B’s Outdoor Update No. 3: Your Landscaping Questions Answered

Good Morning! I hope you all enjoyed a safe and happy 4th of July! Anyone else moving a little slow this morning? I blame it on the sheer amount of junk food I consumed yesterday. Haha…  I went a bit overboard, but man it was so worth it. Haha!

Now that 4th of July has come and gone, summer is pretty much halfway over for this teacher. I know, I know… too soon to think about that, but also a good “checkpoint” for me to review the progress of my summer to-do list. Today I’m going to check-in on our progress and then answer a lot of the questions you guys submitted about our landscaping project as a whole. That way we can all get on the same page before moving forward with the rest of the project (like furnishing the patio!).the landscaping before the makeover


landscaping after makeoverLandscaping To-Do List: 78% Done

Your Landscaping Questions Answered

We’ve made some serious progress since June 1st and only have a few more things to do. As you can tell by my notes on the to-do list, most of the items that are remaining on the list are in progress so the list should be done in the next month or so. I promise to keep you updated on those developments as they happen (especially on InstaStories). Until then though, I’m here to answer the most FAQ’s I’ve gotten about our landscaping overhaul.

How much did this project cost?

This was by far the most asked question, so let’s get right to it. I’m not usually one to talk about money, but in honor of transparency and giving others an idea if they are budgeting for a similar project I’ve decided to “go there”. The cost of removing all old plants, rock, brick, planting new plants, adding mulch, laying the patio, and upgrading the mudroom walkway was $10,000. GULP, I know… hard for me to swallow too.

how much does it cost to hire landscapersTen thousand dollars is A LOT of money, but this was a project we knew we wanted to do when we bought the house. It’s an expense we budgeted for back then, so although I wish we didn’t have to spend that much money, it, fortunately, wasn’t a surprise expense.

How do you budget for such a large expense? Do you take out a loan or save?

This is another FAQ and one we can definitely do a better job at addressing here on the blog. But, like I said before… chatting about money is always a bit awkward. If this is something you’d like broken down even more, let us know and we’ll make it happen.

But long story short, we save for all of our projects and would rather live without an upgrade than taking out a loan. Matt and I are committed to living below our means so that we can afford the projects we tackle. For the first 5 years together, we lived in a house that was well below what we could afford so that we could save to make our next house exactly what we wanted. We also both work two jobs, live simply on an everyday basis, and put our top priority on making our house one that we love.

how did we save money on our landscaping?This means we skip out on extravagant vacations, buying nice cars, or even going out for expensive nights on the town (we’re up for a frozen pizza any day!). Call us lame, but we would much rather skip those things and splurge on our house instead. This philosophy is definitely not for everyone, but hopefully, it gives you a little insight into how we make the decisions we do when it comes to spending money.

Where were you able to cut costs?

I’m ALL about cutting costs and we definitely could have by adjusting the size of the patio, planting fewer plants, or just lessening the scope of work. And even though I was extremely tempted to do so, I needed to push myself to spend the money upfront and not cut corners. I didn’t want to look back in 2 years and kick myself for not splurging on the patio size we wanted because it cost a bit more.

how do you know how much landscaping will cost?However, we did opt out of getting our walkway leveled because it was going to cost $400 and I just couldn’t stomach paying that much for a project Matt and I could DIY. I’m sure some of you may be thinking, “you just paid 10k for this project, what’s another $400?” But still, I just couldn’t do it. $400 is a lot of money!

Where did you find your landscapers? how do you find landscapers to hire?

I’m a part of a large community Facebook group that acts as a message board for recommendations in my area. I posted in the group asking for local landscaping recommendations and quickly got about 10 recs. I started visiting each of the landscapers’ websites (and Facebook pages) to look at their work and read customer reviews. Then followed up with a few of the companies that made a positive impression on me online. From there I got two companies to come out and give me quotes and knew from both the price and level/quality of communication who I wanted to hire.

How did you figure out what plants you wanted?

The struggle is real for people like me who are a bit clueless about plants/landscape design. Matt and I have talked about what landscaping “looks” we like as we are out on our daily walks. We both had a general idea of what we wanted our landscaping to feel like and definitely knew what we didn’t want (i.e. old-fashioned bushes!) but had no idea of how to make our vision a reality.

