What's one way to pull yourself out of a house project funk? Plan a party! Nothing gets our motivation more supercharged than the notion that we have droves of guests arriving to our home in a short amount of time. After all, the last time we worked our way (albeit frantically) through a project checklist was when we were counting down to the day our home was featured on the Scottish Christmas Walk Designer Tour of Homes. I guess a deadline is sufficient motivation for us to get our butts in gear.

After arriving home last week from an international business trip, I had the cruel realization that Alex and I had volunteered to throw the April neighborhood party. These "TGIF" parties are held by neighbors in and around our block every other month on a Friday. They're a great way to meet new neighbors, and of course we love them because we enjoy the glimpse inside other old homes in our area. Knowing we already have a commitment on the last Friday of April, a quick glance at the calendar indicated that we had less than ten days to create invitations, shop for party essentials, and get our house into shape. Yikes!

With Spring's late arrival, I want to play off the nice weather and host a "garden party," thus encouraging us to enjoy the onset of the warmer weather in the outdoor space (with Mother Nature's cooperation). The problem? Our back yard is a post-winter wasteland, complete with dead plants, shriveled flowers, rotten pumpkins, dog droppings, dry leaves, and various debris. The area doesn't exactly scream "welcome to our home." 

This weekend we got to work, and completed a marathon shopping trip on Saturday to pick up the supplies we needed. 

After three hours and three stops, we had a car full of loot and we were well on our way. It's shopping trips like these that make us really appreciate owning our SUV, especially after over a decade with a Mustang.

Armed with flowers, mulch, potting soil, a new welcome mat, and a few other odds and ends, we put together a game plan. Before Friday's event, we need to:

  • Trim the topiaries and plant flowers in the front urns
  • Plant flowers in the front bed, and mulch the area
  • Clean the front steps and vestibule
  • Rake up the sticks and debris along the side of the house
  • Clean out the beds in the back yard
  • Plants herbs
  • Plant the vegetable garden
  • Clean and oil the outdoor furniture
  • Clean the house
  • Oil the kitchen counters
  • Replace the Christmas carol artwork in the sun porch with something less seasonal
  • Purchase wine, cups, and other party items
  • Set up an outdoor buffet for the party

Whew, what a list. Trying not to get too overwhelmed, I decided the first order of business would be to tackle the gardening out front. Luckily we had gotten a jumpstart on the front a few weeks back, when we cut back the grasses, and cleaned out the front beds.

Despite our previous cleanup efforts, what we were starting with looked pretty bleak.

Trying not to get discouraged, I determined this weekend's order of business would be to first focus on items one and two on our list: trim the topiaries and plant flowers in the front urns, as well as plant a few new perennials in the front bed and lay mulch the area.

Since planting our new trees in November, our cute spiral topiaries have been on the move, and had taken on a bit of an unkempt appearance.

I got to work with a sharp pair of scissors, and I was able to whip these guys into shape. I simply followed the spiral lines from bottom to top, snipping off the new growth, otherwise dubbed "crazy guys" in our household.

All it took was ten minutes to restore a crisp, neat appearance, which immediately helped the urns start looking a bit better.

Next up I determined the planting order for the urns' flowers. I arranged the sweet potato vines, purple aster, magenta brachyscome, and white gulliver bacopa, and once I realized I was happy with the order, I planted them in the urns.

To ensure proper coverage I also added in more soil, in this case Miracle Grow's moisture retention potting mix, which helps give the plants a bit of an edge during our long, hot DC summers. After a bit more finessing, I took a step back to admire. I was quite happy with the results.

After giving myself a second to smile at my newly planted urns, I turned my attention to the area around the tree. As I mentioned previously, we had done a bit of work to clean up the bed, so I could jump right in. After a bit of inspection, it appears that most of the plants are returning for another season. However, the jury is still out on the grass plants. I don't see any new growth, but I figured I'd keep them in the ground for a few more weeks just to be sure, and if they don't come back, we'll replant the area with something new. 

