At the time we bought our house, the appraisal report came back with an “average” curb appeal rating. The building exterior was a drab stucco with gray wood siding on the lower half. The landscape was maintained, but we had let it overgrow during the two years we’ve lived here as neither Mr. M nor I know anything about gardening and landscaping. As most of our time is spent indoors, especially in the Vancouver climate, I put all my effort in making our house into a home. The exterior was sorely neglected. Mr. M did what he could with weeding and mowing the grass, but the gardens needed a major redesign. It was my goal this year to get that under control and we spent the last month pulling it all together.
There’s still a lot that needs to be done, but for now, I’m happy to share with you the completion of Phase 1 of our Landscape Makeover.
This is what our house looked like when we first bought it. I don’t think we had even moved in yet.
One of the first orders of business when we moved in was to change out the old windows for new energy efficient windows. After that was done, we set about to paint the exterior a charcoal gray to modernize it a bit more. Like I said, Mr. M and I are not green thumbs, so we had to hire in professionals to help us achieve the landscape design and do the work this place desperately needed. I had a few ideas of my own, but our landscape designer really helped me focus in on a vision I was comfortable with. He suggested plants that worked well with my concept. Plus, he and his team pulled up all the weeds and dead plants and just did a major overhaul on the land. They were fantastic!
(Apologies for the “Now” photo above… I didn’t do much staging before taking the photo, so eager I was to just snap away. The gray hose didn’t stay, of course; and the Japanese maple was pulled up from our yard. We’re planning to give it to my husband’s family as this maple no longer makes sense in the new design.)
Here’s the house from the street view. I was quite set on tearing out the boxwood hedges when we first moved in, in lieu of modern horizontal wood fencing. I changed my mind when I saw how much our house expenses were adding up. These hedges are in fantastic shape and great to have around for Christmas decor in the home. With a bit of trimming, they looked sleek and modern enough in no time.
I wanted to create a flower bed in front of the hedges, but did not know which flowers were best. I thought maybe tulips would look good there as they’re annuals and would come back every year, but my designer pointed out that the problem with planting flowers in the front is that people will pick them. It was his idea to plant black mondo grass in front of the hedges, which would provide year round foliage and create a nice contrasting color against the green hedges. He was completely aware of my love for ornamental grasses so this was a perfect suggestion! He then added the variegated hosta to go between the hedge and the black mondo for more layers of color and dimension. The hosta dies in the winter, but they are very hardy plants and do well with low maintenance. At the time of planting, he added the chartreuse colored ground cover called baby’s tears (those tiny patches of yellow between the hostas and the black mondo), which will eventually spread around the plants and cover the bed. I’m really looking forward to that!
When my designer painted the picture (figuratively speaking) of the rows of black grass against a row of white/green plant against the row of evergreen boxwood, I was 100% sold. This conversation fueled my concept to make our landscape very sleek, very modern, very architectural. I wanted color blocks of plants in neat rows. I saw plants in lime greens, chartreuse, white, and black; in layers, in grasses, in neatly trimmed bushes. I wanted to do away with all the plants that read too cottage-y or fussy. It was time to tear everything out that didn’t fit the concept.
The pathway to our front door was narrow with overgrown heather and lavender bushes, and a cedar tree that had gotten quite fat.
The redesign pared everything back and now we have a wider path to walk along. The landscape lights actually light the path and no longer hidden behind bushy plants.
This is a side view of that same path. Our designer trimmed the lower branches of the cedar tree and moved the blue hostas that were located at our front window (in the first photo above) to under this tree. The blue hostas are shade loving trees and are doing very well under there! The bamboo plant to the right of the tree was cut back quite a bit. Now it’s no longer so invasive looking. I can’t wait for our new hebe bushes in the front to mature and fill the space a bit more!
Here’s another view of the same path going towards the street. The “Keep Closed” sign on the gate was stenciled in by me last summer. The occasional mailman still leaves that gate open. Some people just don’t follow directions very well!
This is the bed under our front window. The bamboo plants were transplanted to the bed in the backyard, while the blue hostas were moved to a new home under the cedar tree just off the front path (photos above). In their places, my designer planted Choisya Sundance bushes. These will grow to a medium height and get quite full. I like their ombre effect in coloring ranging from the darker green at the bottom to the yellow-green at the top. That hideous bamboo screen covering the basement window is only temporary as we have tenants who rent out the basement unit downstairs and they need some sort of privacy screening. I have a new screen in mind for this space that I’m really excited about! I can’t wait to make it and share it with you!
Back to the front path… this leads to the back yard.
This is what our backyard looked like when we moved in. Yes, that’s a hot tub on the deck in the center. We actually want to get rid of it, so if anyone in Vancouver is reading this and wants this hot tub, message me! We are not a hot tub using household (I can’t sit still in a tub of water for too long and I’m not sure of Mr. M’s reason). I would much rather use that deck for an outdoor dining space. I think we’d get more use out of that.
The backyard was abundant with THREE fig trees! You can see one of them off to the right of the photo by the fence. We had to make the decision to cut down two of them because the two by the fence were growing into our neighbor’s deck, quite substantially. It was either spend $300 to cut them both down now or $150 to prune them every year. Seeing as we would still have one more fruit bearing fig tree, we chose to cut these two down.
After cutting down the fig trees, we had a lot more sun in the backyard, but were left with this bare fence. Again, with neglect, weeds had quickly taken the place of the trees. I wanted to get rid of the bamboo trees in the front yard and thought they might look good back here. Our designer agreed and transplanted them like this. They even pulled rocks from around the yards to create this border. I think it makes a rather lovely backdrop for entertaining in this area. I might want to hang up some colorful artwork between the bamboo plants. That would be really fun, don’t you think?
That back area behind the hot tub was probably very lovely once upon a time, but all the plants had somehow stayed thriving through the overgrowth of weeds. It had become a wilderness back there. I didn’t even know those two trees by the fence were flowering magnolia trees!
We cleared out that back area, saved the plants that could be saved, and moved the magnolia trees so they now frame the hot tub deck. When they get bigger and taller, they’ll arch over the top of the decking very nicely.
That back area was cleared out entirely to make room for a vegetable garden! With full sun in the back there, it makes a perfect place to grow veggies. You can already see where we started building the raised beds (on the left side of the photo). I’ll post how to build these beds in my next post, so stay tuned!
So that’s Phase 1. It feels so good to have this part done! Did you enjoy this tour? The next phase will include hard surfaces, namely making over that path. I’ve already got an idea for what I want to do there! When we get rid of the hot tub, I’ll be able to move our outdoor dining space to the deck, which means I can turn our current outdoor dining space into a fire pit or something fun like that. We might get rid of all the grass in the backyard, although we’re not sure what to replace it with just yet. Until we make some decisions for Phase 2, I’ve got a window screen to make, some artwork for the fence behind the bamboo, vegetable gardens to grow, and the front porch to make pretty. That’s still a ton of work before the next phase! I wonder how our curb appeal would appraise now…?
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