Backyard Updates | Before & Afters

Our latest ginormous home project we have been tackling is our backyard! When we moved in it looked like this…

To be honest, I didn’t think it was all that bad. However, Matt’s vision went well beyond anything I could have ever imagined for this space. He saw plush green grass, tons of open space for the kids to run around, no gum balls and my hydrangea & peony dreams coming true. But for this to happen, we had to rip everything out of the backyard and start over from scratch. We received professional opinions from 5 different lawn companies before getting started. It’s going to be a long process but it’s been awesome to see the transformation so far. A few before & afters for ya:


First, we had to remove what felt like a million trees. Most of them were either rotten and leaning in uncomfortable directions or were evil gum ball trees that had to go. Then we ripped out all of the existing “landscaping” throughout the backyard.


Once the trees and shrubs were gone we pressure washed our fence and stained it black. It was a risky move but turned out awesome, just as Matt had promised.




We had a french drain installed to move water away from our house to prevent our flower bed under our gutter from flooding. It was pretty much a mud pool against our house and into the yard every time it rained. This expense sucked but was unfortunately necessary. While installing our french drain we learned we had several breaks in the sprinkler system (which explains our insane water bills) and ended up replacing a lot of the sprinkler system. Fun times.


Plant, plant, plant, plant! With expert advice from our landscaping company we selected all of our plants based on where certain things in the backyard were most likely to thrive. The company also guided us to make sure we would have pops of color all year long, which is definitely something I would have overlooked. Once we made up our final selections we had 80+ plants planted and 12 yards of black cypress mulch spread — all in one day!

Our final plant inventory:

  • 12 endless summer hydrangeas
  • 10 autumn fire reblooming azaleas
  • 8 kanjiro camellias bushes
  • 6 miss molly butterfly bushes (Caroline’s request)
  • 6 peony bushes
  • 6 french lavender plants
  • 6 patriot hostas
  • 6 stained glass hostas
  • 6 holly ferns
  • 4 jubilation gardenias
  • 1 limelight hydrangea tree
  • lots of trays of annual flowers (begonias, pansies, etc.)



I’ve received a lot of questions from readers asking for advice on our hydrangeas! I wish I had a secret to share but the truth is they are brand new, so maybe ask me at the end of summer if they are still alive. Most of our hydrangeas get full sun all morning and shade in the afternoons. We didn’t use any special soil but Matt has been very diligent fertilizing them regularly. Matt also keeps maximum surveillance at all times on them because he knooooows how badly I want to cut them and bring them inside — but he says NO and that apparently we would jeopardize the awesomeness of next year’s blooms if we cut these early. BAH! Will someone find me a google article that states otherwise?!






Grass! As you probably noticed our grass is undergoing a serious overhaul right now. Most of the yard was just weeds so we ripped out a lot of the yard, had it graded to level it out a bit, brought in 10 tons of new dirt to replace the clay and then laid seed. It’s going to take several seasons before our grass is fully grown in but Matt is so excited. In fact, I’ve never seen someone so excited about…grass!

I should also note that last weekend Matt installed a trim around the flower beds to keep the mulch from sliding into the yard. And it looks so good!

There are a few other projects ahead for the yard but we are loving the progress so far and have been spending SO much time in the backyard this summer enjoying it.



  1. Jen
    June 20, 2018 / 7:08 am

    Looks beautiful!!! The price tag had to be insane lol!! Yard work is so expensive

  2. June 20, 2018 / 7:19 am

    So beautiful already! Your hard work paid off

  3. June 20, 2018 / 9:06 am

    do you get your yard treated for mosquitoes? I live in NC too, and the bugs are so UNBEARABLE most of the year you can hardly go in the yard! Also, as far as hydrangeas go – I have a bunch and I think less is definitely more with them. Just leave yours to do their thing, and cut off the dead blooms in fall or spring and they will probably just go to town on their own.

    • June 20, 2018 / 2:38 pm

      YESSSS. We started using Mosquito Guard last year during the summer months so we could actually GO OUTSIDE. In years past we never used our backyard because we would be eaten alive!

  4. June 20, 2018 / 9:51 am

    It looks amazing! What a transformation!

  5. June 20, 2018 / 10:58 am

    It looks great! Lavender is such a good choice–we have struggled hardcore with our front yard flower beds, and I finally gave up and replaced a ton of more “interesting” (and dead) plants with lavender… now it looks great.

    • June 20, 2018 / 2:40 pm

      the lavender is growing in so pretty too. I am so glad we picked it!

  6. Debbie Kimrey
    June 20, 2018 / 10:59 am

    Beautiful, love the hydrangeas! Can’t wait to see the peonies.

  7. Emily King
    June 20, 2018 / 11:06 am

    If your hydrangeas have woody stalks and green stems you can cut the green all you want but leave the woody stalks. Those Hydrangeas are established. You don’t want to cut brand new ones from Lowe’s but if you get them like that from a landscaper you should be fine to cut them.

  8. June 20, 2018 / 11:13 am

    Wow, it looks absolutely beautiful! How fun to watch it all come along in phases!

  9. June 20, 2018 / 11:57 am

    What a transformation! #nailedit (I’d be wanting to cut those babies as well – way to go Matt haha!)

  10. Abbie HAwks
    June 20, 2018 / 1:10 pm

    Wow!! What a transformation! It looks great!! What landscape company did you go with to help make the decisions on the plants?

  11. Lexie
    June 20, 2018 / 5:46 pm

    Hi new BFF! I so want to cut some of my hydrangeas to bring inside but I only have three bushes in the front yard and I don’t want to take away from the curb appeal. Maybe Matt will let you cut one from each plant?? I know the blooms are alive but I thought deadheading helped for new growth?! The yard looks amazing!!

  12. caleyjaderosenberg
    June 21, 2018 / 7:34 am

    Wow!! How stunning my friend?! As for those hydrangeas x

  13. Laura
    June 21, 2018 / 1:50 pm

    My husband is also obsessed with grass! When we moved in last summer the yard was a mess so I kinda get it but I swear I hear about our lawn several times a week. I feel you on the insane water bills – ours was $650 last month and we are on .3 acres. We’ve had several irrigation companies come out and no one can figure out the problem. I die every time I get the water bill!

  14. June 21, 2018 / 9:22 pm

    It looks SO good!! We need to have a French drain installed too 🙁 we have gotten two quotes so far and OH MY GOSH why are those things so expensive??? Have you noticed a difference since y’all had yours installed? Our backyard is a swamp with any rain, so annoying!

    • Christina
      June 22, 2018 / 10:41 am

      SO painfully expensive (and wasn’t even on our radar!) but YES, it has helped significantly and see how it was necessary now to keep the swamp out.

  15. June 25, 2018 / 4:48 pm

    Your hydrangeas are beautiful and the yard is coming along quite nicely. I wish I could work up the energy to go after ours… our house had the best landscaping when we bought it. The renovation basically killed everything… and I haven’t touched it since. lol… sigh.

  16. June 26, 2018 / 12:22 pm

    Gorgeous! My family and I just bought our first home and am slowly getting into giving it a makeover one room at a time. This gives me hope that we can do it on our own!

  17. July 2, 2018 / 3:06 am

    That is really quite a bit of work done, why are you saying you took a risk to stain the fence black?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Close Me
Looking for Something?
Post Categories: