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. Marcy L says

    What a fabulous transformation! You guys must be SO sore! My husband and I are adding a front garden which involved digging up sod – ICK! What a workout!

  2. Bree says

    Great Job! I actually have a decorating question for you. I painted my livingroom Plumage. I am waiting for my light grey karlstad loveseat and sofa to come in. I am at a loss for a throw rug! I love bold color but I am afraid it will look tacky with the walls. Any rug advice?

    • says

      I would go with something neutral yet interesting/textured like a jute rug since the walls are so bold and you don’t want everything to compete. Although we have dark teal bedroom walls with a yellow rug in there that looks great – but the bed has a big white comforter on it to diffuse everything. Good luck!


    • says

      We love an open yard from the road since our house is really set a ways back. Many of our neighbors have a nice open feeling from the curb and it looks great!


  3. Nancy says

    You’re doing a nice job refreshing the original landscaping. Hiring and really listening to the garden pro is going to pay off in the long run w/ better plant selection for your yard.

    Instead of planting in the narrow area opened up directly in front of the porch – I’d suggest two or three long, tall planter boxes nestled the length of the space. Ana White has several designs on her site that would be quick and easy to build.

    I’m concerned about the little maple to the right of the porch in thinking that it’s planted too deeply. All trees need to have the flare at the trunk base either slightly above or at soil level. This is the anchor of the trunk and planting too low w/ the flare covered leads to quick tree decline and death. Note that many nursery grown trees and shrubs are not packed by experts – so don’t assume that you should plant it at the same depth as it came in the pot or package. Many trees need the base flare to be excavated from the original pot or bundling.

    Here’s a quick guide that gives lots of good advice:

    • says

      Thanks Nancy! We do know about the flare and it’s there, just obscured by a bit of mulch on it in the pics is hiding it (which we know should be brushed back away- will do that asap!).


  4. says

    It looks great you guys!…I know you have more to do before being finished but you have already made the yard look so much better!…want to come re-landscape my yard when your done?!…it’s not nearly as big as y’alls yard.

  5. says

    We have some serious front yard landscaping to conquer this year as well. There are 4 large cypress trees and 2 medium ones that are taking over the front of our house.

    Two of them are on either side of our garage and starting to seriously crowd our driveway, cover the lights on either side, and are now grown up and over the gutter. We can’t decide if we should try trimming them back or just take them out completely. I would love to move them, but these suckers are over 15 feet tall right now and I can’t imagine the manpower and machine power it would take to move them. We need to decide something before they really start to take over.

    The two medium ones are on either side of our front steps and had a pretty swirl pattern trimmed into them when we moved in 3.5 years ago. Being the neglectful owners we are they haven’t been trimmed since and are now out of control and have totally lost that pretty swirl pattern that they had. I’m not a tree trimming artist so I don’t see that pretty swirl coming back, but I do see them coming out soon.

  6. Lisa says

    It looks great!

    Another idea for that small strip right in front of your porch is containers! You could find some cool and interesting containers and then just pop in annuals and then pop them out when they die and put the containers away for the winter, etc. It is a perfect spot to do that kind of thing and would be so easy to maintain and keep interesting…you could change the containers or the flowers pretty quickly and cheaply. Just keep the bed mulched and clear of weeds and then put in your containers right on top!

    Or this is another good idea….

  7. says

    I worked on the path to the BACK door this weekend. We’re building a deck! Got all the supplies (oh my aching back!… and legs… and arms….), but then realized that two huge lilac stumps were in the way. We lack a chainsaw, but I pic-axe those suckers out!

  8. Kati S. says

    It is amazing how much difference just removing items can make! I am so ready to remove the fugly overgrown box hedges from around my house. I have have to wait until after the baby arrives in August and then you can bet I’ll be outside pulling up hedges :-)

  9. Laura says

    Looks so much better! Have you thought about phlox for the narrow part in your garden? It is a groundcover that has pretty pink or purple flowers in the spring, and a nice green the rest of the year. (and you can step on it!)

  10. says

    Hi! I love what you’ve done! It is so nice and open. It is amazing how some landscaping changes can make a person so happy! I’ve been grinning ear to ear on some stuff we’ve been working on outdoors and have been wanting to show you guys. Over the past week we did lots of stuff like paint our front door radicchio purple, build a garden bed, start our fence and so much more. I’ve got our raised garden bed on our blog now. I love it and how we saved money on it. Check it out if you have time and hopefully I’ll get some shots of our purple door and flowers up soon too! Have a great week!

  11. Tracey says

    I don’t usually like to be so blunt, but here goes – Holy crap. The before and after of the front… It’s like a totally different house! Tip of the hat to you two! ;D

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