Our Backyard Plant Landscaping Plans

June 23, 2022

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As part of our backyard landscaping budget, $25k was to be allotted towards all the plants and greenery. Coming from someone who has no idea the going price for plants and trees, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around spending twenty five thousand for that. And I’m aware that since this isn’t my area of expertise I might just need to surrender to the expert (who we have full confidence in, by the way). Well, we got the plant plan and it’s everything we wanted–overflowing with trees and shrubs and plants to bring back that garden retreat we loved so much in our courtyard. The downside? The plant plans they gave us are actually $50k over the $25k allotted allowance. (why do they do that?!)

Plant Landscape Plan

Although we love love the plan, we love sticking to our budget more and so we’re literally trimming down on plants and going for younger ones that will mature over the years instead of 12′ trees. For example, we don’t need all of those green giants going around the whole perimeter of the backyard! Looks like there’s about 50 of them and I think we only need about half. We’re focusing on softening the hardscaping with trees and greenery, planting boxwoods in front of the back retaining wall and the rest is going to be pretty simple. It’s also worth mentioning that these plans were drawn up before we added the outdoor shower, so there’s a whole area of plants that has become irrelevant.

We’re still in the process of pairing things down but here’s how we’re going about it. Although I don’t necessarily know a lot about plants, I can look at something and know what I like and what I don’t like. Do I know the names of things?–no. Taking a trip to a local nursery and snapping photos of the names of things helps! This is what I did to inspire me and I sent photos of what I do like to the landscape designer–nothing that’s tropical, nothing yellow, nothing with thorns, and nothing too in your face flowery. I personally find it incredibly helpful having a local landscape designer who knows what will do well here in our yard to help plan all of this out.

Sun Hat | Top | Denim Shorts | Sandals

I’m fully relying on our landscape designer to know exactly where things are going to grow the best, how much light they will need, and watering needs! That being said, here’s a list of all the plants, shrubs and trees she suggested to use in our backyard. Can’t wait to see everything literally come to life!

A tentative list of the plants we plan to include in our backyard:

  • Green Giant
  • Tea Olive
  • Baby Gem Boxwoods
  • Limelight Hydrangeas
  • Treeform Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangea
  • Bloodfood Japanese Maple
  • Tamukeyama Japanese Maple
  • Flame Thrower Eastern Redbud
  • October Magic Carpet Camellia
  • Christmas Carol Camellia
  • Steeds Japanese Holly
  • West Coast English Laurel
  • Phenomenal Lavender
  • Cypress

I’m a little unsure about some of them (feels like a lot of pink flowers for my taste), but they want to plant NEXT WEEK, so I’m trying to edit in a few things before dig day!

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What do you think?

  1. Carol Jansson says:

    keep the tea olives! they smell divine!!!!!

  2. Isabelle says:

    Watch on Amazon Prime Gardener’s World (BBC program) and the 2022 Chelsea Garden Series. Gardens can help one’s sense of well being. Don’t do something because you feel rushed. Research! Let your moving truck company nightmare be a reminder. Then, plant in the Fall.

  3. Isabelle says:

    Watch on Amazon Prime Gardener’s World (BBC program) and the 2022 Chelsea Garden Series. Gardens can help one’s sense of well being. Don’t do something because you feel rushed. Research! Let your moving truck company nightmare be a reminder. Then, plant in the Fall.

  4. Janie says:

    The plans always over do it and the leap of growth in yr 3 makes everything too crowded.

  5. Olivia says:

    Limelight hydrangeas are my favorite. They are so pretty as is the vanilla/strawberry one. They make great cuttings and the limelight’s dry so nicely that the cuttings can go into fall. FYI they aren’t necessarily l white but sort of have tinge of yellow/lime color . They will break up all the pink color you have. They also grow huge and make Great Wall of flowers. Check out oldsilvershed on IG. Stunning account.

  6. Rebecca says:

    If you do t care for the pink, camellias come in other colors too – reds and white come to mind. You could swap them out. Same with the strawberry hydrangea. Although I have one and it is white that turns blush and is very pretty.

    I echo the comment about concern for planting in the heat of summer. You will have to water several times a week which is quite time consuming unless everything is irrigated. Trees and shrubs do much better planted in the fall to get established before the heat here in NC.

    Looks like a beautiful selection though.

