How Landscaping Changed our 100 Year Old House

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… how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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: How Landscaping Made a Big Difference

The shrubs and tree hydrangea hadn’t been pruned or fertilized for ages and showed sadly the lack of care. how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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. how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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. landscaping

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. how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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) how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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) how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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. how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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) how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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! how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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) how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

The final addition to the landscape was this Victorian style arbor and fence. how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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) how landscaping changed our 100 year old house

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.

Did you know I now offer e-decorating? I can help you with your decorating needs via email, without having to step foot in your home. If you’re interested in more information, visit my e-decorating site: Frame and Frills. I’d love to help you with your project!

Here are more of my gardening and landscape tips and ideas:

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Reader Interactions


  1. Erika says

    Dear Liz, how lovely you’re home and garden are. My husband Reg and I are in the process of doing up a 160 year old house and garden in Surrey England. I loved your article on the hydrangea tree as I planted one last year and was not sure when to prune. Then I just kept on reading. I loved the photo of your front garden with the clematis henrii … think I will copy that as I have one and its not in the right place!
    What a great blog.. such a nice way to start a Sunday morning in bed with a cuppa tea.
    Thank you

    • Liz says

      Erika, I’m so happy you found my post about pruning a hydrangea helpful! Thank you so much for your kind comments about my blog too, that means a lot to me. 🙂 Happy Sunday. 🙂 Liz

  2. Phyllis E says

    So Charming! Your posts seriously make me want to move back and live in one of the many small-medium sized old, Midwestern towns, full of charm, and historic homes of various styles, filled with character, like yours evidently is! I am originally from a suburb of Chicago and Wisconsin was our “vacation land”, btw! (And my husband was originally from Williams Bay on Lake Geneva, so we return there often.) Anyway, originally when we moved here to Southern Maryland, I was hoping to find a charming older home in a quaint historic town– after all, Maryland has been settled since the 1600’s and is one of the original 13 colonies, right?! To my surprise and dismay, I discovered that this area was originally SO rural with mainly just scattered farmhouses, that there were very few incorporated towns, and the few there were here were tiny (most only post office and general store!) Most of the homes in this area were built in the last 30 years, LOL! Go figure!
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Liz says

      That is crazy that you couldn’t find much to choose from out there. We go to Maine in the summer and there are so many old homes there… But the rural part makes a ton of sense for the reason of your lacking. Btw I grew up in southern Wisconsin. We had a vegetable stand on Hwy 51 just north of Portage. Fridays and Sundays all our customers were folks from Illinois!

  3. Marie Claire says

    Your home’s landscaping is beautiful. Great job!

    (I’m visiting from Thriftydecorchick.)

  4. sandi magle says

    Well, I think you did a gorgeous job. At one time we lived in Chippewa Falls, Wisc. We bought an old limestone Victorian that was in serious need of TLC. After we hacked away 40 years growth around the house, the neighbor across the street said she had never known there was a two-story carriage house/garage straight across from her. We worked with what was originally there, and in time, it was beautiful. Great post, as a reminder to look for what is originally there. We also had a stone edging buried under years of grass. Grins, Sandi

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