Front Yard Renovations

I doubt you remember… but my front (& back) front yard was riddled with day lilies.  Riddled.  I got so sick and tired of them that my mom and I went and removed all of them, at least 5 mega lawn bags were filled with just day lilies from my front yard.


Seeing the fresh ground, ie soil, was so wonderful and refreshing.  I loved it so much.


But slowly I got quite aggravated by seeing just dirt (and weeds… So many weeds.)

I went from being annoyed by day lilies to being annoyed by seeing plain old soil.  Our house looked like no one cared about it.  :(  Doesn’t it look kinda shabby?!  The dirt wasn’t as nice and dark looking but got dry and icky like.

Front Yard _ Before

It was time to take action!

I know absolutely nothing about gardening or plant care.  I generally kill most of my indoor plants – due to under-watering or sometimes over-watering.  In all things plants, I turn to my mom who is most handy with them.

My mom’s basement:

Mom's Basement Plants

My mom is a trained chemist and also has a biology minor & zoology major.  She worked at a soil testing facility for several years, so she knows a thing or two about soil & plants.  heh  Not to mention, she grows all of her own plants from seeds (or clippings) and has a dedicated plant room in the basement of her house.  Oh and she also makes her own potting soil that has over 20 ingredients every spring along with a herbicide that is nontoxic and safe to put on edible plants.  So yeah…. my mom is plant crazy.

My mom was only too happy to help to put together a plan for my front yard.  And by “help” I mean she did all of the initial planning work and I just told her what plants I liked or didn’t like.

My mom put together a plan of my front yard – including the plant types as well as the layout.


After debating, we decided to ditch the ‘grass’ in the front yard – thinking it would turn into a space people to let their dog’s ‘relieve’ themselves – I live in the city after all.

My mom knows how little I know of such planty things, so she picked out perennials that don’t require a lot of maintenance, plus they work well in my part-shade front yard.  She put together a perennial shade garden of sorts.

Last fall my mom and I went plant shopping.  We hit up 3 plant nurseries in the burbs and got nearly everything we wanted.  I only know of my favorite flowers/plants so I made sure to add them to the shopping list for the front, given that they would be happy living in part shade: Hydrangea, ornamental Japanese maple tree, & moss.  All the other plants were my mom’s doing: Painted Ferns, lots of Hostas, Astilbe, Bleeding Heart, Evergreen, decorative cabbage, mums and so much more I forgot.

Plant Shopping Plant Shopping

My mom took care of my plants during the week while Bob installed a spigot for watering in the front.  And come the following weekend, we got to work planting & beautifying my the front yard.

Assorted Plants

As I unloaded the truck full of plants & mulch, my mom went around and dug up the plants that needed to be moved.

First thing we did was place all of the plants in roughly the place they were to be planted, to see how it all would look.

Front Yard Layout

After we had things laid out, we just got to planting.


I felt like such a dunce in this.  Planting a plant is like the most basic thing, but I had to be shown how.  And it took me a few plants to get it just right.  In my defense, the base of the plant was not supposed to be flush with the ground, but up a bit.  We were laying a layer of mulch on top of everything, so we needed to account for that extra space – hence keeping the plants a bit higher, above the ground level.

My mom brought over two things to add to the soil as we planted: bone meal & cow manure.

I grossed out at the fact I’d have to touch manure, but really it was all cleaned and not smelly or mushy at all.  It just felt like compacted soil really, so I got over it quickly.  The manure was to put back nutrients in the soil and the bone meal is a fertilizer – ie adds nitrogen to the soil.  The bone meal is mainly for the bulbs (Tulips & Hyacinths) we planted which will come up every spring.


My mom planned on having a *feature* in the front yard – like a large planter or yard decoration of some sort along with a fancy stone pathway.  Not having either of these things purchased, we improvised.  I had a small bird bath in the backyard that wasn’t really being used so that became the feature.  And in all of my gardening (ripping up the day lilies in the front and back) I’d unearthed a lot of old bricks; this became our pathway.


