Clearing Out And Cleaning Up The Path To Our Front Door

Let’s do the path (I’m not good at math, but digging up a path, I can do). And John’s good at both. Overachiever, much? Anyway, this is just a photo from before we started working on the garden beds on either side of the porch (more on that here and here) so you can see how that clump of bushes in front of the porch was kind of weird and reversed. Don’t you think plants on either side of the porch would look nice and balanced while the path to the door and the porch should be more open and airy instead of crowded by overgrown boxwoods? It was like things were backwards. Business in the middle instead of business on the sides. It was a bush mohawk.

And when a certified landscape expert (more on that here) confirmed that those boxwoods were on their last legs anyway due to some bare spots and diseased tops, we were even more sure we had to open things up so the path to the door felt less crowded (don’t worry, we still tried to transplant as many as we could to see if they’ll make it in a less in-yo-face location).

See what we mean? On moving day we dragged things down this path approximately 5,000 times with the bushes reaching out and grabbing us the whole time.

They just don’t have any understanding of personal space. We actually learned from our little landscaping consultation that pathways are ideally four feet wide so two people can walk next to each other or carry large items without getting bush-groped. So the least we can do is make this path feel as wide as possible by opening things up.

Operation Clear The Path began with us digging out the azaleas that were completely crowding the porch (their base was literally just inches from the brick side of the porch). That garden bed is tiny, and no place for large bushes like that. They weren’t too bad to dig up since the ground was wet from rain the day before – and we transplanted them on the side yard that we’re trying to naturalize so it’ll have some pretty pops of color down there and they won’t be nearly as cramped.

Next it was time to dig up those boxwoods along the other side of the path. They were a bit more challenging to get up, but again thanks to moist soil from previous rain, it wasn’t too bad. It probably took about fifteen to twenty minutes per bush and there were eight of them, so this was an almost three hour process done over two Clara naps. A few of the bushes were too far gone so we just cut them out with the reciprocating saw and then dug up their roots since that was easier if there was no saving them.

But the ones that looked like they might stand a fighting chance of survival also got transplanted in the side lot near the azaleas.

Then it was time to do something we’ll probably be doing until the end of time at this house. Digging up more of that ubiquitous liriope that abounds. This stuff was actually growing up and over the pavers – making the path look a foot narrower thanks to at least six inches of encroachment on each side. See the root system of the one below actually covering half of that paver?

We knew digging them out would widen the path again (no more bushes or grasses trying to tickle people’s legs as they walked by), but we really weren’t expecting just how much of a difference clearing out this small bed that once housed giant azaleas and endless monkey grass would make. The porch could finally breath again!

We went ahead and mulched it all the way down, just to keep weeds from springing up all willy-nilly, but we do plan to plant some small pretty flowering perennials or annuals eventually. Just holding out to find some we really like that will do well in such a narrow spot (we’re sure there are a ton of options, so we’ll just see what we like and resist the urge to try to settle too quickly on something “meh”).

And we can’t even explain how much of a difference it made to clear out those big clumpey and crowded boxwoods that were on the other side of the path. Are you ready for the biggest landscaping difference we’ve seen this spring? Check out the path before we cleared it out…

… and after:

Doesn’t the path itself look about twice as wide and a lot more open? Don’t your eyes travel to pretty things, like the woods beyond the path, and the open and much more welcoming porch? We have plans to seed the entire left side of the path so that grass just comes right up to it (nothing big will pen you in, so the path will look nice and wide and welcoming). We have a ton of other areas to garden around the perimeter of the house, so we’ll appreciate just having to mow that strip of land instead of needing to plant/mulch/prune/weed another bed. So picture that big patch of brown as green as the grass beyond it. Can you see it?

And here’s the difference from the other side. Before:

And after:

And now for some shots from a bit further away for ya. First here’s how this angle looked back when we moved into our house (what house?):

And here are how things are looking these days:

Of course we still have about 679 other things on our exterior to-do list (see more of that here) but we’re inching towards something that looks a whole lot better than what we started with.

Ah landscaping, you take a while and make our arms and back ache, but you’re worth it.

As for how long clearing the path took in total, the entire project – including the time it took to transplant things in other areas – was around 8 hours. We started it about a week ago, which is why we couldn’t show wide shots of the garden beds on each side of the porch (since that path was torn up/in progress – and we wanted to get ‘er done before taking pics from further away). That last shot from the street deflates us further emphasizes how much more we still have to tackle, but it’s definitely nice to look at the before pic to remember how far we’ve come in the time that we’ve been here. Slowly, but surely.

