Landscape Renovation: Big Changes and Ready for the Sod

Things are starting to happen quickly now with the front landscape renovation. The stump grinder guy didn’t make it out yesterday but he is on his way now as I type this. Then the slate will be clean for the sod installation on Tuesday. Yipee!

Last week I drove by a few of the lawns installed by the company I’ve chosen to install my sod.  I’ve decided to go with Zeon Zoysia.  I like what I’ve read online and I like the Zeon lawns I’ve seen. The landscapers I’ve talked to seem to like it, too. I’m really getting excited now. Sodding the front yard is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I’ll take some pics while they are sodding the yard on Tuesday so I can share it in a post, just in case you would like to see the process.

A few Before and Afters:

Over the last couple of weeks as I’ve been taking photos of the front yard, this is the first time I’ve found myself realllly wishing I had a wide angle lens for my camera.  With my current lens I have to stand so far back to get the whole yard in, by the time I crop out the street, the picture ends up pretty short. I’ll experiment around a bit and see if I can find another way to photograph it. I think a wide angle lens is going on my Christmas wish list this year.

As you may recall, this is where we began–with a badly overgrown yard. The River Birch (shown on the left) had engulfed my walkway and had sent roots all out into the yard in every direction, even threatening to break up the walkway. Walking across the yard was not easy with all the huge roots across the top of the soil.  The roots stretched so far, they were within a few feet of reaching the street!

The holly on the right end of the house, despite having been drastically cut back a few years ago, was completely obscuring two windows, one upstairs and one downstairs.  And the side yard to the right was a dark, scary-looking black hole. Nothing would grow there due to the intense shade from the Leyland Cypress which were in terrible shape.

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs 1

Stage 1 was the removal of the River Birch, all the Leyland Cypress and the holly. You’ll find a detailed post showing these changes here: Front Yard Landscape Renovation

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs

This was our “after” once those were removed. (see pic below)

Front Yard Landscape Renovation


I really wanted to remove the large oak in front but have struggled with that decision for ages. I hate cutting down trees, especially big trees.  But this tree created so many problems for my yard and life. It dropped 40 billion acorns each year which made it impossible to walk across the yard or the walkway. The acorns and the shells decayed and ruined the grass. The ones that didn’t decay sprouted into oak trees in my islands and flower beds. They were impossible to remove, especially the ones that grew all in the liriope and in the dianthus I planted all across the front of the island years ago.

Trying to dig up or pull out baby oak trees was a never ending nightmare, like bailing water out of a boat with a hole in it the size of Atlanta. It took much of the fun out of gardening or working in the yard because it controlled every landscape choice I attempted to make and it ruined many of the things I tried to do, like growing flowers across the front of the island.

One year I actually had to go out and “Round-up” all my Bath’s Pinks. It was horrible having to kill all my beautiful Dianthus but there was simply no way to get the hundreds of oak trees out that were growing all throughout them. If you have ever grown Bath’s Pink Dianthus, you know what I mean.  And then there was the ever threat of it falling on the house during a storm. It would have destroyed my home if it had fallen across it.

The brutal truth was the tree did nothing for the appearance of the yard and when I looked out the windows of my home, it was a huge gray telephone pole in my front yard.  The foliage was so high up, you couldn’t really appreciate that part of the tree. The only way you could really enjoy the tree was if you walked across the street and stood in my neighbor’s front yard (which is on a slight hill) and looked back at my home.  After posting the “After” photo below, your comments gave me the courage to do what I should have done many years ago…have it removed.

Front Yard Landscape Renovation


I have to tell you, it’s the best decision I have EVER made for this yard. My bedroom, the guest room, the dining room and the living room (future library) are soooo much brighter.  The large oak tree on the right still provides plenty of shade against the heat of the west sun so there’s just the right amount of shade now and I’m loving it!

Front Yard Landscape Renovation


Reshaping the Front Island:

Last night I dug out the bushes that had been growing under the River Birch. They had not been doing well in that spot and I’ve decided I want the sod to go all the way up to the walkway there in front of the magnolia. You may not be able to see it that well in the picture below because I have a big pile of clippings there sort of blocking the view, but the bushes are all gone on the far left end of the front island.

