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Matt’s Birthday Gift To Me This Year

Last Updated on June 23, 2022 by Kristi Linauer

Update 6/23: All is well! I had a great birthday, and then had some other fun things scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. I hope to be able to get back to house-related stuff this afternoon. If so, I’ll have an update for y’all tomorrow (Friday).

Tomorrow, June 21st, is my birthday. Matt and I generally don’t do much for our birthdays for obvious reasons (you know…Matt being housebound for 13 years and all). So generally, our birthdays are just a relaxing day at home where the birthday person gets to choose the restaurant(s) and movie(s) for the day. Our birthdays are very low key.

As far as gifts go, Matt and I both stopped asking each other what birthday gift we want many years ago because there was rarely anything that either of us wanted that would be a great gift idea. Since we couldn’t go on trips or do anything outside of the house, all I ever wanted was additional money in my monthly house project budget to put towards whatever project I was working on at the time. 😀 So that kind of became the norm over the years. It’s boring, but it worked for me.

But this year was different. This year, I knew exactly what I wanted for my birthday. I wanted a consultation with a landscape designer who can do a CAD drawing showing our one-acre lot completely designed with landscaping, hardscaping, lighting placement, etc. Y’all know what I’m talking about, right? I’m talking about those amazing drawings that look like this…

Y’all know that I’ve been ruminating on some outdoor ideas lately. I’ve become a bit obsessive about some of them, like figuring out how to have a water feature in the tiny “courtyard” area outside of the breakfast room (sitting room) windows. The more I look at those ideas that I posted about the other day, the more I love either the sculptural fountain idea…

via Facebook

…or the idea of a sugar kettle fountain, as long as I can incorporate a platform of some sort where birds can stand in shallow water to drink and bathe.

I’ve also been obsessively looking at driveway ideas. I’m so glad that I posted about my consideration of a a chip seal driveway, because I knew that y’all would have some great input! And I wasn’t disappointed. After reading your experiences with chip seal driveways and streets that some of you have had, it has made me reconsider. It was especially those experiences regarding the asphalt getting soft and/or bubbling in the really hot weather that made me think perhaps there was a better idea for our driveway.

So at this very moment, I’m considering a gravel driveway. I love the idea of having a permeable driveway (that means no standing puddles of water after rainstorms). And if I have it installed using those hard plastic grids that keep the gravel in place, and use small enough gravel to fill in those grids, the driveway will be wheelchair accessible. Here’s a video showing one brand of grid called Core used for a driveway, and you can see how a wheelchair and bicycle easily go over the gravel.

And here’s a very quick video showing how it’s installed.

I do love the charm of a gravel driveway, but I never thought it would be accessible for Matt. But after spending quite a bit of time over the last week researching these various types of grid products used to make gravel driveways more durable and long-lasting (the grid keeps the gravel from being displaced), and seeing that they also make them wheelchair accessible, it seem like a great option.

And then I’ve also tossed around the idea lately of incorporating my own walking track on our one-acre lot.

Gravel may be a great idea for that project as well if I can use those grids to keep it in place.

So those are the things I’ve discussed on the blog, plus I’ve been gathering general ideas for landscaping to narrow down things that I do like and things that I know for sure I don’t like. For example, I know that on either side of our front sidewalk that goes from the front porch to the street, I’d love planting beds on either side that look something like the left side of this sidewalk.

And I’ve also learned that I really like flower beds to be lined somehow so that there is a clear separation between the bed and the grass. In other words, something like this…

So while I have all of these random ideas floating around in my head, I have no idea how to put them all together into one cohesive plan using plants that will do well in my area, or that will thrive under our huge oak tree in the front yard.

I need someone to help me. And after spending about two hours yesterday looking at the picture galleries and reading the customer reviews of all of the landscape designers in the area, I’m pretty sure I’ve found my person. I’ve already been in touch with him, and I’ll be setting up an appointment for sometime hopefully next week.

I’m so excited to see what he comes up with!! I’m hoping he can take my jumbled mess of ideas and come up with something really great that I can spend the next couple of years incorporating one project at a time.

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 11:16 am

    Happy Birthday!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 11:16 am

    Happy happy birthday!!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      June 21, 2022 at 4:56 am

      What a lovely Birthday present. If they provide a planting scheme it’ll take all the guess work out of which plants will thrive in your full sun and dry shady areas. I’m sure it will be beautiful and your mind will be whirling with ideas. (No change there then!)

