My big reduce lawn renovation: before and after!

March 29th, 2012 Posted in Late spring flowers, garden design, garden projects, lawn replace, lawns, mulch, poppies, wildflowers

For years, we’ve planned to install large stone paths where our feet pound the soil every day. Intent turns into action when grass-killing drought prods inertia. Although I’ve hauled a ton of stones in my car, this time I turned to designer Mark Biechler and his team from Pearson Landscape Design to take stone work to a level beyond my expertise, my car, and my back!

digging out grass with Pearson Landscape Design

In January, here’s the spot that bugged us every time we headed to the driveway. Really bugged us when the grass was dead.


What a transformation! The established plants transformed themselves from project day Feb. 12 to a few weeks later.


From the other side:

On the next free weekend, I’ll dig up more weeds around the tree and simply mulch it. Eventually, I’ll divide plants from the bed to unify the path. Oh: the blank spot in the left bed has a healthy stand of asters coming back from their pruning when I took this picture.

Moving around back, here’s another well-traveled path (rowcover at half-mast at that time to protect cilantro in case of crazy freeze).

lawn replace

Here’s the view from the garden side.

stone path (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

So, okay, I did pick up a few billbergias from Tillery Street Plant Company to try them out. For now, I’ve mainly pulled out the rock edging and either dug weeds or covered them with newspaper and mulch until I divide plants or add new ones. The resident winecups will cover a lot of ground pretty fast.

Rounding the corner, I quickly divided some of the no-mow monkey grass that thrives next to the garbage cans, and pulled some Bouncing Bets (Saponaira officinalis) from the crape bed. I dug into the newspaper weed barrier, and set them in. In one week, the Bets were bouncing!

garden renovation with divided plants (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Really, it all didn’t look so awful before. And the stretch alongside the den window wasn’t always so miserable. But drought, ball throw with dog, and our feet took their toll.

lawn replace (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

For two years, we’ve talked about what we’d do. Mark helped us decide!

lawn replace with stone pathway (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Once the stones were in, I widened the beds and did the newspaper/mulch routine. When I pulled out the edging stones, I put a layer of decomposed granite underneath so maybe they won’t sink so much. I’ll be dividing crowded plants to fill in the new spaces, though I think some (like the lamb’s ears and skullcaps) will take care of it themselves. Obviously, a lot of plants are out of control, but I’ve been dealing with that!

den path after stonework (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

About the dead grass strip: we’re exploring options. For me, it’s easier to visualize once I’ve cleared the space.


The view from the other side shows off Greg’s oyster shell sculpture, moved out from its former residence closer in. Greg gave it a new look with a “river” of Mexican black river rocks.  They’re a luxury, but his idea was priceless.

stone path with oyster shell sculpture (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
So, then, I suggested we continue the “river” theme on the other side. For this, he scavenged some of my holey rocks that were hidden in the garden. We really did this for the cats, don’t you know. Oops, our newspaper is showing!

Sam on holey rock sculpture (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Mark’s stones really make the central bed stand out. At their edges, I dug out weeds and spread more decomposed granite.  In the front, I planted native frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) to soften the stones and attract butterflies and bees with its eventual flowers.

stone path with crape and mountain laurel bed (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Since this picture, I dug out that weedy patch on the right and went shopping again in my garden. I took cuttings of Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ and stuck them in. I figure that silver will show up at night from every path.

Here’s the strip to the back, always an awkward place to mow and trim since the summer kiddie pool lives within the rock border on the right.

path to patio before (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

new stone path to patio (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

At the back, for years I’ve wanted to do a patio (or something) for the grass that gave up in the shade.

lawn replace (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

Mark came up with the “something.”

new back patio (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

On the left, I’ve planned (for years) raised vegetable beds. That’s the next project.

At the back corner that overlooks the creek, I’d let primrose jasmine take over. In an energetic fit the day after Christmas, I cleared as much as I could.

clearing primrose jasmine for new patio (c) Linda Lehmusvirta
Mark’s team cleared the rest and fulfilled a long-term dream.