  7. Kristie S says:

    We put in a Japanese Stewartia and it has white Camellia like flowers. It has beautiful leaves and bark. So that might soften the pink!

  8. Laura says:

    Landscaping is my passion, it’s true people don’t realize how much it costs. Large evergreens = buying time (for the slow growers) if your okay with waiting, make sure they are spacing for the mature size of the plants (not jamming them together to look full right away). Also, re the pink, ask about bloomtime. They may bloom at totally different time and it won’t be “too much” then.

    • Isabelle says:

      Yes! There are 2 types of Camelias. Japonica which blooms in Spring and Sasanquas which bloom in the fall. There are so many varieties! Don’t plant pink flowers if you don’t like them! There are beautiful white one that look like peonies. Research like you do for your decor. You won’t regret it.

  9. karen says:

    Perhaps you can save on the Japanese maples. They are expensive and I don’t think they match your classic colonial vibe. I have a neighbor with one that looks very out of place in an area with more mature trees. They also don’t stay red in warm weather.

  10. Karen says:

    That’s mind blowing how over budget the bud was. I’m in Charlotte so my climate is pretty much the same as yours, and I’m concerned that planting will start in the heat of the summer. Right now I’m having to give extra care to “established” plants, I’d see if the herbaceous could be planted in the fall when the temperatures are cooler and the plants’ roots can get established. If you want have some color have a cluster of one of the hydrangeas, but be prepared to have to water them daily on a non rainy day.

    A lot of people have mentioned that some of the plants are poisonous. My dogs have never eaten my bushes, flowers occasionally, but not the bushes. There’s a trade off though, deer and rabbits don’t mess with toxic plants. After years of the “coyote urine” sprays, I’ve realized that “toxic” plants have a place in my deer infested garden.

    I didn’t notice any crepe myrtles in your plan. While they are good to have near the pool, most crepe myrtle varieties grow fast, require little to no pruning, create a lot of shade, and the Natchez variety has year round interest.

    Japanese holly (small, non spiky leaves) is a great substitute for boxwood in our area, disease resistant and no fuss to grow.

    If you have two camellia varieties, have one be the autumn blooming and the other be winter blooming. Id recommend the winter bloomer to be a darker color so it will stay pretty in the rougher weather.

  11. Alex says:

    The deer looove my limelights just fyi. They are my fave but I have to spray stinky deer repellant on them constantly. Also make sure your arbs are deer resistant. Nothing uglier than half eaten arborvitae. And boxwoods STINK like cat pee! They are nicknamed cat pee bushes and I totally banished them from my property despite loving how they look. Make look for a white viburnum or something?!

  12. D says:

    There have been studies on planting trees. Apparently bigger is not always better. The bigger tree will take longer to acclimate than a smaller tree. I had to plant different size trees bc of shortages in the fall of 2020. Although they have all grown, the 6’ trees are now taller than the 8’ trees.
    Many plants would be poisonous to a dog if they consumed large quantities. Likely, they would be poisonous to us as well. For most dogs, that is unlikely. My dog eats grass and vegetables in my garden (without permission). I have watched him carefully over the years. The extent of his interest in most plants is as a potential bathroom.

  13. Renee says:

    No azaleas? In the South?

    Also, though not thorny, won’t the holly be awfully prickly? I’m not familiar with your particular variety but where I’m from Dads plant those under their daughters windows lol. Maybe that the plan? ;)

    • SS says:

      Haha, we just moved away from the triangle area and my kids called the holly under the windows “owie bushes”. Never considered the alternate motivation for them ;).

  14. Emily says:

    I am a plant and tree lover and it brings me utter happiness!! I grew up in New Orleans and all the green I was surrounded by and canopied pathways and streets were like a big hug ! Now I’ve lived in Utah for past 9 years (which I love), I realize now how much I took greenery for granted.

    In my opinion the trees and plants are just as important as a pool, an outdoor kitchen, and other stuff like fire pit and trampoline.

    I’v e heard a lot of interior designers like you say light fixtures and hardwares is like the jewelry of the home. I think plants/trees are that for the outdoors ! :)

    SPEND THE EXTRA BUDGET ON PLANTS/TREES!!! You will not regret it. Especially when you are waiting 3 years for stuff to fill in. Get it now! :) :) :) :) :)

  15. Renee says:

    Realize the pink flowers won’t all be in bloom at the same time. It will just be pops of color here and there. And…the difference between a 1 gal and a 5 gal plant is a year.

