Have you noticed how landscaping seems to be overlooked or such an afterthought it doesn’t get much of a budget of time or money? Unfortunately, that lack of priority can detract from a property so much.
Case in point…
Our 100 year old house had been neglected for several years. In fact when we bought it, it was bank owned and though they had contracted with a company to do the ‘lawn maintenance’ it was such minimal care it was actually harming the trees and everything looked unkempt and a little miserable outside. They had ‘dumped’ the grass clippings into the trap rock all along the East border of the property and had allowed what was once a lovely hedge to be completely overgrown and overtaken with the very invasive weed trees Buckthorns. It was a total mess!
This is a picture of the house trying to look good for the realtor’s pic back when we bought it:
The shrubs and tree hydrangea hadn’t been pruned or fertilized for ages and showed sadly the lack of care.
The front sidewalk was filled with overgrown hostas that looked horrible blocking the beautiful wide walkway up to the entrance, and weren’t happy growing in that much sun anyway.
We started by just cleaning and clearing and pruning. There were years worth of half composted grass clippings laying in piles everywhere! The lawn came back nicely with a few treatments of weed and feed from our local lawn maintenance company.
In the cleaning process, I noticed a brick by the front sidewalk under a hosta… I started to dig and discovered the entire front landscaping had at one point had a brick edging that was totally covered up with turf. I spend an entire day one Saturday afternoon sitting with my trowel and bucket and dug up the entire brick border, laid down more dirt and and re-set the brick edging.
Some of the hostas did stay. 🙂 The ones by the front foundation that are in the shade. However I dug up all the hostas that were flanking the front sidewalk. (split them up planted a few in back by the gazebo and gave a bunch to the neighbor)
I then replanted a hedge of boxwood in the beds flanking the front sidewalk.
I love the look of boxwood, but up until recently it just wasn’t hardy enough for our climate in NW Wisconsin. (30 miles E of St. Paul/ Mpls) However, now there is this fairly new hardy variety called ‘Chicagoland’. It’s slow growing, so very little pruning is necessary. I’ve had it in now for 3 years and besides very minimal winter kill on a couple of small branches, it’s fantastic!
Besides the boxwood hedge running on each side of the sidewalk, I have Bergenias at the top, by the lions. They are wonderfully hardy, shade loving plants with large round cabbage like leaves and send up a tall stem with pink flowers in early spring.
At the end of the sidewalk, by the entrance I have creeping Phlox, so lovely in bloom and what a great ground cover. And for some height and tall visual interest, I have 2 tall black iron topiary forms with white miniature Clematis growing on them.
Here’s a patience reminder about Clematis I learned: ‘The first year they sleep, the 2nd year they creep and the 3rd year they leap!’ And boy was that true with ours… the first year we thought they were mostly dead, but by the 3rd year they’re amazingly full!
The boxwood in the planters are great ways to bring some greenery up onto the large porch, but none of them are alive… They are all faux boxwood… but they are good fake ones. Even being that close to the real ones by the sidewalk, they look very believable.
Adding the white privacy fence helped tremendously with the look and feel of the yard and landscaping. It defines the space, sets a beautiful backdrop for plants and structures, like the screened gazebo, and gives a sense of peace and serenity by offering an element of privacy to the yard. (click here to see the moving of the screened gazebo onto the property)
Of course our big vintage concrete lions add a special touch to the landscape. (click here to see the before and after of the lions)
Here is one the Bergenia when it was first planted.
When considering the landscape, it’s important to include the porch in that plan too.
This vintage wicker was brought to life with some fun pillows and a quick sew DIY cushions. (click here to read the tutorial)
The porch floor which was yucky grey indoor/outdoor carpet was replaced with this composite decking: (click here to see that project)
That made a huge difference in the look and feel of the porch, which is the entrance guests all use.
Once we pruned and started to maintain the shrubs a little better, they eagerly thanked us with profuse flowers!
The tree hydrangea, once pruned properly sends all it’s energy to select branches now and produces humongous blooms that continue to deepen in color all summer and dry beautifully for arrangements. (click here to see how to properly prune a hydrangea tree)
The final addition to the landscape was this Victorian style arbor and fence.
We planted hydrangeas along it that will fill out nicely. I love how it defines the front yard from the backyard now and so beautifully adds to the lovely character of the historical home. (click here to see the installation of the fence and with a sod-cutting video)
I should mention that we also had the house washed and repainted. Even though it was white before and is still white, with a blue door this time and softer color on the stone supports/foundation, but still pretty much the same color as it was before, it is just so fresh and clean now.
Want to read more? Click here to read to read all the posts I’ve written about renovating this 100 year old house.
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