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What’s Been Going on With the Landscaping?

March 13, 2023

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If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you may have noticed our front yard has been torn up since December. It all started with wanting to expand the driveway because it’s sort of a bottleneck situation when it comes to cars coming and going. We also wanted to take out some of the trees and switch up the landscaping to allow more sunlight through the front windows and also show off the beautiful curb appeal a bit more. Wrapping up this project was on our 2023 project list, and it hasn’t been short of roadblocks, but it’s finally finished!

Before

After

That before photo was taken when we bought the house in May of 2021, and it’s crazy to think that everything will be green and full again in just two months! Can’t wait to update you with a full exterior house tour then. In the meantime, here’s a closer look at the front of the house, which you can actually see now!

Before

After

Although there was so much thick, mature landscaping before, I’m totally enjoying how clean and tidy everything looks now. Obviously, there are going to be those who prefer how it was, but backing out of the driveway always felt like emerging through a forest with no guarantee that you won’t scrape your car on some branches!

At one point, when everything was torn up, I had that “oh no, what have we done?” feeling. We had a clear vision and a whole landscaping plan we felt excited about, but once they started removing all of the mature greenery, it felt like we made a huge mistake!–Not unlike how we felt when the backyard was a mud-pit. One thing we loved about our lot when we moved in was all the mature trees, and when you’re tearing them out, you find yourself questioning it all. Of course, the only thing to do is just hold tight to the vision and keep moving forward, and in this case, it turned out better than we could imagine.

Before

After

Now let’s talk about these cute little bushes that line the driveway because the drama that unfolded in this Instagram reel changed everything. We had 130 American boxwoods all lined up, ready for planting per our HOA landscaper’s insight. But the Instagram people spoke up and warned us that they are really prone to catching blight. Obviously, that’s not what you want to hear when you’ve spent thousands of dollars on these plants that are about to go into the ground, and normally I’m not one to let the public opinion sway my vision, but I trust that I’m not the most knowledgable in plants!

So we made the difficult yet necessary decision to return 130 boxwood plants and swap them for compact Japanese holly. They’re supposedly really low maintenance, can tolerate both full sun and partial shade, and can be pruned and shaped, which I’m most excited about! Oh, and they’re quick growers, so I’m anxious to see what they look like one year from now.

We still kept some more mature boxwood plants on either side of the front driveway opening, and I’m curious to see if we end up having problems with them. Obviously, there’s some mulch that still needs spreading and some cleaning up to do, but doesn’t it look so good?

Before

During (yikes)

After

I learned during this whole landscaping process that our landscapers are not landscape designers or plant experts. We had a designer who made the initial plans for us and then passed them off to the landscape team to execute. Whenever a decision needed to be made, I wanted them to hold my hand a bit and guide me, but that was not their job. Their job was to do what I wanted them to do. Realizing that helped me to release some of the frustrating feelings and instead be grateful that they’ve been so quick to pivot and put in the hard work to execute plans!

And speaking of boxwoods! 😅 We’ve already had to have several boxwoods replaced in the backyard! We’ll give them some more time and patience to prove themselves, but I can’t help but wonder if we’ll inevitably swap them for compact Japanese Holly. Time will tell.

In other backyard news, everything is growing rather beautifully! They had to tear up some of the grass to repair an underground pipe leak and re-sod, but other than that, it’s just really nice seeing green grass.

Before

After

Clearing up some of the overgrown parts of the front and backyard has really made everything feel so tidy and simplified. If anything, the mature trees feel even more magnified and grand, and with some of these newer plants and I’m just pinching myself that we get to live here and enjoy the beauty that is North Carolina.

Other posts about the landscaping

The Initial Landscaping Plans

Our Revised Backyard Landscaping

An Overdue Backyard Update

Our Backyard Plant Plans

Progress in the Backyard

The Backyard Pool Installation

Our Backyard Exterior Lighting

The Pool Furniture in Our Backyard Vacation Oasis

Outdoor Kitchen Reveal!

The Start of Our Container Garden

“Planting” Faux Plants Outside

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What do you think?

  1. Amy says:

    Really unfortunate, the before landscape was so lovely!

  2. SKW says:

    In defense of landscaping, this is a specific style of home that has mature landscaping around it. Not fields and forests — landscaping. Landscaping is absolutely a place to encourage and support the ecosystem (flowers, bulbs, variety, etc.) but landscaping’s primary job is to support the needs (aesthetic, functional, recreational) of a home and family. Yes, there is more that can be done to plant trees and support pollinators, but we don’t need to keep a family trapped in a hedgerow maze of overgrown boxwoods in the name of biodiversity.

