It turns out the backyard of my mid-century suburban St. Louis ranch home (you get the idea) was a blank slate. I had a project and a hobby in the making: gardening. Here are a couple of things I’ll share first. I am not (was not) a gardener, nor would I describe myself as a hobbyist. That’s not to say I didn’t like gardens. In fact, I love them. Always have. Nothing gives me more serenity or energy than a stroll through the nearby Missouri Botanical Garden. I love a good house and garden tour, and the St. Louis metro, with its zones 6a-6b climate, abounds with gorgeous yards and gardens brimming with a wide array of plant diversity. But suffice it to say I am a busy mother whose three beautiful kids who are in various stages of the launch phase, who works full time, and has not spent a lot of time getting dirt beneath her manicured nails. But that’s changing. I bought the ranch because I was downsizing, following the demise of a long-term marriage. This place is the place I call my own, and I knew that day I was sitting on the postage-stamp of a patio, considering buying this house, that the backyard was going to be my first project. My so-called “vision” ago wasn’t much more than to get rid of the wobbly, unevenly installed pavers and put something in their place. Something solid, something that had a better scale to the house and yard, something inviting, and something surrounded by a garden that I could also enjoy from the family room, which features walls of windows looking out on the yard, or from the kitchen. I also wanted to have less lawn to take care of and the hardscape and landscape would help with that. In late March 2011 I moved in and believe it or not the PJMs were nearly finished blooming! Remember, we are in St. Louis. I spent the first spring and summer mowing the grass between the pavers that were masquerading as a patio. I wedged my patio table and six chairs on this platform and moved them every time I mowed the yard. I’d post a picture but they were lost when my cell phone fell into the Meramec River on a kayaking trip. (Note to self: take the photos off the phone.) If you watch Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, think Yolanda Foster’s property minus the pool, minus the ocean view, minus the palm trees. Evenly laid square blocks with grass growing between them. My big box backyard pavers were kind of like that. Sort of. Okay not at all. Mine were actually uneven and the grass between them was weedy and in some spaces rather bare. After spending a summer moving the table and chairs, which took up the entire patio, I knew the postage stamp needed to go. I spent the summer researching, discussing my options and pricing the project. After much deliberation (patio or deck?), I had a stamped concrete patio installed in the fall. I wanted something permanent and relatively maintenance free that would fit more than the umbrella table and chairs.
And I wanted to surround it with garden beds.