Our Summer Landscaping Plans!

posted by Andrea | 05/29/2013

Our Summer Landscaping Plans

At the beginning of 2012, Dave and I decided that we would spend the summer of 2012 working on our yard. Then the summer of 2013 renovating our kitchen.

However, in April of 2012, we started having a bunch of problems with our kitchen and all our appliances seemed to be on their last leg (not to mention the kitchen was totally unpractical and ugly).

So we changed our plans and did a full-blown kitchen renovation last summer… which means we’re tackling the yard this year.

from the road

As you can see by the picture above, our yard looks just fine from the road… but when you get a bit closer, it’s a different story.

EVERYTHING is getting really over-grown, there are a bunch of huge dead (or almost dead) trees, the grass in the back yard is basically all weeds and dirt, the front yard has an explosion of Bent Grass that we need to kill off, and the planting beds have been taken over by ivy and other invasive ground covers.

The picture below shows a bit of the “over-growth” I’m talking about. It looks somewhat quaint with the lovely blooms and green grass, but it’s seriously so stuffed full of plants that nothing has room to breathe (and this photo was taken 2 summers ago so it’s worse now!)

overgrown yard

It could definitely be worse, but since Dave and I really do enjoy yard work, and since we have such a great yard for summer entertaining, we decided it was time for a total yard over-haul. We’re starting from the ground up (pun intended!) and hopefully, by the end of the summer, we’ll have a some lovely before and after pictures to share!

The Demolition:

We’ve already done a significant amount of demolition — so our yard actually looks MUCH worse than it did a few weeks ago. I guess that’s almost always the case with big projects though.

We started by having about 15 trees cut down and then having the stumps ground out (all by a professional company). Some of the trees were small to medium size, but some were massive, 150+ year old trees that were starting to die — and only about 15 feet from our house! Yup, they had to go.

We’re also removing most of the existing bushes, ornamental trees, ground cover, and ivy because they just aren’t our style and they are all SO overgrown.

The Design:

Dave and I completely re-landscaped our first home… but it took us about 3 tries before we produced results that actually looked good. Apparently, we don’t have great spacial sense when it comes to planting beds :)

Our first try looked absolutely awful — I still wonder what our neighbors must have thought! Then the next summer, we tried again and made some improvements, but it wasn’t until the 3rd try that we got it to look nice.

After that lengthly (and costly) process, we decided that the next time we took on a large landscaping project, we would have the over-all design done by a professional.

So a couple months ago, we contacted a local Landscape Architect who came and got our ideas, measured our property, and drew up a FABULOUS plan. Seriously, it’s so lovely! It fits our home and our needs just perfectly.

Here’s a tiny sneak peek! 

And for those of you who think it sounds expensive to hire a Landscape Architect — let me assure you, it’s WAY cheaper (and less time-consuming) than re-landscaping your yard 3 different times. Plus, it’s probably better for our marriage too :)

Our particular design only cost $300 — and we have a full acre property to landscape.

The architect drew out every last detail, which means we can now implement her design as slowly or as quickly as we like over the next couple of summers. We can also do as much or as little of the work as we want. Of course, it will be more expensive if we hire the landscaping company to do the work — but at least we have options.

The Implementation:

Our plan is to fully transform all the planting beds around the house and garage this summer. We’re also going to plant a handful of trees in the front yard.

Then next summer, we’re hoping to finish the planting beds down each side of our yard as well as a vegetable garden. Depending on how things look and how much we accomplish in the first two summers, we’ll finish up the remaining work the 3rd summer.

This summer will be the most expensive of the 3 summers – partially because the actual plants and trees we’re using are somewhat costly, but also because we have to hire out a bunch of the the work (like cutting down trees, grinding out stumps, and planting the new trees). We aren’t capable of doing those huge jobs and they need to be done — so we really have no choice but to hire them out.

The next 2 summers, we’ll hopefully be able to do most (if not all) the work ourselves.

