The Landscape Plan

Last September, after a summer spent reclaiming my front yard from the overgrown jungle it had become, I consulted the services of a local garden nursery and had a landscape plan created. I thought you might enjoy seeing it so I’m sharing it in today’s post.

To get a closer look, press CTRL + a few times on your keyboard. Once you’re done viewing the plan, press CTRL 0 (zero) to return to normal.

When the plan was created last fall, the designer asked for my input just like an interior designer does before creating a plan for a room. I shared some of the ideas I had with her including the plants I love, but my main goal was an evergreen landscape for the front yard. Right now I have several shrubs in front that lose their leaves in the fall and become “clumps of sticks” for the winter. See those bushes on the right in the photo below…that area becomes completely bare in winter.

Perennials Bed Along Side Brick Walkway


The plan the designer created left lots of wiggle room so I could choose from several plant options. In the past I’ve made some really poor choices for my front landscape so I’m taking this nice and slow in an effort to make sure I know exactly how everything is going to look in the end. It’s a little scary because buying trees and plants is expensive and planting them is a lot of work. I want to make sure there will be no regrets when I’m done this time.


So Many Choices!

There are so many plants and so many options available, I’m finding it a bit overwhelming. In the back of my mind I am always thinking, is there another plant out there that I just don’t know about that would be better, or hardier, or longer-blooming or  prettier, or, or, or… Do you ever do that?

Then there’s the issue of availability. I’m discovering that after I finally decide which plant I’m going with, it isn’t always available or if it is, it’s only available in very small sizes like 3 gallon.

In case it’s helpful to get a perspective on where things are, the area you see on the plan that’s marked “porch” with two square thingies in front is my front porch with the Green Mountain Boxwood topiaries (Buxus x ‘Green Mountain’) I planted back in September of last year. (See that post here: Boxwood Topiaries For A Traditional Landscape)

How Much Does It Cost To Build Front Porch


The liriope you see in the plan is already there, not something being added. The landscape designer liked how it looked so we’re leaving it. You’ll see the existing “Southern Magnolia Grandiflora” (magnolia tree) off to the left. Where it says “existing” on the other side of the walkway are some existing holly bushes that snake along the front island. Some of those are visible in the picture above.

Ignore the little stars beside some of the plants, those were plants I was leaning toward using last summer but I’ve changed my mind on some of those based on new information I’ve learned about the plants and/or availability.

A Landscape Plan for Front Garden



All along I have planned on purchasing fairly large shrubs because I am eager to get an established look as soon as possible. I was surprised to learn that it’s much harder now to get large plants. Apparently, the drought and economy of recent years has taken a big toll and there are a lot fewer growers than there once was.

Twenty-five+ years ago when I redid the foundation plants at my previous home, I purchased 4 HUGE English Boxwoods from Home Depot. Remember when they used to have Landscape Centers, gigantic gardening stores where they sold nothing but plants and gardening things? I’ve forgotten now what those centers were called but I loved visiting the one near my home and walking the isles. They had everything! I miss those days!

English Boxwoods for the front yard


So the nurseries I’ve talked to are telling me they can’t always get some plants and those they can get, may only be available in 3 gallon or 7 gallon sizes which is pretty small. They don’t know until they make the calls to check availability.

A Landscape Plan for Front Garden


I spent yesterday afternoon visiting two nurseries, one a small privately owned nursery and the other a large nursery with several locations in the metro area. I so wish the nurseries had at least one of every plant recommended in the plan, that way I could see first hand how they look. But they don’t.

I have found looking up plants online is not a great way to decide either. Sometimes a plant will look one way online and very different in person when I see it at the nursery. So, I’m approaching this the way that feels least stressful for me and that’s making the decisions I can, the ones I’m comfortable with, while taking my time on the others.


