Before and After Terraced Garden

Before and After Terraced Garden

This has been a great spring for getting the landscape and gardens redone, at least for me. It’s been cooler, and I like that for working outside… hot weather fatigues me!

We bought our house a year and half ago, and immediately started renovating both levels inside and the outside of it as well. The wait for landscaping has felt long, so it’s been fun for me to finally be able to put my energy and attention into the gardens and landscape.

I already posted about the circular garden before and after in this post. I showed you the simple act of transplanting Stella d’Oro Daylilies here. This post is where I explained how and why to create a brick edging.

Today, it’s the before and after terraced garden I’ll be showing you.

You can see the existing terracing on the front right of this picture taken the late winter before we actually bought the house:

Before and After Terraced Garden
The spring before we bought house.

I didn’t even want to think of the landscape until the messy renovation of the house was done. We built a porch, painted the whole house, replaced windows and doors, re-roofed and had gutters installed to list a few things that would have wrecked any landscape attempts prior to their completion.

Here is the house this spring before I started the landscape, but after all the reno work on the house was done:

Before and After Terraced Garden
House after reno, before landscape!

On the front of the house, the ground sloped down to the terraced part.

Before and After Terraced Garden
Gas meter and downspout issues.

I didn’t love having grass on the house side of the sidewalk, but still contemplated removing it out of concern that I would be getting the garden chores too big to maintain. I’m great at creating beautiful garden designs, (emphasis on BIG) but really don’t want to create an overload of heavy maintenance for myself… in the spring gardening can feel more fun than in the heat of summer!

I also didn’t love the gas meter there! Oh and the gutter downspout water just pouring into the landscape would need to be addressed too.

After milling it over for weeks as I waited for the frost and snow to melt, I decided removing the grass and extending the landscape all the way to the sidewalk was the best choice.

When it was finally time to start, we rented a sod cutter, (you can see this post from our last house when we rented a sod cutter for the fence we installed there… there is even a short video I made of my husband cutting the sod with it 🙂 ).

After the sod was gone, I shoveled the dirt from the lower part and moved it up to the upper part of the slope. This was evening out the slope to create 2 flat levels instead.  The 2 levels became an extended terraced area, instead of how it was just one long slope down to the terracing as before. Adding this new terraced area would accomplish a few things for the garden design and function.

First, it gave the garden structure and added a more defined area for just the section directly in front of the house. There, in front of the house, I planned to do a symmetrical planting, but the rest going down to the other terracing would be different.

Second, it introduced and highlighted the flagstone rock, which is more attractive than the concrete rock of the existing lower terraced garden. In doing the flagstone here, it sort of fools the eye to think there is more of it than there really is.

Third, it allowed me to terrace next to the top two steps of the sidewalk that were a tripping hazard. Because those two steps are separated from the main stairs and previously just had grass slopes on each side of them, those last two steps are unexpected as you’re walking and were hard to notice if you’re not just staring down at the sidewalk, thus the tripping hazard. My thought was that adding a wider flagstone terrace right at each step makes the steps more noticeable.

Before and After Terraced Garden
Removed sod and created a terraced slope.

This was the first flagstone wall my husband and I had built, so we kind of figured it out as we went along.

I’ve read tips on building rock walls, have certainly noticed many in real life, have even seen my dad build them when I was a kid. The basic concept of constructing it is pretty simple.

The two main points were 1. Start with a level base. 2. Avoid seams in between rocks matching the seams on the level above or below, to give it more strength.

I cut into the slope to create a level base as my husband brought over a bunch of rocks. We’d pick which to lay where. He did all the heavy lifting for that project. That’s the hard part… I wouldn’t have been able to move the rocks by myself, so it was good teamwork. I moved the dirt, he moved the rocks.

There still is a sloped part sort of between the back and front terraced part so we just worked the rocks and ground to blend them together.

I love the look of it!

I’m so happy with how it turned out. All the rocks were on the property too, so that was great! Hard work, but no extra investment.

We also used the flagstone to create a gentle run-off for the gutter downspout:

Before and After Terraced Garden
Used rock to soften water from downspout.

This particular gutter downspout only carries the water from a small section of the roof so it’s not a huge issue of it being a downpour here.

This view from the front porch looking toward the terraced garden shows the sod removed and the flagstone terracing addition:

Before and After Terraced Garden
After sod removed and area terraced viewed from the porch.

Next we placed the ornaments and statuary. Again, we had all these pieces from past gardens. We’ve been patiently storing them waiting to use them somewhere. It was fun to go shopping in my own storage area to discover something that would work great here and there. (What I’m not finding a home for in these gardens, I’m selling or donating! Clearing stuff out of storage.)

Before and After Terraced Garden
Started adding garden accessories and statuary

Once I got the brick edging in, I could start planting, (I have each plant with a shopping link here and all together at the end of this post for you to shop from).

Before and After Terraced Garden
Next brick edging then planting.

