There hasn’t been a lot of knitting progress lately. The Blue Eyes sweater is slowly growing:

And this week I managed to ply off a couple of skeins of the oatmeal yarn for the next Shetland sweater:

Mostly, though, I’ve been working late, attending end-of-year campus events, and getting distracted by the nice weather outside.

The daffodils opened last week, and we have quite a happy display by the front fence now:

Then, the tulips began to make an appearance. (We just added the grape hyacinths today. I love grape hyacinths.)

And this week, our front yard has turned purple with violets. I am so glad that there are some out there; I had been thinking how perfect this yard would be for violets, but they take several years to really establish themselves. Fortunately, it seems that someone before me thought to add a few to the front yard, and now there are millions of them, and it seems that there are more every day.

While all of that is going on in the front yard, we’ve been moving mountains in the back yard, too. When we moved into this house last August, one of the big downsides to the property was the fact that the back yard was, quite literally, a sheet of astroturf held down by some red tiles. It doesn’t get a lot of sun, and apparently the landlords decided that they were tired of dealing with a lack of grass. So, they covered everything in mulch and landscaping cloth, and added a touch of green with a 10’x30′ patch of plastic grass. To their credit, they did a really professional job of laying the landscaping cloth and the mulch, and the whole yard was nicely done. But, astroturf.

Usually, I’m ok with things that are simply functional, but in this case, it made my gardeners’ heart weep. So, this spring we asked them if they’d mind if we did some (pretty major) landscaping. They said to go ahead and do whatever we wanted to do. (Have I mentioned that I really like our new landlords?)

I’ve been plotting and planning all spring, and for the last month we’ve spent almost all of our weekend time digging holes, filling those same holes with a ton and a half (no kidding) of rock, renting a plate compactor, learning to lay tiles properly, and installing in a trellis fence along the back edge of the garden. It’s far from finished, but it’s getting there. We installed a small patio for sitting, and another to hold the new grill. Then, we put in landscape edging to make some strong lines, and last weekend we started laying out the raised bed. Today, we filled it with soil, and we bought our second big round of plants.

This will be a mix between an herb and a flower bed; a few flowers and a lot of foliage plants to add green and texture to the yard. There’s a hibiscus for the center, and a couple of colors of begonia for a ring around it, with nettles, white licorice, sage, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, and a few others I forget at the moment, for an easy-access herb ring around the outside. We’ll need to go somewhere else to find savory and tarragon, and the basil and oregano will come after the last frost date. It promises to be a flavorful garden, though!

Most of the plants will get put in the ground in a week or two, probably, since there are a few that are frost-tender and we’re not quite out of the woods here just yet. But it’s a start, and the yard is actually starting to feel like a garden now that the plants are all sitting there in the middle of the bed. That was a 4-foot high heap of dirt this morning, and it feels really good to see progress every weekend. We still have a couple more panels of trellis to install, lots of planting to do, and we still need to finalize the garden path and install some more landscape edging, but it’s coming. And, if you ignore the huge piles of tools still sitting around the yard, this view from the patio is starting to actually look like a yard you might want to spend time in.

We poached those hosta plants from my grandfathers’ yard a few weeks ago, since his were in serious need of dividing. There are bleeding heart bulbs in behind the hosta, and calladium bulbs in the front. No signs of life yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they’re coming soon. There are also some lily of the valley planted off on the side that I’m impatiently waiting to see poking up. I wasn’t too sure about the quality of those bulbs, so it’s hard to know if they’re really coming, but I hope so.

It’ll be a few more weeks before we have everything tidied up and settled, but it’s been fun to see it coming along, and it will be even more fun to have a nice place to spend time outside this summer. Who knows…I might even manage to knit out there once in a while…