    • Amber says:

      I came here to say exactly that. Trees and shrubs don’t really bloom for that long, and it’s nice to have a little something in bloom most of the time. It sounds like your designer(s) did a good job balancing out the seasonal interest.

  16. Lorin says:

    They make white camellias which I personally like better than the pink. They also have a beautiful deep red. They bloom in the winter when everything else is dead and their dark green foliage is beautiful throughout the whole year. One of my favorite type of garden designs is a moonlight garden full of white blooms. They shine during a full moon! Also, the purple lavender and limelight would be perfect accents.

  17. Noni says:

    I’d change one of your camellias to white! They are gorgeous, and will pair well with a pink one. Good choices otherwise with a beautiful balance. You will not be disappointed. :)

  18. Pakster says:

    Can you ask for a 3-5 year plan and focus on plants for privacy first?

  19. Megan says:

    I totally agree! Obviously I don’t know the full extent of their agreement or anything but I’d be incredibly annoyed! That’s why they ask the budget. It’s one thing to be a little over but 50,000!?! It’s like giving a bride with a $1,000 dress budget a $10,000 dress to try on. You just don’t do that. That being said, I know it will all turn out beautifully!

  20. Amy says:

    Oof! Did they give you an “in budget” plan as well??? I’ve absolutely pitched clients ideas that stretched their budget, but ALWAYS provided an in-budget solution first! It’s fine to show folks what an extra investment could give them, and there’s usually a way to break the total cost into phases they can install over time, but a $50k jump as the only option presented? I’m so sorry – that has to feel deflating, when you’re so excited to complete this space. I know it will turn out beautifully, once you give it your personal touch ❤️

  21. Sarah says:

    I think the selection looks good! BUT I do think you need at least one yellow element. Maybe a forsythia somewhere or something with more lime green leaves? Not just the limelight hydrangea. Don’t worry about it being too pink because I promise you it won’t be so pink for so long. If you look at really professional landscaping there’s always a dark green element, a lime green element, a blue tone element, and a red tone somewhere. It gives you balance and depth. Too much of the same color tone will look like an absolute mess. I’m actually pretty darn good with landscapes and kind of wonder why I never studied horticulture.

  22. Ann says:

    Plants prices are up a lot right now, due to the freight costs of shipping them. Maybe just do what you absolutely need to for now, and add in all of the extras once prices come down.

  23. Michelle says:

    Remember lots of those flowering bushes may not be in bloom at the same time, and blooming season isn’t year round so be sure you like the look of the plant when they are not blooming as well. :)

  24. Darcie says:

    Wow. That’s so frustrating. You asked them to provide that service for your budget… you shouldn’t have to go out and try to reconfigure it all yourself when you don’t have plant experience. I echo another commenter: this would make me want to find another designer. Especially if they didn’t warn you that your vision would cost way more, even before they planned it out. This is where trust is established, and it feels like they missed it. I know it’s incredibly difficult to start over and make that decision though. Feeling for you! Did y’all put a sprinkler system in as part of the hardscape? If you move forward there will be lots of watering over the summer. It’s going to be fabulous, though, no matter what!

  25. Beth Fortner says:

    We have camellias at our home in white so that small adjustment could cut down on some of the pink. Overall I think you are going to love it so very much!

  26. Anne says:

    1. Where did the original budget/estimate for $25k for the landscaping come from? Did another firm draw up plans for you and quote you this price? I’m having a hard time understanding such a huge discrepancy between that number and what you’ve now been quoted.

    2. You’ve previously indicated you intend to take out the fireplace wall and install a HUGE window (or comparable), thereby making your new outdoor living area THE focal area for your entire home … visible even to guests as they first enter the front foyer.

    3. If that still holds true, I’d STRONGLY caution about fewer and/or smaller plants if you are indeed planning to create a WOW moment with respect to visual impact. Even with fast-growing plants in the south as someone has already suggested will be the case, you will be YEARS away from the “mature look” you are trying to achieve if you go too small. From personal experience, landscaping is NOT the place to skimp on the budget. “Go big or go home”.

    4. There is also noise and privacy mitigation to factor in. You likely DO need those large green shrubs, en masse, for privacy and noise reduction and will regret not having them.

    5. With respect to “pink”. How will that color play with what’s going on INSIDE your home, especially once you open up the view with the planned large window wall? Generally speaking, most landscaping pros would advise you’ll be happier in the long run if what you look out upon from inside your home, harmonizes with what’s happening indoors, so that the outdoor space flows and feels like an extension of the indoor space.

  27. Alicia says:

    Here to say the pink will add such pretty pops of color, trust the process! I also have over 15 varieties of heirloom roses in our backyard perfectly organized for scent and bloom longevity so I may be a little bias. They bring my whole family so much joy.

  28. Katie says:

    Just came here to say that MANY of these choices are toxic to dogs… and I know you mentioned having another dog in the future.

  29. Jane Neal says:

    I have followed you for years and never commented before but I have to now! I am a master gardener and know a little about plants. PLEASE go and see a nursery that specialized in native plants. You will not regret it. The fact that your plant does not include Sweetbay Magnolia shows how how out of touch your designer is. The scent of that plant in May is breathtaking. Also the box woods will likely die, there is a box wood blight that will likely kill them soon. For the last month I have been enjoying the Carolina Spice Bush variety Aphrodite in my garden – the flowers are STUNNING. Check it out. Natives do not need spraying with insecticides, they are easy care and will attract birds, bees and butterflies that will keep you entertained all day.
    My kitchen, which I love was inspired by your black cabinet kitchen (several kitchens ago for you!). So thank you!

    • Maggie says:

      I agree with this! The landscaping at my house was in really rough shape when I bought it, and my husband and I chose to do all native plants. One of my favorite decisions we’ve made for our house! It’s low maintenance, and I spend so much time sitting by my window watching the birds, bees, and butterflies enjoy the plants too. I think I read a recommended 70% native plants to benefit local wildlife, but consider including even just a few!

    • Michelle says:

      I want to SHOUT out a second on this idea. So I completely understand the project timeline drive to make decisions and get planting, especially before the real heat of summer hits. But I would Really encourage a phased approach. Take the plan down to like $10k now – get the bigger elements like trees in place. Reserve the rest for a fall planting (also a great time to plant certain species) and ask a native gardening expert to advise what is working locally. Going to a nursery to learn is great, but so is driving around your neighborhood and seeing what thrives. Also take note of what blooms when so there is orchestrated color throughout the year. TAKE pictures and ask about plant warranty. They should guarantee for at least a year – our local nursery does. So often I see people put in larger arborvitae and half or two thirds of them die within 24 months. Just like you’d phase in decor decisions inside, let your yard tell you what it needs and supports over time. A Big Bang $25k budget feels like wanting to buy an easy button.

  30. Fi says:

    I also recently moved to a totally new climate and began an extensive landscaping project. Nurseries are a good start. But my favorite is to take long walks with my phone and snap pictures of plants, gardens, trees in my area that I like. This has the added benefit of often striking up conversation with the homeowner/gardener who is usually more than happy to share experiences and a wealth of knowledge. Have fun!

  31. Angela says:

    I would start by planting just a few mature trees, a few “statement” trees and some evergreens, and sprinkle in a few perennials that I loved. Work your garden the same way you work your indoor rooms! Invest in the large pieces that will shape and define the space and feel free to put in some placeholders (annuals for a pop of color, plants in pots that you can put in the ground once you’ve decided you live them) and work slowly from there. A large garden is better created over time, and with NC having such a long season, it’s better to pay attention to what will be in bloom at any given time… And stay away from anything you don’t like! You wouldn’t bring in a couch you don’t like just because your decorator tells you it is a good fit for your family. Don’t do it in your garden either! Tempting as it may be to have a fully landscaped, “finished product” outdoor area, I think it’s better to think the long garden game and develop it a bit at a time. You may want to take a look at Laura and Aaron’s garden at Garden Answer… those guys are really playing the long game. Love your home and following along the evolution of your home!

    • Michelle Reen says:

      You said this so much better than I did – but YES YES YES. It’s easy to get overwhelmed about watering or sun needs, but natives are already suited to the climate without (much) of your intervention.

  32. EP says:

    Camellias are gorgeous — they also come in white to pale pink to darker red btw — but just know they can drop their petals in abundance and can get messy, so I suggest putting them a bit further back in a garden. Otherwise you’ll be cleaning mushy brown petals off the walkway all spring.

