Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Front yard landscaping - We did it ourselves!

Beware: Attack of the killer yews...

We bought our house from an older couple who decided to downsize into a smaller home. They were the original homeowners of the house that was built in 1969. They took very good care of the house and just a few years before we bought it from them they replaced the windows, roof, siding and garage door; all of the expensive exterior stuff. What they never did was update the inside, so when we bought the house in 2001 we spent the next 5 years updating the interior of the home.

Finally in 2006 we were able to attack the killer yews that had overgrown on our front landscape. As with most of the renovations to our house, we set out to do the project ourselves. And like the rest of the projects, we were not experts, so it took a lot of planning and research.

We had to hire someone to dig out these big over-grown shrubs that blanketed out house. It was unfortunate, but necessary, they weren't coming out with a garden shovel. We had the shrubs removed in the fall of 2006 and as you can see the house looked pretty bare, but so much better at the same time. We didn't realize how overgrown the 37 year old shrubs had become. We hated them so much that we stopped caring what they looked like.

We spent that winter researching, reading and planning our new landscaping. As everything started to blossom in spring of 2007, we would drive around to other neighborhoods and take pictures of landscapes and plantings that we liked. I combed through books and magazines at the library and Borders looking for ideas. Our goal was to plant everything over Memorial Day weekend of 2007. It was getting down to the wire and I still didn't have a solid plan to work with.

In the nick of time, a local nursery advertised FREE landscaping planning if you brought pictures to the nursery. This was an amazing opportunity. I drew out a garden on graph paper, but I was having trouble placing plants. I took my drawing and photos to the nursery and a landscape designer gave me some ideas. This was the help that I needed.

The big shrub in the middle of this picture is an azalea that we kept from the original landscape. It was overshadowed by the old yews. It looks so pretty in early spring when it blooms. The little skinny tree to the left of the azalea is a Japanese Maple. We planted 4 St. Johns wort around the maple and an alberta spruce at the corner of the house.
Right under the picture window are 3 Pieris 'Mtn Fire' plants and 2 silver sword azalea plants.

In front of the the alberta spruce is goldflame spirea and to the right is a hydrangea. Right in front of the door are 2 rose glow barberries and 3 gold barberries.

Fast forward to April 26, 2009. The bulbs are blooming, but I need more color. Note to self...plant more bulbs in the fall. All of the plants in this corner are very healthy.

Fast forward to May 9, 2009. It is amazing how fast plants grow and bloom in the spring. I love this corner of the landscape. The bulbs are done. The St. Johns Wort will bloom yellow flowers over the summer. These are much bigger and hardier than we realized they would be, so we might remove one plant and spread three out. We'll move the fourth plant to the back yard.

Bay window - April 26, 2009.

Bay window - May 6, 2009. We are not happy with this part of the landscape. These plants didn't fill in. Hopefully they just need more time. I am going to fill in with some perennial flowers. This section needs some help.

The front door - May 6, 2009. I'm pleased with how these plants are filling in.

I love this 'Gold Flame' Spirea.

We still have some work to do, like the center of the landscape. I also want to fill in with some perennial flowers and more bulbs. When we first started this project I wanted to hire a designer to help us plan a layout and his crew to plant everything. My husband was the one who said, NO, we can do this ourselves. I am so glad we did it ourselves.

I am not sure how much we saved by doing the work ourselves, but I do know my parents hired someone to design and plant their front landscape of about the same size for $1000 and that didn't include the plants. We bought all of these plants from three different nurseries and took advantage of the coupons they were offering at the time. I do remember paying a little extra to have the compost and mulch delivered, but we don't have a vehicle to haul all of that ourselves.

In the end, we actually had fun planning, designing and planting the landscape. We are really proud of the work that we did and I am sure we saved ourselves a ton of money!

What do-it-yourself home improvement projects are you most proud of?

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  1. We tore out the front and back yard at our first home and redid both of them completely. Most landcaping here involves rock, andthe gorund is solid like concrete, so it takes some big equipment to move it, and then you have to pay to haul the almost-white dirt away, and pay to buy new dirt.

    When we moved into our current house, we redid the interior and landcaped the backyard, which had nothing but a very small patio and patio cover (only 7 feet high, yikes!) and once again hauled out dirt from the backyard. I designed the backyard and planted everything. My husband built the wall with some volunteer help (the low wall; the yard is surrounded by a large block wall), and we paid to have curbing poured, sprinklers installed, and sod laid. Everything else I planted.

    At my last house I had a ton of bulbs (I planted 500 in one year). I love the look of bulbs in large quantities. I order from We're a zone 9 so my early February bulbs are what you get in April :)

    I haven't been able to plant bulbs at this house yet, but I am planning to do it again soon. While I did tulips before, they don't really like a zone 9. There are some smaller naricssus varities that do well, however, at naturalizing, so my plan is to grow those that will come back every year in order to give me a better return on our money (and, hopefully they'll fill in even more over the years!)

    You could always fill in the bare spot under the window with some annuals until your bushes get large enough to fill in that spot for you! I grow vincas here in the summer, and they go to seed every year in the fall. They die at the first frost, and I tear them out then. Next June, I have new seedlings, and I transplant them to wherever I need them. As you're in a cooler climate, you can try some other flower that will come up on it's own earlier in the year.

  2. I was just reading this post on your front yard landscaping and I'm so impressed! You guys did a wonderful job! I see what you mean about under the bay window though. Some plants just need longer to grow in. Just an may have already fixed it by now, but you could put in a wheelbarrow, or something of good size along the back by the house and plant some haning vines and some flowers in there. That would give you a focal point and substancial size to compete with the large scrubs on the side of the house and in front of the door. I have something like that in my yard and I even put nice fake flowers in it during the winter so that there is still color there year round.

    We just cut down huge overgrown bushes in front of our house and I'm dreaming up what I'm going to put in there place this spring. I'm sure money will dictate what I do, but I'm still excited none the less!

    I love what you guys did though, and I hope you post more pictures this comming spring or summer!


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