Front Yard Landscape Renovation


The mound where the River Birch was growing will be leveled out when the sod is installed.

Landscape Renovation After Tree Removal 2


I’ve made the decision to take down the camellia. (see pic below) It’s being removed today. It was great there for many years but ultimately camellias grow way to tall and wide to make good foundation plants. I will definitely be planting another camellia somewhere in my yard, though. I love them and enjoy floating them in a bowl during the blooming season.

I haven’t feel too awful about the decision to remove it because it has become kind of open and scraggly looking on the lower section of the tree/bush, probably because of all the shade from the magnolia.   It had been trimmed back once before and this caused it to get really bushy toward the top.  Scraggly on the bottom and bushy on the top isn’t such a great look.

See that area where the arrow is pointing up. That clump of magnolia is where a bunch of magnolia “suckers” or whatever you call them, are growing up from the roots of the magnolia.  Anyway, those will be snipped off and that will open that area a bit more, too. Anyone know how to keep a magnolia from sending up those tall shoots? I can’t cut the roots but sure wish it would quit doing that.

Landscape Renovation After Tree Removal


I’m also going to remove three spirea someone gave me years ago. A friend bought a new home and the builder had put them in and she wanted them gone. We needed shrubs so we dug them up and brought them here. I think I know now why she was glad to get rid of them. Since they are deciduous, in the winter you just have a bush of sticks growing in your yard. Not such a great look for the front of the home.

Landscape Renovation After Tree Removal


Things left to do today and over the next few days:

Camellia is being removed today, stumps are being ground today, sod is being installed on Tuesday.


Things to do during the month of August:

Find something tall and and not too wide for the right end of the house, hopefully something that grows berries for decorating and/or for the birds.  I may have to sacrifice the berry idea to get what will look and work best there.  It’s important that it doesn’t  cover up the windows again because I’m enjoying the sunny rooms I have now.

Come fall,  the Japanese Maple will be moved to a different location. You can just see it there in front of the dining room windows on the left.  I will need to decide on foundation plants/shrubs to go back. This house calls for a traditional style landscape and I love that look, so I know I want to go with evergreen shrubs.

There’s a nice size area to work with there since the walkway is out a good ways from the house, so I should be able to layer in some different varieties of shrubs/flowers for a nice look. I don’t want to over-plant, though. Any shrubs I should consider? I will take my time and choose carefully. After making such poor decisions in the past, like planting the River Birch (bad idea) and using a camellia as a foundation planting, I want to make sure I get it right this time!

Landscape Renovation After Tree Removal 3


Update: Just as I was about to publish this post, the doorbell rang.  The tree guy and the stump guy just finished and the camellia has been removed and all the stumps are ground. One of the garage windows is visible now since the camellia is gone.  With the stumps ground out, we’re officially ready for the sod.  Good thing since all this tree work has totally wiped out the scraggly grass I had.

Landscape Renovation for Front Yard after Tree Removal


So we started here:

House Hidden and Overwhelmed by Trees and Shrubs 2

And now we’re here:

Landscape Renovation for Front Yard after Tree Removal


Perennial Garden:

I’ll leave you with some views of the perennial garden that runs along the edge of the driveway.

Perennial Garden
I love Purple Coneflower!

Purple Coneflower

It’s such an amazing flower to view up close.

Purple Conflower in the Garden_wm

I can never resist reaching out and touching the center.

Purple Conflower_wm

The tall yellow flower is Rudbekia Herbstonne, the purple is Common Purple Phlox (smells wonderful!) and the short white flower is a yarrow called Oertel’s Rose. The Oertel’s Rose is about done now. It starts out a bright, hot pink, fades to soft pink and then finally to white before it’s gone for another year.  You’ll find additional photos of this garden here: A Lazy Sunday in the Garden . Check out this post for views of the garden from when it was first planted to it’s first years in bloom: Creating a Perennial Garden

Perennial Garden with Common Purple Phlox, Rudbekia Herbstonne and Yarrow, Oertel's Rose


See you tomorrow for Tablescape Thursday! I’m planning on posting a beach themed table! πŸ™‚

*If a post is sponsored or a product was provided at no charge, it will be stated in post. Some links may be affiliate links and as an Amazon Associate, I may earn from qualifying purchases. *

 Never miss a Between Naps on the Porch post! 

