Our fall front porch (and new landscaping!)

October 10, 2016

decorating a small front porch for fall

Hey all! I hope you had a lovely weekend! I celebrated my 41st with friends and family and it was just perfect. The 40's have treated me well so far. :) 

I got an early birthday present when we had some landscaping torn out up front a few days ago. We planned to do this forever and haven't made it happen till now. I saved up a bunch of coupons from our local nursery and we got new plants at a discount. A friend's son did the tearing out and replanting for us at a great price, and I'm SO HAPPY to have this done!

If you remember, we had our small front steps torn out last year and replaced with wider cement steps. Still one of the best changes we've made to our house -- I can't believe it took us that long to do. 

The next phase was this simpler landscaping. I planted azalea bushes in the front shortly after we moved in years ago and they did great...too great. They were overgrown and eventually half dead because they had no more room to grow. 

They are absolutely gorgeous for two weeks in the spring, but in the winter our front landscaping was bare. Also, they were so close together it was nearly impossible to keep up with the weeds and trees that were constantly taking root: 
azalea bushes

Note that it didn't always look quite this bad! I let it go knowing we were getting it taken out. ;) It drove me crazy because it was always such a mess. I was constantly pulling tree sprouts and those are not easy to pull. 

I've talked to you about this side of the house before too -- it was a mess: 
landscaping clean up

I hated the bushes I planted there ten years ago. That rose bush on the corner bloomed maybe a couple times every two years or so. 

We also had lilies that were huge every year but never bloomed anymore either. They were being choked out by the azaleas: 
dark wood shutters brick house

So we had it ALL torn out. I was so ready! We tried replanting an azalea last year and it didn't survive. We don't have a good spot for them and the light they need (and they were half dead underneath) so we didn't keep them. I thought I would be sad but I wasn't. :) 

We replaced them with five simple plants -- three boxwoods and two buckthorn trees:

Edited to add -- many have mentioned concerns about the buckthorn in the comments. This is a Fine Line version and it is non-invasive. Sounds like other species of this plant can cause major issues but I'm not worried about these. 

And my goodness, we are both SO thrilled with the change: 
simplified landscaping in front of house

The side of the house looks bare and not so pretty, but we don't even care: 

I'm going to take my time next spring and make a better plan for what we want there. I'll be researching that this winter. 

The front porch got dressed up a bit for fall -- those fluffy mums are my absolute favorite!: 
decorating a small front porch

We had even bigger versions on the patio last year and I'm obsessed with them. 

I did a very simple fall wreath with dried hydrangeas stuck inside: 
simple fall wreath with hydrangeas

The "S" cutout was from Micheal's months ago but I bet they still have it (I spray painted mine). 

It's hard to get a good view of the landscaping from this side of the house because of our trees, but this is how it looks from this angle: 
buckthorn trees and boxwoods landscaping

And here's a reminder of how it looked before: 

So. much. better. Whoot! One more project off the list for this year! 

Our son is a good gauge for projects around the house...if he likes it I know it's a good change. He was hesitant about having all the old plants taken out but when he saw the new, simpler look he said "good job Mama": 
boxwood and buckthorn landscaping

Ha! I always feel validated by the nine-year-old! :) 

This is a start...I plan to add some color in the spring of course. I've missed my window boxes so those are going back up soon. I'll actually be able to get to them now! 

It's a much simpler look but man, I am so craving that lately in our house. I know the holidays will bring more STUFF and I'm just loving editing everything right now. It feels so good and this change was one of the best. The front of our house can "breathe" now -- I'm excited to add on to this next year! 

I know I haven't shared a garden tour this year -- and we've focused SO much on the exterior of our house this summer. We had the pergola and deck stained, had the trim on the house painted of the first time in 12 years, painted the back patio doors a pretty blue and this project of course. We didn't do new mulch this year to save some money and overall my garden didn't do as well this year either -- it was really weird. It was an odd year for most of my hydrangeas. I may still do an exterior tour sometime this fall when the leaves change though! 

