The alley that runs in back of row houses can present aesthetic problems for homeowners, given that developers provided the space to handle utilitarian functions, such as car traffic into garages and trash pickup. However, the back door is still an entrance, and making it aesthetically pleasing does not have to compromise utility.
Rather than cement over the entire area in front of the garage, which was in disrepair at the time of purchasing the house, I opted to reserve a garden space at one side. For several years I let this garden alone except for planting a few borrowed cuttings from neighbors. For the most part I concentrated on landscaping the area in front of the house. We dug up the grass, not an easy job, and planted a crêpe myrtle, two butterfly bushes, two hydrangea, lots of variegated hostas and other donated plants from friends. I requested a tree from the city for the curb. The slide show the transformation over three years.
Now I’ve turned my attention to the small back plot. What started this initiative was the realization that we had no house numbers back there. Inspiration came from Pinterest, which has a wonderful collection of trash to treasure ideas for the garden. I decided to look around the garage and attic to see what I might find. I discovered an old rusted sign that I thought might work for those numbers. I spray painted the sign, not worrying about the rust holes, and painted numbers on the sign. I also found a small garden hook and lantern that I recovered from the garage.
I purchased a couple of bags of soil and mulch, cone flowers and three small mums. Because I had already planted a crêpe myrtle, hostas, Pachysandra and few other varieties, these established plants made the project move along quickly. First, I cleaned out the overgrown weeds and added water-retaining soil. This spot is particularly dry and the surrounding white cement bakes in the summertime. Then I added the extra plantings and smoothed out the soil and added the mulch. After sweeping up, I used the hose to clean off the wood trim to ready for painting. Since many of the flowers were purple and pink, I decided to go bold and trim the wood around the garden in purple. A pole going up the back also got painted in purple. As the last step, I added the accessories, including a piece of driftwood. For a bit of whimsey, I hung three spinners off the deck, and painted a snake around the pole.
What was great about this project was that neighbors stopped by to talk about gardens and offer encouragement. This was a fun project with big returns in satisfaction.
Installation of garden and painting the wood: four hours.
Preparing and painting the sign: two hours.
Trompe l’oeil: four hours.
Mulch and soil: $17.00