*Subscribe to have updates delivered to your Inbox. 


  1. Great progress! I have to say when you make up your mind to do a project you are awesome. I think all your decisions have been great. I always think of the May Procession when I see spirea. I had forgotten it is deciduous.

    When I make a decision now I always ask, “What will this look like in 5 years?” I don’t want to make more work for myself.

  2. OK. I can’t lie. I get all tree-huggy tear-filled-eye sad when it comes to Death to Trees and Plants…….but yet I knew just KNEW this was the right thing to do.

    Your home looks honestly that much different already – just wow – scary but awesome (and $$$)

    I am excited about your sod, too – that’s what we really need….when they built all these homes they did the minimum amount of top soil which sits directly on good ole’ mid-Ohio CLAY…………..grass doesn’t stand a chance. If I won the lottery I dream of having it all torn up, somewhat de-clayed (if even possible) re-earthed and sodded. Oh dreamy lawn speaketh to me!

    I am living vicariously through you for this awesome transformation you have going on, Susan. You deserve it big time, hon. Whoo hoo SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Me, too Michele. I’ve cried so much the last three months over Max, that making all these tree and camellia decisions has been hard, overwhelming at times. But I’ve thought them all through the best I could and so far I’m pleased with the results. One thing that’s happened is I had totally forgotten how much I LOVED gardening. The yard had just become too difficult to work in with all the random oak trees growing everywhere and all the impossible shade. I can feel the old me that loved gardening coming back now and the exercise I’ve been getting feels so good! Thanks so much for sharing in my excitement! I feel your pain about the clay. We have heavy red, Georgia clay here and it has to be pretty heavily amended to get anything to grow. I hope your gardening dreams come true soon! XO

  3. wow, it looks SO much better. that tree was nothing more than an obelisk cutting the house in half. and with some of the smaller things gone the place looks bigger and reads as a “whole” as opposed to smaller sections. great decisions.

  4. Beautiful perennial garden! I know you hated to pull up all the vegetation in your front yard, and I gasped out loud when you first told us! However, I can see now that the final result will be well worth it! Already, your house and grounds look neater. Everything will be so lovely!

    • Thanks, Rhonda. I think it will be pretty when it’s all done. Still got a ways to go…will be working on it this fall and probably into spring, I’m sure. πŸ™‚

  5. I love, love, love the yard. You can now see your pretty red door!!!! I’am like you I love trees but not when they are too big, too much work and keep the light from coming into the house. Your garden going up the driveway is just beautiful. I have started one going up mine , so far I have planted two Creape Myrtles (yours look great), but I’ll get there someday. There is a row of bushes behind them for privacy with the neighbors. I think you have made the right decision for your yard even though it has been so hard to do with all the crying over sweet Max. Hang in there you will love all of the gardening to come.

  6. Wow oh wow what an amazing difference…I never knew your house extended to the side at all, that part never shows in pictures… seeing one of the garage windows, would love to see the bushes trimmed to see some of the other garage window, it makes the house look so impressively hugggggeee…I absolutely love it and without the tree in front, man what a huge difference…so glad you came to that decision, I am so impressed with the progress…yay for you….

  7. Susan Jones says

    Wow it is quite unbelievable how much removing those trees, especially the oak tree in the middle, has really opened up the front facade(sp?) of your house! I feel you have made all the right decisions. Watching all this transformation has probably been one of my favorite posts of your’s to read and follow. I look forward to the rest of the front yard changes!

  8. Sandi Lee says

    I am so glad you took out the tree in front of the house. I know it was a hard decision but now everyone can see your beautiful home without a big tree interfering with the view. I think you did a perfect job-I love it all.


  10. It’s all looking great! I can sense the excitement in your writing! Love the perennials- the cone flowers look great- I love to touch the center- it always amazes me how it feels! Your rudbeckia is really tall! Like mini sunflowers πŸ™‚

  11. I love coneflowers too! I just found a new coneflower or at least it’s new to me. LOL. It is called red salsa. There is another one that is raspberry colored, but I can’t recall the name.

