Oh my goodness….what a project. But I’m so excited to finally share how to LANDSCAPE & HARDSCAPE a front yard……from our experience, at least! :)
(P.S. “landscape” refers to plants/trees/flowers and “hardscape” refers to brick/rock/drainage/etc…..I only tell you this because I had no clue there was a difference. ;) )
We decided back in March (when it started warming up here in Oklahoma) that we really wanted to overhaul all the landscaping in front of our home. There were a few things planted and a few rocks outlining the front flower beds by the house when we purchased the home a year ago…….but it was pretty minimal and wasn’t really complete. And I think because we didn’t love it, we didn’t feel any desire to pull the weeds or add annuals, etc.
I posted a round-up of 20 Cheap Ways to Improve Curb Appeal back in March because I really wanted to spruce up our outdoor space….and that’s when my brain started really turning. Steve and I decided we were going to take out what we hated and turn it into something we loved looking at!
I have to be honest though, we looked into hiring help for the brick laying and heavier parts of the project. We know we jump into huge projects sometimes and then realize it was more work than we thought…..so we got a few quotes for hiring a landscaper. And then, holy smokes, we were quickly reminded why we like to DIY everything….because landscapers aren’t cheap! (But we know why…..it can sometimes be pretty labor intensive.) So we decided to heck with it…..let’s do it ourselves! (And I’m talking about saving about $4-5000 by doing it ourselves. Holla!!) That’s when the scouring of all corners of the internet happened. And how I became best friends with the local plant nursery AND Home Depot! :)
And now that it’s done, we are pleased as punch. It has been so fun walking around outside or driving in and out of the driveway, and seeing all of the beautiful plants growing and blooming and cheering up our entire home! Ahhhh! 3 words…VERY WORTH IT! :)
And because you all have no clue what the landscaping looked like previously, it’s always fun to see Before/After shots, right?? So here you go! (And okay, I know it’s extra dramatic because the sky was darker in the first picture and the grass is brown and some of the plants were still dormant…but you kinda get the idea, right?!)
—> And this is where I’m going to start sharing my advice in regards to landscape and hardscape. (And I’ll show PLENTY of pictures along the way….sorry, I went a little overboard with the pics, but hopefully it’s helpful.)
First of all, start looking around your neighborhood, other neighborhoods, and online to find what type of HARDscaping you like. (Which is the non-living part….the brick, rock, concrete paths, borders, etc.) I think it’s easiest to decide on that first and then add your plant placement after. Now think—do you have a big space or a little space? Do you have a sloped area or is it all flat? Are you trying to hide something (like a space under a front porch or utility boxes)? Think about all of those things….and then try to find examples that match what you’re dealing with.
I started adding tons of ideas to my HOME-Outdoors/Landscaping Pinterest Board so that I could go back later and start narrowing down what I wanted. You’re welcome to look there to see some of the ideas I gathered, but create your own board too, and add your own ideas as you find them. I even drove around neighborhoods taking pictures with my phone, of things I really liked. This really helped me decide what I liked/disliked.
I finally decided that I wanted to stack big blocks, to create a definite “space” for the landscaping. Plus, our lawn is slightly sloped, so I wanted it to act as a sort of retaining wall, to keep all the dirt and plants locked in and level. So, I went with these Rockwall Blocks in the “pecan” color. Then, because we wanted to really make the border pop and give it some detail, we added these Block Caps that hang over the top edge. LOVE them!
Okay, once you decide the “look” you’re going for, map out what you want to do.
It’s kinda hard to tell, but we expanded the main flower bed that’s up against the house and also created a new one that curves along the pathway up to the font door. Before we started digging, we used Wood BBQ Skewers to mark an outline of the curve of the beds, how far we wanted them to come out, etc. Then we could step back and look at the little stick borders. It was so helpful!
Also, consider adding some curve to the borders of your flower beds. It’s such a cool detail that really adds character to the area.
If you have a front lawn without much in it, start visualizing how to add some new landscaping and hardscaping features. It really adds so much charm to the lawn, making it nice and pleasant to look at.
