Front Yard Landscape Makeover: The Beginning

Atlanta has a lot of nicknames, Hotlanta and The Big Peach to name a few.  My favorite has always been, the City in the Forest. Apparently, it got that name because when flying into Hartsfield Jackson, Atlanta appears to be nestled down into a forest.  The drought has taken its toll on a lot of trees over the last few years though, so not sure if Atlanta is still living up to its City in the Forest name.

Over the last couple of years my home has started to feel like a house being buried in a forest.  Many of the original trees, and some of the ones I planted shortly after moving in twenty-two years ago, have begun to completely overwhelm the house.

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs 3

The house was taking on an unkempt appearance.  It was slowly disappearing behind a sea of green vegetation.  Inside, the rooms were becoming dark and dreary.

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs 1

I absolutely hate cutting down a tree, absolutely hate it.  But sometimes you just have to.

The holly-bush-that-became -a-tree, on the right side of the house, is an original planting, meaning it’s about 30 years old.  About 8 years ago I had it drastically cut back since it was completely blocking a window upstairs and downstairs. It was one ticked off holly!

For about two years it just sat there, refusing to put out any new leaves.  Just when I was about to give up and have it removed, it started sprouting new leaves everywhere.  It still looked terrible but at least it was growing some leaves again.

After a couple more years it once again looked like a holly but it quickly became an out-of-control monster again, completely hiding an upstairs and downstairs window.  Not good.

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs

So it’s time to say goodbye to the holly and replace it with something that:  1. Isn’t a constant maintenance issue and  2. Will not hide the windows.  I’d love something that grows tall and skinny and if it has berries for decorating, that would be all the better.  I wonder if a Savannah Holly would work there?

The tree guys have been here working today.  I’ll share how everything looks in Monday’s post so you can see the progress.  Once you see how much light that area is now getting, I would love any suggestions. It’s nice and sunny over there now, you’ll see what I mean on Monday.  The change is dramatic!

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs 1

A tree that had to go was the River Birch there on the left.  Why does Mr. River Birch have to go?

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs

1. He drops a gazillion limbs  Not ocasionally.  Not three times a week.  DAILY! I can go outside, pick up allllllll the limbs and the next day there are a gazillion more.  Drives me crazy!  Sometimes the limbs completely block the walkway.  At nighttime, that can be a real hazard, tripping folks up.  You can see some of them piled up on the left side in the pic below.

Branches from River Birch

They are everywhere.  I’ll spare you a gazillion pictures of skinny and not-so-skinny limbs all over the yard

More Branches from River Birch

The constant dropping of branches was annoying but not nearly as troublesome as the HUGE roots growing above ground all throughout the yard.  The roots I have marked below almost reach the road now.  They are growing all the way across the front lawn!  Try seeding or sodding over that.  It’s impossible!

Roots of River Birch Everywhere

The roots are just insane.  They will even dig up a nandina bush!  In addition to digging up the nandina on the left, they came very, very close to breaking up my brick walkway.  I’m lucky because it appears the root took a nosedive and went downward, under the walkway. (See arrow on far left.)  Thankfully it didn’t do to the walkway what it did to the nandina.

River Birch Upearths Nandina Bush

If you visited my home, this is the walkway you would have to navigate to get to the front door.   The River Birch has taken it over.  It has to go.

Brick Walkway Hidden by River Birch

See the dark hole off to the right in the picture below?  That’s the side yard.  Once upon a time it was a sunny spot with the nicest grass in the entire yard growing there.

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs 1

I took this photo this morning when the tree guys were just starting.  This is pretty much how dark this area looks and feels much of the time.

Side Yard

I drastically lightened up one of the photos in Photoshop so you can see the space a bit better, but it feels and looks more like the picture above.  The reason this area is so dark is because a couple of years after we moved in, we planted a row of Leyland Cypress for privacy and to help block the hot, west sun that was threatening to fade the rug and furniture in the family room.  That was around 20 years ago.  Fortunately, I have plantation shutters in the living room now so light control is no longer a problem.

Leyland Cypress

Unfortunately, the life span of a Leyland Crypress is 20-25 years per my tree guy and information I found online.  That explains why these guys were really starting to look really sparse throughout.  I’m not sure if they were diseased or if it’s was just age but they definitely needed to go.  The grass has long ceased growing here due to all the shade.  That’s the monster holly you see on the left of the picture.  This area saw a dramatic change today, will share more pics on Monday.

Side Yard

On the other side of the house you’ll find my beloved gardenia.  Unfortunately, it is being pushed over onto the ground by an Acuba bush.  I actually like Acuba (I know some folks don’t) but I like my gardenia tree even more.  I drastically cut the Acuba back years ago but it bounced right back, so it’s time for it to go.  Then I’m going to try and coax my gardenia back up off the ground.  The small weed tree that’s growing up on the other side of the fence behind the gardenia is going, too.  I hope I can get it stand back up once the acuba and the weed tree are gone.

Gardenia Bush overtaken by Acuba

Now about that GIANT oak standing smack dab in front of the house, I’m am not a big fan of trees blocking the view of a house.  I like my trees more to the side.  But it’s there so I’m trying to work with it.  The lower branch that’s hanging down in front of the tree will be removed and maybe a couple other smaller ones that are growing pointing downward.

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs 2

This tree is a big problem.  It drops a million, gazillion acorns on my yard every year.  They aren’t even pretty acorns…they are all bald.  You have to glue their little hats back onto their heads to use them in decorating.  The deluge of acorns each year is like having someone cover your entire yard with a million marbles…miserable to walk on.  And everything you try to grow underneath fails.  Apparently, the roots suck all the water out of the ground or the decaying acorns destroy the plants.

