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We’ve had a very early spring this year in Chicago and my front garden, now in its fourth year, is really starting to fill in, with some plants blooming for the first time. This new lush look has prompted some reminiscing about how far this garden has come. Here’s a pic from the day we bought the house.We dubbed the look “mixed media”.  Too bad you can’t see our faces, which probably reflect an “oh my god why did we buy this ugly house” panic.

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And here’s the same view today.

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Much better. Even with a porch covered in scooters, soccer balls, snow shovels and those helicopters that are just everywhere right now.  This did take nine years and several stages to accomplish. And that’s just for our very small, urban garden. I need to remind myself of this when I get impatient with projects. Taking time and phasing big projects out makes everything more manageable. It is so hard to live with the ugly sometimes though.

So, our timeline for this, in case that’s helpful for anyone. The bushes were taken out in the second year. The siding came in the year after that (the rest of the house was covered in a lovely pepto pink stucco that was falling off, so it had to be replaced), along with a new front door to replace the rusting, dented one. Then the yard sat, with bush stumps sticking out and patchy grass for another couple of years while we had a second child. Then finally we had the stumps dug out (and the 10 inches of landscaping rock removed) and put in the tree and bushes, with some design help from our landscape architect friend. A very small tree and bushes. I tend to buy smaller plants because I can get more of them and wait for them to fill in over time. I also tend to move plants around almost as much as furniture. Anyway, the next year we gave up on the grass (weeds) altogether and put in the rest of the plants.

There are still plenty of bare patches for me to play with, but its looking much, much better. Finding a variety of plants that really thrive in this shady front yard is tricky.  And thanks to our early spring, I’ve even got roses and lilacs blooming together.

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