When the landscapers came out for a free bid, they sent a sketch of specific plant designs with their proposals. Last time we hired a landscaper, we didn’t know to ask for this and regretted the landscape design. We were much better advocates about requesting this information this time around and were so glad we did so we knew what we were signing up for (and could make changes prior to starting).

rendered photos of landscapingThen we actually got super lucky because a friend of a friend is a landscape architect that volunteered to photoshop these suggestions into a rendered photo of our home so I could get an idea of what the layout would look like. This helped SO much, but I realize this isn’t an option for everyone. As I researched companies, I did learn that some of the landscapers will provide this same service for a couple hundred bucks extra. I personally think this is worth the money because you’ll be able to see what the plan is and adjust it until you find the set up you love.

For those who can’t find this service, I would recommend looking up every plant the landscaper suggests and printing out a picture of each. Then you could take all of the photos and see the plants together. This isn’t the ideal way to visualize the before and after, but it’s definitely better than being surprised with plants you don’t love when it’s too late. #beentheredonethat

Which plants did you choose?

landscaping progress after plants

From right to left (looking at the photo):

1 Magnolia
3 Spirea Double Play
1 Green Mountain Boxwood
3 Sedum Autumn Joy
8 Lights Kobol Purple
3 Miskim Lilac
2 Endless Summer Hydrangeas
2 Green Velvet Boxwoods
2 Green Velvet Boxwoods
3 Korean Spice Viburnum
8 Allium Millenium
2 Purple Sandcherry
3 Spirea Double Play
1 Magnolia Anne
1 Endless Summer Hydrangea
3 Sedum Autumn Joy
4 Sesleria Autumnalis

Any tips on the best way to boost curb appeal without completely blowing the budget?updating curb appeal by painting the front door

I definitely don’t think all new landscaping is a priority for most people. Instead, there are lots of things you can do to improve your curb appeal without breaking the bank! We actually have a whole post about that coming up towards the end of July, but some ideas I can think of now include painting your front door, updating your address plate (like we did in our last house), updating the outdoor light fixtures, adding shutters, spray painting items like old planters, the mailbox, or even second-hand patio furniture!

How did you estimate a budget?

I would suggest getting some landscapers to come out and give you a free estimate. Almost all of the companies I called provided free estimates with no strings attached. This may be a great opportunity to get a ballpark number and also a great time to talk through some of your ideas with the landscaper. I found just talking out my ideas with them helped me figure out my ultimate plan.

Were you going for a certain look or was there a reason you chose certain plants over others?choosing the right plants for your landscaping

I knew I wanted fewer bushes and more plants. And like I said, Matt and I also took note of ideas we liked as we walked around our neighborhood. There’s one house in particular that we really liked and we modeled a lot of our decisions on theirs. Plus, we took a lot of suggestions from our landscapers and tried to choose a variety of colors and textures! He also suggested planting like things in groups rather than one of all different kinds, which made sense!

Could you talk more about *why* you decided to replace all the plants?

The pictures of our old landscaping actually make it look better than it did in real life. It was a hot mess, which is one of the main reasons why we chose to swap it out. But we also see this as our forever house and tell ourselves that we work so hard to save so that we can make the changes we want (and try not to feel bad about it), which is another reason we opted to take the plunge and swap out the landscaping for what we love. We hope to spend lots of time out there for years and years and years to come!

Any bloggers that you follow with a green thumb?


why we decided to invest in our landscapingwhy we love our new landscaping and how we got hereI know it sounds elementary, but walking around and talking about what we love and didn’t love for the past year or two has definitely made both Matt and I more aware of our landscaping style. I, unfortunately, don’t follow any blogs that really dive into landscaping but wish I did. I know Katie shares a lot about her DIY garden and Chelsea is the queen of growing peonies, but we could definitely add more landscaping experts to our list of blogs we follow. Any suggestions?!

updating our landscaping and answering your questions

More to Come!

Thank you for submitting your questions and for following along on our landscaping journey. We still have a lot of work ahead of us (I haven’t even introduced you to Phase 2). It’s been fun bringing you guys along for the ride and continue to learn so much for your comments, emails, and messages. Thank you! I’ll be sure to check back soon with more updates, until then… enjoy the rest of this holiday week!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

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