Can Ya Feel The Curb Appeal?

No? Me either. But it’s coming. Slowly but surely. After tackling the area to the right of the porch, next on the ol’ to-do list was:

  1. the area to the left of the porch
  2. the side lot next to our house (a giant valley full of moist soil that we want to naturalize into a pretty forest)

But before we get to the planting bed next to the porch, we wanted to share this gorgeous sight courtesy of the side lot:

Just kidding. Unless by gorgeous we mean just-one-reason-we-hang-our-heads-in-shame-when-neighbors-walk-by. Those are old clumps of grasses that we were told to cut back each March so it’ll grow in nice and fresh and clean this year. Early April is the new March, right? We were a little late…

But we finally got ‘er done. And now the wild and crazy side lot next to our house looks like this:

But let’s back up and view our little leaf garden from the street, shall we? This is an area that we’d love to naturalize with a charming little “orchard” of pretty trees and ground cover and grasses and anything else that’ll make it feel sort of woodsy and sweet (and not like a place we have to mow or weed or rake). You can see what the cut back grasses look like now (there are four blue arrows pointing to them) so hopefully when they spring up and fill in (they get about 4-5 feet tall) it’ll feel more woodsy on that side. And see the thing I circled on the left? That’s a new tree.

Yup, the first step to naturalizing our ridiculously unattractive side yard is to add trees that will thrive down in this moist valley of our property. Thankfully the certified landscape designer we had over (more on that here) recommended a slew of trees that would do well, one of which was the River Birch. So when we saw them on sale at Home Depot for $19, we grabbed one (using a $5 off coupon that we got for being in their gardening club – which is free, so just sign up to get random coupons).

We followed the planting directions on the label and crossed our fingers that this guy would be the first step to woodsing-up the side lot full of weeds, leaves, and various other odds and ends (not to scare anyone, but we did find a pretty respectably sized snake down here once).

But that guy was nowhere to be found this time around. So let’s skip over to the garden bed to the left of the front porch. It definitely wasn’t looking so hot covered in leaves, missing some shrubs, and sporting more of that ubiquitous liriope:

So we raked out the leaves…

And dug out the liriope…

… and planted this otto luyken laurel, which we mentioned here.

We learned that middle bush wasn’t doing too well from the certified landscape expert  – so we dug it up and transplanted it to the more “wild” part of our side yard that we’re trying to naturalize so it’s out of the spotlight. This is John’s tired face:

Then we had a nice bare-ish bed to work with:

Here it is from the other side. This area is a lot larger than the bed on the right side of the porch. It’s about 20 feet long and the depth ranges from 7 to 11 feet.

We opted to go with a group of plants that we chose for the garden on the right of the porch for balance and because we knew they’d work in partial shade (this side of the house gets the same amount of light). So in came the same purple flowering plants called Garden Variagated Dead Nettle that we added to the other side of the garden (they’re the mounding variety as opposed to the spreading kind, and they only get 6-8″ wide and tall, so they shouldn’t overwhelm our little garden). We also added three more Dwarf Pieris Japonica Variagated shrubs like we used on the other side, (they only grow to be 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide). They’re covered in little white flowers in the spring and are pretty leafy shrubs for the rest of the time. They also work in part shade and we planted these guys around our first house’s perimeter and they did great.

Why did we get three of each type? Well, lots of landscaping experts recommend odd numbers over even ones, and clustering a few similar plants together can give them more presence.

So we grabbed three of each, spaced them according to the directions on the tag (and in a way that we thought would look balanced once they reach their mature size), and then it was time to dig.

We just follow the recommendations on the tag for each one when it comes to how big of a hole to dig and what sort of nutrients or soil we add to the hole while planting them.

A few hours later, we had this going on.

Once again since these photos aren’t an aerial view, it’s hard to see how much space there is between everything and the house and between each other (but it’s 3-4 feet in all instances). That spacing allows for plenty of filling in without worrying that our little garden bed will be a crowded mess in a few years.

They might not seem like much, but we’re in love with these shrubs. I know that sounds like an overstatement, but just like we mentioned here we really learned our lesson about buying cheap placeholder stuff instead of holding out for things we really love and placing them thoughtfully so they all thrive and look good for years to come.

From left to right in this pic above, you can see our otto luyken laurel (more on that here), our Garden Variagated Dead Nettle, and our Dwarf Pieris Japonica Variagated. We love that they all get covered in tiny blooms in the spring (and the nettle will continue flowering into the summer). So of course there’s more of this larger bed to tackle beyond this area in front of the house, but our arms are happy to take a little breather. We did polish things off with some mulch to keep moisture in and weeds out. So it looks nice and finished… to a point (and then the mulch stops and there are no plants, haha – we’ll get there).

So here’s a reminder of what that area looked like before about six hours of raking, clearing, planning, digging, and mulching:

And here’s that area mostly completed (we’ll polish off that smaller zone on the far left once our arms recover and we come up with the right plants to get ‘er done):

Oh and just for fun, here’s what it should look like when things grow in, thanks to the magic of photoshop. This should be everything’s full size:

We think it looks nice and clean without dwarfing our one-story house (larger bushes and trees can make a ranch look really squat by growing up near the windows, crowding things, and basically cutting the facade in half). So we’re psyched to have checked off a few to-dos on our huge list (mentioned here) but still have a bunch of outdoor endeavors before we can say this house has curb appeal without rolling our eyes ironically. And I’d share a pic from the curb, but we’re actually starting a few other projects near the path and the mailbox and around the yard, which make things look a little worse before they get better so a wide shot right now wouldn’t look so hot. So stay tuned for those details in a future Petersiks Vs. Wild post.