If you don’t get them up immediately, they sprout oak trees all throughout the flower beds and islands.  If you don’t see the baby oak tree as soon as it starts to grow,  once it gets just a few inches tall it is impossible to pull out.  You have to DIG it out.  With a shovel. It’s hard to get out even with a shovel because oak trees send out loooong tap roots.  Imagine digging out a gazillion acorn trees out of the islands and beds every year.  Ugh.

Do you have a giant oak tree in your yard?  How do you deal with the barrage of acorns each year?

For now, it’s staying…but man, it’s a pain!  I live in fear of it falling on the house during a storm.  If it ever does, it probably won’t stop until it reaches the basement.  It’s massive!

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs 5


I’m also going to have a few trees taken out in the back yard, more on those later.  My tree guy didn’t get finished today so he’ll be back next week. We had huge storms come through recently so all the tree guys are booked to the max and we’ve been having a lot of rainy days which has thrown them even further behind.

I have some big plans when all the tree removal and stump grinding process is complete.  Have to save my pennies and spread this out, but I’m hoping to sod and do a little landscaping soon.  I may be doing all the planting (not sodding) myself to save a few $.  I used to do that stuff all the time but I just sort of gave it up when the trees shaded out everything making gardening impossible.

I also have plans for the camellia and the “Waterfall” Japanese Maple in front (on the left) but this post is getting way too long.  It’s going to be a busy summer! I can’t promise a dramatic overnight “Before and After.” It will have to get done as my budget allows, but eventually I’ll get there.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Are you working on any landscaping projects?

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  1. This will be great. Atlanta is the “city of overgrown landscaping” and the “city of leggy foundation plantings,” and the “city of really big trees ready to crush houses.” We had a house crush in our neighborhood about 10 days ago, nobody injured.

    • So true. Glad no one was injured! Every time I feel bad about cutting down a big tree, I remember that man who lost his entire family (wife and two children) in Atlanta years ago when a tree fell on his car while they were stopped at a light or stop sign. They can be very dangerous.

  2. You do have a big tree removal project going on. Roots are a big problem damaging side walks, drives, etc., and since they grow towards a water supply, they can cause major sewer line problems. Looking forward to seeing what you do with all your “new found property”. 🙂 Yes, there is an acorn bearing oak and a hickory nut tree(the biggest problem), that hang over my property
    and I constantly have to clean up tree debris from both.
    Have a great weekend.

  3. I love your site & photos. This landscape project is especially interesting to me because my husband & I completely ripped out all our foundation planting a few years ago & redid the yard. We’ve been in the same house for 38 yr. During that time we replaced the shrubs many times. We cut some to the ground for regrowth. The hollies are especially hardy & grow large even though dwarf varieties. We’ve since gotten rid of the hollies. Now we have Hollywood junipers that are getting huge. Believe it or not, it’s been about 3 or 4 yrs time& everything is getting out of control again in spite of regular pruning. One thing that helps with growth is our drip irrigation. I recently had to prune my Japanese maple. It was overtaking the front of the house. I hated to cut it because like you, I kind of think of trees as sacred. I just thinned out some of the limbs & it looks better & lets in light in the house’s front windows.

    When we built our house, we had an ugly concrete sidewalk & broken tile patio, common in the 70s. Our son is a landscaper & tore it all out & built a beautiful paver front & back walk & patio. We used his contractor pricing & nursery sources & bought shrubs & planted them all ourselves. We are still a work in progress since we killed off all the grass & have slowly been reseeding the huge yard which is a couple of acres. We’re on an old well & can’t irrigate.

    We’ve been remodeling the inside of the house, husband built a workshop, so we have been busy with projects & spending a lot of money. We do a little all along. The remodel is just now finished & we started 3 yr ago. We are a work in progress. We are retired, kids grown & out of the house, mortgage paid, so we have time & a little money to do it all.

    Regarding your trees: Our back yard had lots of huge old trees. The front has none since we built our house in what used to be a cow pasture (on a family farm). The back yard was closing in on us like your yard. We had a local tree trimming guy come & work on the trees. He “limbed up” several, took scrawny ones down, removed limbs that threatened the house & pasture fence & generally “opened up” the back yard & it looks great. We now have light & my husband doesn’t have to duck any more when mowing. We still have lots of big trees but they look better. Kind of like getting your hair trimmed.

    Best of luck with your landscape. I’m eager to see the “after.” Hang in there & don’t get discouraged. It will be beautiful no doubt when finished. You’ll love it!

    • Thanks, Laura. I think one in the backyard is going to get a “haircut” too. I love trees…just love them a bit further away from the house. That is so awesome that you guys are retired and can “play” now. I know it feels good to get things done! 🙂 My grass is all but gone now too, due mostly to the trees. Hope to sod when everything is done. Thanks for the encouragement and for sharing all you’ve accomplished! Much appreciated!

  4. Charlotte McInvale says

    I just had 3 river beech trees cut down. They were awful. I would like to give you some good advice. Have the trees cut down and have them put tree killer on the stump and wait 2 weeks before they grind the stump. I planted three of these trees when I bought my house because I wanted something that would grow fast. Well, they did but no one told me about the invasive roots and the branches all over my yard. The tree in my flower bed killed 5 of my loropetalum. Now I am trying to find 3 trees that grow fast with non invasive roots. They take all the water from the other plants that grow close to them.

    • Let me know what you find. I need two fast growing trees to replace two Leyland I took out in my back yard. I was thinking about Cryptomeria.

