04 August 2010

Green Is Not a Color

I know I've used the word "green" a lot on this blog, and whether I was referring to Earth-friendly construction or pretty paint colors, it's always been a good thing.

Until now.

I've never known much about plants, or cared too much, either. (Living in a condo, then a dorm, then an apartment (in Paris!), then a dorm some more, then another apartment, and finally another condo, landscaping hasn't been a big focus in my life.) In the last year, though, as the prospect of landscaping our entire yard has loomed, we've started paying attention to such things, and especially to what's going to do well in Austin on minimal water. As we started looking, I started seeing things I never noticed before. (The median in the street where my office is located, in not the best part of town, is full of crepe myrtles with the most vibrant flowers!) So I've concluded that it's not that I don't care about plants, I just don't get excited about boring plants...and my threshold for "boring" is pretty high (or low...not sure which way the scale goes).

And green plants are, by and large, boring. Green is merely the backdrop for the real action in the garden.

So as we've started taking baby steps toward a landscaping plan (more on that in a second), all we know for sure is that there will have to be lots of flowers.

But back to the plan. Our most immediate exterior needs are a new driveway and a new fence. We also have a pretty hard core drainage issue going on in front of the bunny room (well, not today, since it was 100 degrees and sunny...but on rainy days it's a lake out there). Before we start working on our driveway, we need to solve the drainage problem (which will likely involve installing an underground drain that goes out through the new curb that we pour for the new driveway. Similarly, before we replace the fence, we need to remove a whole bunch of icky little trees along the fence line (but also figure out whether there's anything we won't be removing from along the fence). And then there's irrigation, and underground piping to the eventual rainwater cistern, and all sorts of other issues, and they're all interconnected. Installing a new driveway before we've thought everything else through simply won't do. So, since we're pretty sure the neighbors are starting to wonder if the people in the unbelievably beautiful new house (okay, I'm projecting) ever plan to do anything about the mess out front...and back...and on the sides, we've been working on finding a landscape designer to put together a plan. (We figure, if we are seen working on some exterior project, or even if we're spotted talking to someone in the yard, neighbors will be reassured that we do realize what it looks like and are taking steps to address the ugly.) We got two names from the arborist we consulted last summer, but neither of those people have websites, so we aren't able to scope them out from afar. (Side note: I'm not a huge fan of just picking up the phone and calling a stranger who isn't expecting my call. Because, personally, I'd prefer it this way if I were on the receiving end, I much prefer to start with an introductory e-mail and then call once they know to expect me.) Anyway, one of the names happened to be selling a sofa on Craigslist over the weekend, so I found her e-mail address that way and sent her a note yesterday. She responded, invited me to call, and then when we spoke, she invited me to see a house she originally landscaped 10 years ago and is still maintaining. Neither the house nor the garden was at all our style, but her work was lovely. Still, it's hard to look at a project that was full of hardscape (including patios, arches, stone benches, and more) and get any sense of what she might come up with for us. Anyway, she's coming by Sunday morning to see our yard and discuss our goals, but even if everything goes really well, I'm still not sure how we'll know if she's right for us until after we see what she comes up with. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I want to be on Designer's Challenge -- three designers prepare plans (paid for, I assume, by HGTV), and we choose the one we like the best. But that's not to be for us. We will likely meet with at least one other landscape designer before we make any decisions, but there is only one plan in our future. Whichever way we go, though, I can promise you it won't be all green (although, ironically, most of the plants will be native, drought-tolerant species from the City of Austin's Grow Green list).

But wait! Things are moving along on the inside, too! Lest you think we've resigned ourselves to become those people who live in a house for years without ever unpacking certain boxes, we are continuing to make progress toward being fully moved in. Sometimes it happens by necessity, such as today, when we needed to find our checkbook (which we did!). During the search, we also came across more fun kitchen things (we are no longer finding empty drawers...but there's still plenty of space) and a variety of linens. Slowly but surely.

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