    • Veronica says:

      Yes I agree. Plus they have young kids that play outside. Overgrown landscaping can hide poisonous snakes and spiders. Let’s all chill.

  3. Teresa says:

    With biodiversity loss and climate change impacting our everyday lives, the choice to remove so many trees and greenery was ignorant and very short sighted. We all have a role to play to make this world a better place – it’s not just your home, it’s part of the broader ecosystem. Please consider the impact your choices have on our planet.

    • Leaf says:

      Removing large trees can actually make other plants thrive and grow larger. More light and less density can also help reduce fungus and insect problems that negatively affect plants. Did you also miss the fact that the lush green photo was in May and currently many of their plants aren’t leafed out yet?

      • Teresa says:

        Point taken; however, the older a tree is, the better it absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. In fact, research suggests that almost 70 per cent of all the carbon stored in trees is accumulated in the last half of their lives. Further, mature trees provide important habitat for wildlife, enhancing overall biodiversity and ecosystem stability. I’m just suggesting that these things should be carefully weighed when choosing to remove mature trees.

  4. Cinder says:

    Tragedy

  5. Gretchen says:

    I agree with Kimberly’s comment. I too kept scrolling between the Before and After photos thinking there must be some mistake. I actually hoped this might be an early April fool’s. The front landscape used to look like an enchanting English estate. Now it looks flat and generic, lacking the softness and mystery it had before. My heart hurts for all those beautiful mature plants wasted.

  6. Erin says:

    This makes me sick. You killed beautiful mature trees just so you could show off your house and feel important. How sad and selfish.

  7. Kimberly says:

    Normally I am a big fan of your work but this time I kept scrolling back to be sure I was correctly reading what was the Before and what was the After. The Befores were so beautiful and lush and it makes me sad to know that those health, thriving plants and trees were torn out.
    Totally get wanting more sunlight inside but I think this was just too extreme.

    • Katie says:

      Julia acknowledged on her Instagram story that the afters would look quite a bit different since they are being taken in the winter, and the before pictures are from the height of spring. I’m sure if you check back in a couple of months, you’ll find this has filled in nicely and is also lush and green.

      • Veronica says:

        I agree with Katie let’s wait for Spring to be full swing and it will be lush. It’s not like they wiped every bush and tree. Let’s bring down a notch the criticism. You’ll create a fear when showing a change in anything.

      • Susan Lynch says:

        Oh my, I am heartsick at the loss of the mature greenery- people work decades to achieve that look. I agree the new looks tidy, but also pretty generic. I believe they have shared they dont have a green thumb, so likely dont go around admiring lush landscapes like many of us do- the before was pretty awesome.

  8. K Vickers says:

    I’m interested to see how your Italian Cypress do. I have four very tall, 20 year old ICs that have been struggling after the big Texas freeze of 2021. I think trunk damage from the freeze created a pathway for canker. Which is making me sad because I know I’ll have to take them down if it’s canker. We also have formal hedges of Japanese boxwood and occasionally see root rot type fungus issues crop up. Usually displays be sections of the shrub turning yellow and dying. We treat by drenching soil around the shrub with Garden Phos and following up with drench of Foxfarm Microbe Brew to restore soil balance. Love that you went with a holly in the front yard. Can’t go wrong with any plant that has the word “holly” in the name. We’re about to convert some of community common area landscaping to Carissa holly just because we’ve been hit was so many devastating freeze followed by drought events. That’s a nice little holly…might be a little borderline on the freeze-hardiness for NC.

  9. Amy Palazzolo says:

    No flowers
    No periennials
    No bulbs
    No containers for annuals
    The plain green plan isn’t good for pollinators like bees, and butterflies.

  10. Michelle Trevino-Talbot says:

    I’m so curious what happened with all of the greenery that was removed?! Were they relocated or destroyed in the process? Would love to hear your thoughts on this aspect of the process!

  11. Norma says:

    Hi, I work for a nursery in England and we get the questions about box Vs holly all the time…we use and recommend Topbuxus products for dealing with blight/caterpillar (pretty sure you can get them in the US) honestly worth every penny – might be worth you giving it a go, would be so annoying to have to replace everything! Just my two cents on the subject…😉

    • Laura says:

      Looked much better in the “before” photos. Not sure why it was changed. Should have kept it the way it was.

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