      • On the crytomeria, we planted about eight years ago at the very back of our lot. They are a huge nuisance. they are probably around 30 feet tall.
        They constantly drop very stickey needles, limbs at bottom get brittle an break, wind blows a lot of 8 to 10 inch little limbs all over beds back there.

  5. Susan,

    WOW – I can see why you called the experts. I agree with everything save one – I ADORE that oak tree and would looooove to have that in my yard – especially the back yard which faces west – but I would be happy to have it in front- it must keep your home soooooooooooo must cooler in Hotlanta!!!

    Once it gets its haircut and the other stuff cleaned up and/or gone – you will love your tree, even with the acorns. You know peeps sell acorns by the pound on ebay – could be a nice little nest egg for ya?

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    • I think you’re right. Once it gets a haircut and I get some different mulch down, maybe it won’t sprout oak trees everywhere. Pine straw is definitely not stopping that process. lol No one would want these acorns…unless I took time to glue they hats back on! 🙂

  6. Susan, wow you sure do/did have some B-I-G trees. If you plan to put in more trees may I suggest a few that would do wonderful in your area. Chinese Fringe, Vitex or Chaste Tree, Crape Myrtle, Chinese Pistache, Chinese Elm, Ginko, Dawn Redwood, Bald Cypress and Yaupon Holly. If you are not familiar with some of these trees do a Google and check them out. I can’t wait to see how great your landscaping will be. Vikki in VA

    • Thanks for the suggestions, Vikki! So far the only place I want to add a couple back is in the back yard where I took out two Leyland Cypress. I was thinking about two Japanese Cryptomeria or two Green Giant Arborvitae Thuja. I need fast growing screening trees.

  7. Hi Susan,
    Sometimes we have to let go of trees. On the lot of our last house before we built, there was a huge and I mean really huge cedar tree, which we had to take down, only to find that it and two others were diseased and the woodpeckers were having a lovely time.
    Had it fallen, it would have demolished part of the house. Another home we moved into when first coming to Canada, was like a petrified forest, the original owner not really thinking about the planting part. We had to let two cherry trees go and that was painful.
    You are wise to take down the tree with the long roots, it could ruin your foundation of the house.
    I know whatever you decided, it is with good reason and look forward to seeing the outcome. Errr…I am still pressing for your library!! 🙂

  8. I meant to add…have you considered just having the oak tree topped to stabilize it?

  9. Peggy Thal says

    Huge project! Your house is too beautiful to be hidden. It sure will look great once you have all that work done. That front oak really needs to go. I know just that one tree would cost $ 1,000.00 to take down here. We had 2 done on the side of our home. Rather spend my money on something fun or beautiful. But we bit the bullet. If it falls on the house at least the insurance pays for it but not a great way to go. Sometimes the tree cutters give you a discount the more you do. Coming back for one tree is usually double. Good luck and be careful not to work so hard. It is very hot this time of the year to do hard labor.

    • Thanks, Peggy! Yep, the quotes to remove it ran around that and a bit higher. 🙁 I’m afraid if this thing fell on my house, the house would have to be totaled. It’s that big.

  10. What a lot of work it looks like clearing out all those overgrown trees. When (if) you decide to get your giant oak cut down I bet you could get the tree milled into some beautiful wood and have something for your home built from it. I live in the middle of woods too (in the Pine Tree state) so I had all the trees for about 30 feet around the house cut down when I had the house built. It seems safer with all our storms. It’s great to see all your pictures of such a huge project.

  11. Isn’t it something…we had to cut down our “grandfather oak” -over 90 feet tall – and we could COUNT 200 rings for practically the same reasons…in the autumn it sounded like a machine gun ALL DAY AND NITE with a gazillion acorns falling…now…why they root and my other plants don’t…go figure. We did save about 50 feet and our son-in-law and hubby are going to make an oak table (slab it.) The dorecho here last year really raised havoc! Good Luck! franki

  12. Susan,
    I know the inside of your home is beautiful. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a “long” view of the outside. OK, how to do this tactfully – your home is gorgeous but I was getting claustrophobic and could hardly breathe just looking at all the trees! Like you I think it’s a crime to cut them down, but in your case, saw away!
    Megan had a terrific idea with topping the oak. That’s the equivalent of having your cake and eating it too.
    Bottom line, I know whatever you do it’s going to look amazing.

  13. I had 5 river birch trees removed. I know your pain of constantly picking up twigs. Also, all the leaves dropping from July until December. The leaves clog the gutters, the roots running through the yard. They just had to go!

    • Mary, I planted that one years ago because I loved the bark. I had no idea they dropped twigs/branches constantly and sent roots along the surface. I can’t imagine having 5 to pick up after. Bet you were glad to see them go!

  14. Kim Luca says

    We have a big old Oak tree in our front yard too…ours is a Pin Oak, sounds like you may have the same? The have drooping branches. It is always the last to loose its leaves in the Fall.

    Be careful with the root kill….if you plan to plant something in its place? I have not used it but please read the directions as it could make growing something not possible???

  15. Mary from Virginia says

    We had our oak tree taken down because it had gotten 88 feet tall, it was too close to the house, AND because it was messy with all those acorns flying out from under the lawn mower, and MILLIONS of leaves to rake in the fall. We got rid of our River Birch years ago because that is messy too, ALL YEAR LONG, not just in the fall. They are beautiful as long as they are in someone else’s yard.

    I think you will like the Arborvitaes because they make good “fences” and quickly too. When I worked at the garden center we sold a lot of them for privacy.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your big project!

  16. IF you know anyone who does fine woodworking or artwork (think art programs)? Call them and ask if they’d like some of your trees. The holly might be something they’d like to have for inlay work. Good luck in your yard project. I’ve learned so much from reading your blog. I’m looking forward to seeing what you will do with the outside.

  17. I hear you on the River Birch….we have one in the front yard and a second in the back over our deck. The debris from those trees is never ending. I think we have some tree removal in our future too so I’ll be watching this “series” closely. Have a wonderful weekend in your mewl sun filled yard:)

  18. JoyceB in Atlanta says

    Hi Susan. I wasn’t going to jump in on this one, but I am a master gardener and had better use my education to advise. Please do not think of ever topping a tree. That is an idea whose time has come and gone!! It causes excessive and spindly top growth (think of crepe murdered trees), and actually makes a tree top heavy and more unstable over time. Most reputable tree people wouldn’t do more than thin the tree to open it up. Like others, though,I do think if you can come up with the $$ while the people are working on your trees, I would have the monster oak removed. Trees look best framing a house rather than hiding a beautiful entry. I’m a tree nut and will leave a mess of trees someday to those who live here after us. But, the trees are mostly planted as a framework for the yard, and they are usually small ornamental or flowering trees. One of the fast and wonderful trees is Little Gem Magnolia. It is evergreen, does a great job of screening, and blooms much of the summer. Tall varieties of loropetalum make fabulous hedges, but look even better as tall unpruned bushes. Plus, they can grow in sun or shade. Cryptomeria need sun and do not regenerate branches that die or get damaged. They really are pretty, though, when they are young plants. Your holly may not have worked well as a front corner plant, but a variety of holly may be the perfect screening plant for you on the edge of the property. These are just a few suggestions, but we have wonderful nurseries in the area that can advise you better than I can. Hope this gave you some more ideas for your yard.

    • Joyce, thanks for that advice. I had forgotten about the Little Gem Magnolias…wonder how fast they grow, though. I need something fast growing for just one spot in the back yard that will hold probably 2 trees. That makes sense about topping out the tree, about the new growth being spindley. The quote I got from the tree guy was way too high for the big tree, I had a better quote from another tree guy when I was getting estimates. I may call him back. I’m totally with you and having them frame a house, I don’t like it when they are smack dab in front and block the house. When you look out the window, all you see is a giant trunk. It’s a bit like having a telephone poll in your front yard. And the nuts raining down on my metal porch roof scare the dickens out of me each year. I really wish it wasn’t there, especially during storms.

  19. gigibelle says

    Oh my, that’s a huge undertaking . It must coast thousands!! I had an estimate to cut down a 15 foot and a 10 foot spindly fir next to house & it was 450 just for those. From the your photos I think removing that oak tree for safety and appearance would would be a good idea!

  20. I feel your pain. Cutting trees is hard because that shade is so nice. But — it gets dangerous, as in that gigantic tree in your front yard, and it is certainly expensive.

  21. Gayle Maestri says

    Wow, you’ve got quite a project going on there! We want things to grow quickly so we don’t have that “new” look when we build our homes. We’ve been in ours for 34 years and about 20-25 years in everything is growing crazy!
    We’ve had to cut back, cut down, etc. for several years, but I do love a shady green yard. Here in the South you just have to have some shade. I would say that if it were me I’d take down that oak in your front yard. We live in southeast La. and get hurricanes all the time. We have seven acres and lost over 200 trees during Katrina. I’m very paranoid about huge trees close to houses. Thankfully, not a one fell on our house or pool house, just across the pool, but no real damage to it. We were sooooo blessed! Can’t wait to see the after pics. I just called my guy this afternoon and told him it’s time to do a little trimming. Neverending, but we call it home:)

    • It’s tornadoes that we have to worry about here in GA. Gayle, I can’t imagine losing 200 trees…wow! Did they fall over so at least they just had to be cut up, or did you have to have them taken down? So sorry you had to go through that. Hope we never see another Katrina ever again.

      • Gayle Maestri says

        Yes, Susan, they did all fal down and we were monnnnnths clearing and I really wanted to move somewhere else, I really like Atlanta:) However, we own a business and that was not possible. I do think however that eight years down the road, the yard probably looks better than before. Go figure……must have been all that money we had to spend:) Katrina was the hardest thing most of us in this area will ever go thru, barring the death of a loved one…..absolutely devastating. Not only personal property, that can be replaced, but the spirit of people was just broken.

        • Well, Katrina and the aftermath looked awful on TV so I’m sure it was much worse in person. Maybe when you retire you can move to the City in the Trees. 🙂 I want to move away after living in ATL for 30 years…want to move to a smaller town like Madison, GA where there’s less traffic.

  22. What an exciting project! A lot of work, but well worth the reward! We took out thirteen gumball trees last January from our teeny back yard. They were a constant worry here with hurricane winds. I just posted my new back yard’s one year anniversary if you’re interested. It’s a fraction of the size of your outdoor space, but might fun for a look. I can’t wait to see how yours turns out! 🙂

  23. Hi Susan! What color of paint to have on your front door? I love it. I also look forward to reading your blog. Blessings.

  24. We just moved into a new house about 3 months ago. The previous owner had tenants living in the house and, needless to say, the yard wasn’t maintained at all. Backyard looked like a jungle, and there was a huge pile of leaves (probably several years worth) in the corner by the back fence. So, yes, I can relate to your landscaping frustrations. Unfortunately, we can’t do much about the yard now, because I first have to finish painting the interior, and then we have to furnish the remaining rooms. So, we only had the landscapers come over and snip and trim what could be snipped and trimmed.
    We also got a huge disappointment regarding our “squirrel tree” – a giant Chinese elm tree that houses the squirrel feeder. That tree gives quite a bit of (pleasant) shade to the south side of our house and, of course, provides entertainment for both us and our English Setter in the form of squirrels and birds congregating there. Unfortunately, our tree guy says 2/3 of the tree are dead, and we should consider removing it completely and fairly soon at that. Where will the poor squirrels go when the tree is gone?

    • Well, that’s a shame! Those squirrels are pretty resourceful, though. Bet they will find a new spot. Maybe you can plant another Chinese Elm or something else back to replace it. I would much rather be spending $ on a vacation or something inside like a bath renovation, but I couldn’t stand looking at the yard any longer.

      • I know… I felt the same about spending money on our yard right now, but some basic things needed to be done so we could all find our way through the backyard. 🙂
        The English Setter appreciates it, too – he can now see birds in the trees instead of having to nose through the thicket and hope he’d get to one of them.

  25. What a pretty house! And BIG beautiful trees! Have fun!

  26. Susan–what a huge project. I’m sure it will be worth it when you see the results-can’t wait to see. It’s so funny that you wrote about your river birches today. I just tried to “have the talk” with my husband tonight to convince him that our 3 river birches need to go. Unfortunately, they are his favorite trees that we planted when our house was built 16 years ago. Not only are they terribly messy, they were planted too close to the house and are now rubbing up against it. You can bet that I will be showing him this post!

    • Hallie, have y’all any problems with invasive roots? Someone mentioned they can get into septic lines, etc… I don’t have a septic tank but with those so close to your house, you may want to check to make sure the roots aren’t up to anything bad. I love the bark on a River Birch but I’ll never have one again. Too much work cleaning up all those branches.

  27. Margo Kuhn says

    Wow Susan, that’s a major job. You are right that Oak tree in the front of your house is huge. I only have palm trees at my house. The don’t provide much shade, but they don’t make too big of a mess either. My pigmy date palms make more of a mess than the Queen palms. It’s a good thing too, as we get some pretty good winds here, and my pool would surely suffer.

    I look forward to seeing your before and after pics.

  28. Dear Susan,

    Your landscaping/gardening posts are always my absolute favorites! You’ve introduced me to several new plants, though we live in different growing zones. My front porch is currently benefiting from your advice to create containers in which there is something that “thrills, fills, and spills.” I can’t wait to hear more about this landscaping project.

    Take care,

  29. Wow, Susan,
    I didn’t realize you were surrounded by so many trees and to tell the truth I love trees but you know what? Sometimes less is more and your gorgeous house definitely doesn’t need to “live” like a pupa in a (green) cocoon… (I hope you don’t mind the metaphor!), and I gladly add: Let that beautiful butterfly open its wings! 🙂 (Plus you have plantation shutters that assure you privacy and light/sun control when needed! Ha!) Susan, you are right, that oak tree is really GIANT! It is what I call “a beautiful monster”! lol
    “Beautiful” because I suppose it has been like a good friend to you that you’re used to see every day for so many years, but at the same time it is a “monster” because of its dangerous tallness! So, please, be careful!
    I’m looking forward to seeing your MM post!
    ~Hugs to you~

    • Cecilia, that’s a great analogy…a green cocoon! HA! Love that! Yep, it’s definitely a beautiful monster. Scary big and scary tall! The house will be breathing a sigh of relief when it escapes its cocoon. 🙂

  30. I love trees. No, I ADORE them, but I have to agree it is definitely time for your trees to go. I would also encourage you to try to have that huge oak removed. As you mentioned, the acorns are a huge pain, but more importantly it could be dangerous if it ever fell, and it does nothing to enhance your lovely home.

    Our former home had tons of trees, many way too close to the house. During a storm many years ago when our daughter was 3 (she’s 27) my husband was coming home with her and several trees fell, one missing the car by less than a few inches. The sounds of the trees falling is something till this day my daughter remembers.

    We had a tree that was close to the house, and while it provided shade from the afternoon sun, it really needed to go. During hurricane sandy and Irene, it held its own but when we sold the house in December, the new owners cut it down immediately and they said the entire trunk was hollow.

    A lot of the trees that were threatening the house are now gone…either the result of Mother Nature, Con Edison or they were taken down. I had developed a lovely shade garden years ago that now is in total sun!

    You have one huge project this summer Susan! I know whatever you do on the outside will be every bit as lovely as the inside. Can’t wait to see it!

  31. CAROLYN ROACH says

    Susan, cut the oak! You will be sorry later if you don’t. After it’s gone you will have a completely clean canvas to work with. I have about a dozen hickory trees and several oaks in my yard and the upkeep is a mess. I’ve had several cut already. Your house is too pretty to be hidden. I have 8 Thuga Green Giants and I love them. Very fast growing and hardy trees. I think you would like them.

  32. Have you thought about contacting a timber buyer about the oak tree? I believe they will cover the removal costs if they are interested. With as large as it is, that may be an option. We had our River Birch taken down for all of the same reasons as you. Never regretted it for a second. Good luck with this big project.

  33. I am feeling your pain, because I am going through the same thing right now!!! Still getting estimates, but need to have the work done in the next 2 weeks. Two humongus maple trees in the back of the house, branches rubbing against the house and the roof……..loads of branches and twigs all the time, no grass growing. When I went out to view them from another angle, I couldn’t believe how huge they had gotten!! But am not taking them down, going to have them trimmed back and thinned out, still expensive. Further back is another huge Elm tree which I hate, it is diseased I’m sure, keeps dropping yellowed leaves all the time and it is just ugly……its being cut down along with another Elm that is rubbing against a beautiful tulip tree………also very expensive……wish they had a lay-away plan!!! Good Luck to you, and yes, that large oak has to go!!!