Just be sure that whatever you’re adding to the lawn, compliments whatever you’re planning to do up next to the house. Does it fight with your other landscaping? Is it too crowded? Is there balance with plant height?
We picked out a spot in a front lawn to add a tree that balanced out the pine tree that’s up near the house. But since our lawn is sloped in the area where we wanted to plant the tree, we decided to create a sort of retaining wall bed for the tree and any flowers we decided to plant. (And yeah, that little Oklahoma Redbud tree gets a lot of wind, so we have those ugly metal poles to help hold it up…..but we’re crossing our fingers it gets stronger and we can remove them in a year or so!)
Now, here’s a better look at what things looked like up near the house and around the pine tree “before” we got to work. There was only a partial row or rocks, the grass was fighting its way into the flower beds, we didn’t love the placement of plants, etc. (Remember I took these pictures in March, so not all the plants had quite come back yet from winter. I didn’t intentionally color them brown to make the “before” even more dramatic…ha!)
And then, this is as good of an “after” picture that I took of that location…..but you can see the difference up there by the house and the pine tree. The border of blocks is so helpful, the space is defined, and it’s a little easier on the eye. :)
Here’s another thing to think about (since we’re looking at this picture)—adding plants and/or flowers along a walkway really defines the space. It makes the walkway seem more special…..and invites you right up to the door! I really love that we decided to add that in!
Also, you may have noticed that the top of our block wall sometimes stair steps. The reason for this is that the lawn slopes and if I would have continued toward the driveway with that top layer of blocks, it would have made the wall too tall down here at the bottom……which would hide the plants. The stair stepping idea right here and over on the main bed over to the let, was actually an afterthought. But it turned out to be one of my favorite details! :)
Now, let’s talk about drainage. Do you have rain gutters that empty out into your flower beds? Will the force of the water tear up your landscaping? Where do you want rain water to go?
I have seen little rivers of rock that run down from the gutter and on out of the flower bed, which we almost decided to do….but then we changed our minds and attached a rain gutter extension and let it empty out through an opening we created through the block wall. Just be sure that it’s at a slight slope, so that the water will drain.
Then, we covered up the tubing with mulch. However, we just discovered that there is flat tubing that we could replace this with to hide it a little better…..so we’ll probably swap it out eventually. But the little hump in the mulch isn’t so bad for now, right?! ;)
Also, it’s good to think about the amount of water you receive in your area. Do you have flash flooding? Here in Oklahoma, there’s tons of that. So, to keep the beds from flooding and then all of the mulch being lifted and carried up and over the block wall with the excess water, we added circle drains towards the front sections of the wall (because it slopes slightly), every few feet. We added them to the flower beds up next to the wall and then several of them to the taller block wall around the tree. All we did was drill large holes through the block, and then cut sections of PVC pipe and pounded it on it. Works great!
Oh, don’t forget your watering source. How are your plants going to be watered? Do you have a sprinkler system? Will it be a sprinkler or a drip? Do you know how to move it (or have a friend help you) if necessary?
Keep those questions in mind as you’re moving around your sprinklers and creating new HARDscape features. (And don’t let the sprinkler system scare you from getting started. We learned a lot by asking people at Home Depot. And watching YouTube videos. But you could always hire someone to help you with that part.)
Okay, now let’s talk about the landscaping. What types of plants do you like? What grows well in your area? How much space do they need? Do they need full sun, part sun, morning sun, no sun???
I know…that sounds like a lot, but it’s pretty important because you don’t want your plants to die. I honestly had no clue about any of that a couple months ago. But what I did is visited our local nursery several times and asked a lot of questions. For the most part, employees at a local nursery are much more knowledgeable than a Home Depot or Lowe’s. However, Home Depot and Lowe’s have much better deals and sales on their plants and what I’ve learned is that they stock items that are grown close by, or that are brought in from places that are similar to your local climate. They told me that they only sell items that do well in your area…..so don’t worry about finding something that you love but only grows well in Hahaii (unless you live in Hawaii…ha!) So, I ended up buying plants from the nursery AND Home Depot/Lowe’s.
