Our Backyard Evolution – The Changes I Didn’t Tell You About And How The Trees Are Doing After The 2017 Massacre

Four years in this backyard and many many memories made. The nature scavenger hunts, snow cone parties, but mostly just the kids having total freedom from us helicoptering since it’s just so safe. The things you want as a parent seem so boring, but once you become one you realize that all you/I want is a flat, fully enclosed, shady (in the summer) backyard that feels like a park so you never have to load the kids in the car to run around on grass. And this one delivered. With the slide, rock pit, and swing set, the kids have to much to do. I realized as we were shooting the backyard recently that there were a few things we changed since the original reveal that you simply must know about.

Here’s what it looked like when we bought the house. It was shady and flat (not tiered – very usable space) with old-growth trees and a swing set.

We loved it when we saw it. And fun fact, the cement pad to the right in that photo is actually covering over cement from 100 years ago because back then you just, yep, burn your own trash in your backyard. We thought it was a pond, but nope – trash pit!! Of course, back then their “trash” was like food, wood, and paper, before plastic or anything too toxic. Imagine if we all had to be fully responsible for our own waste and trash?

The Tree Saga

As a reminder, to those of you not fully stalking my mental health throughout the years… right after we closed on the house we had our wonderful gardener come “trim” the trees. It was 95 degrees in August. I had a 9 month old and 2-year-old – both wildly fair-skinned. We were moving from a house that had a deck overlooking a cliff (for a backyard) west facing and pretty vulnerable to the sun – we literally bought the house for the shade. I’m from rural Oregon where my childhood was surrounded by greenery and yes, so many trees. You know where this is going.

I popped by the house to check on the renovation and found the trees in the above condition. Butchered. And it felt like a sauna. I was truly horrified and the sounds that came out of my mind reminded me only of the last contraction of Charlie’s natural birth. I wrote a whole post about it here (the trees, not the birth but you can read about that here) but in short, I’ve never in my life had such a physical and emotional reaction to something seemingly so trivial – thus revealing my true level of privilege.

Our poor gardener (who we LOVED) felt HORRIBLE – clearly we hadn’t communicated well and he wasn’t the only one at fault. I learned the hard way what “tree trimming” means and you guys THAT PHRASE NEEDS TO BE REBRANDED. It’s truly more of a butchering to help future growth and health of the tree, but for about a year it looks like all the limbs have been cut off at the shoulder. Anyway. Because of that, I went ALL OUT on the landscaping. We planted like 4 trees (two of which have grown so big!) and a lot of plants.

So 3 years ago we revealed all we had done and I split up into a few different posts (this was when I realized how popular exterior design posts are as they were 3 of the top 10 posts of the year). I wrote about the castle, the landscaping, and of course the reveal.

Here she was in 2017 – after we landscaped and ready for her reveal:

And here she is now. There are a few basic changes – the trees on the perimeter that we planted grew much taller in the three years (which is great because it blocks a newer apartment building) and when we originally shot it it was early spring so it was more lush and flowering (opposed to our below august shoot).

You’ll notice that the trees are BACK. Not only were they back but our real estate agent told us we needed to TRIM (shaky/horror movie font please) them back substantially and lift all the canopies before it went on the market. Obviously, because of my previous tree trauma, I was very NERVOUS but they had grown a LOT and yes, it was mostly shady (thus making it hard for the grass to grow). I insisted on being there along with Howard, our real estate agent, and we carefully chose each branch. They would bend it so we could visually see how it would look without them and then I would nod or give it a thumbs up. It took a couple of hours and admittedly it looked WAY better than it did that morning. I think we could have even clipped more to make it feel bigger and brighter, but I was so nervous, truly, to go any further. By the end, I was being very liberal with my thumbs up and it made me realize how we need to do it at the mountain house because the canopies are like 3′ off the ground (which is actually a very dangerous fire hazard. Update: FIXED!

So yes everything grew taller and aged as they do – some plants overtook others, some didn’t thrive where they were planted (once the shade grew in they didn’t get enough sun – OH THE IRONY). But besides that, there were a few changes that I don’t think I officially blogged about.

We Painted The Castle

photo by jason frank rothenberg | from: 6 quick & easy tricks for a fun 4th of july party (that look like you tried)

A few years ago I had a partnership with Wood Naturally and they wanted us to show off the grain of the wood and so I left it stained, but later I realized that I wanted it to be painted the same trim color as the house (Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball). I liked it a lot more as it kinda just receded and didn’t pop out as much.

The Garden Bed

As my souping and general domestic homestead personality reared its apron, we built a veggie garden. I was able to use it for last spring/summer and my gardener put drip irrigation in it.

The Hammock

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: our backyard makeover – the final reveal

We originally designed this stone pad as a sitting area, 1-2 chairs for reading. But the kids took over and the last year we had a picnic table here (from this shoot). We would do arts and crafts on it and of course, eat.

But Howard suggested that we make it less “kid” and so I brought down one of our hammocks from the mountain house and I cried tears of regret for all the years that I could have been gently swinging in a hammock (if you are in the market we did a big hammock roundup post here).

The last thing that we did that we were on the fence about was replace the sod. Because it was so heavily shaded (because I didn’t trim the trees in 4 years) it was patchy. So we spent $3k to replace it and it looks so green and fresh (although it needed a mow in these photos, but you can’t mow it for a bit).

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: our backyard makeover – the final reveal

All in all, I still LOVE this garden/back yard. The kids still play in the rock pit and on the swings. So many naked sprinkler sessions, ninja moves, picnics, birthday parties, forts, and flower picking sessions. And the number of times our friends have said “this is the easiest yard to parent in” is uncountable. We just sit at the patio table and know they are safe without us needing to actually watch them.

Here’s a little trip down memory lane (many involve people together, without masks which is just so odd to see now!)

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: our backyard makeover – the final reveal
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a backyard summer snow cone soiree

From our “back to school snowcone party“. It looked so cute!!!

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a backyard summer snow cone soiree
photo by jason frank rothenberg | from: 6 quick & easy tricks for a fun 4th of july party (that look like you tried)

Remember our 4th of July feature in Rachel Ray? So many scavenger hunts…

photo by jason frank rothenberg | from: 6 quick & easy tricks for a fun 4th of july party (that look like you tried)
photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: charlie’s superhero birthday party

We had nearly every birthday party back here for the last 3 years because it was so much easier than schlepping to a park (Remember going all out for birthday parties? I actually think I might decorate a lot this year only because it’s so fun to do with the kids and without a lot of friends decoration feels festive and special).

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: charlie’s superhero birthday party

I never posted about birdie’s rainbow-themed party but it was full of white cloud clusters and rainbow streamers (so cheap, cute, and high impact).

Time for someone else to enjoy this place. We sure loved it HARD for four years and the kids talk about it all the time. Clearly happy memories were solidly imprinted, and not just on them 🙂

Update: The buyers had to cancel escrow on the last day for personal reasons so the house is back on the market. So if you know anyone needing a park-like magical back yard, email Howard Lorey at [email protected] to see it.

**Final Reveal Photos by Sara Liggoria-Tramp

Fin Mark

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