Little By Little

Ever since the snow melted and we’ve been able to see the yard again we’ve been playing around with making changes to the layout of the yard.  First, the husband removed the curb from the round concrete “cabana” area that was there when we moved in (you can read that post HERE.)

Then we got a few wrought pieces, including an iron table and chair set, from the old iron re-sale shop in Gowanus.

Here is a 6′ tall wrought iron trellis that I picked up for $20.  It’s in great shape:

I’ll probably play around with where to put it and what to grow underneath it.  I’m thinking either some sweet peas or a clematis or two.  I’d love to attempt a climbing rose, but I’m not sure this trellis would provide proper support for them.

If the trellis stays here, against the house, then I’ll need to grow something in a container beneath it….something that will look nice against the red brick.  White?  Light pink? Purple?  I’m not typically a huge fan of yellow or orange and usually gravitate toward the cooler colors.

The table and chairs will need to be sanded, primed, and re-painted.  In the meantime, they are perfectly functional – just a little bright in the sunlight.  We’ll either paint them all black or a deep Hunter Green, I think. White is a bit much.

It is so great to be able to sit out side and have a place for your tea/dinner/wineglass/notebook/magazine, etc.  We’ve already had a few meals outside and I can see this becoming a regular thing.  The location of the table, however, has caused quite a buzz in the old beehive and we’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time discussing where to put it and playing around with different configurations.

Once we brought it in, then the bench didn’t look right in its place anymore…the stone path didn’t look right, etc.

Initially we thought the stone circle was the obvious place for the table and chairs, and they fit perfectly there…but neither of us liked it very much. When that fig tree grows back, it will drop figs all over that concrete area, and the birds who eat the figs will be dropping their own loads right there as well, as I remember from last summer.

After spending entirely too many afternoons moving things around and casting our votes for this side or that, sun or shade, etc. Really – like there aren’t more important and meaningful things to be concerned about? Plus we can always move things back. Sometimes it’s just hard to agree!  At long last, we have at last come up with a partially shady spot that we both like.

We still don’t know what the heck to do with that formal-looking stone circle, but at least the rest of the yard feels a little more balanced .  (I’m voting for a fire pit in the fall, myself!)

The stone path we put in last fall also felt wrong once we brought the table and chairs in, and we played around with altering it, moving it, and removing it altogether.  We ended up moving part of it and spacing out the blocks a bit more.

Here’s the before and after, once we found what we think is a better placement for the table, bench, and stepping-stones:

Before:

After:

It looks a little better in these shots:

Our next project is to put up some fern-leaf rolled fencing along that chain link fence, both for the privacy and to hopefully help with the barking puppy situation next door. He sure is cute, but wow is he loud, and seeing the feral cats in our yard doesn’t help him keep quiet!

I think once the fencing goes up it will provide a nice backdrop to the bench as well as some climbing vines I plan to plant. I just hope it won’t block too much sun on that East side…

The plan is to eventually get a statue of St. Frances, which will speak to the husband’s Catholic nostalgia, and to my cat rescue work / the feral cats we take care of in the yard.  St. Frances will go back near the cat shelter, hence the path leading back to it.

In addition to cats, we also have lots of birds:  sparrows, chickadees, starlings (of course), pigeons, mourning doves, a male and female cardinal, the occasional robin, blue jay, and sometimes parrots from Greenwood Cemetery (which you can read about by clicking HERE.)

Miraculously there have been no casualties, although I am a little nervous about it.  I have three feeders, all of which are up high enough to be out of reach by any cats and provide plenty of branches for birds to hop or fly to.  There are two in the yard and one along the side of the house by the driveway, where I can watch from the kitchen window.

I recently added a bird bath along the driveway  – basically just a large terra cotta pot saucer with a few stones and water along the brick wall by the feeder in the Forsythia.  It’s taking a while for them to catch on, but I have seen a few birds stopping in for a sip.

Oh, how I would love a large, cement bird bath but they are so damn expensive and heavy.  The pot saucer route is quick and easy to clean and cheap to make.  I just have to stay on top of keeping it filled with fresh water.

The last time I filled it I turned back to the house and saw Smoke, one of the ferals watching me closely from the steps down to the yard. She’s a sweet cat and sometimes lets me pet her.

We really hope that the fence will help to block the puppy next door from seeing Smoke and the other cats. I sure wish there was a way we could still reach over and pet him, though.

That will be the challenge for this weekend: fencing.

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8 thoughts on “Little By Little

  1. Please don’t paint the table and chairs black. Black absorbs heat and a metal black table gets so hot in the sun that it would burn or blister your skin. Honest.

    The curbstones around the bushes that are trimmed back, I would use somewhere else. If it were me and you were paying me to landscape your yard. They are way too big for the spot you have them. I would put them about 2 feet from one of your outside walls and set them on edge and then fill-in with dirt and flowers. Just a thought.

    The wrought iron piece is a whale of a deal for $20.00. You could not get a blacksmith to make that for several hundred dollars. I would use standoffs or hollow metal tubes to put a bolt through the trellis and through the metal tubes anchored into the brick wall with wall anchors (drilled holes with lead anchors). Then you would want something with lasting colors. Either ever blooming rose, or some plant that has different colors in their leaves or flowers that doesn’t outgrow the trellis and you end up spending lots of time hacking off the parts that grow way beyond the trellis.