I watch first, mainly to learn & figure out what’s happening… then I help out.

yardTransformBeforeAfter_15 yardTransformBeforeAfter_16


We broke for a late lunch & I was literally pulling my mom away because she didn’t want to stop working. heh  When we came back out, we planted up the remaining plants (filling in gaps and whatnot).


Plant layout

Then it was time for the mulch.

Black Forest Mulch

I’ve never cared for mulch, but boy… when it went down it just made everything look so pretty and professional looking, it really cleaned everything up.


We leveled the birdbath, set up a piece of sculpture (ie old building facade) in the corner, and mom found a piece of granite stone that I’d tossed outside from my basement (long story…) and put that in the garden too since she though we were missing a cool rock.


Front Yard _ Before


Front Yard After



Doesn’t it look so much better?!

After (early this Spring):


After (taken just today):


It just rained so there’s some particles on the mulch.  But we’ve had a really rainy spring/early summer here in Chicago – so you can see how much my plants are loving it & thriving.

Besides the plants filling in, I feel like my japanese maple tree grew by at least 6″ so far.  It looks so much taller than it was in the fall.


Over the winter, I lost 2-3 plants which was sad, but I’ve already filled in the empty space with new ones that my mom gave me.


I can’t even tell you how happy I am with my new front yard.  It looks so nice, I think it even makes the house look nicer.  My mom and I shared a nice moment enjoying all of our efforts and how pretty it became – It was so lovely having this all transformed in just one day.  And I have to say, all of my plants look pretty happy too.  :D


I’ve had to go outside and water nearly every day to keep the plants from going into shock & so they can winterize themselves (since I planted all this in the fall). I find it a major snooze to water… but I guess it’s a small price to pay for the pretty space it’s become.

As an update: I haven’t watered at all in 2015!  This yard is low maintenance!  I’ll have to water when it gets hot in the summer, but that’s about it.  No pruning, no trimming – everything is fine as is.

On the plus side, every time I’ve watered, I generally see people stopping to admire or chat with me to tell me how nice it looks.  I still don’t feel like I can take all of the credit since my mom was the architect of the yard, but I did do half of the manual labor and paid for it all.  :D

I’ve met a fair amount of my neighbors already, but since the yard is done, suffice it to say I’ve met loads more.  Felix has apparently gotten a lot of nice complements on it too.  :)

Upcoming work is the back yard!  That is even crazier & more overgrown than the front yard was, if you can imagine…

In: Gardening House Adventures

Blogger for 6 years and counting, I am a passionate creator who loves to tinker.

Comments (22)

  1. Oh, it looks lovely! You and your other did a great job. And it’s only going to get more and more beautiful as time passes. I LOVE gardening, and have a huge project around my house this summer. Be warned; gardening is addictive ;)

  2. K-Line June 19, 2015 — 10:47 AM

    Adorable! I’d love to see a shot from across the street – so that I can see the house and the yard together. On a related note: Is there nothing that you peeps aren’t doing a) to improve that house and b) yourselves??

  3. Begum June 19, 2015 — 10:48 AM

    It’s a really beautiful garden!

  4. Qui June 19, 2015 — 11:38 AM

    Wow Liz, the yard is gorgeous! I’m a plant killer too, but you give me hope that one day I too can have a pretty yard :)

  5. Cecilia June 19, 2015 — 12:25 PM

    Wow, I’m very impressed. I know it’s a lot of work, but it is so worth it. It looks just great!

  6. Dee June 19, 2015 — 12:47 PM

    It’s so pretty! How cool that your mom has so much knowledge, and awesome gardening power! The photos of her basement and her plan for your yard made me think of the British show Rosemary & Thyme (if you like gardening and mysteries you might like it).

  7. paisleyapron June 19, 2015 — 12:55 PM

    I have been waiting for this post. What a great transformation, and I can’t believe that you guys did it in one day! What a gem of a mom you have. That shot of her basement made me gasp.