In order to give the existing plants a bit more time to grow, I played it safe at the store and purchased only three new additions for this area. I laid out the three plants, which I hope will lend a pop of color to the space. Once I was happy with the placement I got to work planting them.

To increase their odds of survival, I dug a larger hole than needed, and filled it in with a few scoops of the potting mix to improve the quality of the dirt.

Alex turned over much of the top layer of soil and removed any garbage or old mulch that had been left hanging around, leaving the front bed ready for the final step of its beautification, new mulch. It's amazing how much a new bag or two of mulch helps the flower bed look like it's ready for spring! 

We spread the mulch evenly over the whole bed, allowing our little flowers and new plantings to pop through. We also went ahead and covered the water meter cover, which had been so recklessly disturbed a few weeks back. Now that all of their reading is done wirelessly, this really shouldn't cause an issue, and it looks WAY better.

While we still kick around the idea of getting a black metal fence to surround the area, I've actually come to like it in its more simplistic setup. Granted, it will surely look better once these small plants start to actually grow and fill in, but I look at the current state of the bed and see all of its mid-summer potential.

Between the bed and our new plantings in the urns, the front of our home is once again becoming "respectable." In just a few weeks time the sweet potato vines should be gently cascading towards the ground, and the pops of color throughout the cast iron bases will hopefully be providing a dramatic base for the spirals.

While its full potential is still weeks away, the front of our home has what it takes to eventually become the quaint Old Town row house that we love. 

The front of our home is now welcoming enough to greet visitors as they arrive for our garden party. Though we still have a lot of work to do in the back yard, this is definitely a step in the right direction. 

Did you do any gardening this weekend? I know the weather has been hit or miss depending on the section of the globe you happen to occupy, but I can say for sure, I'm quite happy spring appears to have arrived in our neck of the woods.

Comments 12


Nancy Johnson Green
4/15/2013 at 10:24 AM
Yeah, that will light a fire under you for sure!
Old Town Home
4/15/2013 at 10:34 AM
Nancy Johnson Green - We joke that we should throw a party every few weeks to ensure we stay on top of our project list! :-)
4/15/2013 at 11:56 AM
Inviting people over is the only way to ensure my house gets deep cleaned these days :)

I love what you've done in your planters and bed! Amazing what a few flowers and some mulch can do for curb appeal!
Thanks, Kate! I agree. For not a lot of time, and not a lot of money, it really transformed the front of the house!
Yup… by the time I feel the house is “ready,” for a party, I’m usually wondering what on earth possessed me to think it would be fun.

Where is the post about your front door paint???!!! Best color ever.
Thanks! The front door is BM's Florida Keys Blue. Details here: www.oldtownhome.com/2011/7/28/Mail-Call-Vestibule-Progress/
Christine Barbieri Sims
4/15/2013 at 1:04 PM
Very pretty topiaries and surrounding flowers!
Thanks, Christine! I'm really happy with how they turned out. Fingers crossed the area around the tree with catch up. :-)
Eithne-Nicole Kechari
4/15/2013 at 3:54 PM
We haven't had our official housewarming yet and we've been there for a year because we wanted to have some things sorted out first - ugh! Good luck!
Old Town Home
4/15/2013 at 7:34 PM
Sounds very familiar Eithne-Nicole Kechari. We waited ten months before we had a housewarming, and looking back at the pictures, I can't believe we thought we were ready. :-)
4/16/2013 at 4:28 PM

I have been reading your blog since January when we put our offer down on our home, but this is the first time I have attempted to leave a comment. I really just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your thoughtful, informative and personal posts. I have used your Toolbox Tuesday posts to help decide on tools we needed on more than one occasion. (I was on the hunt for high-gloss black paint to give our iron gate a refresh, which is how I found your blog.) I look forward to your blog posts each day. Oh, and my vote is for a little black fence around your front tree area. It would tie beautifully to your iron steps and door.
We can't thank you enough for this feedback, Sarah! We love hearing from people that read, but don't (often) comment. :-) We're so glad you enjoy reading about our projects and crazy adventures, and thanks for your vote on adding a fence around the front. I concur!
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