So Far

So where does that leave things? So far I’ve purchased 4 Savannah Holly trees as seen in Monday’s post. Three were planted in the side yard on the right (not visible in the plan) and one was installed where you see the “A” on the right side of the plan. I hope to be purchasing some Encore azaleas to go around the Savannah Holly trees in the side yard soon. I’m pretty sure I know which ones I want for that area now.

Yesterday I made a decision about what I wanted to plant in front of the Savannah Holly, which is “A” on the plan. I went with “Double Mint Gardenias” shown as “F” on the plan.

Here’s a typical scenario of how this process is unfolding. The smaller nursery I visited today didn’t have the “Heaven Scent Gardenias” recommended on the plan. They didn’t have the “Mardi Gras Abelia” either. The larger nursery I visited didn’t have the Heaven Scent Gardenias or the Mardi Gras Abelia, either. They did have an Abelia named Kaleidoscope and the smaller/newer plants were pretty. But the older ones looked pretty scraggly so that steered me toward using gardenias.

Looking at the gardenias, they had Frost Proof Gardenias, Daisy Gardenias, Radican Gardenias and Double Mint Gardenias. They still had one Savannah Holly left (I had purchased all the others) so we took each of the gardenias they had in stock over to the Savannah Holly so I could see how the holly leaves looked with the foliage on each of the gardenias.

Landscaping is a lot like decorating, scale and color matters. Just as you wouldn’t put a lot of small patterned fabrics all together in one room, it’s nice to create some contrast in leaf shape/size when landscaping your yard or garden. I needed to see how the leaves on the holly looked with the different leaf shapes/colors of the various gardenias.

To make matters even more complicated, sometimes the colors of the foliage change once you get them home and plant them in your yard. The soil in your yard can be different from the soil where the plants were grown. I can’t control all the variables but at least I could see how they look together in their present state.

I liked the Daisy Gardenia leaf shape and color but the flower seemed so plain compared to the double flowers of Frost Proof, Radican and Double Mint. I didn’t care for the shape and color of the Frost Proof Gardenia leaves with the Savannah Holly. That left the Radican Gardenia and Double Mint.

The Radicans only get 1 to 2 feet in height which was a little too short to be in front of the Savannah Holly. I settled on Double Mint for several reasons. I liked its leaf shape and color with the Savannah Holly. It grows to be 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall which should be perfect in front of the Savannah Holly. And it blooms more than once during the summer season. It’s a rebloomer! Gotta love that!

Double Mint Gardenia


I asked what the difference was between all the gardenias they had and the “Heaven Scent” recommended on my plan. I wondered if “Heaven Scent” really did have a heavenly scent and was worth waiting for, which could end up being a long, long wait. The landscaper at the nursery wasn’t that familiar with Heaven Scent and couldn’t answer that question. I purchased 5 Double Mint Gardenias and was relieved to find when I got home and Googled, Double Mint is known for its wonderful scent.

One decision down, 500 more to go.

A Landscape Plan for Front Garden

Let’s Talk Limelight!

Notice “D” on the plan…with all the smaller “B”s surrounding it. It’s way over there on the left by the magnolia. Once the “stick” shrubs are removed (that should happen tomorrow) that area can be planted, although I may hold off until I find  some of the other plants I’ll be using.

When we originally talked about that area, the Limelight Hydrangea was going to be a shrub. It would vanish during the winter, hidden by all the “B” shrubs surrounding it. Yesterday the designer who created the plan for me mentioned a tree form for that area and I loved that idea. I don’t mind having a naked tree in the garden during the winter, just not crazy about a bunch of naked shrubs.

Of course they didn’t have a tree form Limelight Hydrangea in and I was told that they are extremely hard to come by right now. ~~~BIG SIGH~~~You have to laugh at this, ya know. It’s the only way to keep your sanity!