Fall is a GREAT time to plant! Do you have any landscaping projects coming up before the winter hits? 

**I realized the other day I forgot the before and after link up AGAIN this month so it will go up next week. Winning.

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  1. I appreciate the cleaner look along the foundation, too. I'm surprised your nursery sells buckthorn. It is known to be invasive in the Midwest. http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=262917&isprofile=1&adv=buckthorn

    1. Interesting! People are surprised we can plant burning bushes here too but they don't spread like some say they do. We've never had a problem with those, hopefully we won't with this one either!

    2. I agree with Barnwood, Buckthorn is awful. We pull up buckthorn constantly from our yard, it is invasive, has thorns, and from what I have heard, poisons the soil. But those don't really look like buckthorn, so maybe it's different? I live just north of Chicago.

    3. Yes, buckthorn is the bane of my existence in the Chicago 'burbs. The birds spread the seeds and they take root among other bushes and you can get rid of one without the other.

    4. These are a different species (called Fine Line) and are non-invasive. Thank goodness!

  2. I can't wait to see your flower boxes back up. I am sure you will fill them with fall goodies! Thanks for sharing your home with all of us!

  3. Great change! Love the clean look. Wi ter Kill did in my hydrangeas this year (going from really cold to warm to cold several times). Lots of nice growth, but no blooms. Expecting awesome blooms next season!

    1. That's "winter kill". Aldo feel validated by my 27 year old!

  4. Very nice clean up of the front , just curious why you would plant Buckthorn , as it becomes more established it will become invasive and it's seeds are spread by birds or squirrels eating the berries .....

    My neighbour has a whole 30 ft hedge and every year I need to go through my honeysuckle bushes and remove the "surprises" , and some of them are up to 100ft away from the hedge. From your photos you may want to recheck the distance of the buckthorn to the house , they really fill out quite a bit - I could be wrong .

    Love all the renovations you do and your thoughtful approach.

    1. I was writing my comment around the same time and I can agree with the issue of the seeds. Depending on the seed and when it ferments, you can get some really funny drunk birds eating away at your tree and placing colorful reminders all over the place.

    2. Thankfully these are a different species and are non-invasive. But that is good to know about the other version (that one looks a lot different than ours, I wonder how they even have the same name.)

  5. When I first saw the location of your bushes, I was concerned, but then I remembered that you are further north. I'm in OK and they recommend that foundation plantings and wood mulch do not touch the building since that is a way for bugs to get in your house. The brown recluse and black widow spiders are what I don't like but we also have termites and the wood mulch is good food for those critters. So, I have about a foot of pea gravel/rock at the base of the house and the plants beyond that area. Makes it easier to spray bug and weed kill on the rocks, get to the water spigot without getting my feet muddy. Any weeds that do grow are easy to pull since I did put that weedblock fabric down.

    Since the plants are just put in, please consider moving the one by the front door - at least out a bit since the growth pattern is 1-2' wide and 5-7' tall. Is that going to impact the front steps and the light into the front room. You could place the bush at the outside corner of the house and then get a something like a dogwood - great in all seasons with slow growth, good branching features.

    I had holly bushes and a youpon holly tree in my front area. I didn't realize how much they blocked the morning light until I dug them out and replaced with boxwood and a dogwood. The boxwoods are slow to grow and I trim them so that they still look "natural", just once a year to keep them small. The dogwood is getting large enough that I will be able to put some decorations on it for Christmas. I have a birdfeeder nearby and in the winter, it is nice to see the birds sitting on the branches, waiting their turn at the feeder - well, some of them wait. It's also fun to watch the fighting for the feeding spots....