  33. Gigi says:

    Planting in summer? Water scrupulously to keep plants alive through a NC summer.

    Also, here in Winston-Salem, all our magnificent boxwoods have been savaged by a blight. Ask your landscaper if your variety is resistant. Best wishes.

  34. Amy says:

    Thank you for sharing! I love the mix of structure and relaxed plants. I live in Charlotte, and we are getting ready to landscape. Curious, have you leveraged any of the plans from Yardzen?

  35. Erika Tracy says:

    Remember that the camellias come when nothing else is blooming (or they do in Alabama.) I’m not a pink person either, however the strong pop of contrast against evergreens feels just modern and feminine enough of a tease for spring. I adore bringing them in for cut flowers too. The limelights offer such a clean, crisp feel too.

    • Kathy says:

      As an Alabama girl, I would be leery of planting in June. Going to take alot of watering to keep those alive. Here, we plant in Spring/Fall. Also stay away from snake attracting cover. We have just take out so much holly and are digging the less plants. Our grass creeps quickly so looking forward to more grass next year.

    • Julie S says:

      Yes, but you can get white camellias too!

  36. grace brown says:

    Having lived in Charlotte for over 40 years, I hope your landscape designer has given you a guarantee for your plants. Planting during a N.C. summer can be brutal to plants. Fall and early spring are the best times. You probably have an irrigation system which will help. That said, the plan looks full of southern classics that will compliment the look of your home. You might check out Wing Haven Garden in Charlotte for some more inspiration.

    • Sara says:

      Yes, make sure there is a guarantee! I don’t think those green giants are going to like being planted right now. They’ll let you know in a month or two! 🫣 Overall the plan looks beautiful!

  37. S says:

    That’s a really nice landscape for your climate. I wouldn’t worry about all the pink, they will come up at different times of year (red bud early spring, hydrangea summer to fall), so my inkling is you will have a splash of pinky hues all year round, but only hints of it at a time

  38. Laura Bonino says:

    I live in the south and I think you are right to start with smaller plants, they will grow fast! I would lose the Camelias- too pink and too short a bloom season. Maybe Gardenias would work? The Tea Olives don’t look like much, but planted in a mass are a good screen and smell delicious. Also beware of too many plants that need to be shaped a couple of time per year. It’s going to look gorgeous!

    • Rebecca says:

      That’s interesting bc we lived in Raleigh and our camellias bloomed almost all year long. I don’t recall the type of camellias.

  39. Amanda says:

    So your landscape designer knew your budget was 25k and handed you plans for a 75k backyard? Why? This is when I’d want to say “peace out” and find someone to maximize my space for the budget given. (And yes I know people will always try to make more off of you if they can, but that immediately makes me not want to give them a dime of my money)

    • Kristen says:

      That’s exactly what I thought! I’m a kitchen designer and wouldn’t even have guts to go to a client with a design that was 3x their original budget!

  40. Nix the pink! If you’re already feeling an aversion to it now in May and June when pink feels springlike, it’ll grate like nails on a chalkboard in September and October when you’ll be spending / seeing so much time outside. We’ve banished pink entirely and now our flowers are in the oranges, yellows, whites, a few whites and purples for contrast. It’s just lovely!

  41. Debbie V. says:

    Buy smaller Green Giant Arbs, they grow rapidly!!!

  42. Ashley says:

    Love limelight hydrangeas! There is also a little lime variety if you want that look, but need a smaller shrub. They look stunning against our red brick. Do you have any azaleas elsewhere on your property? They do so well in the south, I was surprised to not see them on the list. My two cents – start with your winter garden and then add to it. Make sure you have evergreens where you want them, and other winter color first. (And yes, it does seem like a lot of pink and purple…which doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but I think I’d want more blue shades to compliment your brick home and retaining wall.) Good luck!

  43. Mel says:

    I know you’ve written in the past about maybe wanting a dog again and a few of these are highly toxic to pets and may want to reconsider. It might just be the holly and the laurel, but just something else to keep in mind if you think a pet might share the yard again at some point. Everything looks BEAUTIFUL by the way. Doesn’t feel like too much pink but totally valid concern. We are in the area too and about to do landscaping, we have noticed hellebore growing well, which comes in all kinds of colors (often a cream and earthly purple). It’s toxic too but apparently tastes so bitter most critters stay away. Good luck!

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