Tree Form Limelight Hydrangea


I called on my cell before heading over to the larger garden center and was delighted to discover they had one. They held it for me and I drove straight there and purchased Miss Limelight. Isn’t she lovely! ♥♥♥

Two decisions down, 499 to go. πŸ˜‰

Tree Form Limelight Hydrangea


I’m not sure yet if I’ll put gardenias or boxwoods around Miss Limelight. If I go with gardenias, it may be a shorter gardenia like the Radican that only gets 1-2 feet high. Double Mint gets 2-1/2 to 3 foot high which is great for the Savannah Holly tree but probably too tall for Miss Limelight.

That whirring sound you hear…that would be my head spinning!

There’s a lot more I could share about “The Plan” but this post is getting to be too long. I promise to share more as things develop. As always, I love your suggestions and thoughts!

If you’re new to reading BNOTP, check out this previous post to see where I started last summer. Front Yard Landscape Makeover. There’s a house in there somewhere!

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs 1

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  1. Susan,
    Girl, I love the landscape plan and all the plants you have selected! If you haven’t tried Dave’s Garden for realistic pictures of plants give them a shot. You can spend hours on this site (well I can, hee, hee, hee) and the pictures are from gardeners and their plants not staged photos of something most people will never achieve! They also have information on birds and insects. To bad we do not live closer. I will be dividing my variegated liriope this fall and would be happy to give you some. I noticed there is Autumn Fern on your design. Love, love, love this plant. I have one in front of my shed and it has grown to the size of a shrub. Not to worry, it is easily contained if you so choose. I anxiously await your next landscape post. Vikki in VA

  2. If only I could email you some…”deep breaths!!” Isn’t this something…these really are huge decisions and “transplanting” isn’t fun…or financially feasible!! Your master plan looks amazing, though, looking forward to updates and serenity!! πŸ™‚ franki p.s. “Thanks, again, for your quick response!” fmp

  3. Mary from Virginia says

    Love this post! So many ideas and so much to think about. A good friend of mine, Chris taught me the importance of the Soft Touch Hollies. They really are beautiful! I was shopping for shrubs last week and I noticed the largest containers were 7 gallons.

    What color Encore are you purchasing?

    Loved your yellow house. =)

    • Thanks, Mary! I’m looking at mixing a solid pink with Autumn Twist and one of their whites…so a variety of three. Autumn Chiffon is gorgeous, too. I’ll just have to see what I can find at the local nurseries. If I don’t get them in soon, I’ll have to wait for spring since they don’t like cold weather. Thanks for that recommendation of the Soft Touch Hollies!

  4. Susan, reading this, I certainly have empathy for your head spinning; I was there with you, studying the plan, jumping back to your prior post on the Savannah holly plantings (btw, I like the planting out, and I think the grass path will just become more gate-like in its narrower design with more under plantings extended. Think of it as a natural gateway to that part of the yard).

    I shared my plan in an April post, along with a lessons learned post, 10 yrs later. I see the garden as similar to interior design and/or fashion, much like you’re doing. You need to be able to have your own sense of what looks right/wrong together with blooms, leaves, overall structure. And then there is also your personal style to consider, above & beyond what any planner suggests. If you are classic, then you can’t go wrong with boxwoods, for example.

    There are still some plants in my landscape that I will likely replace at some point, and some are already history due to the conditions within my yard. Then, there are some I absolutely love and wouldn’t change ever (other than the never-ending maintenance). I would say conditions are most critical – esp. knowing how much sun your plants will be exposed to and the impact on the overall health & appearance (taking into account how the Savannah holly trees will shade also). I love azaleas in bloom, but they can be needy, as they get leggy(pruning timing is critical to future bloom, just like many hydrangeas), I have to spray mine for lace bugs, and mine need fertilized regularly…just sayin’…all that for a couple weeks (max) of beautiful blooms in spring. Maybe reblooming will be better, but when the blooms are spent, they get all matted, either on the bush or under the plant and look nasty after a rain (hand rake).

    I could go on and on, but I look forward to your next post. I love the planning of the staples of a landscape.

