These are the plans for our front yard landscaping project at our Michigan Tree House, from building a berm to choosing perennials.
Why Landscape the Front Yard?
For years, we’ve focused our exterior upkeep on the backyard, wraparound deck, and perhaps my favorite outdoor Tree House project – the cute little Shed That Could. With those projects behind us, we could finally turn our attention to the front yard! This project has been a long time coming, as we’ve been daydreaming all the ways to maximize this space while highlighting the nature that surrounds the home.
That said, a recent snafu had us considering this project more urgently, after a tangle of ivy on the left side of our property began to choke out the big pine tree closest to the house (see above). After our landscaping team removed the ivy, they realized how tangled it was to the scrub that divided our home and our neighbor’s home. As they began to peel back the layers, we were left with a HUGE gap that removed most of the greenery. As it turned out, the foliage that separated the two properties was mostly invasive species.
Here’s a closer look facing the scrub between our home and our neighbor’s home, after the ivy was removed. You can see that it’s mostly low invasive ground cover and/or weeds that have turned into tiny trees:
One of the only actual trees, below on the left, had to be cut in an unfortunate way to remove a big chunk of the foliage tangle. Below on the right, you can see the scrub beginning to creep into the side yard, which leads to our backyard.
Finding the Landscaping Team
We’ve worked with CR Lawn Service for years, a landscaping team local to southwest Michigan, to help us with weekly lawn maintenance (mostly a mow, surface level weed removal, and spring clean up). They referred us to Lani at Rootbound Design to help us with a plan. Lani has been an absolute dream to work with (an understatement, really!), and we would recommend her to anyone in the area. Lani would help us come up with a plan, and CR Lawn would complete the work with her overseeing the project from start to finish.
Our Wish List
The front yard has always been underutilized, but we’ve always enjoyed the deep expanse of green. It’s ALL grass from the deck to the big maple tree where we hung a web swing. So while that is nice, it leaves little in terms of seating for adults, who would like to be closer to the kids while they play. We had a big list of wishes, such as:
- a gas fire pit for shorter and less smoky hangouts than our wood burning pit (located in the back yard). We bought this fireplace and these Polywood loveseats.
- outcroppings to encircle the fire area
- perennial native plants for interest
- tall plantings to bring back the privacy
- evergreens for year round color
- a low split rail fence for visual separation between the yard and road
The First Plan
The first plan came back, and we were in love. It incorporated ev-er-y-thing we asked for, from low, colorful perennials to bushy rhododendron and a thick row of arborvitae.
These are the plants that would show variation in color and height year-round, and would require low maintenance based on our location (zone 6).
The problem? It was far outside our budget! Although Lani knew our budget, once the quote came back from CR for their portion of the work, we quickly went above and beyond the price we had in mind, which hovered around $10,000 from start to finish. The biggest culprit was the row of stone outcroppings, which swallowed the entire budget. So, needless to say, we nixed that. And we’re okay with it.
The Final Plan (for Now)
There were second and third plans, too, mostly variations in plants and playing with the shape where the landscape meets the grass. Not only did we nix the stone outcropping, but we cut back on the number of trees, and after a heart to heart with Lani, we agreed that we may need to do this project in phases – which would include some of our own DIY muscles.
The most obvious difference between this plan and the first is that this plan is mostly black and white, with a few areas colored in:
The areas that are colored in on the plan above are what we’re tackling now. The rest of the plan is something we’ll tackle in the spring of 2023 and into next fall, which incudes everything from ferns to hostas to the lower ground cover. This brought us back to budget, while also allowing us to keep our gas fireplace!
These are the plants that are being planted this fall, which gives us a solid base to grow upon. From 1-5, we have 1) Green Giant Arborvitae, 2) Inkberry Holly, 3) Flowering Dogwood, 4) Nannyberry, and 5) Rhododendron.
We will tackle ALL the mulching, but the final price that brought us to $10k still included edging, gravel, the fireplace, the addition of a berm (for height) and planting of the main components. In the spring, we can either hire CR to come back and help us complete a large portion of the work, or we can decide to plant ourselves. We’re not sure where we’ll land with that just yet, but we know we’ll need to put in some sweat equity to fully realize our vision!
And the Landscaping Work Has Begun!
Within a few hours, they leveled the scrub, and we could see what we were working with:
You can see below where Lani and team sprayed the shape of the landscape, which was then edged.
The berm is 18″ tall and allows for additional height while providing a natural visual separation between the two properties. The taller trees are planted directly onto the berm, and the mid-height and lower plants will continue to trail down the easement of the berm. It’s really tough to see, but there are a handful of twiggy Nannyberry planted in the middle section of the berm. We can’t wait to see them pop in the spring!
Since these photos were taken, gravel has been laid in the fire pit and along the walking path (I’m weirdly excited about the walking path), but not much else will really happen until this coming spring. The split rail fence will be installed in the spring as well. And you know we’ll share progress as it happens in Stories @yellowbrickhome, and we’ll touch base once we dig into Phase 2 of this project!