  34. Susan,
    I think you are on the right path removing the “forest”. You may be able to get some larger trees planted instead of fast growing. Sometimes fast growing is quickly overgrown with week limbs. You may also check around your area and talk to your neighbors to see what they like or don’t like about different trees.
    I wanted to warn you about using tree or brush killers in the trees you remove. I had the tree killer harm trees nearby, probably from roots touching good trees.
    If you do take down the oak you may be able find a buyer for the wood, just line them up first so the tree is cut the way they want it.
    I imagine, like me your house is brighter in the winter than summer due to the trees.

    • I do hope to buy them large so they will get bigger faster. Thanks for the warning about the tree/brush killer! Yes, definitely brighter in the winter. I was just thinking yesterday how perfect nature is. When it’s hot and we need the shade, we have leaves on the trees. When winter comes and we need the sun for warmth, the leaves are gone. 🙂

  35. Toni Fleischmann says

    Susan, you are such a perfectionist in the projects you take on and I’m sure all this new landscaping changes will be just lovely. But I have to say…..I would take out the big oak tree, if nothing more than to potentially save your home in the event of a big storm!! It really does draw away from the beauty of the front of your home…….just one whose time has come I think. I also think when you have opened up the other areas, it is going to stand out all the more and you’ll be kicking yourself for not biting the bullet and doing it while you were making these other changes. Go for it if you can.

  36. Patricia Worley says

    Hello Susan,
    Really enjoy reading your blog – I can relate to your dilemma of acorns from the oak trees………..Each year there is a bumper crop of acorns from my huge White Oak, I solve the problem of too many HUGE acorns in the lawn by posting a “Free” ad on Craigslist. Hunters, crafters and familys come and pick up buckets of the little beauties – but my acorns are really, really huge with really, really huge caps………..perfect for deer plots, door wreaths or just displaying in a glass container for the holidays. Wish I could post the pic here that I post on Craigslist – my acorn next to an acorn squash – it’s unbeliveable. I enjoy watching & listening to the groups of people who come to “pick” for “free” – it’s a lot of fun for them & me.
    I also hate to cut down trees but had to last year – thought I would lose a lot of shade but it is working out just fine so far – our days here in the South are now in the 90’s; we need some rain to cool us off. I agree with Toni Fleischmann about your big oak that’s blocking the beauty of the front of your home – she is right just “bite the bullet” & do it…..

  37. Susan – I totally feel for you. When we moved 2 years ago, the first thing to go was some old dying trees in the back which threatened to take down the house with any kind of severe storm. I was sad to not only see them go, but to start ripping up some of the landscape. And we finally said… youknowwhatit and just tore everything out and started from scratch. It’s hard to get rid of vegetation I am totally with you. But the results will be worth it. Hugs, Holly

  38. You need this for removal of weeds with long tap roots:
    It is one of my favorite gardening tools ever. We have huge oak trees, too, in California. They do fall down. I have ours pruned to lighten their load and periodically topped to bring their height down. Yours looks very tall!

  39. Your yard is going to look so nice & I think you will love how your house will look once the landscaping is opened up.
    I, too, vote for removing the oak tree when you can. It’s so large now, & if it would fall, that could really damage your home. Plus, I’m sure it would be welcome to no longer have the acorn problem. It would be nice to not have it block the front of your house too. Enjoy watching the transformation & I’ll look forward to Monday’s post.

  40. Hi Susan, I own my own landscaping company in East Cobb. What might have gotten your nandina was a vole. They have killed most of the nandinas in my client’s gardens. For some reason, nandinas are one of their favorite shrubs. If you still have that dead nandina, pick it up and examine the roots. If you see clean areas free from soil and knawed roots, voles are the culprits. Often one will notice a shrub that is crooked and not standing straight but still looks alive. If you try to lift it, it will come right out of the ground. If you didn’t notice it when it was crooked, you will when it is wilted and dead and laying on its side. Can’t wait for your next post on this project.
    PS: its good you are taking out the river birch. It is definitely in the wrong place.

  41. I’m thinking I’d be taking out the oak tree – doesn’t sound like it’s going to do anything for you except make your life miserable with the acorns, and stress from worrying about it destroying whatever is in it’s path when it crashes…

  42. ~Susan~
    Hi there, I hope you are doing super !!
    you really have a project going on there, can’t wait to see the after photos ! I bet all those trees did help keep your home cooler in the summer. We live on an acre and my husband didn’t want a yard full of trees that he had to mow around, but now that we have lived here awhile he is changing his mind. So it was good to read about the River Birch, I did not know they were messy ! I have a tree that is growing new shoots where the roots are growing out in the yard, it drives me crazy. I wonder if anything can be done about that? Welp my weeds are calling me, hehee.
    have a super day!

  43. Elaine in Laguna says

    Hi Susan, Glad you’re tackling this project due to the danger factor and I hope you can take out the Oak as it’s too big. There are lots of great suggestions in the comments , too, for you and for followers like me! When our HOA took out nearly all of all over grown almost 30 year old trees 18 months ago, the inside temp of my home went up by 15 degrees. Really. So last summer I put a light colored awning over my back patio and also added 3 ceiling fans inside the house. And it still isn’t enough to lower the temp from the west sun. So this year I’ll be adding 3 much safer fast growing trees to my backyard slope – not the fire and falling hazard Euculypus trees that were there before. I’m going to check out the tree suggestions made here. I look forward to MM and future posts related to your landscape. You have a beautiful home and yard that will only be enhanced with your hard work and care on this project!