Oh, and ask your neighbors and friends. Ask them what grows well for them, what grows quickly, what provides good shade, etc. I actually called my mom about a trillion times and asked for her opinion and advice, and that was super helpful too (…thanks mom)!! But she lives in Colorado and has different plants and planting seasons, so I had to ask around here for plenty of advice too! :)
Also, figure out where the sun rises and sets and see how much light a particular area gets.
Once I had a list of plants I really liked (but before buying them), I decided to figure out a plan of how I wanted the landscaping to look. So after all the block borders were all in place, I found and downloaded an APP on my iPad that I found called iScape, which has a database of so many types of flowers, trees, shrubs, etc…..that you can drag and drop onto an existing picture of your yard. So, I took a picture of the front yard and started adding the items that I thought I wanted. This was SO HELPFUL…..because it gave me a really good idea of balancing everything out, what colors would look best, and where to place things. My finished yard doesn’t look exactly like the picture below because most of my plants are still really small, but I also swapped out a few things because of availability and I probably asked a few more questions at the nursery and changed my mind. ;)
Now, the fun part—PLANTING.
I think it’s helpful to purchase plants in stages. Buy what you need for one area first and then move onto the next. Or, buy all the plants that are the tallest and get those planted along the back, and then moved forward. Sometimes you’ll see that there isn’t as much room as you thought…or maybe there’s more room. I also think it’s really helpful to set all of your plants out, right where you want to plant them, and then step back and take a look. (Just remember that everything will be slightly shorter because it will be down in the ground.)
Then, find out what is needed for your soil. Do you need to add plant food? How about acidity levels? Maybe you need to mix in some top soil? Or maybe you need rocks at the bottom of the holes of your bigger shrubs, for drainage??
All of those questions can be answered in about 5 minutes by someone at your local nursery. They have so many little tips that they love sharing too! Then…GET PLANTING!!
If this is your first time doing heavy landscaping (or planting anything at all), remember—you’re learning! My mom (who has loved gardening for years) kept reminding me that this is my learning year. I might realize that I really hate a particular plant type that I thought I’d love, or realize how much I love something that I previously didn’t really care for.All I have to say though, is that walking up to my front door now makes me very, very happy! I realize it might be slightly overboard for some, but I really love it. Every single little budding plant and flower. And I feel like I’m their number one cheerleader, encouraging these little guys to grow! However, I’m already taking mental note of plants that aren’t doing as well, so I’ll swap them out next year…and that’s okay! (<—My mom said it was…so it’s true!)
How about another “before” picture? This time, of the tiny stretch of dirt between the walkway and the house. It had some plants in there that just didn’t do well. Kind of sad looking.
We replaced those dead plants with a bunch of shade plants that have done REALLY well right there. I mean good grief……I’m still learning about plant growth and how well things do here, but I think I found some really hearty plants that do well in this No-Sun-Zone against the house!
One of the fast bloomers along this wall…..are these begonias. Holy smokes, you guys….if you have some shade at your house, give these a try! They spread out like crazy and are so lush!!! (Or maybe that’s an Oklahoma thing…..so ask around!)
The “before” picture of the left side of the house was even less manicured than the right side…and didn’t have a border at all. So, the grass just kept creeping in. (Bermuda grass is a beast though….it’s so spiny and takes over everything! Blah.)
But now, that left corner is rounded out and perfectly happy!
I decided that hydrangeas were a must while planning everything out. We had hydrangeas for our wedding (that were more of a blue/purple color) and ever since then, I’ve been dreaming of planting some of our wedding flowers. I planted 2 of these and even though I brought them home with some blooms that were about to open up, they ended up dying off and never blooming. I kinda figured they’d just never bloom because of their location or something…but just this past week, they suddenly started blooming like crazy. And they’re supposed to bloom all summer!
I can’t tell you how happy these flower clusters make me!
While waiting for the hydrangeas to bloom (or sorta giving up on them for this season), I found these little annuals that kind of reminded me of hydrangeas……so I planted them in there to replace my “loss”. Haha! But even though the hydrangeas are now in, I still really like these flowers. (I’d tell you their name, but I can’t remember.)