New back patio over creek (c) Linda Lehmusvirta

What’s totally amazing is that the white Lady Banks rose I’d planted years ago was still alive. No water from me, no fertilizer, shaded. It’s rebounding so fast from my renovation that in one year (and possibly sooner) it will hide the chain link fence and return our privacy. More about this fragrant champ later.

No question, there’s lots more to do, one Sunday at a time!  That’s the value of a garden: it’s an endless open door to dreams and imagination. And yes, back-breaking work.  The aches heal quickly.  The rewards last forever. Until you change them!

Next week, CTG is back in high definition (so cool!) with a fabulous lineup to fuel your dreams, too!

See you then, Linda

  1. 60 Responses to “My big reduce lawn renovation: before and after!”

  2. By Hella on Mar 29, 2012

    Linda,
    What an awesome job! It looks just wonderful and I bet it feels great to have less lawn to deal with – will get even better when summer comes.
    When I bought my house in 2001, that was the first thing I did: Rip out all the so-called lawn and replace with Texas natives and adapteds. It really paid off last summer! My garden was looking good in the fall and it is looking great now.
    Congratulations!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 2:27 pm:

    Thanks Hella! I’ve been replacing lawn for years, but now I’m going for it big time. You are right: drought tough plants are the way to go. Hmm, reminds me we need to tape your garden!

    Reply

    Hella reply on March 29th, 2012 3:18 pm:

    Linda,
    what do you mean by that “taping your garden?”
    Hella

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 3:36 pm:

    Tape it for CTG of course!

  3. By Jay on Mar 29, 2012

    WOW! That looks great! Did you install the large pieces of flagstone? If so, I need some tips! It really looks awesome

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 2:26 pm:

    Hi, Jay: here’s my secret tip (only for you). Hire a professional. Wow, what a wonderful luxury! They knew exactly how to level and chip each stone. And didn’t even sweat. It would’ve taken me a week just to deal with one of those big stones!

    Reply

  4. By Shirley on Mar 29, 2012

    Very nice! Wow, the big reveal and it’s awesome.

    I love the look of those flagstone pathways with the stone block edge and nice personal touches with the rocks.

    Lots of good ideas here, thanks for sharing the process with us.

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 2:25 pm:

    Thanks, Shirley! Lots more to do, but isn’t that always the case?!

    Reply

  5. By Tess Peterson on Mar 29, 2012

    Amazing transformation Linda! Although Dick and I have always done our own garden projects we need to follow your lead and bring in help. Our backs, knees and other body parts no longer up to the heavy work plus there is a huge value in being done.

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 2:25 pm:

    Yes, Tess! We (I) have done most of the work over the years. But, wow, how fun to have professionals. Wish I could do it more often. We could never have done this!

    Reply

  6. By Tina on Mar 29, 2012

    The hard-scape work is so beautiful–and adds so much to your garden. I especially like the patio area(s) and the river with the Mexican black rock and attendant Kitty yard art. Nice work!!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 2:24 pm:

    Thanks, Tina! Greg gets credit for the Mexican rock idea!

    Reply

  7. By Desert Dweller / David C. on Mar 29, 2012

    That is some extensive work, with all that flagstone and edging. When my father was in the USAF, he alotted money for sidewalks only where the airmen walked and wore the grass down…your layout is a version of that, where the tree shade or roots outcompete with the lawn. Makes sense!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 2:23 pm:

    Thanks David! The way our grass looked, you would have thought a whole squadron had been here!

    Reply

  8. By renee on Mar 29, 2012

    Well done, Linda! Your garden is a showstopper! Love those huge flat stones — so nice for walking and wheelbarrowing. HGTV is going to be knocking on your door any day now

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 2:22 pm:

    Thanks, Renee! I’m trying to make my garden as cool as yours!

    Reply

  9. By Wizzie on Mar 29, 2012

    It looks fantastic Linda!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 2:22 pm:

    Thanks, Wizzie! The insects love it too!

