By Ann Ipock


“Yarden” is a term my sister, Cathy, made up because the two things – yard and garden – are almost indistinguishable at her home – and mine, for that matter. We often share pass-along plants, news of plant sales and unusual plant finds.

I’ve always loved gardening – I once wrote a column titled “The $$$$ Salad” for Sasee – but this summer I’ve gone beyond the usual potted cukes and tomatoes, rescued $3 plants and transplanted passion vine babies. In fact, this summer I’ve nearly lost my mind – or pretty nearly – on the largest gardening project of my entire life!

The problem was I had faith in DIY, followed by Pinterest, followed by giving full attention to well-meaning store clerks. But what started out as a simple idea in theory exploded into a dragon-breathing octopus; each tentacle representing a new problem created by an existing one. Are you with me?

Why didn’t I leave well enough alone? I mean, last summer my DIY project was a complete failure (but I had forgotten about that, evidently). Convinced I could once again have the lush green yard surrounding our brick bungalow when we moved in almost nine years ago, the one that stopped traffic – wait! That was me who stopped traffic: butt up in air, wearing a pink visor, tank top, short-shorts and flip-flops. Yes, I look like a fool when I garden. Duh. In my quest a year ago to rebeautify our home, on my hands and knees and using lots of elbow grease, I single-handedly “plugged” centipede grass in all the spots that were bare. About 90% of our yard. This was due to a season of unusual menaces: heavy snowfall, prolific weeds, multiplying moles and feisty fire ants.

But y’all, this was not my first rodeo, er, repair, either. I’ve done it successfully in other yards we’ve owned. Plus, way back in the 1960s, working side-by-side with my avid, yard-man father, who was just trying to keep me out of trouble, I persevered. All I remembered then was it was hot as blue blazes, and the job was back breaking. All I remembered last summer was the exact same thing. The main difference: the results. One worked, and the other one didn’t.

So I cut my losses, learned my lesson and kicked the DIY idea to the curb. Temporarily, that is. I hired an experienced landscaper to lay centipede sod. Though it was terribly expensive and the first water bill equaled a car payment, it was well worth it. And now, boy, do our flowers “pop” – yellow black-eyed Susans, purple lavender, red gerbera daisies, pink salvia, and pink and purple coneflower. Especially since having a beautiful English cutting garden and a neglected dying yard is like wearing $3 thrift store jeans, torn and faded, with $400 Manolo Blahnik heels. Come to think of it, that’s the latest style. Never mind.

But back to this summer’s DIY failure. Two words: brick patio. That’s right. Sounds simple, rolls off your tongue. Heck it’s an American icon, and I wanted one. So, hub Russ and I did our research. We actually watched a DIY video together. Twice. Then we drove over to Lowe’s and made a deposit of several hundred dollars. We followed the instructions. Russell raked up all the old mulch, pine straw and debris. But guess what was lurking underneath? Hint: it was at least 81” in diameter. (No. Not really. That’s my dyslexia kicking in). It was at least 18” in diameter. A huge pine tree stump. Back to Lowe’s to buy an axe. No can do, Russell said. Even our son-in-law, who is quite muscular, worked on it. Back to Lowe’s for a chisel. Still no progress. Back to Lowe’s for a small electric chain-saw. That did the trick. Stump gone. Next, twenty bags of sand were spread, then leveled (ahem!) by Russell. Next, brick pavers were laid and finally, he finished it off with red bricks on all four sides. More sand was swept in at the cracks. Beautiful! We stood back and admired our handiwork. Took pictures. Accepted congrats from the neighbors. Then we realized it was not level. It was cockeyed, sort of like ocean waves, uneven and undulating.

After that, we came to our senses and hired the aforementioned landscaper to, basically, (I hate to say this) redo the patio. Now it’s perfect. As we sit at our new table and chairs from Lowe’s (lovely red seats against our rust-stained privacy fence), red geraniums in a clay pot atop the table and sip Mimosas, we absolutely agree on one thing: paid professionals are used for a reason. I’m now a converted fan to Hire a Professional!

About this writer

  • Ann Ipock Ann Ipock, the first Sasee hat recipient, is the author of the “Life is Short” humor trilogy. She currently writes for four publications and lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with her husband, Russell.

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3 Responses to “DIY or HAP?”

  1. Ann, this story was relatable, as I also have attempted many DIY projects that ended up in the can or dumpster. You certainly put forth the effort. Now you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of the handyman’s labor. Fun story.

    • Ann Ipock says:

      Linda, thank you! Your post describes my sentiments to a tee! We are certainly enjoying our brick patio with this beautiful fall weather. Yes, I’ve sworn off DIY projects. That is, until I catch something on Facebook, Pinterest or You Tube that I can’t resist! ;-)

  2. Rose Ann says:

    I recognize your “before” yard. It belongs to me and I see no “after” picture in the near future! Pinterest makes me think I can make or fix anything, LOL. Enjoy your beautified patio/garden…you’ve earned it:)

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