  5. Linda S. in NE says

    Oh, Brother! I feel your pain Susan. After reading this post, it seems that the landscaper who draws up these plans should have to guarantee that 90% of the plantings they recommend will be available locally. Why isn’t it their job to do what you are doing right now…finding out what is really available?
    I agree with you about agonizing over decisions no matter what it involves. It’s hard enough to have to decide between “A & B”, but then when “A & B” are not even available, then you are faced with, “Oh, but we do have a nice Z & W, and don’t forget T might be nice, too”. It’s just all too much, and I am sure that if I was in your shoes right now, I would be in the back of my master bedroom closet in a fetal position. More power to you, you’re a stronger woman than I.

  6. Juanita in OH says

    Wow, that looks like an awesome plan and I LOVE it! I can hardly wait for the reveal, it will be like waiting for Christmas again. TFS.

  7. Wow Susan,
    I’ve never googled so many plants and flowers in my life as I did today πŸ™‚ and I love your meticulously well-wrought plan! So smart of you!
    I’m sorry that landscape planning is giving you a headache but I know it’ll look great once you’re done! πŸ™‚
    I’ll keep my fingers crossed that all your wishes come true.
    Is that sweet little Chip in that pic? Love that house and I remember perfectly your current home still “cocooned” by all those big trees! What a difference! πŸ™‚
    ~Hugs to you~
    PS: Where’s P. Allen Smith when you need him? πŸ™‚

    • lol Exactly…where is he??? Doesn’t he know he’s needed in Georgia! Yep, that was Chip when he was probably around 5-6 years old. Thanks, Cecilia! I just want it all done now…not very patient!

  8. Three years ago I purchased some small sale Boxwood to put around my garden house and planted them in mid November. They made it thru our NEKS winter and took off like crazy and now they are the perfect size, so I think small can establish and grow just as well as the large. There’s less to take away from the first year rooting process. Good luck on whatever you do because I know they will turn out beautifully. I have heard that this could be a very hard winter again. Check the Farmers Almanac.

    • Maybe I should wait and plant the Azaleas in the spring. Usually fall is planting time but the encore azalea site did say that spring is a good time to plant them, too. I hate to wait three years for the shrubs to get big but I may have to. Thanks, Carol!

  9. Hi Susan,

    I have enjoyed your blog for a long time. Our home looks very similar to yours, up in middle Tennessee. Two years ago, we planted some Little Limelight hydrangeas in some very poor soil. It was full of rocks from the old driveway bed and we had little hope they would survive. Well, they have done amazingly well and provide beautiful blooms all summer and fall. I like that they do not get as large as some of the other hydrangeas. They look so nice up against our cedar fence. They get hot afternoon sun and never droop like some do. Just thought I would pass this along as one plant that works!

  10. Frankie Wright says

    Have you been to the Grower’s Plant Outlet in Loganville. They have great plants at great prices. You could do a day trip with a friend.

    • Frankie, I haven’t….that sounds like a good idea, though! Thanks for telling me about it! I just read last night, the guy who invented the Encore Azalea, Buddy Lee, is going to be speaking this Saturday at 10:00 at a place called The Family Tree Garden Center in Snellville, GA. Wonder how close Snellville is to Loganville.

      • Julia Greenway says

        Hi Susan, my daughter lives in Loganville and she says Snellville is about 8 minutes away from Loganville. So about 8 miles thereabouts. You would have no problem going to both places. Love how your yard is coming along! So beautiful!

  11. It looks like quite the ambitious plan! Looking forward to future “PLAN” posts. (Take care with your back)

  12. Christy Keyton says

    I have two tree form limelights in my yard flanking my front porch. They are about five years old now, HUGE, and gorgeous. You will love them!