The Plants:

Our current landscape has some really nice Hostas, Azaleas, Lilacs, Rhododendrons and Hydrangeas (and we’ll be keeping most of those), but pretty much everything else has to go.

I’ll be sharing lots more about our plant selection once the renovations are finished, but for now, here’s a list of the plants we’ll be including in our new design.

  • Norway Spruce Trees
  • River Birch Trees
  • Ornamental Pear Trees
  • Shrub Roses
  • Boxwoods
  • Limelight Hydrangeas
  • PeeGee Hydrangeas
  • Lilacs (a cool double bloom variety)
  • Coreopsis
  • Spirea
  • Salvia
  • Astilbe
  • Coral Bells
  • Coneflowers
  • Bleeding Hearts
  • Rhododendrons
  • Hameln Grasses
  • Maiden Grass
  • Holly
  • Peonies
  • Hostas

Sounds like an awesome mix for a lovely farmhouse landscape doesn’t it!!

Oh, and if you have no idea what any of these plants are, check out the Growing Garden Flowers website — it has lots of pictures, and you can simply select the type of flower you want to see from the right hand column.

The Extras:

We’ve already been doing a lot of these “extra projects” as I call them — and it feels SO good to cross a bunch of them off our list (especially since many of them have been on our list since we bought the house 2.5 years ago!)

  • We had our roof cleaned — it was literally growing things!
  • We had our house professionally power washed — our nice white siding is white once again
  • Our front porch and back deck are now power washed, stained, sealed, and (almost) all repainted
  • We cleaned out our garage and will soon be installing a new organizing system (more on this later)
  • We’re in the process of putting up a wooden fence to enclose part of our backyard and keep Nora from running away :)
  • We’re getting a new front door that will fit our farmhouse a lot better than the current door with brassy gold accents and decorative glass patters (I’m planning to go a lot simpler with the new door)
  • We’re hoping to turn a small corner of our backyard into a “kids area”. We already have a swing set and a picnic table, but we’d like to incorporate a sandbox, a kiddie pool, and maybe some kid-friendly plants for Nora and all her neighbor friends.

I think that’s it… for now.

Obviously we have a lot going on right now, but Dave will be finished with school next week and then we can both get to work — well actually, we’ll take turns working while the other one plays with Nora, but you get the idea!

I’m sure it will be stressful and trying at times, but at least we can leave our mess outside and not have to deal with it 24/7 like we did last year with the kitchen renovation.

I’ll continue to share updates over the next several weeks… and I’m sure I’ll be posting lots of pictures on my Facebook page!

Have you ever done any big yard projects?

If so, do you have any words of wisdom to share? Or would you like to come help us work? I’ll pay you in monster cookies and strawberry lemonade!

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36 comments

  1. Amanda

    05/29/2013

    We must be on the same wavelength this summer! First the picture frames, then the deck staining (which my husband is about 2/3s through… he would have only had one step left, but it rained on Monday, so his Monday items had to get pushed back because of weather), and our last big project for this summer is the landscaping.

    Our landscaping is all from the previous owner, minus 2 rose bushes I planted. The ground cover is taking over and out of control. We have a small tree that is almost dead. Every thing except the 2 rose bushes, hydrangea, azaleas and rhododendron is coming out, and we’re starting over fresh with something that is less maintenance. We currently have an herb garden, so I’ll be taking and transplanting a few of those as well (they’re also over grown, and I’d rather do them as a container garden). Next summer, the one bed will be a veggie garden. We know that the beginning will be kind of expensive, because we’re going to need to hire someone to help, but we will be able to replant everything but the new tree we’re getting ourselves.

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  2. Erin

    05/29/2013

    I’m looking forward to following your progress this summer. We moved into our house in March 2012 but didn’t tackle any of the major projects because our daughter arrived in May 2012. We decided to focus on adjusting to parenthood last summer and push back the major work to this year. So, this summer, we’ll be pulling out most of the landscape that the previous owners had planted and hiring professionals to cut down a few old trees at the back of our property. So much of it is overgrown right now, and I can’t wait to have a clean slate to put our personal touch on the outside of our home!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Erin — and yes, I can just about imagine how crazy your summer was last year. New babies are a big adjustment :)

    Looks like we’ll both be working on yard projects this year — have fun!

