Lookin’ Good in the Neighborhood – Part 1

Posted on February 18, 2013. Filed under: Gardening, Home |

Let’s just say that we didn’t buy our house for its front yard. Wooo-eeee. It was fugly when we bought it. Overgrown trees and bushes that hadn’t seen the sharp-end of shears in eons, two kinds of grass on the lawn, gigantic bushes flanking the driveway, and of course there was ivy. (Story of our lives.)





The front yard still has a long way to go before it meets our dreams. It will take a few years. Be patient because I know I can’t be.

So what have we done up to this point in the front?

  1. Removed big bushes at the street
  2. Mailbox planting bed
  3. Pruned crepe myrtle
  4. Pruned & fertilized hollies, gardenias, waxleaf, azaleas, snowball bush, and camellia
  5. Painted front door and shutters
  6. Planted another hydrangea

At the beginning of the fall, we received a mailer from one of our favorite local businesses: a garden center. They were offering a special that involved 2 landscaping consultations in 12 months for $99. Since we don’t know much about plants, the front yard is muy importante for curb appeal, and we have to battle a ton of shade up in our hizzy, we went for it.

Which… of course led to a design plan and more money and a contract and a landscaping crew and more money. Hehe. That’s how I roll. Just kidding. The truth is that we were so impressed with the designer that came to visit. He had tons of ideas about transplanting what we already had so we could still use it and save money; and he came up with a low maintenance design that’s perfect for our shady yard and incorporates plants that will bloom at different times of the year. Awesome. We do not have the horticultural knowledge or the aesthetic sense to come up with such a genius plan. So we paid $175 for a design plan (I think that’s cheap) which also grants us 15% of plants at the nursery for the next 12 months.

The design plan is pretty sweet. Our designer recommended Korean boxwoods, spreading plum yew, winter daphne, autumn ferns, tea olives, sweet box confusa, gardenias, azaleas, heuchera, hostas, linten rose, and silvery liriope. Oooo. The possibilities. The potential. The pretty flowers.

Our landscape designer was super flexible about what we actually wanted to tackle from the design plan. If we pulled the trigger and paid for them to do everything in this plan, it would have been quite expensive. We exchanged emails back and forth with different scenarios and what specific labor we would like to pay for versus the labor we could manage on our own. Getting our front yard in shape is like getting your body back in shape, it’s probably going to be painful, hurt your wallet, and take a lot longer than you want it to. We are resigned to the fact that it will most likely take 2 or 3 planting seasons to accomplish everything in this design plan.

So what did we decide to do in January 2013???

  • Transplant azaleas, hydrangeas, and gardenias in front of kitchen and near front walk to the left property line – landscaping crew
  • Remove waxleaf and hollies along foundation – landscaping crew
  • Plant 2 tea olives on left corner of house – landscaping crew
  • Plant 1 Japanese maple in center of planting bed in front of kitchen – landscaping crew
  • Install 5 landscaping boulders – landscaping crew
  • Spread soil amendments and pine straw – landscaping crew
  • Deliver 10 Korean boxwoods, 10 plum yew, 3 winter daphne, and 12 autumn ferns for us to install

We plan to tackle the planting bed to the right of the front door first since it will make the most impact. The existing azaleas are too big for that location, much like a lot of plants in our yard.


We opted to have the crew do the transplanting since we didn’t want to have to dig 2 holes per bush and we didn’t want to risk killing the plants with our inexperience. The azaleas’ new location is perfect: it’s the right amount of shade, they frame the yard nicely, and they act as a relaxed hedge at the property line.



We also paid for the removal of mature hollies and a waxleaf myrtle because it would have been a lot of work for Adam to remove 5 mature plants with rather large root balls. Oh the dirty jokes you could make…

I honestly didn’t remember asking the crew to install the 2 tea olives, but it was in the contract (must have overlooked that, irresponsible homeowner), and I’m glad they did since they are a little larger. Larger = bigger hole to dig. You can see them on the corner of the house in the picture below.


Speaking of… a 15 gallon Japanese maple requires a humongous hole. And it’s an expensive tree. We’d rather pay someone else to do it and get the 12 month guarantee on plants AND labor. Yep. There’s not much to see of the maple at this point since it’s dormant. It will be beautiful in the fall if our other Japanese maple is any indication.

Boulders are heavy. ‘Nuff said.


Soil amendments and pine straw are a part of the planting process. What we didn’t realize are two things: that they would edge the pine island for us near the street, and how much difference some fresh pine straw makes in improving your curb appeal.

All of the plants we had delivered are for the planting bed to the right of the front door. We are saving some major change by planting the rest ourselves.

So this is how everything looked after the landscaping crew:




Our stubby lamppost above…

It’s amazing what a difference there is! You can see our house! We were so giddy… until we saw the plants waiting for us on the parking pad…



Next time, I’ll tell you how we went about getting 35 plants in the ground in 1 and half days. And you’ll get to see “after” pictures for phase 1.


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