Exterior Updating: Adventures in Landscaping

Landscaping is a strange beast for me. I have always been a creative type, who can look at things and see a very vivid picture in my mind of what they should be. I can walk into a room and mentally decorate it, or look at a flyer and redesign it in my head. But for some reason, this ability goes completely out the window as soon as I step outside.

I think part of it is that I really don’t know anything at all about plants in general. Things like when they bloom, how much to water them, how big they grow, etc. All things to consider when trying to make a landscape plan. So over the years I’ve been slowly learning what works and what doesn’t, what plants I like and what I can keep alive, and I’m still trying to get our yard in some sort of not-hideous state. I think we’ve come a long way, but there is still definitely a ways to go and I can guarantee I won’t be there yet this year.

To backtrack a bit, this is where our front yard started.


And here is what it looked like after a few updates:


And this is basically where we are at now:

House front pre-paint

I’ve covered some of the past updates here and here, but the biggest difference that you probably notice from the last photo is the removal of our tree. It was a sad day for me when the arborist called a couple weeks ago to let me know that there was no way to save this little guy. We had drought conditions a couple of years back, and it was just too hard on him. He tried to hang on for a couple years, but you can see here that he was slowly kicking the bucket.

Designing Dawn - front yard tree removal

So with that report, we knew it was time to let him go. Brett cut the tree down last week, and I really can’t believe how different it looks, or how much more light we get into the house now through the bay window. It makes the porch feel larger too, and we can actually see the whole front yard from inside, which is nice when Vera is outside playing. I’m still missing the tree, but I think in the long run, I will be happy with the change. We still have some work to do to remove the stump and fill in the area with new plants (anxiety inducing!) though. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Moving on… I did get ambitious/fed-up with the side of the house (both sides actually, but I’ve only had the chance to get to one so far) and finally tackled some clean up and landscaping beside the garage. It was looking pretty rough. Like really bad.

Designing Dawn - side yard landscape

The photo above was taken in early spring before everything started growing (read: weeds) and turning green. And below is last week after about an hour of work already.

Designing Dawn - side yard landscape

I told you it was bad. It was an easy spot to ignore for various reasons. It is the side of the house that mostly no one sees because it faces away from the street, and it had a few old dead plant stumps that had to be removed (Brett had just dug them out when I took the shot above). It is also a weird trash-collecting location whenever the wind blows, so it can seem overwhelming to keep it clean. Plus the whole area grows weeds like crazy, so I had to spend hours just cleaning up before I could even think about planting. But I decided it was something that really needed to be done and I had to take off my blinders. The fact that the house is really actually for real getting painted has kind of spurred some exterior action around here.

Once the big bushes/roots were gone, I pulled all the weeds and leveled out the dirt as best I could. I then rolled out some weed barrier and cut it to size, tacking it down with landscaping staples as I went. I have to say, that is a very rewarding process for me. It was so nice to see it get to a clean slate. I know some people don’t like weed barrier fabric, but as we’ve already established, I’m not into landscaping, so the less maintenance the better. Also, as mentioned, this area grows weeds like mad, so I’d literally be out here pulling grass and weeds every weekend. Not happening. Sorry.

Designing Dawn - side yard landscape

Once that was done, I picked up some plants I know I haven’t killed in the past. Hostas look good and die hard, so I varied those with some other plants I really don’t know the names of. Sorry. I semi-conciously picked plants that are all low to the ground. I may add some taller things in behind eventually, but since painting is coming up, I didn’t want my new plants to get in the way and get trampled.

My method is to lay down a layer of mulch first, then set the plants out in their pots where I want them to make sure they’re spaced nicely. Then I brush the mulch away and cut a hold in the weed barrier where the plant goes, dig my hole, put the plant in, and cover the area up with mulch again. I have no idea if this is the right way to plant things. But that is how I like to do it.

Designing Dawn - side yard landscape

Doesn’t it look one million times better with just a fresh layer of mulch?? I am so happy with how much cleaner it all looks. And finally, here it is with some new baby plants in place. I left some of the larger bushes in the back in place for now. One is my beloved lilac bush, and I’m hoping to be able to grow some new bushes with clipping from this one. I still need to finish cleaning that back area of weeds and put fresh mulch back there, but I got it about 80% cleared out and it looks way better than it used to.

Designing Dawn - side yard landscape

We’ll see how this fills out over the next couple of years and maybe I’ll add a bit more or change things up down the line. But for now, I’m just happy that something is growing here besides weeds and a pile of trash.

And that is where the landscaping is for the moment. Is anyone else as terrified of outdoor spaces as I am? Someone please make me feel like less of a dunce about the whole thing. :)

*dawn sig



1 Comment

What do you think? Leave a comment below.