Ranch Dressing: Before & Afters of This Mid-Century Home

Ranch Dressing: Before & Afters of This Mid-Century Home

Thanks to to pop-up memories I see every morning on my phone, I understand it’s the 7 year anniversary of moving into our home.

I thought posting a few before & afters is a great way to celebrate it! We sure have come a long way.

Do my neighbors appreciate my style? For the most part, nope. Do I care? For the most part nope.

I love what I’m doing and I don’t plan on stopping. If they feel that passionately about their high-maintenance green-carpet lawns, red mulch and lightbulb-shaped trees and shrubs, then I hope them happiness. But at the end of the day, they are wrong and I’m right.

My objectives: after a billion years in landscaping practicing good taste and excellent customer service in other peoples’ yards, I want to do things my way. That means a TON of plants, a buffet for pollinators, few if any chemicals, letting things get wild and fuzzy, flying my freak flag and HAVING A TON OF FUN.

So here’s the house right after we moved in, my kickass sister-in-law came over and helped give a massive spring clean up. There were years of leaves EVERYWHERE. Sadly, under the leaves was a shitload of landscape timbers and red lava rock.

Check out that massive Yew! Most Chicago-area people hate Yews with a passion. This hate is so misguided but that’s another post for another day.


Ok, now (below) the Yew is gone, which is sad. Yews have a unique ability to be cut way, WAY back and come back all cute and fuzzy but this one was just TOO BIG to rehab and that is too important a spot.

So important that I put my compost bins there for a year. Then I realized that even though this made the most sense, I did not need to have my compost bins front and center. I currently have a Black Elderberry there but that’s not right either. Honestly it needs a sculpture. I’m working on it.

It’s like trying on bathing suits, I won’t stop until I get the right one, no matter how painful it is.

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This (below) is the most current “after” in the lot. So, my whole look is based on The Polynesian Village Resort* at Walt Disney World. That’s normal and something I should want, right?

Please appreciate the tiki torch lamps I attempted. I think I’ll do those again this year.

I learned how to tie 10mm rope around globe lamps from IKEA to make them look like fishing floats. Again, that’s normal and something that’s normal to want. Right?

*There are no mannequins or bowling balls at The Polynesian so we just won’t mention them.

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Backyard (below): I LOVED those Arborvitae BUT… the Trellis, which harbored a heinous Trumpet Vine left a huge dead spot in 2 of them and there are windows behind there, so they really darkened my house. I’m always sad to murder a perfectly good plant but they had to go.


Fuzzy and wild, below, this back garden is mostly black-foliaged and black-blooming plants.

This shot is from late autumn.

I don’t even see the mannequin anymore.

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50 year-old globe arborvitae, below, and GUESS WHAT’S UNDER THEM?? Yes. landscape timbers and red lava rock.

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Below: Prairie Dropseed, purple Shiso & Datura party in my front yard now.

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Below: Good golly. Nowhere to go but up, right?

I can’t believe this landscaper (me!) chose a house without a patio. Which is good because I’ve taken my time to really figure out what kind of patio I want.

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We still don’t have much of a patio, but we have a fabulous temporary patio that serves all our purposes, for now.


It’s a process and I love it. If I had a multi-billion dollar budget, I still wouldn’t get it all to “finished”. I enjoy the puttering, the new ideas, the sweat equity and the way I’m in a full partnership with Mother Nature on this. When I work slow, I can hear what the house wants (the house is WEIRD and wants WEIRD STUFF).

Our gardens grow with us and THAT is totally effing rad. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Yard Punks: Go Outside and Play with Cling Wrap!

Yard Punks: Go Outside and Play with Cling Wrap!

How to Make Seed-O Torpedos!

How to Make Seed-O Torpedos!