  8. Bonnie Brannon June 19, 2015 — 1:07 PM

    Wow and WOW!!
    What a superb creative effort – and a memory-maker – As the years go by and the garden matures, you will have not only the joy that accompanies beautifying your home, but also treasured memories of a shared adventure with your marvelous mom. Brava!! (and Bravo to Felix for his, yet again, splendid photos – I would love to see a photo of your charming home from across the street and feel sure that all your neighbors appreciate what you have done :)

  9. Tasha June 19, 2015 — 1:24 PM

    I really love what you’ve done with the front!! It looks so inviting, very charming. I am disorganized with what I want in the front, and now because of it have managed to have the most bizarre combination of colors of plants, alongside the nice shrubs and one purple clematis that we already had and liked. I didn’t really plan ahead since I’m not much of a gardener. Whoops! lol

  10. Amy June 19, 2015 — 2:05 PM

    I have to admit that I steal peeks at Felix’s blog every now and then to see how the house projects are coming along. It’s so nice to see one from your perspective. Your front yard looks great, and I can’t wait to see what the back yard looks like very shortly!

    1. Liz July 7, 2015 — 10:08 AM

      Thanks Amy. You’re not the first to tell me that you check out Felix’s blog for more current updates. heh I bet you saw the backyard transformation… that one is next on my blogging list. It’s such a huge change & it’s so much nicer than it was before.

  11. Evie June 19, 2015 — 7:34 PM

    What a wonderful resource you have in your mother! It really looks lovely with everything starting to fill out in the warm weather.

  12. Becky June 20, 2015 — 4:37 PM

    It looks lovely! I really adore that you added some sculptural elements along with the plants. And it’s great that you had such expert help from your mom–after the 5 years I spent working at a garden center, I’m kind of shocked at how complicated sticking plants in the ground and having them survive can be! (I’m still laughably bad at getting my own front yard space to do anything other than grow pansies and weeds, and now that it’s hot, I’m just waiting for the pansies to die off and look awful. But then, I was just a cashier and not a plant expert!)

  13. erin June 20, 2015 — 8:33 PM

    Your mum is a plant and garden genius! I didnt know what to do with my weed ridden yard so I had it tiled over, no more weeds but your pretty garden looks way better than my tiles!

  14. Jenn June 20, 2015 — 8:39 PM

    Looks fabulous!

  15. SC June 21, 2015 — 2:30 AM

    Your yard is gorgeous! My mind is also a little blown by the fact that your mom MAKES her own potting soil? I…what? That is so awesome.

    I’ve been an apartment-dweller for going on 12 years now, so I’ve not had the space or means to garden, but I’m headed for a house soon and there WILL be box planters on my deck! :)

    1. Liz July 7, 2015 — 10:06 AM

      Thanks Sara – I can’t wait to get planter boxes on my deck areas too. After living in an apartment since I moved to the city, that’s all I’ve dreamed about too. :)

  16. I know exactly what you mean with the bare dirt, from experience – in fact my husband told me I wasn’t allowed to pull any plants out of our new property (1600m2) until I had something to replace it with, to avoid that exact thing from happening! So until then I have some ugly agapantha’s in the front yard until I work out what to do there…

  17. Margaret June 30, 2015 — 8:39 AM

    That’s an amazing transformation from a daylily monster to a wonderful, interesting front yard! And I admit that I’m totally jealous of your mother’s basement; that is a plant-growers dream!

    Side note: it’s not cow manure, it’s composted cow manure. BIG difference. The composting process kills any disease (and smell) and breaks stuff down even further so all the nutrients and other goodies are available for the plants and soil fungi. If you ever open a bag of composted cow manure and it smells like manure, return it. It hasn’t been properly composted and could contain pathogens (and if its nitrogen content is high enough, it will damage your plants).

    1. Liz July 7, 2015 — 10:05 AM

      Thanks Margaret for the info and tips on this stuff. I’m very new to gardening and don’t really know about the details yet. I just do what my mom tells me. :D

  18. Irene July 15, 2015 — 11:23 PM

    Great job, to you and your mom!!! It looks awesome! Very welcoming and beautifully laid out. Love the tulips. Best of luck on your back yard adventure!!!

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