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 11:27 am

    Happy birthday. So excited for you. Ask about the maintenance aspect from your designer as well but I’m sure that’s a given.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 11:31 am

    Happy B Day! Smart idea to work with a professional first for a great start.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kate S
    June 20, 2022 at 11:39 am

    Blessings and prayers for you on your birthday! A definite reason to celebrate the start of summer 😊👍🏻

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 11:41 am

    I think this is an excellent idea! We had someone plan our previous home and it was SO HELPFUL! It took away all the decision fatigue and unlimited options that I kept coming up with. It was so dreamy! So dreamy in fact, that I had to skim this post. Because I also want the same thing and I love all your ideas lol. It’s getting my brain turning. But I have a lot of indoor projects I’ve got to finish first. 🙂

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 11:54 am

    HaPpY BiRtHdAY to you!! Love the drawing!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sarah Eschweiler
    June 20, 2022 at 12:06 pm

    Happy Birthday! May you have a magical year ahead, filled with kind blessings & sweet adventures!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      June 20, 2022 at 5:12 pm

      Happy Birthday clever lady! Have a wonderful day.
      We had the block grid and gravel on a set of garden stairs and it worked well. Great cost effective idea for large areas.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Joan Hornung
    June 20, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    Happy Birthday tomorrow! Wishing you wonderful things for your new year. I love what you picked as your gift…it will be SO inspiring to see what a pro comes up with. I hope to do similar in a year or so if we indeed downsize to a smaller house on our lot next door. Florida has the WORST grass, and I am very keen to not buy into it again. I want native plants, layered so there is very little of the nightmare grass to deal with. (And the millions of weeds that come with it.) I’m hoping the local pros can steer me toward the native plants and ground cover, etc. I am so excited to see what your project will look like. Best wishes!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sheila F
    June 20, 2022 at 12:28 pm

    Happy Birthday!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sea Dub
    June 20, 2022 at 12:32 pm

    I’m local to you – and I’d encourage you to look for native plants and/or drought tolerant plants as much as possible. I’ve got tons of lantana and salvia/sage – and almost all of them survived the freeze last year, and I’ve just now needed to start watering them (they do pretty well most of the time, but with the brutal heat we’ve had lately and the lack of rain, I need to water them now). The hummingbirds love the salvia and I get to enjoy watching them buzz among the plants. Turks cap and rock rose have also done well for me and have survived the brutal cold as well as the drought and heat. Where I live now I have thinner soil and lots of Limestone rocks everywhere, but when I lived in town and had the blackland gumbo soil, I could grow pretty much anything without any issues.

    If you are looking for a local nursery to check out, I bought most of my plants from green life nursery off new road. They have a great variety of plants and are very knowledgeable. I know you are hiring a landscape architect to handle it for you – but if you have to get your own plants or want to do some of your own research, I can’t recommend them highly enough.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      June 21, 2022 at 6:26 am

      Happy Birthday, Kristi! Seriously. Couldn’t happen to someone nicer.

      I second this motion, even though I’m north of the Red River.

      Lantana and salvia –> butterflies, bees, hummingbirds all LOVE them.
      Crepe myrtles for the bees and wild bird birds.

      Your property will be so peaceful!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Edythe Koerber
    June 20, 2022 at 12:32 pm

    Happy birthday!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 12:41 pm

    That is a wonderful gift!

    You will save yourself so much time, effort, and frustration by consulting an expert. My neighbor, who has indisputably the prettiest yard in the neighborhood, had a landscape designer draw up plans for her many years ago. The plans had details for what plants–trees, shrubs, grasses, groundcovers, and flower–to plant where and the shape for pathways and deck. She implemented them as time and budget permitted, doing all the work herself. She’s altered and added to the original design, as she has learned what works best where and what she loves and what she doesn’t, but 30+ years later, the bones of the design remain and have served her well.

    You have so many great ideas; what a gift to have an expert to guide you in how to make them come to life…or to tell you, “Nope, that won’t work; how about this instead?”

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Julie B.
    June 20, 2022 at 12:51 pm

    Happy birthday!

    I love looking at landscape plans, so I’m looking forward to yours!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 1:18 pm

    Happy Birthday.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    What a great idea! I can’t wait to see what they come up with as a plan for you! Happy birthday tomorrow, Kristi!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    Happy Birthday! I’m excited to see what your landscape designers has in store for you.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    Happy early birthday!!! My mom lives on average in FL. She has a crushed shell gravel driveway. We love it. She does not have any systems to keep it in place, so she does have to refresh the shell every few years. Other than that- it’s beautiful and my son can bike on it (although bumpy). Can’t wait to see the plan for the yard! HBD!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 6:24 pm

    Years ago we moved into a newly constructed home with the yard just clay and weeds. We were very tight on income with a newborn, but we decided to hire a landscape designer at our local nursery to come to the property. He spent 90 minutes walking around with us, asking our likes and dislikes, and then drew up a plan. It was such a good decision. We found it very motivating, knowing the steps we would take to create our yard, and it was a great way to avoid impulse purchases. It took several years, but it turned out so nicely. I bet you’ll be happy you hired someone for this work.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Christine Czarnecki
    June 20, 2022 at 6:59 pm

    A wonderful birthday gift, indeed!

    I have just gone through a steep learning curve to work out a plan to re-landscape our front garden. We live in Silicon Valley, a very different climate than yours in Waco, and here, we are all concerned with drought and tightening water restrictions. But Texas is experiencing drought, too. And who wouldn’t rather spend money on something other than the water bill, if you are able to design your garden to accomplish this?

    Here are a few things I wish I had understood before starting this plan.

    1. Start looking first at drought-tolerant plants, especially native plants and non-native plants that are from similar climates. You want to strive to plant things that will look lush and beautiful, but not require much more water than you receive naturally. I have traditional tastes and found there were plenty of plants that had low water usage but still look lush and beautiful.

    And remember, native plants will be the very best for feeding your native birds, bees, and butterflies.

    2. If you want to plant a few specimens that require more water, be sure to plant them all together, on the same sprinkler valve zone, so that you can selectively give them the water that they need without overwatering the rest.

    3. Pay attention to the amount of sun and shade each area of your garden gets. This is key! You can’t plant a shade-loving plant in the full sun and expect good results, no matter how much you love the look and no matter how much water you dump on it on hot days. The reverse is just as true.

    4. Sprinklers and drip irrigation are nothing like you remember. There are special rotory sprinklers for lawns and shrubs, that send larger fingers of water out instead of a mist. These are more water efficient, put the water down more slowly, allow the water to be adsorbed, and are not blown around as much by wind. They are pressure regulated, so that they work uniformly.

    New drip lines have check valves and anti-siphon features that make each length water the same as any other. Drip with mini sprayers and bubblers and much more subject to breaking and do a poorer job distributing water.

    5. When you install drip lines in garden beds, you cover it over with several inches of wood mulch to keep the water from evaporating up and allowing it to soak down. And it keeps the weeds away! Those new kinds of drip line do not get plugged or clogged.

    6. Consider putting shrub or perennial beds around the borders of all your hardscape, and put those beds on drip. This way, you will not be accidentally watering the driveway, the sidewalk or the patio. Keep the water for the plants!

    7. You should buy your irrigation equipment at a professional irrigation supply place, rather than Home Depot or Lowe’s. It’s different stuff than homeowner grade, holds up, and is less expensive.

    8. Our county water district and city give rebates for re-landscaping and converting sprinklers to drip. Yours may, too.

    9. We also got a rebate for upgrading our sprinkler controller to one which shuts off automatically if it is going to rain. It is controlled by hyper local weather (at our little city airport, about 2 miles from our house), so is really accurate for our area. It also can be controlled wirelessly by your computer or smart phone. My engineer husband is in hog heaven on this one.

    10. You likely will find great sources of plant varieties at your state ag department and local universities (Baylor!). For us, the University of California at Davis and at Riverside do plant and irrigation testing and have evaluations of what works best in our climates, north and south. They even have lists of Arboretum All-Stars that look particularly good with less water.

    I also found a new type of lawn to use for areas where I wanted turf, a kind developed by the University of California just for our climate. Once established, it uses one quarter of the amount of water a regular lawn does. I get comments from the neighbors all the time about how good it looks. (it’s soft, too!). See what new sorts of varieties have been developed for Texas.

    Good luck to you in your new landscape plan!

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      June 21, 2022 at 3:13 pm

      Wow, this was really informative and I don’t even live in a drought-stricken area! Thank you for taking the time to write all that out.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      June 25, 2022 at 3:56 pm

      Wonderful advice for Kristi and all those reading the comments. I can second the idea to group plants with same water need so they are on the same valve… wish I had thought about that when putting in all new landscaping. All of your points are spot on and all of us will be dealing with less natural water soon. Thanks.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Christine Czarnecki
      June 27, 2022 at 12:18 pm

      As if I have not commented enough on this topic, I realized there was one more thing to suggest.

