Patio Problems: Let’s Plant Something!

It looked sweet when we finished it last year, especially if you ignored the fact that we had lots of landscaping stuff to attend to behind it. But these days it’s looking more like this:

That’s a whole lotta ugly going on.

The patio itself still looks great (and is weed free thanks to this step, while our un-polymeric-sanded cobblestone driveway is covered with them), but the “garden” area behind the patio has never looked worse.

We even learned from the Katherine (the certified landscape designer who recently came over) that some of the trees were diseased and dying (which we actually heard from the previous owners as well but didn’t want to believe) along with a big rhododendron bush that was completely dead. Bummers.

So she told us what to prune back, what to keep, and what dead or diseased things we should remove to give the living things a better shot at survival – and make the whole area look a lot less… well, ugly.

So first we removed the two diseased trees that were on their last leg (sniffle) and the completely dead rhododendron. Then we raked up all the leaves so we could actually see the ground again.

It was definitely a huge immediate upgrade. In person the open-ness is really nice. Things were sort of encroaching on the patio a lot when it was all overgrown back there, so now when you walk onto the patio you feel less crowded and worried you’ll get a stick in the eye.

But we still had some liriope to remove and a whole lot of bare spots that needed some planting (I’ve been meaning to paint our rain barrel to blend him in a bit more, but who knows how long it’ll take me to get on that…).

The next step was digging out all the random clumps of liriope to make way for some more intentional looking plantings.

So here’s the area behind the tree that we cleared to make way for some free bushes.

How does one get free bushes?  Well, by transplanting them of course. Yup, it was another suggestion from Katherine The Landscape Gal. She pointed out these were much too big and on top of each other over here…

… so we dug them up…

… and planted the three nandina bushes in a group with the one that was already there next to our giant hydrangeas in the corner. Since one happy little nandina bush was already on this side of the garden, we knew they’d do well over here. And a clump of the same type of plant always looks nicer than just one of ten different things hanging out all willy nilly together. Ideally we would have transplanted four of them to end up with a grouping of five since odd numbers seem to work well in gardening, but we were working with what we have. Thankfully they look nice in their little pack and will continue to fill in a bit more.

Then we grabbed three new hydrangea bushes from a local nursery (after some price checking, a place called Great Big Greenhouse had the best deal and also offered a year warranty on them). They’re the exact same variety as the ones we already have in the corner – which are doing gangbusters, so we hope these guys will grow nice and big and bloom just as well.

Of course only time will tell, but we’ll keep you posted. Here’s everything all dug in before we mulched the whole bed (which looks awesome by the way- just forgot to snap photos so we’ll have to share those in our next landscaping update).

Between all the rain we’re getting (and the rain barrel that’s nice and full from previous storms which comes in handy for stretches of dryness), we’re making sure these guys don’t give up on us. Oh and in Clara news, she especially loves talking about worms since digging our new plants in prompted us to discover a few (she even said she had a dream about worms the next night).

Sure we still have the corner by the rain barrel to attend to, but we have plans for that. So we’ll get there, someday! It’s definitely a nice discernible difference from the mess we were working with a week ago. There’s something really rewarding about landscaping work, although it’s bound to get you dirty and sweaty, just due to the fact that it’s such an obvious before and after. Something pretty and green can be found where there were only leaves and weeds the day before.

And the whole area is looking especially cheerful with the trees in bloom too.

Here are things from the other side (yup, Clara really did make it her job to be in every pic). This shows a few places we still have to work on (the bed near the house could use some smaller-scale greenery and of course we have the whole corner with the rain barrel to tackle)…

… but it’s definitely a lot easier on the eyes than this debacle.

It’s so crazy to me that the shot above was only taken about a week before the after pic on top of it (see all the buds on the trees that were about to bloom?).

Now they’re doing their thing. So pretty.

Here’s another before…

… and after.

And another. I can’t help it.

Ahh, much better.

I really wish I had snapped mulch pictures because it’s even better looking. Oh well, at least the mulch is holding it down and keeping weeds out and moisture in. Yay mulch. Update: Couldn’t resist sharing a Mulched & Fabulous pic, so I ran out and got this for ya:

It’s definitely a far cry from the view before:

This next picture is my favorite of the entire lot because I said “Clara, you’re in mommy’s picture!” and she squatted and closed her eyes and said “Where’s Clara” as if she were invisible.

Which must run in the family, because it’s exactly what her daddy did here.

What can I say? The girl has good hiding genes.

