Saturday, February 27, 2010

The World of Renovation

It takes a brave & patient nature to be involved in home renovation – especially if you are the home owners. HGTV can give you a 30 – 60 minute glimpse into that world, but ‘living & breathing it’ is a whole different reality. You remember lots of noise, the smell of diesel fuel on occasion, lots of construction dust and the passing of time – lots of time.

In the photo above, you can see little glimpses of remnant hardscape and a few hardy plants in nooks & crannies around the yard.   There's that lone birdbath, a few stray orange Tiger lilies… and the Redtwig Dogwoods in the back corner….

In the cold of December, the house looked more like a barn. Same ambient temperature as well!  During the project, especially in the middle of an Illinois winter, my head was not into garden planning. Eventually, all you look forward to is peace and quiet!

But once construction was done, there was a pearl waiting for me – my new 3-Season room, my sanctuary!   It became my 'get away from the insanity' place to hang out.  I could close the doors to the rest of the house, and savor the peace.

I spent the growing season of 2008, letting the yard lay fallow – mostly because the ‘blank canvas’ was very over-whelming.

In the past the backyard, with its southern exposure, had been most hospitable to ‘full’ or ‘part-sun' plants. Now with the addition and two mature trees taking up the sunny spaces, I had to consider different plantings. I started researching shade and part-shade plants. A patio (paver or concrete) made more sense then a deck. How big should it be? The more I thought about it, the more anxious I got. I made lists – it gave me a sense of forward direction.

Then I met with a landscape designer. We walked around the property. I shared my wish list, which included a need for strategic screening and privacy. We are fortunate to have good neighbors, but this project has made me feel we were living in a fishbowl. My ideal – to have a cottage feel to the yard, with lots of visual interest – textures, varying sizes, and strategic evergreens.

My wish list wasn't for the faint of heart. It was long - including plants and hardscape. As with all large renovation projects – the landscaping plan was coming in at the end of the project, much of the budget had been spoken for. The reality – the landscape plan was going to be on a ‘3 to 5’ year plan. I want that paver patio; it just isn’t going to be right away. I wasn’t going to plant grass until I knew the layout of my anchor gardens. (We dug up enough sod for the last 5 years to create my garden beds!)

Front yard carnage.....

So, with the windows of my 3-season room open and a gentle summer breeze coming through, I pulled out all my gardening books, magazines and plant catalogs to start strategizing! The first thing I was able to do was repurpose the concrete sidewalk - torn up in front of the house. They became stepping stones along side the 3-season room, where I would plan my first ‘shade garden’ – with its eastern exposure and sugar maple canopy overhead. I was off and running!


  1. Hi Shyrlene- Wow, what a remodel. We have twice done some destruction and addition. I could relate to the noise, smell and the dust, who knew there could be so much dust, even where you think you have it covered. But your results are wonderful. I love your new room! And your garden is like a new canvas to work on. Thank you for visiting and commenting on my before and afters. Gloria

  2. Hi Shyrlene,
    Came over from Jean's Garden... the reference to graph paper got me. ha.

    Read through the last few posts and I'm wondering if this was "meant to be". We are strongly considering remodeling and I am not sure I have the stomach for it. The end result is the lure but the destruction is probably too much for me to bear. Not the house but the gardens. We just had to have a well re-drilled in the back and it was painful to watch those big trucks plow right through the middle of my veggie garden. And I've spent endless hours the last 4 weeks reconstructing it myself.

    Well, you've ended up with a wonderfully clean slate (and a lovely home)... I will be waiting to see how the renovation takes place. I have a feeling it's going to be wonderful.
    Happy day...

  3. I've just added you to my blogroll so I don't forget to check back...


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