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  3. Terri

    05/29/2013

    This might sound dumb…. But, how did you clean your roof? Is there really someone that does that sort of thing? If so, I need them quick!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Haha — yes, there are professional roof cleaners and they clean roofs full-time. Just google “roof shampooers” or “roof cleaners” in whatever city you live in and something should pop up. It’s not necessarily cheap, but based on the problems that could arrise with a really dirty roof, it’s definitely worth the price if you ask me.

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  4. Jo

    05/29/2013

    It’s going to turn out beautifully! Yardwork is so rewarding! My husband and I recently bought a house, and it’s fun to see how our vision is slowly starting to become reality after lots of hard work!

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  5. Liz

    05/29/2013

    Before you put in a sandbox….scope out your neighborhood for cats. Seriously, they love sandboxes and there is absolutely nothing you can do to keep them from using your gigantic outdoor litterbox.

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    Ivy Reply:

    I was going to say the same thing. Make sure the sandbox has a good lid!

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  6. Mary Billmaier

    05/29/2013

    The best piece of advice I ever heard about the process of re-landscaping ( which we did a few years ago) and gardening in general is that there is a three year waiting period for plants until you can really see the fruits of your labors. Year 1 – plants are sleeping, year 2 – they are creeping, and year 3, they are leaping! Plants that we put in the ground in 2011 are beautiful and blooming like crazy this year. They look amazing now compared to when we look back at photos of the first year ! Be patient! Happy gardening!

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  7. Linda Reese

    05/29/2013

    I can’t wait to see all the arrangements of your Trees, Shrubs and flowers! How exciting!

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  8. Kristin

    05/29/2013

    When we first moved in our house (almost 100 year old house) it was apparent the people who lived there prior to us had done NOTHING in the 5 years they were there. My dad came along and he and my husband trimmed all the trees and rented a chipper and made mulch. Then they dug out 2 odd mismatched bushes that flanked the sides of the porch and we replaced with dwarf pines. Then my mother in law planted 3 roses bushes for me 2 weeks before the birth of my 1st child. They looked so lovely surrounded by their mulch and I couldn’t leave well enough alone so the next summer my husband and I dug out 2 20X3ft trenches on either side of the front walk and have tried all various types of landscaping over the last 5 years and nothing seems to stick. Last year we finally got smart and put down the plastic landscaping sheets and then mulched over and planted some day lilies and other perennials, but now I think I’ll see if I can get a landscape designer to come take a look. We also had 2 dead cedars cut down last summer and then just this month had about a thousand dollars worth of tree trimming and 2 dead trees removed (I knew the owner, we got a hefty discount). I just finished re-mulching all the flower bed and putting in 4 cu. yard’s of playground mulch around our new swing set. I planted one new Hydrangea and my transplanted peonies are looking much healthier this year, next year maybe I’ll finally get flowers!

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  9. Kim

    05/29/2013

    Oh my, those “tree funerals” (cutting down and grinding out stumps) are dreadfully expensive. My condolences to your pocketbook. Been there, done that. I look forward to reading about all the progress over the summer. I was wondering what you and Dave would work on over his summer break. This is gonna be fun!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, all yard work is expensive! And unlike our other house projects, I can’t find huge trees for free on Craigslist, I can’t find coupons for free labor, and we don’t know any family members who specialize specifically in landscaping… so we’re definitely paying for our landscape renovations. But it will be worth the price in the end.

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  10. Charlene Uchtman

    05/29/2013

    You plans sound wonderful! And I am sure you will complete them. ( : My only concern is the ornamental pear. They are wonderful when they bloom in the spring but that is about all they have going for them. My experience is that they don’t serve you well in the long term.

