Curb Appeal Phase 1

Written by DIY, Outdoor

This spring, we decided to start tackling the curb appeal issue with this house. I will state again for the record: I do NOT like the front of our house. I told Jordan as we did our initial walk through that it reminded me of my Grandmother’s house. Which totally makes sense since she lived in a 1960’s brick rancher in Maryland. But the flow and size of the rooms, amount of storage and many other important things on our list made this the house for us, regardless of the curb appeal.

Thankfully, that’s something we can change! Ultimately, we really want to remodel the front porch like this. But since we have so much more on our to-do list already, the porch itself is on hold. We didn’t have to hold off completely though – we started on the landscaping first! This also helps us break up our cost into smaller more manageable chunks over time.

As you can see, the old Yew bushes were pretty big. If I stood next to the one in the back, it was taller than me. It was also originally planted too close to the house, and would continue to be a maintenance hog to keep it off the house. The one in the front was planted too close to the walk way and was now overhanging the walkway quite a bit. Not to mention, the visual balance was totally off overall.

The other plants out here were Azaleas and Hydrangeas. The Azaleas were fine, but the Hydrangeas were meant for shade. Unfortunately our front gardens see almost all day sun… So with the fact that Yew bushes can’t be pruned back without killing the branch, the lack of balance, and the types of plants were just all wrong for this spot; we came to the conclusion we would just have to remove everything and start over. Give it a fresh start!

This is where the project took a turn we didn’t envision. We hired someone to take everything out for us. We felt like such high rollers! But seriously… we had just taken out another monster bush out back. The amount of time, energy and waste of yard waste bags (we have to sit out yard waste in huge brown paper bags to be picked up) to get rid of everything was just not worth it to us. So we found someone who would just remove everything and give us a blank slate to start re-planting.

This was only half of the branches from the monster bush we took out ourselves! I had to go get more bags. Also, don’t get me started on those bags… No bueno!

When we got the estimate back, it was about $400 or so to do both sides of the house and have them haul away everything. This was a bit more than we wanted to spend at the time. We were still saving for the kitchen, our trip to Germany and had another house project going on at the time. We had budgeted for buying new plants, but not for the labor since we had originally planned to do it ourselves. So we decided to still go for it, but only do one of the front gardens this year and the other one next year!

We hired him, he came out one day and removed everything, we came home from work and the right side of the house was beautifully bare! And we didn’t sweat or get scratched up one bit. Ahhhhhh… $200 well spent in my world. We just got to move right on to the fun part!

We had spent some time at a local nursery looking at ALL the options we could possibly want for our front gardens. Then afterwards, we ended up at Lowes for something completely unrelated, and noticed the same plants in their nursery department for about half the cost! They were a little smaller, but for the price savings it was worth it. The point is these will be there for awhile and grow anyway, right?!

It took us a lot of going back and forth (just me really) trying to decide which plants to put together. They all need to be for zone 7 (be sure to look up which zone you are in for picking plants that will do well in your area), they all need to do well in full sun, and do we want flower bushes or just green? Yellow green or more blue greens? It really took me to a different type of design I’m not used to. It didn’t help I’m a crazy plant lady and wanted everything. It was a good challenge. At the end of the day, we purchased White Indian Hawthorn for under the bay window, and Cleyera to frame out the sides.

Both love sunny spaces and are evergreen, so they will keep their leaves through winter and our front garden won’t look bare. The Cleyera’s leaves will turn red in the fall but not drop. They can grow up to 10ft tall, which is why we chose them to bookend the garden. They are supposed to grow with a more “organic” looking shape instead of having a perfectly manicured hedge. We were looking for low maintenance since there are so many other things we would rather do than prune bushes.

As for the White Indian Hawthorn, they will bloom with little white flowers in the spring and can get up to 4ft tall. Which is why we chose them for under the bay window. They should never get taller than the bottom of the window. Again, this is to keep everything as low maintenance as possible. They don’t need to be pruned, since they are supposed to grow naturally in a round shape.

When placing these new bushes, we were careful to give them plenty of breathing room. They are all about 5ft away from the side of the house, making the garden seem a lot smaller. But it will be for the best when they get full size. We don’t need a repeat of the bush situation we had before! Once we saw how much space we had left to play with, I headed back to Lowes to get some perennials to fill in the space. I expect these to get taken over by the bushes in a few years, but won’t have too much of an issue removing them when the time comes. It’s possible to transplant them, so that’s a possibility as well.

Ta da! Here’s what we have been coming home to all summer! They are small now, but when they grow to full size they will be totally handsome framing the window.

Cleyera, ready for it’s close up! Just look at those gorgeous waxy leaves. I’ll have to share an update when they turn red for autumn.

The additional perennials I chose to fill out the garden are these babies:

  • SEDUM: Blooms with light pink and white flowers in the cooler months and is drought resistant.
  • GROUND COVER SEDUM: Will fill in up front and stays low. The edges of the leaves will turn pink and it is also drought resistant.
  • BLUE SPEEDWELL: Low growing, but blooms with vertical, spike-y flowers that makes the bees happy and adds a touch of color up front.

Overall, I think we spent around $200 on plants for this side. Not too shabby, since we could have easily spent double that if we hadn’t shopped around. So far, everything has been doing very well in their new home. We are going to mulch the garden this fall to give everything a nice, crisp look for winter, and help insulate the roots of the new shrubs through the colder months. We will see how it goes! Fingers crossed!

Did you do any new landscaping this year? Do you have trouble choosing which plants to go with like I did? It all seems very overwhelming at first. Are there any plants you are just dying to recommend?! Please let us know!

Last modified: September 18, 2017