Upon moving into our house last year, I knew that we would have to take some considerable steps to add curb appeal to our home. The landscaping was messy, overgrown, impractical and just not our style. I got a few bids from local landscapers which made me decide to implement my own budget-friendly plan. Enjoy these 10 easy steps to a seamless and affordable landscape makeover!
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Demo
This was a project that had to be tackled in several steps as we had to clear out all the underbrush and small trees (except one crepe myrtle) in the front yard. None of the small trees were in good shape and were in an odd location, right in front of the view of the front door. The function of landscaping is to complement your home, making it open and inviting. If any aspect overwhelms or distracts from your home, it has to go! Notice how much more light comes in by losing the small trees.
2. Time to Touch Up
While plants were not in my way, I took this opportunity to paint the trim of our house. The brick color has an orange tone, which I’m not super excited about, so I wanted to direct the eye away from those warm tones. The previous yellow/cream color was only adding to those orange hues but the white paint made it very crisp and cool as shown above. I used Sherwin Williams Pure White in Superpaint. I usually save money by using Behr but on a project like this where you are painting so much overhead, my arms were grateful for not having to do an extra coat or two! (Sherwin Williams has great coupons once you join their email list.)
3. Make A Plan on Paper
Next, and I cannot emphasize this enough, make sure to get every aspect of your plan on paper. It is so much easier to make changes on paper than it is to move plants already in the ground. Be sure to look on Pinterest and in your area for ideas.
Since the walkway and face of our house includes lots of straight lines and sharp, right angles, I knew I wanted to make our beds curvy to add more interest. Use large plants in the back and smaller plants up front. As you get plans on paper, think more about the shapes of plants (For example: tall and grassy verses a small round shrub) you would like for your plan than the particular plant types- you can fill that in later. Look for large voids against your house and fill those with tall shrubs or a trellis.
I used an old hose to plan out the edge of the flowerbed and spent a lot of time getting it just right. Once I was happy of the shape of the new beds, I used spray paint to outline the border. There were a couple times I changed my mind after using the spray paint, which was not a big deal. I just used my foot to wipe the old line out of the grass and sprayed a new line.
4. Pick your Plants
Now, research the plants that would work best for your landscape design and region. Use plants that you see thriving in your area as you know these will be a wise addition to your landscape. Be sure to take note of the size your plants will reach at maturity or know that you can prune them back if you need to. For example, I used several dwarf yaupon, (shown above) which can become small trees if you let them just grow, but my plan is to prune them every year to keep them small and round. Pick trees that will not grow too large or just make sure to put them far enough away from the house. The crepe myrtle I picked is a smaller variety. Also, email your local extension office for questions about plants. They are happy to answer specific questions and often times they have a list of what plants do well in your location.
Also, avoid planting a large plant or tree directly in front of the vertical lines of either side of your house as covering these lines of delineation will make your home look smaller. Notice the new crape myrtle tree’s trunk is to the left of the house.
5. Maximize Color
Use lots of color to add curb appeal and incorporate colors that coordinate with one another. Maximize your opportunities for color by using flowering shrubs such as azaleas and rhododendrons, which come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. These are good background plants because they flower most of the year, and can be pruned into a rounded shape or a hedge. Unfortunately, because of the alkaline soil of our area in College Station, Texas, azaleas will not grow here…at all. So, my solution is using Drift Roses that I will keep pruned back because they will grow just about anywhere with very little maintenance. Drift roses are very disease resistant, heat resistant roses that are a cross between a miniature rose and a ground cover rose. The Peach Drift Rose(below) is also more shade resistant and will bloom most of the year. Aren’t the color combinations amazing?!?
6. Where to Buy Your Plants
The big box stores can be great for finding cheap plants but in ours, only about 1/3 of the plants they sell will actually grow in our alkaline soil. Big box stores don’t take a lot of care to pick plants that will do well in each store’s region. Often, private nurseries in your area will only sell plants that will grow in your particular area and zone. If in doubt, be sure to ask someone at a local nursery. I googled nurseries in our area and stumbled upon a wholesale nursery called Circle D that sells to the public on Saturday mornings. It had by far the best selection of plants that all grow in our area for a fraction of the cost. I was actually able to buy the exact same plants that would have been three times the price a landscaper was going to charge me.
