Before & After: Curb Appeal

Mr. Whitaker and I love agriculture. It’s why we have four degrees in the field, between us. Both of us agree, though, that if we could go back and do it again, we’d both major in horticulture. Of course, I would exclude indoor plants because I kill them everytime. But seriously…

When we moved into our home more than a decade ago, we loved all the brick work around the planting beds. For about five minutes. Our kids stood on the brick by the front door and promptly broke it (even though we fixed it a ridiculous amount of times over the years) and that’s when we started dreaming about overhauling the front landscaping. Repeat after me: “so much brick.” Also over the years, the brick surrounding our trees began to break as the trunks grew and we knew that it was impeding the growth of our trees as well as becoming increasingly dangerous for the kids to be around.

The problem most home builders encounter is a lack of patience. To sell houses, and a neighborhood, they overplant shrubs to “fill in the space.” And, as those plants grow most homeowners realize it was too much in a small space, yet live with overcrowded beds, that are monochromatic (green) year round and have no textural differences. I realize this makes me a landscaping nerd. Guilty.

We always enjoy a good DIY project, so after more than a decade, during pandemic and a multitude of stressful world events, we opted to employ a little landscaping therapy. There’s something about digging in the dirt that calms the heart. Scott ripped out all the bushes one weekend by attaching a tow chain to the back of our van. I hear the neighbors loved it. I don’t think I can emphasize enough just HOW many shrubs were in those beds (and we even thinned them out by almost half when we first moved in back in 11 years earlier).

Then, a concrete crew busted out all our bricks (including those around the trees) and front entry pathway, then repoured a wider, slightly curvier, entryway. And yes, we busted the irrigation line. Ha! It was inevitable with that tight space and a Bobcat.

It’s worth noting our desire to make the front entry one that was blessed by Jesus and surrounded by Mary. Before the crew poured the new concrete, Anna-Laura and I stood at the doorway and prayed a decade of the rosary, then laid the rosary and a prayer card in the dirt. It was a particularly meaningful moment as the crew paused and stood silently by. We absolultely loved having that crew, praying for them and thanking them for blessing every person to enter our home. Gratitude and intention, they can change your day.

Then, it was time to start planning the planting beds. The bed on the right gets a decent amount of sun in the afternoon and early evening, whereas the bed on the left is full shade pretty much the entire day. We used these dwarf fountain grasses to tie them together and lined the bed and the walkway with two different kinds of dwarf liriope. The nandina and the loropetalum were the base for the bed on the right and the tree and flax lilies were used on the left. My best planting advice is two-fold:

  1. Take pictures of your beds at different intervals during the day (morning, afternoon and early evening) and then share that with the nursery. They are so knowledgeable!
  2. Be honest with yourself about how much time you want to spend keeping up the beds (trimming, pruning, etc.)

After we had the layout of the beds, but before we started planting, our irrigation guy came out (ask for Denim!) and reworked our system so it had better coverage. And, since the concrete guys busted a line, it was a good opportunity for us to do it. Hazard of the job. We also inserted two “sleeves” (aka PVC pipes) under the entry way on both sections before they poured the concrete for easier access for the lighting wires and the irrigation system. It worked beautifully.

Then, we got to planting. Dang, was that therapeutic. And a lot of work!

The last piece of the puzzle was installing new house numbers and showing them off with landscape lighting, including up lights on the house, the trees and pathway. Remember, you want to highlight the landscaping, not your sidewalk, so refrain from an airport runway approach. John, our contact (and good friend) at Landscape Lighting was incredibly helpful in helping us choose the right fixtures and Mr. Whitaker was a pro at installing them all. We ended up with three path lights, four uplights on the house (on either sides of the windows) and three uplights on our three trees.

Here she is! We couldn’t be happier. If you see Scott and I out front just staring at soil and plants, just keep walking. It’s our happy place now!

Vendor Credits
Concrete: one of my fabulous clients!
Lighting: Landscape Lighting Supply Company
Plants: Shoal Creek Nursery (variegated liriope), Barton Springs Nursery (variegated liriope), Round Rock Garden Center (flax lilies, variegated/green liriope) and Green and Growing (dwarf fountain grass)
Tree: Moon Valley Nursery (podacarpus tree, gulf stream nandina, semi-dwarf loropetalum)
Mulch: Whittlesey Landscape Supplies (Texas native hardwood mulch)
Irrigation: ABC Irrigation
House Numbers: Urban Mettle


  1. Erin Thomas on June 30, 2022 at 11:10 pm

    This part of the newsletter intrigued me because I am about to single handedly start our landscaping from scratch. We are in a new construction that is now 5 years old and we still haven’t done a single thing in regards to landscaping. I’ve taken pics and started sketching a little, but these words here are like a FOREIGN LANGUAGE.
    Now I’m off to google all the things you mentioned!!
    Job well done – it’s BEAUTIFUL! And it sounds like so much fun. (We love this type of handiwork!)

    • Kathryn on June 30, 2022 at 11:27 pm

      Ha ha.If you need me to translate anything, just holler!

  2. Nicole on July 6, 2022 at 10:31 am

    I love it! During the pandemic, we had to re-do some of our landscaping. We had to have some work done on the house the year prior and, as a result, had pulled out many plants. We started from a partially blank slate. It was so fun to go to a new-to-us nursery and talk to the folks there to get tips. They really do know their stuff! two years later, and replacement of a couple of those plants due to rabbits eating them, I still love it. Now to fix the lighting situation. It’s like putting earrings on an incredible outfit.

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