I’m a patient gardener and prefer to buy smaller plants. They’re easier for me to maneuver and plant because they’re smaller, but also they’re so much less expensive. In a year or two they are as big and better established as putting in the larger more expensive sized plants.

Against the house there were hostas, ferns and astilbe that I left. I think a little soft chaos is perfect for this cottage garden, and they’ll help camouflage the odd basement window and gas meter until the Elderberry fill out. Before and After Terraced Garden
False Forget-me-Not and Black Lace Elderberry plants

About 4 feet from the house I put in a row of 4 Black Lace Elderberry. They can take some shade so I think they’ll be okay here. Elderberry will produce edible berries, for us and/or the birds after they flower in lovely clumps of little pink flowers. They will get tall and wide, so will eventually cover the bottom of the house. before and after terraced garden
Black Lace Elderberry

In front of the dark lacy leaved Elderberry, I planted a scalloped row of False Forget-me-Not. (scalloped: as in the planting formation wasn’t straight across the front of the Elderberry, but ‘swooped’ around the front of each one). before and after terraced garden
False Forget-me-Not

They have these pretty little blue flowers that do look like Forget-me-Nots, but aren’t… I think the light green and white round leaves contrast the Elderberry nicely and will be a pretty highlight in the shade.

Bergenia flank the walkway up to the front door.

Before and After Terraced Garden
Bergenia flanking walk to front porch

I love Bergenia! It’s a very hardy perennial, up to zone 3. In the early spring it sends up a flower with deep pink stems.

Before and After Terraced Garden
Bergenia up close.

Eventually those large round evergreen cabbage leaves will fill in this walkway planting area nicely.

I planted a summer long blooming Huldine Clematis inside the tall arbor.

Before and After Terraced Garden
Lady’s Mantle planted.

Around the arbor and along the top of the terraced garden I put in Lady’s Mantle another great perennial. When there is water or dew on the leaves, it almost looks like it has a silver lining under it. They send up ferny flowers of chartreuse.

I was fortunate the prior owner filled the terraced beds with bulbs of tulips, lilies and perennials. Last fall I added a few other varieties, like Giant Globe Allium. I wasn’t sure if they would have survived the wicked winter we had or not, I was thrilled this spring when they popped up. I’m excited to see those bloom.

Before and After Terraced Garden
Planted Boxwood along border.

The boxwood border I planted leads up to the potted boxwood that is flanking the walk to the front door, (the boxwood in the urns are faux boxwood. I’ve had them for several years and they’re still going strong! The boxwood I planted are live plants and hardy in our cold Midwestern zone 4 winters.

The iron fence panels, leftovers from our last house’s front yard fence project, add interest to the terraced garden.

Before and After Terraced Garden
Each step has a solar light.

Last, I added the front solor lights. (here is where you can get some of these solar LED lights too) They are seeded glass, and I love the way they look lit at night. I placed one at the edge of each step, including the last two steps that are placed a bit further away from the rest.

Before and After Terraced Garden
Rock and solar light help highlight last step.

I took this picture last week with the front flowering crab tree in full bloom:

Before and After Terraced Garden
Terraced garden after.

I love the happy cottage garden feel of front yard.

The flowers are looking so pretty, first one group flowers and then another variety picks up blooming as those start to fade, keeping a lovely happy blooming spring landscape.

There is still the other side of the front garden to show you before I take you around to the back gardens.

Plants I used in this area:

Here are more gardening and landscaping projects:

Thanks so much for stopping by! Please feel free to follow and share this blog with your friends, as well as on Facebook, Pinterest, Flipboard, Bloglovin, YouTube and Instagram! I appreciate you reading along.

Reader Interactions


  1. Frank Clayton says

    A great result after a long session of hard work.Gives me working with English weather some hope and inspiration .Love reading your bloggs.

    • Liz says

      Thanks! Yes, we can have challenging weather here in the Midwest US. My understanding is English climate is milder than here? Our growing zone is 4 with months of frozen winter. We do all this work, only to have it buried under snow and ice for 3 or 4 months of the year. But then I can rest! LOL

  2. Donnamae says

    Lots of work…but so worth it. I tend to design big gardens too…then, come July, I realize just how big they are. Everything looks great..take some pics later in the season please. I’d love to see how they’ve grown! 😉

    • Liz says

      It is so worth it… it’s really been fun seeing the transformation. This morning I saw someone actually stop and take a picture of the terraced garden. ?

  3. Donna gagne says

    You two did a great job.. I’m trying to fix my garden too but getting no where fast. Been laid up off and on so haven’t been able to do what I want. For as many weeds I know which are weeds so don’t ask for much help except to carry or fetch, or help me get up. I like perennial and a few annual for longer lasting flowers. Most of both spread so then don’t know where to add others. Been giving some away but warn them that they like to stretch out., please keep up the good work and sharing. I love to see them.

    • Liz says

      Thanks so much! Sorry that you’ve been laid up a bit… Frustrating when you see stuff that needs to be done, but the body doesn’t go along with it. Take care. ❤️

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