  44. I also feel compelled to comment on the oak tree. Insurance can be tricky. If the tree, or its limbs, cause any damage and there are signs of disease or such, then you could be liable. Or if it falls on neighboring property–and it does appear that it could take out neighbors houses, not to mention injure/kill someone–and there is proof that you knew it could be a danger, i.e. this post, then you could be liable for damages. So some $$$ now could save you $$$$$$ later!
    Please reconsider.
    And like everyone else, can’t wait to see the ‘after’ pics!

    • The only house it could hurt if it fell was mine, couldn’t reach a neighbors. And all the tree guys I got estimates from and the two landscapers I have talked to say it’s healthy. I wish it was diseased, would be a much easier decision.

      • Jeffrey Cuthbertson says

        Wish I knew how to pin a picture of our home here. We have several large mature hardwoods surrounding our house just like you. In fact, our 1939 center entrance Georgian colonial is so similarly set, with all the overgrowth just like yours, that I had to do a double take when I first saw your photographs. Like you, we have one large oak. We also have several huge maples, as well as large chestnut, pecans, several flowering catalpas and too many spruce, pine and fruit trees in our orchard. Yes! They are all messy at various stages throughout the seasons. But just like a fine horse or a beloved pet of any kind, they require care to be at their best. As much work as they are, and believe you me we both know, I wouldn’t think of cutting a single limb off any of them without much careful trepidation. Trees are a natural wonder. Just like a pet they are a gift that is to be cherished. Your oak, like ours is probably about 300 years old. It was a big tree even when my great-grandfather was a small boy and swung from its branches. Cutting something down with that much age and provenance would feel like an immoral act to me. Only as an act of mercy for an old friend in a diseased state could I rightly consider its felling. Good luck and God speed. And Merry Christmas too.

        • Jeffrey, I did cut it down though I hated too since I’m a big tree hugger from way back. I can say, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my yard or my home. The builder should never have left it when he built the house. It completely controlled every design decision I made for the yard and ruined everything I planted within 25 feet of it. It destroyed my grass and my flowers. I plan to add some landscaping back (shrubs and a Savannah Holly on the corner) but I don’t miss that tree one bit. The curb appeal for my home is so much better too but more importantly, I can enjoy my yard again without walking on a million marbles/acorns and without oak trees all in the flower beds and islands. I just wish I had taken it down 15-18 years ago when I first thought about it. I’d still have all my beautiful Bath’s Pink Dianthus that I planted all across the front of the island and had to roundup because of the 50 billion oak trees growing all through them. I left the large oak over to the right and there are plenty more in the back yard but I’m glad to have the one in front gone. Wishing you much wisdom as you make decisions for your yard…I know it’s hard so do what is right for you.

  45. You have a beautiful home inside and outside. However if it were my house I would have that big oak tree cut down while the men are there. We had a problem just like that and went ahead and had the big tree cut. It took us awhile but we got used to it and now we are so happy we had that done. You are right, that’s a BIG tree, would hate for it to fall on your beautiful house. Not to mention the damage it would do and the $$$ to repair everything.
    Thanks for sharing and looking forward to seeing the end result.

  46. The recent tornado that went thru our area (the 2nd in the last 2 years), left several homes surrounding me with trees on their roofs, all were oak trees. Interesting, they all fell north to south. Seeing the extensive repairs that those neighbors have to have done and all the stress and problems and disruption to their lives they are now dealing with makes me think it would be better to take a tree down before it falls on a house.

  47. Your yard looks just like mine! We’ve been in our home 20 years and its looking like a jungle. Hate to cut down trees but know it has to happen.

  48. Our big oak tree was lovely to look at and provided welcome shade, however, I also did not enjoy pulling up the bazillion mini oak trees from the lawn & flower beds. Also, when the acorns fell, we could not sit on our deck for fear of getting beaned on the head by acorns, & trust me, when they fall from that height, they really hurt. When the winds blew at night, the sound of acorns hitting our roof & skylites was unbearable. We cut it down – I couldn’t be happier. Whatever you decide, I am sure you will be happy with the outcome – your property has great bones – just needs a bit of trimming & pruning.

  49. Hi Susan. We had to do the same thing at our last house. My hope is that once you have so much less to deal with the oak tree won’t bother you so much. There really isn’t a tree out there that doesn’t have some kind of issue to deal with. It takes so many years to get a big tree like that…I hope it stays.

  50. Hi Susan…. I’m a tree-hugging lover extraordinaire!, and I say cut that oak tree down! It’s scary looking to me, and also, totally messes up the view of your house. Re-purpose it into a firewood, have it cut into special boards for ‘memory’ shelves or made into a table or furniture of some kind if you want, so many things are possible … that could in some way mentally ‘justify’ it’s change from a tree into something more functional. I’ve seen some amazing walkways made out of circles cut form tree trunks. No matter what, my vote is get that thing out. Look forward to what beautiful transformations you make with all of this!