Something else that I didn’t really talk about above but is worth mentioning, is that if you’re filling up a really big bed, it’s nice to add in something else, other than plants. We had 2 huge mossy rocks in the flower beds that the builder added into the landscape originally….and we love using them wit our current landscaping. But you could also add old logs, maybe some big flower pots, or anything kind of “earthy” to break up the monotony of plants. It just adds a nice variety.
Oh, and one other thing that I learned but didn’t take a very good picture of…..is that white pipe sticking up out of the ground behind that skinny tree trunk. Well, someone at the nursery taught me that if you bury some PVC pipe down with your tree as deep as the bottom of the roots, then you can water it this water, making sure that the water is actually reaching the roots. Just be sure that you place rocks down in the bottom of your hole first for drainage, but it also helps give the PVP pipe something to rest on that won’t clog it up. Cool tip, right? :)
Another thing that I love…..is that we ran a hose from the faucet over on the left side of the house and buried it beneath all the mulch, and then connected it to this hose stand that we pounded into the ground. Then we bought one of those really flexible hoses that collapse really small and wound it up onto this stand so that it’s a little less bulky. But this way, I can water the flowers by the front door (that the sprinklers miss) and have the hose handy for spraying off the sidewalk, driveway, dirty kids’ feet, washing the car, etc. I also half-buried 2 concrete pavers to use as stepping stones over to the hose, so that it visually defines why I left that space open.
One thing that I really wanted to pull out, was this pine tree. It’s one of those dwarf pine breeds that are kinda wonky on purpose. I was all set on pulling it up and planting a Magnolia tree. (Do you know what a magnolia tree/bush is? They have the biggest flowers that are fragrant and bright white. They remind me so much of living in coastal Georgia….plus, they are evergreen.) But I waited too long to decide and all of the Magnolias that I liked and that were a good price, were sold out. However, now that the old landscaping is gone and the new stuff is in, I kinda like that little scraggly tree. We can just pretend it reminds us of Colorado! ;) (But maybe in the fall or even next summer, I’ll find a Magnolia tree for sale, and plant it elsewhere!)
One last thing to mention—the process of laying bricks or pavers the correct way. I really think that if you’re going to spend time landscaping, you might as well do it right. There are much more skilled tutorials and youtube videos out there that will teach you how to lay your blocks or bricks, so I didn’t take any pictures of that. So get googling! :) But just know, it’s very worth it to pour down the layer of rocks, then the layer of sand, and then place the brick on top and level each one as you place it down. It will make your structure sturdy and will withstand the weather so much better. So take the time to really learn how to do it right. We spent a couple Saturdays outside with the kiddos, digging up dead plants, bagging up old mulch, and hauling bricks from the car to the yard.
But I laid most of the brick myself during the afternoon, during naptime. Yes, it was tiring and my hands and fingers ached at the end of each day, but Steve and I could only get so much done over the weekend, and I didn’t want this to drag out forever. So, I cranked up my music and laid bricks, one by one. And dug holes, one by one. And carried off wheelbarrows of this red dirt, one by one. But let me tell you……I’m now a master block leveler, haha! ;) No, but really, the process was well worth it, and we saved ourselves THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS!!!
And then, little by little, things started to take shape and I could see that this whole plan was really going to work!
I’m not going to lie, this took a lot of work. But let me tell you, more than just saving money by doing it yourself, it warms your soul right up to the tippy-top to see everything finished and SO beautiful! (Or maybe we have rose colored glasses on because of all the work we put into it, and others drive by and think it looks like a trash dump…….but I don’t even care one bit, ha!)
So even though you may be a little nervous to Landscape, Hardscape, or BOTH…….you’ve got this! There’s so much help out there, so many cool things to learn, and when you’re done—you have a whole lot of beauty welcoming you home each day! :)
Anyway, I hope it was helpful! If you have questions, ask me! If I missed something, tell me! We are in no way professionals, but we were so happy with how much we learned and how well it turned out for us! Now go on and do the same……you’ll probably surprise yourself too! :)
P.S. This was NOT a sponsored post. I know there are lots of links…but none of them are affiliate links. I’m just sharing exactly what we did to hopefully help some of you save some money and have the landscaping that you really want!
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