  12. I can just hear your house breathing a sigh of relief!

    • Ha, I was just thinking today when I was looking at the pics, I think the magnolia is breathing a sigh of relief, too. It thought that River Birch was coming for it! πŸ™‚

  13. Looks fantastic and you can really see the great red front door! I’m not in your neck of the woods so I have no clue what I’d plant, but whatever you decide, I’m sure it’ll look great!

  14. I love everything you have done- including removing the giant oak tree. Usually I am against removing any trees but sometimes you just have to for structural or aesthetic reasons. I think you should pick an area either in front, in front against the house, or in your perennial garden and plant some beautiful flowers and name it, “Max’s Garden” as a tribute to your well loved, sweet fur baby.

    • Me, too Lindia…such a hard decision! I feel like I’ve made a million hard decisions over the last few months…been a rough spring. Thanks, Lindia…miss that sweet boy so much!

  15. Wow opening it up looks so awesome, I love when you can see the house πŸ˜‰ Will keep watching. thanks for sharing with all of us.

  16. Would you consider getting serviceberry? Our arborist and landscape designer loves them, and we now have three in our yard. The berries are edible too!

  17. Susan, even if you leave things exactly as they are, it’s such a huge improvement! Can’t wait to see what you, with your impeccable taste, will do.

  18. I know I like to keep trees too, but when they become more work and dangerous, it’s time to make a decision and I think you did the right thing! I’ve had large oaks just like yours and know exactly what your are describing and the constant leaf raking every years was never ending!!! It looks so much more open now and to get back out and play in the dirt, creating your gardens is something you can now enjoy! Judi

  19. Looks great! I’ve learned over the years that taking out trees is often best for the remaining trees ~ and yet I still poke my lip out and hide in the house every time we’ve had trees trimmed or removed ~ I think because I know I can’t change my mind πŸ™‚ Thanks for the tip on Atlanta Sod as that’s next for us too. Can’t wait to see more.

  20. Susan, thank you for sharing the latest photos. I think the front of the house looks just lovely. It is hard to tell scale in photos, I can see a large tree to the right of the house as you face your front (with equipment parked in front), but can’t tell just how large the yard is in that area. Since the tree to the right is a large canopied tree, if you have enough space, you could always plant an understory tree closer to the street about halfway between that tree and the corner of your house. Not sure I am explaining this well, I don’t mean up against the house, but more toward the street if there is room. I don’t know what small trees would thrive in your climate, but here we have used redbuds and serviceberry and some others with lovely results. Since in design they often suggest groupings of 3, you have the mid size tree to the left (facing the house), the large tree to the right, and so a new small tree would complete the look and result in a staggered height. As for foundation plantings, in our community I had an Aspire Holly planted in a small space where we wanted fullness to the ground, height, but not too much width. When planted it was about 6 feet high and it has grown and looks lovely. Again, your climate is warmer, so my suggestions may be off. I also like to use Dee Runk Boxwoods and laurels and Hellori Hollies. I can’t wait to see your next progress report. MM

  21. Brenda Gray says

    Hey Susan-check out the chinese yew for your shrub area. My home is traditional and these shrubs are perfect for that type landscape. They are a beautiful dark green and their limbs are soft and flowy (is that a word??). Well, the limbs are not stiff like those of the boxwood that were planted at the front of my house when I first moved in. I’ve lived here five years now and they are not quite 3 feet tall. I’m not sure I’ll ever have to do any trimming on them. I live in the northwestern section of Alabama so I would expect they would do well in your area. And the best part is they are full and green year-round!!

  22. Donnamae says

    Your home looks fantastic…so bright! For foundation plants, I would recommend yews. We have them across our foundation, and the best part is you can trim them. I live in Wisconsin…they take the heat well once established, and they are traditional! πŸ˜‰

  23. Pam Smith says

    Susan, I really like how you opened up the front of your is hard to remove large established trees, but sometimes it has to happen. We had 3 large pecans that were a mess. Dropped something all year long, besides the issue with bugs. Never regretted taking them out. I wondered how your your perennials along the driveway looked. I patterned one of my beds like yours. So glad you posted a picture. Beautiful. Can’t wait to see the total transformation of your front yard.

