Sweat Equity: Improving our Landscaping

We live on a fairly large (a bit over an acre), partially wooded lot. Out front there used to be a stand of pine trees that the former owners removed. In its place, they left a large pine straw bed with a nice water oak (Quercus nigra), and then they planted a ton of shrubs as well as a handful of cherry trees. Unfortunately, they had somewhat odd tastes when it comes to shrubs, and they also didn’t really seem think things through with regard to placement. Thus, we were left with a number of unhealthy, or just unsightly plants in our landscape.

The other problem is that a huge pine straw bed is a lot of work to maintain when there aren’t pines growing overhead. In short, you have to buy dozens of bales of pine straw, haul them home, and then spread them out. Not much fun. Needless to say, when we moved into our house last summer, I couldn’t wait for fall when we could start re-claiming our landscape. Since we live fairly far south, Spring has sprung (or at least it’s in the process of springing) and so we spent the weekend in the yard.

What follows is a quick rundown of what we did. Note that, while most of our efforts have focused out front, some of these things actually involved the side or backyard.

– Removed ca. 20 miscellaneous shrubs (all dead or unhealthy)
– Moved 11 shrubs (Abelia x ‘Rose Creek’; sun-loving, but had been in the shade)
– Moved 2 redbuds (Cercis canadensis; planted last fall, second thoughts on location)
– Planted 12 azaleas (Azalea x ‘Autumn Twist)
– Planted 2 dogwoods (Cornus florida; one white, one pink)
– Planted 3 Tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera)
– Filled a ton of holes left by shrubs that we had removed
– Spread a bit more pine straw to cover the gaps left by shrubs that we removed

This comes on the heels of the following, last fall:

– Removed 4 scraggly shrubs with hideous red blooms (didn’t even bother checking the name)
– Removed 3 wimpy cherry trees (Prunus spp., not sure exactly which ones; left 2 nice ones)
– Planted 3 redbuds (Cercis canadensis; mentioned above)
– Planted 5 white dogwoods (Cornus florida)
– Planted 1 red maple (Acer rubrum)
– Planted 1 Shumard’s oak (Quercus shumardii)
– Spread too many bales of pine straw to count

Left to do:

– Plant groundcover so we can keep the weeds at bay without continually replenishing the pine straw

(In case you’re into this sort of thing, we’re in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7b).

3 Responses to “Sweat Equity: Improving our Landscaping”

  1. Anonymous

    Does anyone have advice on my situation? Bought the house a year ago and now that spring is approaching, I need to do some regrading and some other minor things in my yard.

    I’m willing to do the work myself (hopefully with the wifey) but don’t know first-hand any landscapers. Should I suck it up and pay someone to do it? Or is it worth it to take the time to learn what I need done and do it myself? I dont want my lawn to turn into a dirt pile.

  2. Norm, we have one really exposed slope down to our drainage ditch that’s been eroding, and we’ll be planting creeping juniper there — we don’t have much choice in that case because it’s in full sun, and we have to choose something that will thrive there. In the case of the large pine straw bed where we’ve been doing most of the landscaping, we will probably use Vinca or Asiatic jasmine. The latter is currenty the front runner. My only concern is that, while it’s well-loved around here, I’ve heard that it can be pretty aggressive further south form where we are. Thus, I want to do a bit more homework to be sure we won’t regret it.

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