Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Front Yard Makeover!

We wore rose colored glasses when we toured our house for the walk through.  The poor house had been neglected and abused.  We looked at the property with optimism and imagination.  The front yard took a lot of imagination.  Let's just say that the curb appeal was non-existent.

The front bed was full of weeds.  The 5 sad holly bushes had been cut completely to the nubbins and grew back gnarly.  The banisters were rotted and falling off the stoop.  There had been so little care given to the bed that spiders had weaved dense cobwebs on all the windows and across branches of the holly.

We thought the Camelia tree was worth saving and that this one holly bush could be shaped.

But these, these guys had to go! There was no reshaping them.  There was no way to make them even or plant around them and make them look good.

We took one last look for posterity's sake, then Mr. P strapped them to his SUV and ripped those suckers out.  Well, that's what he tried to do, but they snapped the rope.  Instead of spending money on chain, Mr. P dug those bad boys out.  It became a personal challenge and we spent a whole weekend prepping the beds and evening them out.

Just ripping the holly out made everything look so much better!

Luckily we live on a wooded property, so we just dragged a lot of these trimming and holly bush leftovers to our back yard.  Some of it went to my compost pile and the rest went back from whence it came, the earth.

After we had prepped the beds, we laid down several inches of top soil mixed with black gold.  This was a key step for us if we wanted any new planting to grow in the bed.  Here in Durham, we have dense clay soil that isn't hospitable to much besides holly.

To come up with a planting plan, we bought a few gardening magazines which suggested plants and layouts for various climates.  We learned that the design tenets were: 1. Tall stuff in the back, short stuff in the front, 2.  Have a mix of annuals and perennials so there's always color in the beds.  That's pretty much it. Easier that we thought at first.  I sketched out a few drawings  so that we had an idea of how many plants to buy:

Then we went to a local nursery where we got some one on one expert advice.  We returned with 8 Encore Azaleas in coral, 6 hostas, 2 flats of multi color coleus, 2 flats of white begonias, and 1 bleeding heart.  when we first planted them, we thought it look pretty sad and small.  We had to put a lot of trust into the instructions that insisted they needed to be planted 12-18 inches apart.

While we waited for our plants to grow in more fully, we tackled another problem area in the front.  Our yard slopes towards the house created a puddle/pond near our front stoop and right bed.  Mr. P saw an episode of This Old House where they installed a French drain to alleviate a similar problem.

We took turns digging a deep trench along the edge of the bed.  We piled the dirt onto plastic paint covers thinking that we could easily move it to the back, but the flimsy plastic tore almost immediately.  Lesson learned, put the dirt straight into the wheel barrow and empty as needed!

Not going to lie, digging ditches is back breaking work.  I was sore all over my body for 3 days after we dug this trench.  Talk about a full body work out.  We're such weekend warriors.

When the trench was finally deep enough, we headed off to Lowe's with measurements in hand to buy sand, pebbles and rocks to fill the trench and act as a drain.

Mr. P used the calculator on his phone to figure out how much of each layer we would need.

We laid down the drainage materials then topped it off with anti-week cloth.  After a few more handfuls of mulch and rearranging the landscape rocks we reused, the drain was invisible!

Instead of replacing the banisters, we opted to use planters for some color and balance.  We found cedar planters at Lowe's and painted them the same color as the shutters and door.  Then Mr. P's grandparents, who are avid gardeners themselves, helped us choose a nice assortment of plants and flowers from the farmers market.  While just removing the rotten banisters and adding planters made the area look much better, we had a few structural concerns about the stoop.  We ended up hiring a mason to re-pour the concrete and fix the loose brick work.

Mid demolition, it looked pretty scary, but after the new pour of concrete and a quick job on the brick, and we put the welcome back on our stoop.  Here in NC we call it Southern hospitality :)

All in all we spent about $1400 which included plants, top soil, manure, mulch, concrete/mason work, grass seed, grass fertilizer, a hose, and a hose reel.  I don't have a breakdown because Mr. P labeled it all as "Landscaping" in our books.  We were pretty happy with the transformation in curb appeal and have gotten lots of compliments from the neighbors.  

As a reminder, here's the before:

And here's the finished yard once everything filled in!

Are you tackling any big landscaping projects this year?


  1. That looks amazing! Our house came with landscaping, but I finally talked the U into planting some flowers this year. It's so nice to have a pop of color in the yard!

  2. It looks so great! You're right, it looked better as soon as the bushes and weeds were gone. How long did it take everything to fill in? We're gradually working on our yard but in southern California, everything grows so slowly and needs to be watered CONSTANTLY - I've already lost a few plants from my herb garden due to heat. : (

  3. It looks so great! I live in an upstairs flat with only a patio, so no landscaping for me. Our front yard just got a facelift though and it's inspiring me to really think about what I can do with the back deck to make it a little pseudo backyard!

  4. What a great job! Congrats on your move!

  5. Wow, it looks fantastic! I love it! I'm so excited about having a house so we can tackle projects like this! :)

  6. Wow! that looks incredible! we desperately need to do something with the front of our house but I am scared! Yours looks amazing maybe I will use it as inspiration!!! Great job!

  7. HUGE difference!!! A lot of work, but totally worth it. You guys impress me!

  8. @Kira It took a few weeks for everything to fill in. We planted in mid march and it looked full by mid June. It definitely takes patience! We also chose plants that were indigenous to NC so we knew they'd fare well in the climate.

  9. Oh my gosh, everything looks amazing!! Landscaping is one project I'm terrified to take on.