  24. Unbelievable Susan! I can’t imagine all the activity going on at your house lately, and what an amazing transformation! Shhhhhh…can you hear that? It’s your house saying ‘thank you Miss Susan’. πŸ˜‰
    One of my favorite evergreens are skip laurels. Last year I did a post on shade and deer resistant plants and there are pictures there if you want to take a peek. Of course, here in the northeast the climate is different, but they seem to hold up nicely with both sun and shade and have a pleasing shape with pretty little white flowers in the Spring. One evergreen I will advise against is arborvitae. I never had luck with those!

  25. Mary from Virginia says

    What an amazing and smart change. Your house value will have doubled by the time I finish typing. It is just lovely. If I were you I would take pictures and measurements of my yard and current flower beds to a professional garden center that offers free landscaping assistance. Of course, I don’t know your pocketbook, you might be able to get a landscaper to come out and plan your yard. My mother did that years ago, and the yard they designed still remains. It was so pretty and so well done.

    Soft touch hollies are pretty foundation shrubs as are boxwoods. ‘Turner’s Dwarf Pittosporum would probably do very well in your yard. How about a pretty dogwood for the side of your house? Not right up on the corner, but over a little. It has year around interest.

    I’ll be quiet and leave it to the experts. I know it will be lovely and I am so enjoying your yard journey!

  26. Peggy Thal says

    Your yard looks fabulous! Also, your home looks so much larger. That trunk in the front of home is surely not missed. I would still trim that left tree in the fall when it is a little cooler. Love the garden along your driveway. What a big job you had but it is all worth it. I bet you enjoy driving by your own home just to look. We always do that. Congratulations Susan!! Your “new “home is gorgeous. Stay cool!

  27. You know Susan, I am wondering if removing all these trees will have an effect on your electric bill. Mostly in the summer time.

    • It may go up a little since I removed the Leyland Cypress, they were on the west sun and shielded the sun on that side. But they were in terrible shape and looked really bad, so they had to go. My electric bill is so low each month, hopefully it won’t go up too much.

  28. Wow wow and wow, Susan! It’s amazing to see the slow transformation! Your house really makes a statement now that it’s more visible! Projects like this are always so exciting! Thanks for taking us along for the ride!

    xxo laurie

  29. Norma Bethea says

    It looks great already! Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  30. Hi Susan! Oh, I think it was the right decision to take down that tree in the middle of your yard. Now your beautiful home is opened up and shines. You’ve got lots going on and I know everything is going to be so wonderful.
    be a sweetie,
    Shelia πŸ˜‰

  31. Susan,
    I am so excited about what you are doing. I know it must have been hard to remove that large tree in front, but it really looks so nice without it. I can’t wait to see it when it is finished. I love you showing and telling us so much what you are doing. I love gardening and it has given me so much satisfaction, and happiness. I love my home and so enjoy being in my home and working in my yard.

  32. Susan, I have been reading your blog for awhile. No doubt about it, today was the BEST! I love to see before and after shots! Thank You for having the courage to take down and remove All that you have! As I was reading a week ago or so and you talked about the oak, I couldn’t believe that you where thinking of leaving it! My rule is that EVERY tree , bush, shrub & plant all have only so much time to look good and then it’s time to go . You GO girl!! Great job so far and remember , NOW is the time to make any other changes, while you have the workers and everything is disrupted! Can’t wait to see how wonderful your home will look in the end!

    • Thanks, Barb! I went back and forth over that tree, one day…yes, the next day…chickening out. I’m so glad I did decide to go through with it. There will be lots more Before and After posts coming as I complete the landscaping slowly but surely. πŸ™‚

  33. I have a huge pine with azaleas surrounding it right in about the same spot in my front yard that your oak was standing. It obstructs the view of the house but it has been there sooooo long. You may have made me rethink removing it. I’ve been trying to tame the wild (here in MS) and beat the yard back into order for a couple of years now. Your work is looking great.