    Reply

  10. By Robert Breeze on Mar 29, 2012

    Spectacular changes! I can just imagine what your garden will look like ten years from now. How rewarding it must be :)

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 3:36 pm:

    Thanks, Robert!

    Reply

  11. By Randy on Mar 29, 2012

    Linda, that looks amazing! You need to be on the next neighborhood garden tour.

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 7:36 pm:

    Randy, that is so funny. But thank you.

    Reply

  12. By Molly on Mar 29, 2012

    Linda! It’s gorgeous! I love all the diagonal views in the back (I think?) yard. I love the experiments, too–the river rock and brick look great next to the large stepping stones. What fun. Congratulations!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 7:36 pm:

    Molly, your garden is so beautiful and you inspire me so much! Thank you so much for your ideas that I plan to steal from you!

    Reply

  13. By Meredith on Mar 29, 2012

    Linda, I love it! Congratulations!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 7:34 pm:

    Thanks, Meredith!

    Reply

  14. By Pam/Digging on Mar 29, 2012

    Wow, what a transformation, Linda! I love the big stones in the paths, but I esp. love that round patio in back. What a great way to reduce lawn that wasn’t thriving anyway. Thanks for all the great before-and-afters. Hey, CTG needs to tape YOUR garden!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 7:34 pm:

    Thanks, Pam! You may remember when you came over a few years ago and I showed you that back spot and told you my dreams. Still lots of work. No way CTG tapes this garden but my eye is on yours whenever you say the word!

    Reply

  15. By Annie in Austin on Mar 29, 2012

    Absolutely stunning, Linda – beautiful stones & stonework and the paths seem so right for your garden. I love that terrace in the corner. It must have been a big decision but obviously a good one!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 7:32 pm:

    Annie, thank you so much! Yes, it was a big decision but we love love love it!

    Reply

  16. By jenny on Mar 29, 2012

    Wow, Linda, what a transformation. you must be thrilled, and someone else is too, I see! Will you ever do any more gardening with such a wonderful place to sit. I always think that it takes years to decide where to put a path. Let the feet decide. Have fun with your new paths and patios.

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 7:31 pm:

    Jenny, I only wish my garden could be as beautiful as yours!

    Reply

  17. By Laura on Mar 29, 2012

    It’s absolutely awesome! I really, really, really like the transformation. I, too, want a pathway where my dogs travel in the back yard. I was going to try to do it myself, but…Hmmmm…

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 29th, 2012 9:38 pm:

    Hi, Laura! Our dog LOVES it! Certainly, you can do it yourself, but for big stones like this, a little help helps. But you can make a path for the dog with stones you can handle, which we’ve done in the past. Our water-fearful Cocker thanks us for stones to get him safely to “duty” areas when it’s a little wet out there!

    Reply

  18. By Faye Arender on Mar 30, 2012

    Linda, that is just what I want to do…..maby someday. Outstanding!!!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 30th, 2012 2:57 pm:

    Thank you, Faye! It took us awhile to decide what to do but it was worth it. Lots more work to go, though, but that’s garden for you!

    Reply

  19. By Melissa on Mar 30, 2012

    I love the paths… that’s a lot of heavy rock hauling and hard work! I love the pad for the chairs, very pretty and practical. Hmmm… might add some of that pretty edging to my beds/paths… looks great!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 30th, 2012 2:56 pm:

    Thanks, Melissa! Your blog sounds intriguing; can’t wait to check it out!

    Reply

  20. By Katie on Mar 30, 2012

    Those paths look wonderful and really make your flower beds stand out. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 30th, 2012 2:56 pm:

    Thank you Katie! Great to hear from you!

    Reply

  21. By Becky on Mar 30, 2012

    This looks so great. Did you get the rock or did your contractors?

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 30th, 2012 2:55 pm:

    Hi, Becky! We looked around at stone but Mark and his crew made the final selection and hauled it in a huge trailer. Amazing to watch them handle big stones like that! I can just handle small ones, and we’ll be adding more of those soon–one carload at a time!