  13. pam ~ crumpety cottage says

    Hi Susan,

    We have spent the last couple of years working on our landscaping and we started with a plan drawn up by a landscape architect. I told him I wanted things that grow naturally in our area and wouldn’t require too much care. Next, it was working with the actual landscapers who would procure the plants, ready the beds and plant. I worked with a couple of different ones and finally found one that was really great. I wish I could send him down to you! Lol. At any rate, it was THEY who got the plants for me. I didn’t have to worry about slogging around to nurseries looking. I would recommend that for you, because this project is already getting to you. I do understand.

    Btw, one side of my house, the one that faced east, had knock out roses. They got some type of disease and died and we replaced them with endless summer hydrangeas. Unfortunately, they didn’t survive the winter so this year we went with a hydrangea and more knock out roses. Oh my gosh@ That hydrangea planted literally quintupled in size! It LOVES it’s spot. And the new knock out roses are the same. I can’t get over how these small plants grew so fast. You’d never guess they were new plantings. At any rate, that’s just to give you a bit of encouragement because I know we all want our beds and landscaping to look well established rather than new and tiny.

    If you really get stuck, there is a place in Middle Tennessee called McMinnville and there are over 200 nurseries there! And they are all sizable. So whatever you were wanting, you should be able to get there. You could drive up and maybe rent a U haul for one way travel and get everything you need. Look it up. McMinnville is the ‘nursery capital’ of the world.

    Good luck and good spirits. It’s going to be beautiful, whatever plants you decide on.

    • Thanks, Pam. I just want to see and touch the plants before they end up in my yard. I want to know exactly how they look. Even if I just told her to get them for me, apparently they aren’t all available. It’s so frustrating to try and follow a plan when you can get the plants on the plan.
      This past winter was really brutal in a lot of places, wasn’t it. Glad you Knock-out roses have grown so well this time around! That’s amazing! Wonder why they have so many nurseries there! Wow! Thanks for that tip!

      • crumpety cottage says

        I have wondered that too! It must be good growing conditions. These nurseries or maybe they call them ‘growers’ supply the plants to hundreds of retail nurseries, landscapers, etc. A couple of the landscapers I interviewed said they would go there for the plants they would use in my yard. (2 + hour drive each way) The guy I ultimately used got the plants from the closer retail version of one of the nurseries and that way he didn’t have to drive so far. But the plants were BEAUTIFUL. So healthy and full and even just planted they looked GREAT. It was such an exciting transformation. I hope it is for you too! But if the local nurseries don’t have the items you want, can’t they at least order them in? I thought that was how things were done. That way you can see and touch like you want. I would ask some of the larger nurseries to do that for you. I hope you can stay positive and enjoy this project — it’s going to be beautiful and because it really is an important project (aren’t they all) because this is right there in your front yard, where you greet guests. So I know you want it to be just perfect. I’ll be keeping my ‘not so green’ thumbs crossed for you.

  14. just my 2 cent. I have the daisy gardenia (Macon) and it looked good for a few years then just started to decline. It gets aphids and white flies and leaves turn black and stems look awful. Needs spraying with neem oil every year. The radicans get a lot bigger than you would think. Mine are grown together and are more like 2.5 ft high. This is at about 10 years. I have had to remove the shrubs behind them because they were completely overwhelmed. Allow plenty of space between plants. The gardenias do well in shade though.

    • Susan, thanks so much for letting me know. When my boxwood topiaries got some kind of insect on them, I changed my lawn service from just grass to grass and shrubs. I’ve never had a company helping me with my shrubs so I hope they’ll know what to do to ward off any issues. It’s such an investment, all these plants…I hate to lose any.
      I didn’t know that about the Radicans…thanks for that info! I’m getting ready to plant the Double Mint Gardenias so I’ll get this in mind!

  15. Joanne Boulter says

    Your yard and home are so beautiful! I’ll you and your family really enjoy it.
    Thanx for sharing. ((HUGS)) Jo

  16. Your beautiful home doesn’t even look like it did 25 years ago. The brick faΓ§ade, the gorgeous brick walkway, the front porch, the landscaping. Wow is all I have to say.

