Calling all ye who are talented landscape designers

Let it NOT be said of me that I cannot admit my weaknesses… because I fully admit to you now that I am landscape challenged. It hurts me to say that I’m not good at visualizing something to do with my home, and yet for some reason I have a mental block when it comes to the yard. What’s making it especially hard is that I have an extremely low budget for any upgrades.

One of the big reasons for wanting to purchase this house was that my dogs would have a great place to play outdoors, and I’d be able to have people over as well. However, it turns out that what seemed to be rather simple has now turned into something much larger. (Isn’t that ALWAYS the way it happens?) So anyways…here are the issues to contend with:

  1. Extremely large mulberry tree in the back right corner. Presumably with a large root system as well.
  2. My yard slopes TOWARDS the house. Definitely need to fix that in some way.
  3. I have a basement window at ground level to where the yard is now…so a window well would need to be installed if I’m to fill in with more dirt.
  4. I need at least some some type of retaining wall in the lower left side of the lawn because of the sloping.
  5. I have an existing cement landing that can either be ripped down or built around, but obviously keeping it would save money.

So those are the big things to remember. I’d definitely like to have more (rather than less) space to entertain and enjoy outdoors. Currently the way that it is definitely doesn’t fit my aesthetic…nor does it make me want to have guests over. In fact, I’d be worried that someone would get hurt back there if I had more than 2 people over.

So here’s the original landscape design (Plan 1.0) drawn up by a local landscaper. Note that I LOVE it…it’s just that he said it would cost $20K to do it. (My reaction was to almost break down in tears when he told me the price. He got a little flustered when he saw that I started to tear up. It’s SOO far above my price range that I was speechless for about 5 minutes. Who knew landscaping was so damn expensive?)

This plan includes ripping down the existing landing, installing a curved retaining wall, brick patio, and steps up to a terraced lawn. Don’t get me wrong…I LOVE this plan. However, my pockets don’t run that deep. And me and N are all up for tackling some (or almost all) of the backyard ourselves, but we have no idea how to even get started! This was one of those moments when I seriously looked into calling a home makeover show. This was the first time in my life I would have EVER considered that by the way. However, as it turns out there’s no landscape related reality home makeover shows happening in Philly.

So I decided to look into a cheaper alternative. I spoke with someone else, and he proposed this idea. (Plan 2.0)

This plan includes keeping the existing landing, putting in a retaining wall and a brick patio up top. I don’t like this idea though because it doesn’t give enough useable outdoor space near the house…and it creates a sort of wasted space on the lower section of the yard. Especially a dead zone is underneath the window to the left (facing) the landing.

My friend Ashley modified this plan someone to look like this (Plan 2.1):


However in this plan, it still doesn’t solve the general un-used section and general waste of space from the second plan.

And there you have it folks. I’m stuck in a holding pattern of indecision. I don’t know what to do because the cheaper alternatives really don’t use the space efficiently. The original plan seems way too expensive and I wasn’t given a cost on how to do it in stages.

If anyone can think of any alternate solutions, I’m game to listen to them.  Either that or I’m going to have to pimp myself out to Trading Spaces and have Frank stencil my entire yard with ducks.

5 thoughts on “Calling all ye who are talented landscape designers

  1. I wouldn’t think twice about calling HGTV! But I do have another idea. Ask the first man how much it would cost to get the “bones” done. The things you can’t do like grading and building a retaining wall. (or just contact the subcontractors yourself to save money on the middle man) I bet you and N could do the pavers and planting yourselves. You know, during your breaks from refinishing floors and working full time.

  2. Yeah, N and I would definitely like to do the planting ourselves. Digging & ripping down is pretty kosher too. However, I’ve never built anything personally so I feel like I need someone to “get me started.” And trust me, if I knew subcontractors, I’d DEFINITELY contact them directly.

  3. I am pretty much saying the same thing, but couldn’t you get some version of the patio put in (which would probably necessitate some expensive ground leveling and window installing) and then work on the landscaping yourself more gradually. You need to put a new patio in so you don’t have wasted space next to the house.

    Maybe you could trade some house or workshop organizing services with somebody on craigslist or something.

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