Weekend Gardening: Landscaping Improvements On A Small Budget

One small change we've done to our exterior this Spring was to better manicure the front shrubs into spheres, enlarge the front beds to layer in smaller plants / flowers, change the old red mulch for new black, plus treat the ground around existing shrubs and new plantings with garden soil, fertilizer, and water. To enlarge the flower-beds, I re-aligned the existing - meandering - cobblestone boarder to be squared off, and pulled it out (about 12-18") away from the shrubs, to give a little for space to low plantings (a mix of goldmound spirea & impatiens to the front, with a dark loropetalum to the back of the ball hedges). I started to run out of the cobblestone boarder, but I remembered there were a few extras tossed around the side of the house, which helped to finish off the front yard update...

 goldmound spirea

Purchased at Lowe's:
6 goldmound spirea $32
6 dark loropetalum $32
12 impatiens on sale 4 for $10 
(12 for $30 - used impatiens both out front & potted on deck steps)

Purchased at Home Depot:
mulch 5 for $10
6 sod tiles
2 bags of fertilized garden soil

Cobblestone boarder - free (already had)
Power Washer - free (Jeff's mom gave to him when he visited her in ATL, February)

Need to buy:
8 stepping stones (local landscaper)

These dark loropetalum are supposed to get pretty large, which will give a great contrasting back-drop to the ball hedges and black mulch. In between each, I'm going to add some stepping stones...

Bringing the stone boarders to the front helped to finish off the new beds, plus I also had enough to add to the mailbox for a few plants (a climbing madison jasmine and two white lantana) plus black mulch...

 It's funny - these cobblestone boarders I brought back to the mailbox were here in 2012, but got moved to the side (for no real reason).

In May, Jeff pressure washed the existing front walkway and brick-step entrance + he gave the railing a fresh coat of black in a satin finish. I'll be giving the door a fresh coat (I gave it a quick fresh coat back in November, after Jeff had changed the door hardware) as well as the front door trim in a bright exterior white...

Before we removed the existing red mulch (at the end of April), Jeff gave the holly berry balls a trim with his new clippers. The following Sunday, I trimmed  the lower ball hedges, removing dead debris build-up at their root base, to allow sun and water to get in...

 Jeff power washing the existing front walkway - it really did help to make the concrete brighter!

Later in the Fall, we'll give the front lawn a good treatment before the winter colds come again - something we weren't able to do when we moved in last November, and the poor lawn has evidence of neglect, along with a mole Jeff has been trying to steer away with some beeping mole device. The mole left the front yard, but the mole had headed to the back yard. Jeff relocated the devices, but the mole came back to the front, digging up trenches in the new flower beds. Thankfully, the mole is gone now.

Jeff also pulled up so many weeds in March, we had two large brown patches in the front yard grass at the entry walkway, so he picked up some sod to replace it with. The sod has taken root and looks great (on that spot - not pictured), but it's not the same species as the rest of the grass, which actually has a patchwork of probably three others. The Lawn care specialist suggested we remove all (kill front) and re-seed (in the Fall), which is less than re-sodding the space (re-seed: $175 vs. re-sod $800).

 Eventually, we'll layer in a plant boarder along the walk-way, with a brick boarder, which should help keep the ice-melting salt away from the grass. And next Spring: flower boxes at the lower windows!

Giving the ball shrubs a fresh cut & new garden soil already has them looking more green! (Pic here before walkway pressure cleaned)

For the side of the house, I'd really like to switch the 3 low shrubs for 3 arborvitae (a tall thin conifer (evergreen), similar to an Italian Cypress - aka "green giant"), which would give some interest to the side of the empty siding of this two-story house. For the moment though, I just cleaned up the weeds and gave the shrubs some pruning -- which they must have liked because they filled in with tons of new green chutes! 

 3 arborvitae - a tall conifer (evergreen) - aka "green giant" - these were 50% off at the closing local nursery nearby.

 We started stocking up on gardening supplies back at the beginning of April...

Although we didn't have enough black mulch to wrap around from the front yard to the side, Jeff recently picked up some more during another 5 for $10 sale (this should do it now. Next year though, we may go for the scoop truckload delivery from a local landscape facility - but it sure is easier to carry bags than wheel barrow and shovel mulch into small spaces...

 August Beauty Gardenia

Three additional shrubs, still on the house side - but towards the back, have also been removed (they died) and I  replaced them with four August Beauty gardenia shrubs. Planting gardenias should give a nice scent towards the deck plus its greens and white colors will flow with the front and the green, white and black I'm doing on the deck (after the deck is repaired, cleaned, and painted (slate!) -- next week!)

The grass was green (in 2012), and with some TLC, we'll get it to be green again. 

Green Perennials + White Annuals + Black Mulch
(same color scheme to be used on the deck)

Rather than throw away the old mulch in the trash, we loaded into a wheeled recycling bin, and Jeff unloaded it down the hillside, around the trees in the back. He also used a spade to remove the grass for the new bed extension - Some of the grass he was able to reuse as plugs in some of the brown patches in the back yard. I used an old paint brush to dust off / clean the cobble stone boarder before re-setting. Although the goldmounds will remain, after summer the impatiens will need to be replaced, probably with juniper (lasts longer) or mums for Fall.

Little by little, we're transforming this house into our home back east!

This experience has once again demonstrated how just as the inside can be refreshed, so too can a home's exterior. And without any major renovations, or major re-landscaping, which can both cost a pretty penny. With a vision, planning, and pacing ourselves, just two people, working together on a few Sunday's we were able to refresh our home's curb appeal with weeding, cleaning and:
  • Fresh accent paint
  • Mulch color change
  • Extend an existing plant bed
  • Reuse existing cobblestone boarders
  • Layer in contrasting, but repeating color scheme
  • Communicate via text who is getting what, when, and where
  •  Watch for sales to keep expenses low 

If you're new to lawn-care, give it to a professional to care for the first year in a new home as you learn more about how to care for it. As we learn more about lawn care, we are also learning about the tools (and brands) we'll need, as well as watching for sales to invest in the seasonal lawn care equipment we'll need to care for the property ourselves. Winter will be here soon enough, and we're both enjoying being outside, working together on our home improvement projects. 

Have you too been working an any landscaping or gardening projects this Spring? A little TLC and getting your hands dirty can go a long way! Coming up next will be exterior home improvements with black! Thanks for stopping by!


  1. You did such a nice job landscaping your new home! It made such a difference to power wash the concrete and add new plants! (Referring to a couple of months ago, how did you ever think to add new knobs to your bedroom furniture to give it a whole new look + match the new mirror you bought? Genius!)

  2. It's a lot of work but so worth it. I have notice that when you were renting you decorated so quickly and now that you own your home it seems a bit slower.



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