  51. Hi Susan! I say cut the big oak down, too! In March, we had a new, gorgeous architectural shingle roof installed on our brick home, new trim, new gutters, the whole works. And at the same time, we had our large upstairs deck covered with a roof – making it an outdoor room (inspired a lot by your lovely porch!), making it a real, usable space. Huge investment for our little family, but we were SO very excited about how much it was beautifully transforming our home. We had lighting fixtures picked out, new deck furniture and accessories ordered, and big plans for summer birthday parties on our new deck. Well, the night before the electrician was scheduled to install new lighting so the contractors could finish up, a huge oak tree limb (seriously the size of a tree itself) fell on our house. No rain, no wind, just fell. It literally covered 2/3’s of our home. It fell just above our younger daughter’s bed, breaking the rafters in the attic above her room, even cracking the crown moulding just above her bed where she’d been sleeping. Talk about terrifying! Thank goodness she was okay, the new deck-roof addition supported the weight of the limb so it didn’t go farther into her room. And thank goodness it didn’t fall when all the roofers, contractors, gutter men, etc, were on our roof. Needless to say, we had the rest of the giant oak tree cut down the next day (an unplanned, but necessary expense!). Although it looked healthy, with lots of green leaves, it was completely hollow inside — we had chills when we saw the hollow stump. Now it’s 4 months later and we are still dealing with insurance estimates, paperwork (for some crazy reason, it’s MUCH more paperwork to replace a new brand new roof than if it had been 20 years old), contractors, construction debris, and a still unfinished addition to our house. Our contractors have been super patient and wonderful, but we are just exhausted about the whole thing and the drain to our already tight budget. Our new deck furniture is in boxes in our dining room and all our fun accessories are packed away in the basement, and we had to re-locate the birthday parties. Anyhow, after our experience, I would definitely recommend cutting your tree! It’s worth every penny!

    • Holly, that is awful that you had to go through that. Very scary. I have heard and read in the paper about so many terrible tree stories over the years. It’s amazing the damage a big tree can do. I hope things get going faster for you…I know you just want life to get back to normal. I would be fit to be tied by now, I’m sure. When you get your deck rebuilt with the roof I would love to see pictures! I love any kind of outdoor room and upstairs rooms are the best. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve being debating this tree removal for years and years and do feel like it’s finally time.

  52. Can relate to your dilemma Susan as our area is an older neighbourhood where the majority of trees are very mature in nature …. and we do have our fair share of massive, big old Oak Trees. When we moved in to our home twenty-five years ago, my husband had most of the trees on our lot removed and those that could be salvaged we gave to a landscaping company who wanted them for transplanting purposes who gratefully removed them free of charge. (Root ball and all.) Those that we did keep were of the cedar or spruce variety together with a number of birch trees. Unfortunately the birches since were destroyed by an ice storm we had back in 1986 thus all had to be cut down. With that said, we still have to contend with fallen pine cones on our lot and every one else’s fallen Oak leaves in Autumn as well as throughout the year since its impossible to get rid of them all since their leaves do not break down. It is basically a vicious cycle! As a result a few years ago when we re-landscaped, I opted for Commercial landscaping elements consisting of larger boulders, miscellaneous rocks, beds of river rock, flowering shrubs and perennials. On the whole it was the way to go as combined with the restriction of herbicides and pesticides in our Province; controlling nasty weeds is a challenge in itself as they seem to magically pop up every where. Sometimes in the oddest places where normally things just should ”not’ grow. ☺
    GOOD LUCK on your project as know it is a big job but it will be well worth the labour and expense in the long run.

    • Brenda, you just reminded me, I totally forgot to mention in the post that an ice storm came through a few years ago and badly bent one of the birch limbs waaaaay over to it was touching the ground. Once the ice melted, it came up some but it never really stood back up again. I almost cut it down then, but just never got around to doing it. So I know what you mean about ice storms and birche trees. Have you ever read the poem, “Birches” by Robert Frost? It’s one of my favorites. I’ve always thought of that poem when I looked out and saw the bent birch limb. I feel your pain about the weeds…they do drive you crazy. I just bought this weed thingy a reader told me about in a comment. I’m going to give it a try. It has good reviews on Amazon and I’m hoping it will help me get all the oak trees out of my beds that have sprouted from fallen acorns. Here’s a link to the weeder in case you think it will be helpful for your situation, too.

      • Susan, thank you so much for the tip on the Fiskars gardening tool. They do make some amazing products and I’ve added it to my shopping list.
        Regarding the poem by Robert Frost, I don’t believe that I’ve ever read it before, so again thank you for sharing it with me. (Unfortunately, very few Birch trees in our area survived the ice storm and so sad to see that outlying forests are practically void of them now that Mother Nature herself destroyed.)
        Do hope you had a wonderful July 4th. Warm hugs -Brenda-

  53. Wow, I just learned everything I needed to know about my River Birch in my backyard. It was so little when I moved into this house 13 years ago, but now yes I am not liking it so much. The roots are above ground and everytime I mow I swear I see more of them above ground. The branches, OMG. This spring we had A-line winds I had huge branches sliced off the top like someone cut them with a knife. And yes everyday I look out and if the wind was blowing the day before branches everywhere and on the deck. I never knew this about this tree so this has been very educational. They seem to just snap like nobody’s business. It seems it has started to droop and the upper branches are rubbing the house again and fear they may rub some roof tiles. They were just cut a couple of years ago. I can’t afford to have roots interfering with my house and I see a couple of them have grown into my neighbors backyard so yikes don’t need to be liable for that either. It’s the only tree in my yard and blocks allot of sun on the North side but it sounds like I better start saving my nickels to have it cut down. It’s about 20 years old and seems to be growing more every year. I don’t know when they peak but don’t think I can afford to wait to find out. I was actually looking into just having it trimmed but the root thing has got me concerned. Thanks to all who responded with similar information. I came across this post by accident looking up birch trees so kudos to a daily Googler!

  54. I’m really late to this party, but am really curious about the “after” pictures… did you post any?

    • Valerie, these are the after…the porch decorated for spring. Click on the link at the end of the post to see Linda’s porch “before.”

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