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    Andrea Reply:

    I’d love to hear any specific reasons why you think we should do without the ornamental pears — other than “they don’t serve your well”. Our landscape architect specifically recommended these exact trees for our landscape.

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    Terri Reply:

    I agree with Charlene….. I live in Georgia where there is an abundance of ornamental pear trees that look beautiful when they bloom, but other than that they will split right down the middle and attract ants and bugs like crazy. We had five trees that did great for 8 years, and then one by one they began to split in half forcing us to cut them all down. What about cherry trees? http://www.aboutcherrytrees.com/ornamental_cherry_trees.shtml

    Cherry Trees give you virtually the same look as the Pear without all of the problems. Have fun playing in the dirt!! :)

    Thanks for helping me with the roof cleaner.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Terri — the Bradford Pear trees that everyone is referring to DO have a history of issues, however I’ve been assured by our landscape architect that we will not be suing Bradford Pears. We’re using a newer variety that doesn’t have those problems.

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    Becky Reply:

    Is the ornamental pear tree a Bradford pear? In addition to being very weak once they get to a decent size, they are also short-lived and invasive. There are other varieties, of course, but that’s what I know about Bradfords (but they ARE gorgeous!).

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  11. Deni

    05/30/2013

    I have to agree about the Bradford Pear trees, they smell like stinky fish when in bloom! I have seen so many of them split down the middle from heavy rain. Also, they have a short life span. You may want to reconsider. Dogwoods are a great alternative. Hope this helps :)

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  12. Carlen

    05/30/2013

    Can we talk about compost? Are you guys planning to compost with your vegetable garden? I’ve been wanting to start a compost bin, mostly because I think it’ll be an interesting thing for my daughter and I to do together, but also to help the environment. But, I have to admit, I’m a little bit intimidated by the process!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Carlen, we do HOPE to set up some type of composting area in our yard — but we aren’t exactly sure how we will do it. Our vegetable garden will probably be next summer’s project so I don’t think we’ll do anything with composting until then. However, whenever we DO decide to start composting, I’ll be sure to share that adventure on the blog :)

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  13. Charlene Uchtman

    05/30/2013

    Pinterest showed a large plastic pipe, with holes drilled in the lower half, sunk in the garden.. you put your produce down the top and the worms crawl in and out and do the rest, even distributing it. I know this wouldn’t work for large amounts of composting matter, but no maintenance is very attractive.

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  14. Charlene Uchtman

    05/30/2013

    Glad to see the pear tree concern turned out to be unfounded. They do have such wonderful, new varieties of almost everything! Sorry I brought it up.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Charlene. I’m actually glad you DID bring up the pear tree because I was not aware that the bradford pear trees had issues. Obviously, the landscaper knew that and wasn’t planning to use Bradford Pears — but I’m glad I know the difference now, and I’m glad my landscaper seems to know what she’s talking about :)

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  15. Izzy

    06/01/2013

    That sounds lovely! I would just recommend that if you get a sandbox, make sure you have a GOOD cover on top- when we had a sandbox we had all the stray cats using it as a bathroom!

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  16. Heart and Haven

    06/02/2013

    How did you select the plants you’re using? I’m surprised you’re not planting more fruit trees and other edible plants. I’m not sure what grows best in your area, but I just did a backyard re-do of my rental property in Portland (roto-tilled everything, leveled, raked out old grass & weeds, layer of compost, and re-sod, and mulch around perimeter) and planted a self-fertilizing plum tree in the corner of the yard. We also got compost & mulch by the yard and saved a TON of money rather than buying it by the bag at garden centers. ie. $27 for cubic yard of compost (fills back of pickup truck) – and we had to get 5 cubic yards.