7. Prep the Bed and Plant!
Once I brought all my plants home, I then spaced them all out exactly how I wanted them and took pictures with my phone to refer back to when I was time to plant. Then, we brought in 5 yards of Landscape Mix (dirt with compost) and we used that to build up the beds. We literally dumped the soil on top of the grass as we knew our beds were high enough that the grass would never be able to grow through. Buy dirt by the bulk and have it delivered as it is much cheaper than buying bags. We used the remaining dirt to fill holes in the backyard.
Once Jeremy and I added the soil to the beds, I began to plant. Start with the biggest plants first and be sure to ask for help with planting large plants, unlike I did. Then, plant from the back to the front, taking care to step in the bed as little as possible to keep the soil loose as plant roots don’t like soil that has been packed down.
8. Extra Touches
I ran soaker hoses and fertilized with Osmocote. Then, I added a few touches of my own for extra curb appeal!
First was the stone bird bath. It was actually left by the former owners in the backyard. It had chipped paint and had definitely seen better days. I sprayed it with a Clorox/water solution and scraped the paint that was peeling with a wire brush. Then I let it dry out in our garage for at least a week. When it was dried out, I sprayed it with Rustoleum Universal Flat Soft Iron. I’m really happy with how it turned out!
As I mentioned, I knew I needed to fill the mass of blank space on the side of the house. I bought three trellises from Lowe’s and just attached them with lots of black cable ties – easy peasy! I liked the look of the two end pieces being lower in a more cathedral look, so that’s how I attached them to one another and then just buried the bottom of the two side trellises deeper. This plan was MUCH cheaper than buying one large 6-foot-wide trellis.
I also made a garden hose holder using this tutorial from Shanty2Chic. I figure if you can’t hide something that is ugly, you might as well make it cute! I bought the finial and post cap from Home Depot and bought the hose hanger from Walmart. After spray painting it with Rustoleum Black Semigloss, I buried it, added a hose and voila! The whole hose holder cost $26.00.
I also enjoyed making the wreath and topiaries. I got the topiary balls on sale at Joanne’s and bought plastic planters. For the stems, I wired some sticks from the backyard together and painted them brown with craft paint.
9. Newspaper Mulch.
Next I added a thick layer of newspaper over the soaker hoses. Newspaper is great for controlling weeds as it smothers existing weeds and prevents weed seeds from germinating. It also helps the bed to retain moisture and attracts worms which is great for the soil. Add a thick layer and wet it down to prevent the wind from blowing it away. Then add two to three layers of black mulch. Adding newspaper is definitely worth the extra step and its free!
10. Rock Border
We had help with the mulch and rocks because of a service project at Texas A&M University called Big Event. A group from the Association of Pediatric Cancer at Texas A&M covered our beds with mulch and meticulously placed the rocks along the edges.
My favorite aspect of this project is one particular plant called a Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow plant. I needed something to cover the gas meter(yes, I painted it too) and I planted this right in front. It’s not a very common plant, but it is special to me because my grandmother had one in her garden. What’s unique about this plant is that once it blooms, the flowers are deep purple the first day, lavender the next day and then fade to white the third day. She was careful to explain to me that the plant signifies the three days that Christ hung on the cross. The darkness of the purple represents the depth of our sin but then by the last day the white flower signifies the purification, forgiveness and new life that can only come from Jesus’ death and resurrection. When we accept this act of unselfish love, we can enjoy eternal life with Him. Here is my Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow plant that reminds me of grandmother and the Legacy she left for the rest of our family.
My grandmother had a green thumb and everything she touched would bloom and thrive. I think she would have been pleased with my new flower beds. Hopefully with these tips, you will have an amazing yard you can be proud of Anyone can have amazing curb appeal without having to spend a lot on landscaping.