Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Backyard plans

So we started a little deck project in our backyard this summer. There was already a large existing lower deck. We just wanted to add a smaller second-storey deck with a set of stairs connecting the main floor of our house to the yard rather than just the walk-out basement.

Of course, like any project, it's taking about a zillion times longer than we anticipated. Complications creating the engineered drawings. Building permit delays. Zoning department delays. Seemingly endless rain delays. Sports three nights a week and soccer tournaments every second weekend. We ended up having to demo the entire lower deck. An auger wouldn't fit where we needed to dig the post holes so we needed to dig by hand - seven holes, four feet deep, through solid clay. Literally nothing about this project has gone smoothly, quickly, or as planned - on the very few days we've actually managed to have both cooperative weather and time to work.

As we approach the middle of the summer and the backyard still sits as a half-landscaped construction zone I'd just like to fantasize a little bit about how it will one day look.

In the back corner of the yard we built a garden with a stone retaining wall and filled it with enormous shrubs, perennial flowers, a Japanese Maple and a dwarf hydrangea. It will be a few years before the maple fills in, but the rest looks great. We framed it with a pair of oak trees which we plan to layer with cedar shrubs, but those will have to wait until next spring. (Did you know that cedar shrubs are only shipped in bulk once a year from BC? Neither did I. When you see them for fifteen dollars at every garden centre in April, snap up as many as you need - when they're sold out a week later you're out of luck until the following spring unless you want to pay eighty to a hundred dollars a plant.) We're going for a lush, layered, English garden / urban oasis (well, suburban oasis) look. It needs a few more years to fill in fully, but it's pretty. Next year it will be even prettier.

On the opposite side of the yard we built another curved stone wall for our vegetable garden - not quite as pretty, but very practical. Three kids of tomatoes, two kinds of peppers, Swiss Chard, cucumbers, carrots, strawberries and a half-dozen herbs. There's nothing better than being able to go out into the backyard and pick our dinner vegetables out of our own garden - and the kids get so excited watching everything grow and waiting to harvest our crops.

Against the house is the construction zone / lumber yard / mud pit. But one day - hopefully one day soon - it will be a gorgeous two-storey deck and turned staircase with beautiful iron pickets and rails, a pergola and trellis and will house our outdoor cooking, eating and lounging areas. Soon.

Most of the rest of the yard is open green space, for now. We like having a lot of room for the kids to play, to kick around the ball or toss the frisbee, to set up the inflatable pool and slip n' slide or run through the spinkler. But we have big plans for a big part of the yard in the next couple of years: a hot tub and pool. A small pool of course. But a pool. I see an elevated hot tub with a stone surround spilling into the swimming area. Lots of lush, layered greenery growing around it. Organic, but elegant. A vacation getaway in our own backyard. It'll eat into our lawn space for playing, but our backyard gate opens into a park with two playgrounds, a soccer field, a picnic area and lots of green space so we're not hurting for running-around-room.

It's going to take time. The decks and pergola should be done in the next few weeks, but it'll be next spring before we're able to grow all the drooping vines I picture climbing all over it. The trees and gardens are about half-planted; the rest will be finished next spring. The pool and hot tub will likely need to wait until the following year. And, of course, with each passing year the trees grow taller, the gardens grow fuller, and our beautiful little backyard grows more and more into the private vacation-at-home oasis we dream of.

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