In the meantime, what are you planting? Are there a million outdoor projects in process at your house without much completion going on yet? Sometimes I feel so scattered, but it helps to remember that we’re inching towards something that’s going to make a huge difference from the curb. Just have a few other zones to attend to before things all start coming together…

Psst- We’ve become a Hunger Games household. More on that over on Young House Life.


  1. says

    We have about a million outdoor and indoor projects going on right now. Repainting just about every room, finishing our basement, a million little things and oh, yeah, outdoors. We have 11 raised garden beds in our backyard that all need some TLC, plant seeds (we’re a little late too) and so much more. I think you just inspired a “to-do” list post for my blog! :-)

  2. says

    I had no idea that Home Depot had a gardening club! I definitely need to sign up for that!

    The yard is coming along great! It’s always annoying that this part of the home isn’t an instant gratification at the end of all that hard work. Soon, though! We’re going to be planting some herbs in the garden soon, but there is still a lot of work to be done to prep the beds back there!

  3. Kara says

    Lookin’ good!

    I put in the same “Dwarf Pieris Japonica” shrubs in my front bed last spring, except they came labeled “Japanese Sarabande.” I was in love with the tiny white bell-like flowers. But I think I planted them in a spot with too much sun, or the summer was just too dry, because they looked like they were dying by August. They didn’t look much better in March, so I decided to prune them back and hope for the best — and it worked! I’ve asked the Internet about pruning them routinely, (like am I supposed to do it every fall like mums or peonies?) and I don’t get much. But it seemed absolutely necessary to mine. They haven’t flowered yet this year though. So we’ll see. Keep me posted on how yours do!

    • says

      So interesting! Thanks for the tip! Maybe it helps in sunny spots? Ours were unpruned for a few years at our first house and seemed to do pretty well. I’m a low maintenance momma so I might have just forgot but they kept flowering! Haha.


  4. Lindsey d. says

    I’m tackling my exterior as well — of course, I need a few more free weekends to do it (it’s festival season in Louisiana!). I spent a weekend clearing bamboo (hate that stuff) and creating a new bed where a terrible chain link fence used to be. Some dwarf azaleas and few herbs are still alive (!) and now I’m moving my attention to the front beds.

    In another case of “why’d they do that”, the previous owners planted azaleas in front of the old shrubs instead of removing them first. So that’s the next step, along with some serious weeding and mulching! Fun times….

  5. says

    My parents always put plastic down over the dirt and under the mulch to protect from weeds. I don’t have a house yet so I don’t know if that was a weird thing or is an outdated thing to do. Did you consider it?

    Plants look lovely!

    • says

      We have found that if we clear a garden bed first (get rid of weeds) before planting and then simply mulch it we don’t have many weeds. And the ones that do pop up can be pulled out easily since they don’t root very well in mulch.


    • denise says

      A more environmentally friendly and inexpensive option is to put down old newspapers between the dirt and mulch layer. It’s a great way to recycle the newspapers and it allows water to easily get through but doesn’t allow the weeds to implant. The newspaper gradually decomposes and adds to the dirt layer at which point you can just put down fresh papers.

  6. says

    We’re in the process of re-landscpaing too, but we’ve opted to hire someone to come in and take out old stumps and do general clean up before we plant. We found someone to do it, but I was having a hard time scheduling a time with them.

    We came home from my birthday dinner last night to find a crew of guys working on the yard! They’re not done yet but made awesome progress in only a couple of hours. It was seriously the best birthday present ever, haha.

  7. says

    That’s exhausting, but looking good! Can’t wait to see it fill out in a few years.
    Every time I see the word liriope it throws me for a loop until I remember it’s monkey grass. Your word sounds cooler.

  8. Megan says

    It looks so nice! It looks clean and crisp…I love pulling out the junk from gardens…it almost feels like I have more room to breathe. We just bought a bunch of shrubs for our garden so we dont have to maintain it as much. I’m not a gardener, I would much rather decorate and mess around with taking care of the inside! My hubby and I are thinking about starting a blog about our home…much like yours. We bought it last year foreclosed, and it had been vandalized…what a MESS! Thinking about writing about our adventures as first time home owners, not knowing what they are doing…but somehow making it our home. :) Thanks for the inspiration…you guys are doing great!

    • says

      Yes, start a blog! Haha, well no pressure, but it is an awesome way to choronacle the love you can put into an old beat up home! We love having this little online diary to look back on!


  9. LisaP says

    Did you lay a “liner” down to prevent weeds in your beds? If we just put mulch down the weeds come through it.

    • says

      We don’t do liners since we’ve had experience with weeds just germinating in the mulch on top of them (heck, weeds will grow on our cobbstone patio- haha) so we don’t mind just mulching which seems to cut down on a ton of weeds (if you clear your garden bed first when you plant of course) and then only have a handfull of weeds a season that pop in but they’re so easy to pull since they’re loosely rooted in the fluffy mulch.


    • sallie says

      liners can be fine but it’s best to just put down a good layer of mulch. the mulch breaks down and makes the soil happy! liners prevent all that good, organic material from reaching the plants AND weeds will find a way to just grow on top of the liners. i’ve found that if we put a nice, thick layer of mulch we have very little weed issues.

  10. says

    I can feel the curb appeal!! I think it looks awesome and you guys are making me crazy jealous out there in your shorts, working in your gardens… I can’t wait to get outside!!

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