  17. Susan, the Limelight hydrangea is one of my favs!–I have 2 tree form and a 7 foot tall “shrub”!! I LOVE them all. Here in Chicagoland, they bloom from early June til frost. This time of year as the blooms are are glorious combination of creams, pinks, & dusty rose, I cut & dry them & make gorgeous arrangements that last for a year or two. I have had people come to my door to ask what those beautiful flowers are every year.
    Hope you can enjoy the process, even as you’re making so many decisions!

  18. Julia Greenway says

    Hi Susan, my daughter lives in Loganville and she says Snellville is about 8 minutes away or approximately 8 miles thereabout. You should have no problem going to both places. Your yard and gardens are coming along so beautifully! Love the new look!

  19. Hi Susan, I am glad that phase of the “new house” is over for us. Seven years ago I contacted a great nursery near us here in PA and the owner was known throughout MD and farther for his great designs. I just told him I wanted shrubs that bloomed all throughout the season with evergreen smattered in–so on all sides of our house we have blooming shrubs, a tree or two (new subdivision–UGH!) and evergreens. The choices he made were wonderful and we are enjoying our huge beauty bushes now. I do so wish I could have gardenias here–the closest I could get here was a camellia next to the house that got hit hard last winter but most of it survived. I love the hydrangea you have–I have one of those too but we lost one and had to replant the following year. Our soil here was “replaced” with clay and big rocks and doesn’t drain at all well. All of our plants were tiny seven years ago but within a few years, it all matured. It is quite lovely now. I have to admit my all time favorites are the hydrangea bushes–I have several and they can be all shades of blue to bright pink to a lovely purple, depending on the acid/base nature of the soil.

    One suggestion about selecting plant varieties–there is a government agency that will test your soil for your ahead of time to ensure you have the right soil/amendments for your area of the yard/plant. Also, call the local garden club in your area and ask them for recommendations for shrub varieties that do well. Oh, more suggestions–just what you need–I have some dwarf Korean lilacs that are the most wonderful things in the spring–Also, butterfly bushes are just so happy in the summer too–they come in so many colors!!

    Sorry–I got carried away–just relax and if things don’t get done this fall–it may be a good thing–it will all be beautiful!! Happy hunting!!

    • Diana, I love hydrangeas too and am so excited to be adding them to my yard/garden. They are beautiful! We have that heavy clay soil here, too…so I always have to mix in lots of good soil amendment before planting. I used to have a butterfly bush and half of it died…not sure why…so I had to remove it. I definitely need to plan another one of those somewhere, thanks for reminding me! I love those! Thanks, Diana. We got a lot done today so gradually making some headway.

  20. Gosh Susan, My head is spinning right along with you! I know about being impatient and not wanting a lot of winter “sticks”. I’m struggling after moving my Potting Shed last fall and still in planning mode. I need some foundation plants but would love some blooms too. I’m curious about the Heaven Scent Gardenias and Double Mint. I’ll have to see if some local nurseries have any. We have several Kaleidoscope Abelias as foundation shrubs by our house and I love their variegated foliage and the white blooms. The butterflies love them too πŸ™‚

    • Mary, do they ever get scraggly looking? I love their variegated foliage, just wondered if they get messy looking at times during the year. I love your potting shed! I remember when you had to move it…that was big job!

  21. Have you checked with Growers Outlet in Loganville?

  22. Susan that is an awesome plan – and you obviously have a talent for gardening yourself to achieve such lovely results. It puts my front garden to shame that’s for sure (border around 3 sides, driveway on the other πŸ™ and many unsuccessful plants). I wish I had the stamina and enthusiasm to achieve such good results.

    • Thanks, Sandra! It’s a bit intimidating, putting it all together. Just gonna take it a bite at the time. πŸ™‚ Hopefully it will all come together in the end.

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