What are you guys doing when it comes to the path to your front door? Is it open and clear, packed with flowering plants? Full of overgrown bushes you’re planning to relocate as well? Tell $herdog all about it.


  1. gia says

    I’ve been so inspired by your landscaping posts recently! We have a side path to our backyard that we recently re-did with pavers. There was a bare strip to the side of the walk way that was begging for some green. As it is mostly shaded, we wanted to do a variety of hostas. Luckily, we stopped by my father in laws on the way to Lowes and he had many of these “pests” as he refers to them, to share with us. We were able to cut out our trip to lowes and freecycle about 10 plants, which I then transplanted on my own! I am so proud of my work- let’s hope they survive! Keep sharing the landscaping posts, they are keeping me motivated! :)

  2. Rachel says

    That looks awesome!!! Can we trade husbands for a few weeks? I would love to go to town on the exterior of our house, but my husband has no interest. He is really awesome at laundry and he is a professional chef, so you’d get some delicious meals.

  3. says

    Wow!! That is such a difference.. Its like a different house! You have given me a much needed kick up the bum to get started on my outside, it currently looks like my house is abandoned!! Bad me! I have a gardener coming to cut the front & back lawns this week. They were so overgrown my mower couldn’t cope :(
    Keep up the fab work!

  4. says

    That seriously looks amazing. And it gives me hope haha. Since we’ve been focusing on the barn, and will soon be focusing on our deck & addition, the landscaping has taken a hit. So this weekend while the barn siding and lean on the barn when up, I tilled the garden, planted on our chard & kale, started digging around the fruit trees and laying down a layer of manure and sawdust (versus wood mulch), and then started landscaping the road side of our home – and there is still SO MUCH to be done. I have to make a cut edge for the beds, finish the fruit trees (one down, 7 to go – and then more once we add more trees), finish making beds and planting the garden…and wear spf. I’m rocking a racerback burn today. Fantastic.

    I have so much to post on, but I only got one landscaping (gardening) post up this weekend before I fell asleep. Haha.

  5. Kellie says

    I’ve been working on our front yard too. And it never really ends, does it? My husband said the other day that he’s so glad we don’t have any more big house projects for this summer. I just gave him The Look. It’s probably time to break his little heart with a list.

    We got a bunch of rain on Saturday, so I spent Sunday pulling weeds and putting more seed on our front lawn. I also planted some blackberries in the garden bed in front so that the vines will eventually climb up the porch. And then I planted bulbs. WHEW!

  6. Kevin J says

    Looking great, folks. I hate to say this, but maybe you want to think (long term) about shifting that sidewalk out further from the house. Looking back to the driveway, if the edge of the sidewalk were actually about the outer edge of where you dug up the bushes, the whole thing would feel so nice an roomy. And hey, they’re pavers, right? ;-)

  7. says

    Wow, that makes a huge difference! It’s nice to know that a bit of effort (or three hours of work guaranteed to be felt the next day or two or week) can result in such a big transformation. Great work!

  8. taetae says

    Way to go guys! I am seriously floored by how much better things are looking! Are you planning to “chunk out” the beams this year, or is that a down the road project? Ever consider painting the brick? We moved into a house with yellow painted brick, and it holds up great and looks way more cohesive with our yellow siding!

    Also, are you planning to put grass seed down around the magnolia too, or does the tree need all that breathing room of dirt around it?

    Congrats on your new curb appeal!

    • says

      Grass seed won’t grow around the base of the magnolia but we’d love to plant some groundcover there to green things up so it’s not a big ring of dirt. As for the porch columns, I’d love to get to that this year sometime! We’ll have to see where we end up! We love how low maintenance unpainted brick is (it’s great for resale value) so we are hoping to work with it, although we do want to paint the siding to work with the gray undertones of the brick so it’s more cohesive- and then pop everything with bright white trim (it’s all cream now).


    • heather says

      Violets will also grow under a magnolia tree and will leave beautiful green leaves for you underneath and low to the ground – but when they bloom it will be an explosion of color. :)

  9. Rosemary says

    I just bought the “retro wall clock” you have listed in the We’re Digging section. It makes me smile every time I walk past. I’m in NYC now with no yard to speak of. Thanks for the yard posts – I’m living vicariously through you!

  10. Ana Silva says

    Wow, so much better already. It’s crazy how so many hours of yard work doesn’t always seem like it gets a lot accomplished. I’m in the process of a lot of yard work and boy is it time consuming. I met y’all yesterday btw. SO COOL!

  11. Alissa says

    Lovely! If it were me, I would put in some daffodils, crocuses, and tulips – bulb flowers that take up no space but come up again and again every year. :)

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