boring stuff to this blog, here is a novel-length post about my garden. You’re welcome.

When we moved into our first house, I somehow neglected to take any photos of it. Oh, I took hundreds before we left, obviously, and I also remembered to take some before and after shots of a couple of the bigger projects we did, before getting bored and giving up on it. Because who wants to look at photos of house renovations, seriously? Oh no, wait: that’s kind of what THIS post is about, actually. Uh-oh.

I do have SOME photos  of the house through the ages, is what I’m saying. But when we moved in, and the entire place was bright blue, from ceiling to floor, and I’m seriously not joking about that?  (I’m also not OVER it, apparently. I mean, who puts blue gloss paint on the ceiling? WHO?) Nah, I didn’t bother to take any photos of that, which meant that once we’d replaced every single wall, ceiling and floor covering, and oh yeah, also the entire kitchen and bathroom, we had absolutely nothing to compare those “after” shots to, other than a few blurry photos of me peeling blue wallpaper off with my fingernails, and looking kind of dead behind the eyes. Anyway, I don’t want to make the same mistake with this house, which is why ever since we moved in, I’ve been busily snapping away, so that we will never forget that our garden once looked like this:


I call this photo “Still Life With Rotary Dryer”. I’m entering it into a photography competition next week. No, OK, you’re right: there’s really no way at all to make this photo seem interesting is there? Maybe madam would prefer this view?

there's a garden under there somewhere

No? Jeez, tough crowd.

So, as you can see, the garden is… a project. To put it mildly. It’s a project that might have put some people off, but luckily not us, because the thing is, and I may have mentioned this once or twice already, we absolutely HATE gardening. Detest it. I know lots of you love it, and hey, good for you, but, you know, the weather here sucks most of the time. I spend all week waiting for just ONE sunny day, and when that sunny day finally arrives, I want to be able to enjoy it. The very LAST thing I want to do is to spend that prechus day out digging and weeding and mowing, only for it to start raining again the second I’m done, so I don’t even get to enjoy the fruits of my labours. Not my idea of fun. When we started looking at houses, then, one thing we agreed on was that our future home would have a garden which was as low-maintenance as possible. No lawn to mow. No flower beds to weed. Just something minimal and modern, and really, REALLY easy to maintain.

This garden… well, it was none of that, granted. And you’re probably wondering why on EARTH we bought a house with a garden that needs SO MUCH work when I’ve just told you how much we both hate gardening. It’s OK, I’m getting to that. You see, the thing is, this garden was (and still is!) a hot mess, but it was also something of a blank canvas when we first saw it (It was April, and none of those weeds had grown yet, so it was basically just a patch of bare earth. When we rolled up in August and saw how well the weeds had grown, we were less than thrilled.). This was good, because although we knew we’d have to do a LOT of work to get it how we wanted it, at least we wouldn’t have to destroy someone else’s hard work in the process. I mean, if the house had come with beautiful, mature gardens and perfectly manicured lawns, we wouldn’t have had the heart to destroy them, so we’d have ended up with a high-maintenance garden which would always look shabby because we just don’t have the time/inclination to spend all our free time maintaining it. That would’ve sucked. That’s not, of course, to say that the state of the garden when we moved in DIDN’T suck, because it totally did, and we knew we’d have to do something about it pretty quickly, if only to make sure it was safe for Rubin, and stop him escaping down the side of the house. This is the side of the house:


We built the makeshift barrier (Yes, we did it ourselves. What gave it away?) on day 1, just as a temporary measure to stop Rubin escaping. He’s a fairly intrepid explorer, though, and something like that would really be no obstacle to him at all if he put his mind to it, so on day 2 a gang of our friends turned up with a rotavator, some fence posts and a ton of sheer willpower, and while my parents and I were inside, stripping wallpaper and building furniture (Yeah, I mostly, er, “supervised” with that stuff. Well, SOMEONE has to, no?), they turned that scruffy patch of earth into this slightly LESS scruffy patch of earth:


Ta da! Look, there’s even a blue sky now, too! It’s like one of those “miracle weightloss” adverts, in which the woman in the “after” photo isn’t just slimmer: she’s also got a new haircut, designer clothes and a professional makeup job – amazing!

Some Things We Found Hidden in the Weeds:

* 2 vacuum cleaners (deceased)

* a small pile of cigarette butts, placed handily next to the patio window, so we could step right into them any time we left the house

* a cat’s bed

* a litter tray (the people who rented the house before we bought it weren’t allowed to keep pets, so we’ll just have to assume the cat stuff was for their own use)

* a plastic bucket containing at least 200 further cigarette butts, soaked in filthy rainwater. Rubin tried to eat these.

* a large bin, stuffed full of rotting food and other pieces of trash. Rubin tried to eat this too.

* a bendy roller. Just the one. (Rubin didn’t eat that, but he’d thrown up at least twice by then, so I guess he was full.)

Anyway, with the weeds removed and the earth tilled, the guys then built this fence:


And with the publication of this photo, I think I’ve finally hit the bottom of the blogging barrel. The only way is up, folks!

My dad, meanwhile, built two desks, two chairs and a bathroom cabinet, then he popped outside and quickly put this together:


It’s a storage box, for all of our garden tools and whatnot. Which we don’t actually have now, because there’s no lawn to mow, so we gave the lawnmower to my dad, who collects… everything. I have no idea what’s in that box now, to be honest. Maybe bodies? Anyway! Did I mention they did all of this in ONE DAY? And that while this particular transformation was going on, some of our other friends were busy out front, where they took up the very small amount of lawn that was there and replaced it with pebbles, and some shiny things. The front garden transformation is actually much more dramatic than the back, but there are no photos of it other than the one at the top of the page, because:

a) I don’t want to post photos that will really obviously identify where we live. That’s why that photo has been very obviously Photoshopped to remove identifying objects.


b) Yeah, I totally forgot to do the “before” shots. I hate myself sometimes, seriously

My main point, however, is this: we have the BEST friends. And family members. We really, really do. Those guys worked SO hard, and did such an amazing job. It would’ve taken us MONTHS to do it all by ourselves, and would’ve cost us a fortune to pay a professional, so we seriously owe them one. Maybe even MORE than one, actually. We still have a long, long way to go, obviously, but just in case you think Terry was resting on his laurels while all of this was going on, rest assured that not only was he part of the garden transformation team on Day 2, on Day 3 he went out and did this:

tenporary deck

This is a really temporary solution, as you can probably tell. We are going to be building a deck in this part of the garden, but it’ll be a while before we can get round to it, and in the meantime we wanted to basically clear an area that Rubin could safely wander around and, well, pee in, without getting covered in mud. The decking boards and patio slabs were left by the previous owner, who’d bought them, but never used them. They won’t be much use in the long term, because they haven’t exactly been looked after, but they at least give Rubin something to walk on for now. This arrangement has actually been changed and extended a bit since this photo was taken, because, yes, Rubin totally jumped over that barrier, got covered in mud, and then tracked it up all three flights of stairs inside the house. Did I mention we have really pale, almost white, carpet on the stairs? Why, yes we do! D’oh!

Anyway, having done all of this work in the first three days of living here, we probably won’t touch the garden again now until we decide to move. On the plus side, that means no more boring garden updates for you. On the minus side, however, well, did I mention we’re thinking of knocking down a wall in the kitchen?

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books by Amber Eve
  • You asked for it.

    October 4, 2013
  • Well, -I- was entertained. So that counts for something.

    Isn’t it just delightfully magical, the weird shit you find that previous people in your house left behind? We’ve found a child’s cartoon plastic ball under a tree (the previous woman who lived here was elderly, her children (that we bought the house from after she had died) were grown and had grown children of their own, ther ewere NO KIDS for at least seven years in that house), a stone angel about two feet high completely buried by the great Shrubs of Doom that all but gave me heart attack when I found it and thought I’d found a dead baby (it was lying on its side). There’s a shed out back that is the most rickety thing you’ve ever seen, little chew marks at about calf-height on all the deck-railings and walls inside the house from the elderly woman’s tiny dog.

    It’s like discovering a new country, only we have to knock it down or throw stuff out.

    I’d love to knock down a wall in my house, too. Unfortunately, with the way the house was built I would be concerned it would just fall in on me. But I can dream, right?

    I’m a new reader so I can’t speak for how your older-time readers feel, but I definitely enjoyed this! So take that to the bank for… no money at all.

    October 4, 2013
      • That is so weird, to find a picture of someone you know!

        Come to think of it, every house I’ve ever moved to has had SOME weird stuff left behind. The most disappointing was probably when I was about 8 and moved to a house with a trampoline left behind that had lost it’s bounce.

        October 4, 2013
      • I was a little bit pleased, once I stopped being creeped out, haha.

        When we were house-shopping, there was a house we looked at just like that; closets stuffed full of winter coats and hats and old shoes, boxes of photos and in one closet there was literally something like nine bowling balls. NINe. We asked our realtor about it and she said that’s usually a pretty good sign either that the mortgage of the previous owners was underwater and they had to leave FAST, or that someone had died and relatives that didn’t really care were selling the house. She said if personal photos are left, that usually suggests a death in the family.