    None of this is set in stone. I used to do landscaping and had a license and came up with some solutions that, at the time, seemed impossible backyards.

    Good luck.

  2. Hi RGC, thanks so much for visiting my blog. I love your new table and chairs and wrought iron trellis. I think it would be too small for a climbing rose. However, sweet peas would be lovely as would a clematis like H.F. Young (a lovely blue purple like the pic on my blog). You have great ideas. We are Catholic and have a St. Francis, Mary and St. Fiacre. I love your Smoke. We have a mother and two daughters in our barn. All three are that gray color.~~Dee

  3. Hi Abraham! – thanks for stopping by!

    Good point about black paint getting hot. We did think about that and we are hoping that by putting the table under the tree for some shade and by using chair cushions / a tablecloth if necessary it will be tolerable. We just aren’t fans of white or light colors for it. We may go with the dark green, which could be a little less of a heat magnet, but cushions may still be in order. If it ends up being a real nuisance, I guess we can always re-paint it again.

    I know the yard looks bare right now, but last July when the four fig trees had grown up and out (they are actually huge) it was very shady – not much sun got through at all. The fig trees are great, but they do throw a bit of a wrench into things by allowing for full sun in winter and spring when they are still in their pruned state, but then part shade in summer as they fill in. I’m eager to see how much they’ll grow – the landlord says we should expect about 5 feet of growth this summer! This is our first spring / full summer here, so I guess we’ll just have to keep playing it by ear and see what happens.

    As for the curbstones – great idea! We definitely do not plan to keep them back there where they currently are. We just ran out of gas that day after having hauled away all the concrete pieces of curb along with two small boulders my husband discovered underground– and then picking up and bringing home over 300 pounds of fill dirt.

    We were hoping to re-use some of the stones in paths or to line the driveway beds along the side of the house, but I love your idea about creating an edge along a wall to be filled in with dirt and flowers! I never would have thought of that – thanks for the great suggestion. I’m definitely going to think about that one and keep my eye out for more free fill dirt.

    I was hoping to be able to attach that trellis to the brick, but wasn’t sure how to go about doing it – thanks again! I need to decide soon if that’s what I’ll use that space for…as I mentioned, last July through October the yard was so shaded by the fig trees that there was not enough sun there to grow tomatoes…and I really want to grow some. The little concrete patio off the porch, where the trellis leans right now, is the sunniest spot all year around. I love the idea of a climber on that trellis in that spot, but also need the sunny spaces for tomatoes. Decisions! I’m hoping to find a way to have them both.

    Thanks again for all of your advice – it’s greatly appreciated.

    PS – I really enjoy your bird blog – you take such amazing photographs!

  4. Dee – your ‘H.F. Young’ Clematis is just gorgeous – it’s exactly what I’m looking for and I think it would look great against the red brick! Super suggestion – I’ll be keeping my eye out for it or at the upcoming Brooklyn Botanic Garden Plant sale. If I don’t put it there in that spot, I think it would also look great against the red side of the garage and would get enough sun there too.

    I love keeping up with your great blog and I’m always glad to meet another fan of the cats. 🙂

  5. Hi Meem!

    The iron yard is awesome. I don’t even know the name of it and I’ve tried to find it online with no luck, but I can tell you exactly where it is!

    It’s in Gowanus on 9th Street between Smith St. & 2nd Ave. It is directly across the street from a place called FIND Home Furnishings (their street address is 59 9th Street).

    There are actually two iron re-sale shops right next to each other on the same lot, at the northeast corner behind the Lowe’s parking lot.

    We bought our stuff from the guy closer to FIND only because the other shop was closed. Nice guy. He has a wide range of really nice stuff and some kind of crappy stuff. Some pieces are hundreds of dollars, and others are really reasonable.

    Tip – you can negotiate prices with him a bit. He originally had asked $40 for the trellis, but when we ended up buying an additional piece, he said he’d knock $20 off the trellis for us. Works for me!

  6. That trellis is great. It looks good against the orange right now but how great it will be with a vine.
    I have plant saucer bird bath in a couple of places too. I used to use a clay saucer but the neighborhood cats would try to get a drink and pull it off the pots I was using cracking them. I found some plastic ones that are a bit deeper so I don’t have to refill them as often.
    Can’t wait to see your garden grow this season.

  7. Thanks, Gardener!

    Good to know that your plastic bird bath saucers are working and not getting broken by the cats. A slightly deeper dish would indeed be nice so as not to have to refill it as often. I know they are supposed to be fairly shallow, but if I kept a few rocks in there to give the birds a place to stand I think it would work. I’d like to add more baths / water sources for them and not have to fill every single one every other day.

    Last summer we kept a water bowl filled in a shady spot (under the bench, actually) for the neighborhood cats, and they were grateful for it. Perhaps this summer it will keep them satisfied and away from any bird baths…I’m hoping so, anyway!

    I’m looking forward to keeping up with your garden too!

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