    Reply

  22. By Dorothy Stanford on Mar 30, 2012

    What a lovely garden! My husband and I just bought our first home together after moving here from Alaska, and are really trying to learn as much as we can about native plants for our gardens. We are also looking at some stonework – if you don’t mind my asking, how much did that part of the project cost? It was certainly worth it, they did a fantastic job!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 30th, 2012 2:54 pm:

    Hi, Dorothy! I’ll email you with details! And welcome to Texas; wow what a change. CTG is here to help you!

    Reply

  23. By Carla Jean Oldenkamp on Mar 30, 2012

    “Hire a professional”, I love this concept! Maybe once Dale and I have offically broke our backs DIYing the backyard, we will do the same. Ha!
    Your yard looks amazing and the flagstone is beutiomous!

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 30th, 2012 2:53 pm:

    Thank you, Carla Jean! Hope you and the chicks are having fun. I’ll be thinking of you on your big day next week. I’ll be at Mayfield Park so will miss seeing all the excitement at your great garden & coop!

    Reply

  24. By Joe on Mar 30, 2012

    This looks great. It totally changes the look and feel of the garden and makes it very inviting. Great Job.

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 30th, 2012 2:52 pm:

    Thanks, Joe! I’m working up to your design!

    Reply

  25. By Hella on Mar 31, 2012

    Linda,
    I would be honored!
    Hella

    Reply

    Linda reply on March 31st, 2012 2:18 pm:

    I’ll be in touch or email me so I won’t forget! It would be next year.

    Reply

    Hella reply on April 2nd, 2012 6:38 am:

    Linda,
    I’ll prepare extra hard so it will be great.
    Now, please put in a word with the weather god for me to add a little assistance!
    Thanks,
    Hella

    Reply

    Linda reply on April 2nd, 2012 3:45 pm:

    Hi, Hella! Don’t race around too much! It will be next year! Can’t wait! Linda

  26. By Linda/patchwork on Mar 31, 2012

    Linda,
    That looks great! It’s brilliant of you to put it where you walk anyway. Something we’re hoping to get to, one of these days.

    Love the long shots of your garden, too.

    Good work….

    Reply

    Linda reply on April 1st, 2012 1:51 pm:

    Thanks, Linda! Yes, so many things to get to. . .

    Reply

  27. By Katina on Apr 1, 2012

    Very nice Linda – I keep telling myself that I need to put some pathways in, and maybe a stone patio area under the ash tree, and dig some holes to get the water to drain away from the house instead of to it…yep, so many projects, so little time.

    Reply

    Linda reply on April 1st, 2012 1:51 pm:

    Thanks, Katina! And yes, I have a gazillion projects. . .too little time. But a little at a time is what we can do!

    Reply

  28. By Sharon Lovejoy on Apr 2, 2012

    WOWOWOW, what a dreamscape you have now. It would sure be a dream for Jeff if someone else did the hauling and placing. Looks so inviting and classy.

    Isn’t the life force of a rose amazing? I have so much respect for them.
    That rose will love having a big fence to play on.

    Love,

    Sharon

    Reply

    Linda reply on April 2nd, 2012 3:45 pm:

    Thank you Sharon! Greg’s been doing so much hauling, too, on this one that he’s thankful he didn’t get snagged for the big stones.

    We’ll never be as classy as your darling gardens! That you can create such beauty in two spots is astounding to me!! Love you, Linda

    Reply

  29. By Loretta on Apr 4, 2012

    Fabulous garden spaces Linda. You help so many with their gardens and now you have yours all pretty. Perfect for spending time outdoors in this gorgeous spring weather. The evenings have been so beautiful I don’t ever want to go inside. Have you noticed that your nice garden makes it hard to get other work done?

    Reply

    Linda reply on April 4th, 2012 4:24 pm:

    Hi, Loretta! Thank you!
    Oh, yes, it’s hard to go inside or go to work. There’s so much to enjoy and SO much to be done!

    Reply

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