  34. Pam ~ Crumpety Cottage says

    Susan, everything is looking great. Honestly, I think your house is very pretty and it’s so much easier to see and appreciate now. I actually didn’t find that oak very attractive at all, so to me, removing it and allowing your house to shine was a wise move. You’re really moving fast with this project! πŸ™‚

    We were supposed to have our yard sodded this month as well. We were going to go with Meyer Zoysia, but when we went this weekend to look at some yards they had done, we were quite disappointed. I had thought it was a very dark green, but it’s not. On top of that, it’s dormant 6-7 months a year so it will simply be brown. While it’s in season I want something really spectacular. So now we’re back at square one. πŸ™ We’ll get it figured out. I hope you like your Zeon. I’ll have to look that up. Can;t wait to see your end result!

  35. Oh Susan, the house looks so crisp and clean!!! And yes, its saying ‘thank you’ with a big smile!! I’m a tree hugger also, but ya know they out live their usefulness and have to be replaced. I still like holly for a shrub, there are dwarf varieties, love bayberry and boxwood too. I have hydrangea bushes that I am crazy for and they work very well up here in the north. Don’t know what grows in your neck of the woods!!

    Love the coneflowers, have them also with lavender bushes inbetween and coreopsis and shasta daisies. Have lotsa hosta plants in the rear of the house that faces north and is shady. But those trees are being trimmed in 2 weeks so I hope to be able to get some grass to grow!! Also taking down 2 large elms, they are messy also…………Wonderful transformations are taking place and I’m excited for you and for myself too!!!

  36. Own one house like this is my dream! So beautiful,clean and just like the house in the movie.

  37. Love the flowers – I had planted some last year I forgot all about, and was so tickled when they came back up this summer!

  38. Wow, there was actually a house behind all those trees ha ha! Your house is beautiful and it was being swallowed by those trees. Good move removing the oak as heart wrenching as it was! We removed a huge oak in our old back yard to put in a pool and I was so tormented making that decision. But when it came down , my kitchen was bathed in sunlight it had never seen before! Can’t wait to see more! πŸ™‚

  39. Me too Susan, hate to cut down trees and camellias! Over time things do become overgrown and have to be spruced up! Really looks pretty and you can definitely see more of your beautiful home!

  40. Elaine in Laguna says

    Beautiful! So glad you took out the Oak, too. Can’t wait to read and see more!

  41. I, too, hate the thought of cutting down old trees, especially oaks, but your house looks brand new without it. Who knew what a difference taking out a couple of trees would make! (Wouldn’t it be cool to have a floor made from the oak–or shelves from the birch?) The perennial garden is simply lovely with an English cottage feel. So painterly!
    You might enjoy a butterfly bush. Mine is the size of a small tree with deep purple blooms that smell like honey. They come in a variety of sizes and colors–and of course the butterflies love it.
    You are motivating me to update my “mature” front yard. Perhaps I will finally cut down the hickory tree that is going to cause someone to break an ankle, as well as pull out the nearly overgrown boxwoods. Thank you for sharing and inspiring.

  42. For that bare corner of your house how about Nellie Stevens Holly or Foster’s Holly? Both have ornamental berries and are evergreen. 15 – 20 feet tall, approx 10 feet wide.
    and I definitely would consider the “Majestic Jade” Laurel – 8 – 12 feet tall.

    (And there is always the Emerald Green Arborvitae.)

    BTW, like everyone else, I am so glad you removed the tree in front of your house!

  43. Oh Susan, it’s going to be beautiful when you are done. Great house you have there!

  44. Your house is so beautiful… how wonderful that it is no longer hidden.

  45. You did all the right things! Your home is too beautiful to hide and you have so much foliage I don’t think even everything you removed makes is less green and beautiful – you can just see your house now.

  46. Kelli Culpepper says

    Love the big tree in the center down. You made a great decision – I’m sure it was tricky – it was a great old tree. Love your blog! Your porch has inspired me!

  47. Rattlebridge Farm says

    Everything looks great with the shrub removal. Your beautiful house shines. I did the same thing (need to do more), though I nearly lost my nerve a few tines. Glad they’re gone. The house has so much more sunshine. We have the zoya at our present home, and it is lush and healthy after 7 years (sod). Now, about your flower garden. Susan, it’s beautiful! Your talent for gardening is something to behold. Take care! xx

I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment!