How to Reimagine a Historic Landscape Design

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Ask This Old House landscape designer Jenn Nawada uses an historic landscape design from a protégé of Frederick Law Olmsted as inspiration to transform an overgrown backyard

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Time: 5-6 hours

Cost: $800

Skill Level: Moderate

Tools List for Reimagining a Historic Landscape Design:
Hand rake
Border spade
Transplant spade
Hand trowel

Shopping List:
Fieldstone stepping stones
Plants appropriate for the site conditions (see below for specific plants from this project)

1. Wearing gardening gloves, identify weeds and begin clearing the area by pulling out weeds from the roots. Use a rake to clear larger areas of brush.
2. If there are plants which can be transplanted, use a border spade or transplant spade to dig down around the roots. Dig an outline around the root ball, position the blade under the root ball, and remove it from the ground. Place the plant on a tarp until you’re ready to replant it.
3. Leave any perennial plants that can be salvaged in their current location.
4. With the area clear and down to the soil, lay down stepping stones. Dig down a bit to ensure the stones lay flat on the soil and backfill as needed to prevent wobbling.
5. To create a makeshift trellis, put nails into a fence and tie a piece of string along the nails. Attach climbing vine plants along the string.
6. While still in pots, stage the plants, keeping those with similar needs together. Consider bloom sequences so that there is year-round interest throughout the entire design.
7. Remove plants from their plastic canisters by tapping them out from the bottom. Gently tease out the roots from the root ball using hands or a hand rake.
8. Dig holes twice as wide as the root ball, but not quite as deep. The top of the root ball should be even with the soil line. Place plants in the holes and backfill with soil and compost mix.
9. Use the same technique to transplant any salvaged plants.
10. If planting new bulbs, dig a hole using a hand trowel a few inches down. Place the bulb in the ground and backfill with soil.
11. When all the plants are in the ground, cover with two inches of mulch using a rake. Be sure not to cover up the stems with the mulch. This will suffocate the plant.
12. Water thoroughly until the plants are established.

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Previous Amazing Landscape Design for Front Yards and Backyards Plants
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  1. IAmNotAFunguy
    April 9, 2017

    How does a yard turn into an overgrown jungle like that?!

  2. kodiak wild
    April 10, 2017

    nice design, jenn.

    now, those leaves need to be cleaned up.

  3. Cool One
    April 10, 2017

    Thanks for another superb video.

  4. ribadib
    April 10, 2017

    i would have done a controlled fire to take care of the overgrowth

  5. buddy77587
    April 10, 2017

    just beautiful Jan!

  6. ravenlorans
    April 10, 2017

    This Mini Episode of This Over Priced House was a Historical Elevation of Jungle Rot.

  7. Timothy McDougald
    April 10, 2017

    where was the help at?

  8. Jesse Lynn
    April 11, 2017

    I think a spring update is in order!

  9. ArchNME
    April 13, 2017

    The Olmsted thing was an interesting point at the beginning but repeating it over and over seemed forced and awkward. It's not like Olmsted himself designed this women's lawn.

  10. MsStandingstone
    April 14, 2017

    Very nice! What a lot of work…but what fun to have the inspiration from the Historical Society and the lovely print! I love that connection and the reality that those bits of information can fuel a great deal of effort and elbow grease. Bless the gardeners who look at the weed filled yard and imagine (or re-imagine) a landscaped garden.

  11. TheKaukas
    April 16, 2017

    she looks and sounds like water bender from avatar, dont remember her name.

  12. Atlas Shrugged
    May 19, 2017

    i want Roger back, if this continues im unsubbing

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