Ever since we moved into this house back in Spring of 2007 we’ve been making plans for the backyard. It contained a very old plum tree (not that it ever bore any fruit) and a few bushes; apart from that it was just a rock-strewn slope of grass and weeds. Too steep to be of any use for planting, or even to just sit in a chair and relax. To add insult to injury, the grass and dandelions grew prolifically, forcing me to spend many hours mowing and weed-whacking during the summer months.
We were eager to start making changes; but we also wanted to make sure we had a vision that would result in an interesting and cohesive look. And it all had to be done with a pretty limited budget.
Starting out, we actually thought we had allocated quite a generous budget. We indulged visions of elegant dry walls, dramatic outcroppings, cleverly integrated stairways, and beautiful plantings. Unfortunately, those dreams were soon dashed by the prohibitive cost of even quite modest stone walls and stairs.
What to do? Hire cheap labor? Not a good idea, given the steepness of the slope, and the resulting pressure on retaining walls. Select the cheapest materials? But we didn’t want our backyard to look like a carbon copy of so many other Seattle yards, with their piles of ivy-covered basalt rock. We did a lot of reading, wandered around Seattle peering into other people’s yards, and obtained several bids from landscapers. None of them were quite what we were looking for.
One day, in the Winter of 2007, we happened to visit a home-improvement show at the local community center. One of the exhibitors was ExteriorScapes, a landscaping company that had done some nice work at one of the P-Patches in our neighborhood. Looking through their portfolio, we really liked the things they had done. They seemed to have a sensibility for materials, locations, and the experience necessary to successfully execute designs that were a bit different. Plus, they were willing to work within our budget constraints. Soon afterwards, in January of 2008, we contracted them to landscape our backyard.
It was an arduous process, that took much longer than we had anticipated. But finally, 10 months after our initial talks with ExteriorScapes, we have finally completed the ‘hard-scaping’. We’re really relieved that we got done before the winter rains. The newly terraced levels are solidly retained; and the new drainage behind the retaining walls will hopefully ensure that trickles of water running into the basement are a thing of the past. Of course, all the actual planting and gardening still lies ahead – but those are things we can do ourselves, and enjoy doing.