This post is sponsored by Lowe’s.
The last time we shared an update on the big exterior renovation at our Michigan Tree House, we had made some huge progress on the home’s exterior finishes! We added window trim where there was none, had all of the existing trim painted white, swapped out a handful of exterior light fixtures, installed new gutters and added a beautiful new storm door. Whew!
Over the last few weeks, our contractor has framed out the big deck extension, started the built-in benches and is working on the new staircases. We’ve teamed up with Lowe’s to bring this entire outdoor vision to life, all while working with what we’ve got – I’m looking at you, tan vinyl siding. Friends, we’re thisclose to being able to enjoy the outdoor space at the front of our home for the first time in two years! But in the meantime, we had some work to do in the form of some beautiful new landscaping. Let’s talk about it.
Maximizing Deck Size
In a perfect world, the expanded deck would have run across the entire length of the front of the house and the existing deck. For better or worse, this enormous, mature pine tree (that we absolutely love) was planted exactly at the corner where the deck would have ended. Since the tree wouldn’t allow for the deck to span the entire front of the house, our instructions to our contractor were to build the widest deck possible without harming the root system of the tree, which worked out perfectly. We ended up with a depth of exactly 10 feet and a width of almost 25 feet! This will result in almost 250 sq. ft. of outdoor living space that was formerly occupied by a bunch of unwanted weeds. We’ll take it!
Prior to the deck being framed out, our favorite landscaping contractor brought his team in to lay weed screen and a healthy layer of gravel under the deck to prevent weeds from returning to their former home. We used this flexible landscape edging to contain the gravel underneath the deck for a clean, finished look.
While we were filthy from all of the shoveling, my dad and I took advantage of the opportunity and extended the edging beyond the deck to further define the border of the gravel driveway. A little bit of excess gravel went a long way and the driveway has a much better shape because of it.
We also used some excess soil to backfill some low spots in the lawn and bring it level with the driveway. We’ve already scattered some seed on the fresh soil, but fear that much of it was washed away in a storm that popped up right as we finished our work for the day. Depending on how things go in the next few weeks, we’ll consider sod in the spring if necessary, but we’ll keep an eye on things in the meantime.
Let There Be Plants!
With the enormous evergreen holding down the corner of the house and the deck coming together in a perfectly geometric shape, we wanted to install a grouping of plants that would soften up some of the hard edges of the newly created outdoor space and brighten things up.
Prior to getting started with the plants, we visited a local stone yard to select these five massive outcropping stones that would define the front edge of the new bed. Once they were delivered, our landscapers came by with a skid steer to help us place them exactly how we’d envisioned. Nailed it!
We then backfilled the area with local well-draining soil to build up the front portion of the bed and raise the level of the plants above the outcrop stones.
We started the plant selection process in the garden center at Lowe’s, carefully selecting plants that would thrive in the light and soil conditions in the front yard and laying them out in groups. We then eliminated any plants with colors that didn’t work well with the rest of the group. Anything that would grow to be too large was also eliminated. With the goal of softening the hard geometric edges of the new deck as well as the existing siding and fence, we chose plants that would bloom and change colors at a staggered interval throughout the year. Here’s what we brought home and planted:
Instant Karma Elderberry | Beautiful light-colored variegated foliage will brighten up shady spaces throughout the summer. These guys will bloom early in the summer and fruit in the fall.
Dwarf Maiden Grass | These ‘dwarf’ grasses are deer resistant and fast growing. They’ll get to be around 5′ tall when mature and will provide visual motion as they sway in the breeze. In Kim’s words, they’re very ‘floofy’ which is just what we were looking for!
Black Lace Elderberry | These dark and moody beauties will throw dainty pink flowers in early summer once established and will provide contrast throughout the rest of the year.
Little Henry Sweetspire (Left) | This trio of plants near the back of the bed will show fragrant white flowers mid-summer with leaves that turn bright red in fall. They’re already showing some orange and pink leaves and we can’t wait to see their constant changes!
Ramapo Rhododendron (Right) | Last, but not least, is the lone dwarf rhododendron. This compact beauty will remain green year round, with stunning bright pink blooms in late spring.
While we were on landscape duty, my mom used our new Kobalt cordless hedge trimmer to give the row of boxwoods a much-needed shapeup – on her birthday, no less! She’s a tough lady with a very green thumb. Thanks, mom!
The deck is shaping up exactly as we planned it and we can barely contain our excitement at the thought of sipping morning coffee in our new rocking chairs while Lucy and her friends run laps around the front yard.
The new color pallet of tan, black and white was described by one reader as ‘pug-colored’ and now we can’t stop laughing at the visualization of the description. To boot, this little house is definitely short and squat, but with lots of personality.
While we were at it, we also spread a healthy layer of black mulch on top of all of our new plantings to conserve moisture and finish things off. Mulch is kind of like the paint of landscaping, don’t you think?
The final phase of the project is nearing completion and our next progress update will be the full reveal! We’re on pins and needles as our contractor sends us periodic photo updates and we work closer and closer toward completion of this hugely transformative project!
I love plant posts! Especially for shady areas in the Midwest. Looking awesome! We put a built in bench around our deck when we built it a few years ago and it’s awesome. Great progress!
We were worried that the shady yard would limit us, but we’re so happy with the plants we found!
Oh my gosh, I somehow missed your trim post. The house looks SO nice and refreshed. Looking forward to this awesome deck!
Thank you! Can’t wait until we can share the full before and after!
Nice deck. I think that is spruce you have not a pine. Maybe Norway spruce.
With the crisp white trim the tan siding doesn’t look bad at all!
Oh, man, that Black Lace elderberry is on my top 5 most coveted plants list. I just adore that dramatic dark foliage & the pink flowers aren’t bad either. Sadly, it would burn right up in the Austin heat, so I must covet from afar. I can’t wait to see everything fill in….it’s gonna look great!