    Hope this helps... but again - you do live in a different zone, so your placement of the bushes may be ok. liz

    1. Thank you Liz! They won't get much wider and will only get maybe three feet taller -- and they are so "light" I'm not worried about them blocking any natural light. That was something I considered when looking for sure! (I LOVE all the natural light in our house.) These are way further away from the foundation than our old ones and thankfully we didn't have any issues with those. I think we'll be OK! :)

  6. Ohmygoodness, yes. The fence guys are coming on Wednesday to replace our entire backyard fence! I feel giddy! I cannot wait to sit out in my backyard and sketch out where and what to plant! I'm going with xeriscape plants since I don't for one minute think we are out of the woods with the drought in Central Texas. And I love mums, too! I can't get them to live too long, but that will not stop me from getting some for near the front door. (:

  7. Ugh, we have so much landscaping work to do! I loath doing any outside work so I'm having a hard time getting motivated. Your new landscaping is exactly what we want though, simple! Your house looks great!

  8. I love the simplicity of it all....we haven't started or fall landscape yet so thanks for the ideas! The brown planters...did those come with the mums or where they purchased separately?

    1. Thank you! I believe I got those at Target but it was a few years ago!

  9. I know how you feel .. we had a bunch of over grown plants pulled out from in front of the porch this year and replaced with a few smaller ones. Really happy that we did it!

  10. I love what you've done. OMG when we first moved into our home there were shrubs everywhere all over. we definitely cleaned it up and it makes a huge difference. it looks so much more clean now!
    XO Ellen from Ask Away

  11. Love the front porch reveal! Can you tell me where you purchased your exterior shutters from? I didn't see the source mentioned but I may have missed it. We need to replace the shutters on our new home and I love the look of yours! :) Thanks.

    1. They were part of our elevation plan with our builder, but I don't think they would be hard to make at all! You'd just have to round off the tops. :)

  12. Happy belated b/d Sarah, glad it was a good one. Ah to be 40 ish again, would settle for 50's but that isn't going to happen since 3 older kids in 50's. Oldest one was 56 in July (me 76) and "boys" are 53 and 52. Our youngest was 46 in April. In Dec. oldest boy will be 54.
    As I was looking at all photos again had to take 2nd. look at your exterior shutters myself. Been wanting hubs to make some for front windows for couple years, think will help to snazzy up front of our little single wide mfg. home. Need to get front porch painted also. I'm of fixing things up when they get messy looking, hubs isn't so we go round and round about lots of projects. It's not like we don't have the time.
    Your shutters do look like would be easy to make, love rounded on top look but not sure would look appropriate on our house, will have to study that.
    Have wonderful rest of Fall week

  13. Wow...everything is planted way too close to the house! I'm in the Midwest too, and they have mature fine line buckthorns at our local arboretum. They are about 6 feet tall and probably 3-4 feet wide at the widest section. Do yourself a favor and replant now further from your house, unless you want blog fodder three years from now when they outgrow the space. :)

    1. They aren't too close to the house but I appreciate your concern! :)

  14. The first thing we did when we moved in our house was rip out the boxwood. Our HOA is pretty restrictive on what can/cannot be planted...no burning bushes for us. :(

  15. We just planted a bunch of perennials, too. But because *no money*, we just split and transplanted the majority of them from my aunt's house. I'm anxious to see how they do. I love the boxwood in front of your house - they will grow beautifully, too. And think - when you trim them, all the boxwood wreaths you can make. ;)

  16. Sarah,
    I just love your blog! I ran across it probably 6 months ago and was shocked at how similar our styles are! I showed it to my bf and he thought it was crazy how much your house resembled choices I had made in mine. I crack up when I read your posts because sometimes it's like seeing my own thoughts lol. What type of boxwoods did you plant in the front landscaping? I live an hour north of you and put some little quickfire hydragenas in the front of my house. I too hate how they look in winter and have wanted to put boxwoods instead. My house faces the north though and I am concerned because whatever gets planted right in front of the house doesn't get sun. Any chance you can divulge the place you get your plants from? I have a neighbor who loves this place in Indy and I bet it's the same place...


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