      Consider putting in areas that are just native plants. Many, many local birds, bees, and butterflies can ONLY eat from local native plants!

      I learned about this from a lecture about native butterflies here in our area, and what we could do to provide them more habitat. Just because you plant flowers does not mean that native butterflies and bees can get at the nectar they need. The poster child for this is the rose. Looks gorgeous, but the flowers are not open enough for many native pollinators to get in and eat. I certainly didn’t know that!

      One suggestion was even leave a section of your side yard in local weeds! This is the stuff that these beneficial local insects actually need to eat and sometime the only thing they can eat.

      Discuss this with your landscape architect, because you do want to attract local birds and butterflies to watch from your breakfast room.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Marianne in Mo.
    June 20, 2022 at 10:34 pm

    Happy Birthday! 💕 My Mom was born on the 22nd. She was 91 the year she passed, and I just realized yesterday that she would have been 99 this year. I love the idea of having a landscape architect give you a plan! And I love both of those water features.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Cheryl SB
    June 20, 2022 at 10:36 pm

    Happy Birthday! My youngest grandson has one tomorrow, also.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 10:47 pm

    First, Happiest of Birthdays! Your ideas are wonderful. After living in Arizona (no grass) 3 yrs I finally enlisted the help of a landscape architect and it was the best money I’ve spent! While I can’t get rid of all the rock that is already here—a particularly unattractive pink toned mess—I’m all envious about the Core system. I would love that here!! I’ll be watching for your decision.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 20, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    That sounds wonderful. May I suggest one thing? When you find the designer you want, ask them to set the plan up so you can implement it in stages.
    Happy Birthday!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 21, 2022 at 12:00 am

    Happy Birthday Kristi!
    Enjoy your special day.
    Thank you for sharing yours and Matt’s journey.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 21, 2022 at 1:02 am

    Kristi, you have to realize beforehand how much time and work a garden takes. You could easily spend as much time on the garden as you do transforming your inside house.
    Start very small And then see how it goes for a few years.
    We have green waste collection just once every two weeks and tonight my hubby was able to fill four of our neighbour’s bins in addition to ours. That is pretty much the case for every pick up, all season (March through November) here in Canada.
    I do have a beautiful garden though. But it would be a lie to say that sometimes all the work doesn’t seem worth it.

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      June 21, 2022 at 9:50 am

      This is excellent advice. Do not try to do it all at once in terms of making beds and planting. Start with a couple of areas that you will see and enjoy and work out from there.

      It takes time for plants to get established and it takes time to figure out what requires the least active maintenance.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sharon C
    June 21, 2022 at 2:53 am

    Happy Birthday Kristi. What a wonderful birthday gift from Matt for a landscape/garden design. That’s absolutely perfect.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Tammy (Pa.)
    June 21, 2022 at 5:40 am

    I hope you get to enjoy your day…!!!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 21, 2022 at 6:17 am

    Happy Birthday! What an awesome gift! I hope you share the plan here as I cannot wait to see!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 21, 2022 at 7:08 am

    Happy Birthday! A landscape designer is a great idea. They should be able to help you with driveway suggestions as well. Just be brutally honest with them (and yourself) about how much maintenance you’re willing to do. I know you love the lush layered plantings, but you’ve also said you have no desire to dedicate time to keeping it look so good. You could always hire someone to come in a couple times a year and perform maintenance. It’s an idea. Good luck, I’m excited to see what ideas they come up with for you!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 21, 2022 at 9:43 am

    Investing in a landscaping designer and plans will be money well spent. You will not regret it.

    My ex and I did it when we were ready to tackle the issues around the exterior of the house and I have never regretted one penny. I had collected a raft of pictures of things I liked, she came out to measure the lot and take elevations, and she was able to put together a design that I absolutely loved on the first go round.

    We executed the work ourselves – gone are the days when I’ll do that – but the design still holds up well nearly twenty years later.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Victoria Jewel
    June 21, 2022 at 11:23 am

    Happy Birthday Kristi! Can’t wait to see what your landscape designer comes up with!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Melissa Kramer
    June 21, 2022 at 12:02 pm

    Happy, happy birthday!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 21, 2022 at 2:07 pm

    Happy Birthday to one of the most talented, good-hearted people I’ve ever had the privilege of “knowing” online! You and Matt are such an inspiration to me and so many others. I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful day!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 23, 2022 at 5:01 am

    Happy birthday, Kristi! I follow you since the condo, I have no words to tell you how happy I am for you and Matt for the change the new car has brought into your lives.
    I hope you had a wonderful day!