    Also, do you have a plan for watering? ie. soaker hoses, etc.? At my house in S. Cali, we’ve also made a few self-watering containers for patio containers that have worked fabulously. My next project I want to tackle is installing rain gutters w/downspout into a rain barrel :-)

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    Andrea Reply:

    Wow — so many questions!
    1. We decided on the plants based on the design provided by the landscape architect. She designed everything based on our climate, our soil, the direction our yard faces, the types of plants that would look wonderful in the country landscape, etc. We totally trusted her judgement and her design is awesome.
    2. Remember, I only showed a small “sneak peek” of our plans, so you can’t see everything. We have a huge garden planned along with SOME fruit trees/bushes. however, I’m not a big fan of edible plants because they require a lot more maintenance to keep pests away :)
    3. Yes, we always buy mulch by the cubic yard. The company we’re woking with will be delivering 25 yards of mulch (yes you read that number right) once we’re ready for it. We’re getting a special discount by going through the landscaping company — $19 per cubic yard! We were excited about that!
    4. Our plan for watering is our current irrigation system. We already have underground sprinkling for our entire property.
    OK, I think I answered everything :)

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    Diane Medeiros Reply:

    WOW – $19 per cubic yard is a GREAT price. We paid more than double that this srpring (in California) – my husband and I put in 50+ yards; some mulch, some black bark and some shredded rewood (on a hillside). We have 1/2 acre. We have ornamental pears (again California whose climates are all over the place depending where you live) but after 14 years they are the most gorgeous trees in our yard. I love my yard (finally) – it took a couple time to get it right with trees & bushes. This summer we added 150+ flowers and/or flowering bushes and moved a lot of bushes. We have a fruit orchard (5 trees) and started a garden (instead of raised beds, we used whiskey barrels which I will plant bulbs in when the garden is done). We planted many the same as on your list. (No rose shrubs/carpet roses etc… which are pretty, but my kids are all athletic and I go tired of trying to get the balls of of the thorny bushes, but they are SO pretty; however, I do have 15+ rose bushes, which are A LOT more work, but I love roses.) We had to wait since when we moved in we had a 2 yr old and I was pregnant with our 2nd and proceeded to have 2 more children. When my husband wasn’t working or coaching, we were working in the yard. It’s definitely hard work, but very satisfying :)

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  17. Jill

    06/02/2013

    Can you share who you used for the landscape architect. We recently moved into a house in Caledonia that is seven years old and never had any landscape done. It has a couple of trees that look like they were just planed and two sticks in the ground that are not even doing anything. I would love to have someone design our yard which is a corner lot. Thanks.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Hey Jill, sounds like you could use a landscape architect! We used Veley Landscape LLC out of Byron Center. I don’t think they have a website but here is their facebook page.

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  18. Ann

    06/02/2013

    My recommendation is “Remember to leave space for the mature sized plants!!!”
    Don’t overcrowd when planting, as you want it to look nice for years to come, NOT just that first year!!!

    I am sure your landscaper knows what works well in your area, but for anyone doing their own designing, that is very important to know
    1. What plants thrive in my climate/rainfall, etc??
    2. Is this a high or low maintenance plant?

    Research is worth the time it takes!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Amen Ann!
    That’s why we hired a landscape architect to develop our “plan”. We were SO bad at over-crowding plants that in 2 years, we’d be digging them up again — way too much work! Hopefully this time will be different!

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  19. Ivy

    06/06/2013

    Just had to say that I am not invasive lol…

    I love your family and blog! Good luck and can’t wait to see the after pic’s.

    Big hugs,

    Ivy

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  20. Kalyn Brooke

    06/16/2013

    I love the idea of having a landscaper draw plans up. I am the queen of moving plants every year (or having my husband move them!) because I don’t really have a plan set in place.

    I’m looking forward to landscaping our house once we buy one here in FL, and since I’m not familiar with what will easily grow in this hot climate, hiring someone to write me a plan would be so helpful!

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  21. Superyards

    06/19/2013

    Very cool and helpful idea.

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  22. Annetta

    07/18/2013

    However, if there is one thing responsible for ladies writing off handbags that are
    in otherwise great condition, it has to be the vacuum cleaner.

    [Reply]

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