What are you guys planting? Do you have any favorites? I never thought I’d be buying hydrangeas since they always seemed to be out of my skill level (how can something that pretty not be super high maintenance?) but after 15 months of not killing the existing hydrangeas (which get bigger and more gorgeous each spring) we decided to go for it. And nandina is always a really easy one for us (we had that at our last house and it always did well), so here’s hoping I didn’t just jinx myself. Anyway, I’d love to hear what action is going on outside in the garden or on the porch or wherever else you get your plant on.


  1. AJJT says

    Hi, again. My first 2 posts in less than 24 hours after reading your blog for almost 2 years now :) The patio looks great!

    You know the small potted hydrangeas and hyacinths that they sell in the grocery stores around now for, like, $5-7? Most people think of them as indoor, seasonal decoration. My mom often buys them to line her steps and then after the holiday plants them outside. Over the years her little hydrangeas have grown into serious bushes. Just a thought since you guys (like us) like a good bargain. In this instance – patience is the price.

  2. Melissa says

    We have the same teal teardrop-shaped birdhouse/feeder that you have hanging over your patio! Love it! I just scored it at a TJMaxx for $9.99 and I was so excited.

  3. Jenny says

    Looks great! I have grown hydrangeas for years and have not found them to be high maintenance…good choice.

    Another way to get free plants is to divide some you already have, especially if you have hostas. They multiply every year, and now is the time to get more!

  4. says

    So I am very new to this world of blogging, but I stumbled upon yours and I absolutely LOVE it! The hubs and I also bought an old home and our yard is a jungle of craziness. I don’t know the first thing about landscaping (or DIY anything), but this will be a great go-to site to see how it’s done! DIY is kind of polar opposite to what I write about, but what better way to get my rear off the couch and get moving than to do a lil yard work and burn some calories! Thanks for the motivation, you rock!

  5. Kim Porter says

    I love the mulched picture, much improved! I have a total of 9 hydrangeas, 2 were here when we moved in and the rest I have planted in that time. I am PRAYING for them to bloom, no luck last year. They were green but no blooms.

    Hopefully this year we both have blooms in abundance!!


  6. Thais Bessa says

    Much better!

    Well, we were supposed to be planting a lot next weekend, bought all supplies, furniture and toys for the back garden undecking process and all…

    But British weather is always a funny (not) surprise and after 10 days of glorious sunny 23 degrees weather, today is 6 degrees with non-stop rain and fleet. Bummer. :(

  7. Amanda B. says

    That little bed near the house is begging for some hostas! They are low and lush, come back every year, and will do great in the mottled shade of your patio. I love the tall delicate purple flowers they put out at the end of summer, and my favorites are the ones with green-and-white striped leaves. (They come in lots of varieties.)

    They take really well to dividing, so if you have friends who have them, you might be able to score a few for free!

  8. says

    We only have 1/4 acre, but I have spent the last 4+ years trying to transplant and add things in our yard. Previous owners planted thing where they looked best as baby plants, not considering what they would look like at mature size:( We have mostly full sun, so I have to work around that.

    Firepower nandinas are nice full-sun dwarf evergreen shrubs (chartreuse in spring, red in fall!). Dwarf Gardenias are nice in the shade. We have put in two Little Gem Magnolias that don’t get nearly as big as traditional Magnolias since our lot is small. (If you can’t tell, I love evergreen plants)

    I have put out three (florist) hydrangeas in semi-shaded areas that hubby brought home free from church and they have all survived and done really well! I’m sure yours will do just fine also – my mom the master gardener just told me to make sure they have some shade from scorching afternoon sun.

    Now I am working on plugging in plants on a large steep hill in our backyard – I am trying to start with shrubs and large ornamental grasses and then fill in with small plants later.

    I just did a post on the status of all our plants the other day:

  9. Sarah E says

    My parents and I spent Sunday afternoon clearing out the raised beds from last year’s vegetable garden and adding a NEW, BIGGER vegetable patch (not raised though)! Now we’ll have zucchini, squash, beans, peas and spinach in addition to the tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green, red, and hot peppers, cucumber, beets, carrots, and spring onions we had last year! Planting the peas, spring onions, and spinach soon!
    Also, we moved the sod/grass that we had dug up to another spot in the yard to cover up an old flower bed that had gotten weedy and overgrown. Yay for recycling grass! Of course, all of this was made much easier by my dad’s tractor, backhoe, and rototiller: he’s a landscaper and planting projects get pretty intense at our house!

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