Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dream Driveway and Luxurious Landscaping

In all of my life I never imagined we'd be anxious to splurge on a brand spankin' new driveway.  It was necessary, unfortunately.  Our existing blacktop (asphalt) driveway was crackling away while our garage floor and sidewalk flooded with water and became tripping hazards.  Here is the low down on the demolition and reconstruction of our dream driveway and complimentary landscaping.

Before - Our wintry wonderland with extra large pine trees
The original plan was to remove the three huge pine trees to the right of the house and keep the beautiful large pine tree to the left of the house.  However, God knows how I like symmetry and he guided the plan with his added consent.  Originally the driveway work was scheduled to be done in early Fall of 2011, but since it was the rainiest season in Michigan history the project was postponed until April of 2012.  While we waited we had three huge trees removed.  This was necessary because their roots were under the driveway wreaking havoc on the asphalt and also creating a large hump in the drive which in return caused all of the water runoff to drain into our garage.  Therefore while interviewing concrete contractors we chose the company with the best drainage plan.  J&J Decorative Concrete Inc.  You can see more of their projects at 

Tree Removal:
Before  - view of our house from the road
Tree one down
Tree two going down

Tree three down
All three huge trees fit on this trailer - miraculous!
Our house became visible from the road and surprise - we have a big yard!  I have dreamy ideas for a front yard botanical garden although our neighbors are skeptical and continue to tell me how much they miss those big trees- oops!
Fast forward from September to November 2012.  The rain continued to fall and on a windy, rainy day our neighbor knocked at the door to tell me that our big pine tree to the left of our house fell and was blocking her driveway and garage!  It was shocking to see such an enormous tree uproot and fall over!  It was a huge relief that it did not damage their house or ours!  By the grace of God it dropped diagonally without scratching either house or their b-ball net.

We called the same tree removal company and they hauled it away.  It was sad to see it go.
Driveway before photos:
This rotting wood retaining wall will be replaced with landscaping bricks

The shrubs at the end of the driveway will be relocated and the new driveway will continue a few feet beyond where it ends here.
The wooden fence to the left will be removed along with the cedar bushes.  The rose bush will be transplanted in the back yard.  The new concrete will fill in the triangular area to the left and the end of the driveway will have enough space for 3 cars side-by-side and the driveway will directly connect to the back deck.
These trees will be removed as you saw above

Gutter downspouts will be brought under the sidewalk to drain into the center of the yard.  Sidewalk will be removed and replaced with a curvy decorative designed walk.  
The two large rounded shrubs that are overcrowding the walk will be transplanted allowing for more space and a more inviting entry.

The asphalt will be replaced with concrete and the hump will be a slightly lower grade when finished.  The wooden retaining walls will be replaced with landscaping bricks and the hill where the trees sit will become a beautiful raised flower bed.

 I added this rock border to the existing flower bed and am anxious to see how it looks with the curving sidewalk!

Removal and replacement of driveway and sidewalk:

 The moment we had all been waiting for arrived and it happened to be Kindergarten Spring Break for my oldest daughter. We woke up early each morning to make coffee and greet the workers. It was exciting to watch the project progress from start to finish.
Removal of the garage floor 
The twins chose their own outfits and they were so proud of their coordinated effort
Asphalt driveway removed - There were several layers of concrete and asphalt  Once they were removed the driveway hump became lower which is exactly what we wanted.
Concrete forms installed and drainage configured 
Bobcat in action 
Deep thoughts
While tearing out the asphalt this piece came out altogether and we thought it was pure Michigan
 Sidewalk is taking shape
 Large parking pad - happiness
Oh goodness, this whimsical walk is going to rock!
The cement truck arrives - happiness

The enormous cement truck drove on our lawn and caused quite a mess.  Not thrilled about that.  This caused a lot of damage to our front yard.  We had to bring in many yards of dirt to fill the deep trenches and plant a lot of grass seed.
Sidewalk is poured and they added a decorative swirl pattern.
This girl knows how to stay comfy while the guys do all the hard work
Big grins by the big rig
 Such a little lady
Sidewalk freshly done
 Just can't wait to add the landscaping portion

 This driveway is great for biking and roller skating!
 Glad to be nearly finished with this big project
The draining works well and the finished product looks fabulous!  It turned out so great that two of our next door neighbors hired J&J Construction to redo their driveways as well!
These three little footprints are near our back porch along with 2012.  A  sweet moment in history.  The shadows are bad on this picture.  I would take another, but they are buried under snow right now.
The girls helped us haul dirt, plant grass seed, and cover it with hay.  Before long we had grass!
Hardscaping and landscaping:
We hired a company called Vago Enterprises Inc. to add the retaining walls.  See more of their projects at
   The walls/flower beds turned out better than I could have imagined.  The bricks we chose are from Lowes and they have a chiseled, textured front surface.  There are various gradations of greys and reds.  They compliment the bricks on our house very well.  This crew worked very hard and did an outstanding job!

The retaining walls are the perfect height to hold back the land and at the same time are low enough that car doors do not bang into them.

 Pajama planting day!  We woke up and ran outside to fill the flower beds.
 Creeping phlox, hostas, spider wart, seedum, roses, cleome, butterfly bushes, rose of sharons, sun drops, irises, day lillies, hardy geraniums, magnolia, hydrangeas, crab apple tree, verbena, and more.  Can't wait to watch them grow! 
Mulch added
 To help the plants grow and thrive we had an in ground sprinkler system installed in the front and back yard.
 The girls love walking up this 'stairway' and around and around and around...  The new concrete is an exceptional back drop for sidewalk chalk too!
 This garden is huge!  Thankfully I was able to find most of the perennials on sale at various green houses and many of them were divided and transplanted from my parents and my in-laws gardens.  I am so grateful for their generosity!
 End of Summer Sunday showcasing the height of all of these plants.  So beautiful!
 This garden was a delightful challenge to design as it had to look great from all sides.  This is the side you see from the sidewalk and from the house.  It was a joy to choose and plant these flowers.  I am looking forward to seeing the Spring flowers (phlox, daffodils, hyacinth, and allium)  pop up in the next few weeks.  I will be sure to post pictures when they show their sweet faces.

This garden puts a smile on my face every time I drive up to our house or am out in the yard.  Our neighbors and strangers have stopped to compliment the overall finished product.  I don't think they even miss those overgrown pine trees anymore.

Flowers in full bloom:
Butterflies visit often 
Verbena (an annual in MI) thrived in the warm summer sun.  There were many colors of this planted around the border of the front flower bed.
Cleome - These are my new favorite flower.  They were grown from seed and truly amazed me.  People constantly stopped to ask what these large pink and white flowers were.  They bloomed constantly from early July - September and they were about 4' tall!  Quite a show stopper.  I saved seeds from these plants and plan to add them to other areas in the yard as well as a repeat in the same location. 
 Colorful flowers looked great with the brick retaining walls
I am proud of all that I have learned about gardening and joyfully look forward to working in the dirt again soon.  If only the snow would melt already.

Linking up to 5/12/13