This yard's amazing transformation proves it is possible to breathe new life into an older house. Owners Matt and Teresa Lux and their son, Drew, have lived in their cozy neighborhood for nine years. The couple had updated the interior to fit their style and needs, but the tired landscape remained dull and uninviting. They knew it was time to dress up the exterior.
The Luxes needed additional parking and a new entrance. A single strip of concrete driveway was the only off-street parking, and every time one of them needed to leave, they had to jockey cars. The old foundation plantings consisted of a row of tired, overpruned azaleas. The family wanted colorful plantings that would entice guests to the front door. Matt and Teresa needed a landscape plan that would better utilize their small lot.
The front porch had a dated wooden railing that made the small space seem confining. Teresa removed the old railing, giving the area an open feel. The porch is elevated only about 30 inches above ground level, so there wasn't any need to put up a new railing. (Check codes in your area before removing railings.) The Luxes enjoy sitting on their front porch, which now has an unobstructed view.
Walkways, steps, patios, porches, arbors, parking surfaces, or anything else structural in the landscape is called hardscape. Adding these features should be done first, because it often involves heavy machinery or some type of construction that could damage plants. Using a small front-end loader, a contractor scooped out an area next to the drive for the new parking court. A stonemason built a low wall around the perimeter of the parking area. He also added wide, flaring steps that lead to a gracious flagstone landing and walk.
Seeing the large parking area scared the Luxes at first. At 24 feet wide and 22 feet deep, it was kind of intimidating. But the spacious parking pad easily accommodates two vehicles and makes maneuvering simple. Crushed stone forms an inexpensive, hard-packed surface. It cost around $50, which is a fraction of the cost of concrete or asphalt. Flat stones placed in the gravel help break up the large expanse and also serve as a walkway to the landing.
Prepare Soil Before Planting
With the hardscape complete, it was time to remove the old plantings. The scraggly azaleas were pulled out and thrown away. The new beds' lines were mapped out in the yard with spray paint. (If you prefer not to use spray paint, you can lay a garden hose on the ground to outline planting areas.) Then new topsoil was tilled into the existing soil in the planting areas and raked smooth.
Large Plants First
When installing shrubs, put in the bigger ones first; then work smaller specimens around them. The Luxes chose two 'Natchez' crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) to frame the front porch. These white-flowering trees offer long-lasting color throughout the summer, and their beautiful cinnamon-colored trunks provide year-round interest. Eventually, the trees will grow tall enough to shade the porch and walk. A large 8-foot-tall wax myrtle anchors the right corner of the house. The big evergreen helps to soften the structure so it doesn't look too boxy.
A staggered row of dwarf Burford hollies (Ilex cornuta 'Burfordii Nana') creates a hedge between the Luxes' property and their neighbor's. In time, these sturdy evergreens will become a dark green buffer.