        You get these weird personal touches, too; like our windows aren’t perfectly lined up with the screens because the elderly lady’s son-in-law put it in himself instead of hiring somebody, and the aforementioned chew marks, flowers that she had planted that come up every year even though we haven’t touched them in any way.

        Just… houses are weird, is what I’m sayin’ here.

        That is funny that you found a photo of someone you know! Funny AND creepy. Both at the same time. Did you tell them about it?

        October 4, 2013
  • Your friends are keepers for sure – I’ve found over the years that having a bunch of friends over to help paint your entire house or redo your entire garden can kind of be spun round into a party; do all this work for free and we’ll get the BBQ going and keep the cold beers flowing…. Seems to work!

    October 4, 2013
  • I was one that asked for it…and you delivered…in spades. Seriously, I enjoy your ramble Amber. When I moved into a home my husband owned and had shared with buddies, I kept finding beer bottle caps buried in the garden. Hubs explained that they were trying to grow their own beer trees. Sigh. And don’t get me started on what was in the basement.

    October 4, 2013
  • When I lived in the dry Southwest, there was this thing called xeriscaping. In an effort to conserve water, you get rid of green stuff and replace it with rocks. I thought it was awful! But now that I live where the weeds grow faster than anything, and mowing at least once a week is mandatory if you don’t want your dog lost when you let him outside, the whole xeriscape thing sounds pretty nice. And I have a new found love of pebbles in place of grass, it is just so clean looking. The yard with the least amount of maintenance is the best kind! You guys have done wonders already.

    October 4, 2013
  • Stacey


    I love renovation photos, so you can keep them coming! I repainted just one wall in my house – to make an accent wall – and probably took 20 photos of that one wall from every conceivable angle, before and after. I like flipping back and forth through them, going “yeah, I did that and it looks *better*.”

    I don’t do yards. I am extremely allergic to all forms of grass – any bare skin touches a blade of grass and I break out in a freaky itchy rash. I would be perfectly happy in a condo with just a few pots of flowers on a balcony. BUT, I have very spoiled dogs that demand fluffy grass to do their business in and they like their privacy. So I got the smallest yard that they could be comfortable in where I don’t have to do much maintenance.

    October 4, 2013
  • Denise


    I love the list! Well done you and your friends and family – Rubin was obviously very helpful!

    October 4, 2013
  • Our Landlord takes care of our Lawn and things now, and I have to admit it’s probably why we’re still renting. And once we buy we’ll probably be the people with the absolute simplest lawn on in the area. And if we can concrete over it we probably will. I don’t actually like to leave my house, so I fully agree that a proper garden is a waste of time. Unless you can pay someone else to do it.

    Fashion and Happy Things

    October 4, 2013
  • Leslie



    October 4, 2013
  • xony


    Boy do I love house renovations! My homestyle pinterest board can attest to that lol. I think your little garden has good potential to be like a low manteinance lounging place, with the proper dock and plebbles and ooog some pretty garden torches! Now let’s hear about that kitchen wall…

    October 4, 2013
  • Mandy


    Having moved house 8 times (admittedly the last was now 15 yrs ago), we’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum from navy gloss painted ceilings and rotted kitchen floor joists and all the plug sockets filled with melted wax to the kindness of a vase of fresh flowers, tin of biscuits and a “welcome to your new home” card. Sadly the latter was a one off, but is something I adopted going forward.

    And like you, we have been incredibly fortunate to have friends and family “enjoy” the challenges with us…

    Now we return the favour as our kids have moved in and out of rented flats and into their first bought homes, and as I am sure your folks do Amber, get a kick out of seeing them progress ! X

    October 5, 2013
  • Leslie


    Our house was new when we moved in, so nothing interesting to report on leftover stuff. But we did find a half a roll of toilet paper in one bathroom so we know the construction guys used our facilities. Yes, it was he FIRST thing we cleaned!

    October 6, 2013
  • Cliona


    If you’re stuck for something to write, I’d really love to hear your tips on buying a petticoat!

    October 13, 2013
  • Well done on the sorting out of the exteriors. We are about to buy our first UK house and I am doing lots of planning in my head (but, like you, it won’t all happen straight away). I found this cool american site that is giving me lots of ideas though and thought you might like it too:
    You can search by style and there are 1000’s of pics, which you can collate in a idea book. They have outdoor/landscaping ideas too. I’ve wasted HOURS on it

    October 28, 2013