Curb Appeal

7017 Meandering Creek Before Improvement

We often have buyers who have a home to sell.  The most common advice that their Realtors tell them to do to sell their homes quickly is to work on their curb appeal.  Now to some people that might sound like a huge task, but it can be pretty easy and fairly inexpensive if you are willing to put a little elbow grease into it!

We have a home for sale at 7017 Meandering Creek in Parkview Hills that has an elevation that we don’t have any professional pictures of.  We decided that we wanted to get some photographs of it, but the “curb appeal” was a little blah.  We usually save our professional photos for our model homes and they usually have a little extra landscaping, so this was going to have to be a quick project.  I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate curb appeal!

So, of course I volunteered to be the landscaper for this one!  Since it is a new home, there weren’t any dead trees to remove or major overhauling to do.  I thought that a little black mulch would stand out against the white limestone accents on the home and pairing that dark mulch with vivid pink flowers might be the most eye catching combo.  I was really excited to be able to buy beautiful sun loving flowers since my own personal garden is so limited.  I was going to live vicariously through this East facing sunny garden!

My first stop was Mike’s Garden Center.  I love Mike’s because they warranty their plants and they have early bird specials and sales all the time.  If you catch a good special you can find flowers for sale at $0.73 per 4” pot.  Amazing!  Another reason I love my particular Mike’s on Crowley Road is because they are pet friendly.  They have their own birdcage and their own shop kitty and three small dogs.  One of them accompanied me as I selected my flowers.  I loved it!

I bought Vinca and Moss Rose.  I love Moss Rose because it is a creeper.  It will fluff out and go everywhere.  Also it drops seeds like nobody’s business and you will have Moss Rose coming back every year.  And, it doesn’t need a whole lot of water.  Don’t get me wrong, it needs to be watered, but it is very forgiving of this Texas heat and doesn’t mind drying out a bit.  So I loaded up my three flats of Vincas (on sale!) and my one flat of Moss Rose and bought my black mulch.

Of course with all of these plants I needed help getting out of there.  The folks who work at Mike’s are always so nice and one guy helped me load up my car.  No, you don’t need a truck to haul plants and mulch.  I have a two door hatch back and I can get anything in there!  I laid down my seats and spread a blanket over the trunk and seats to keep it from getting soiled and me and my Mike’s buddy loaded up my car.

Filler Up!

There's room for more!

When I got to the home I quickly took a couple of “Before” pictures and got to work.   I have found that it is easier for me if I lay the plants out where I want them to go first.  So I unloaded all of my flats and got to work.  I knew I wanted the Moss Rose to go along the walkway to the entry since it would look pretty there as it began to creep out of the flower bed once it became established.  Vincas will get thick, so I also wanted to make sure I placed them far enough apart to not compete with each other for sunlight.  I also wanted to make sure I planted thickly against the ugly white washout stub in the flowerbed.  You know that thing that looks like a pipe with a lid on it?  You have got to be careful when you are gardening not to completely cover it since you need to know where it is in case you have to snake your sewer line out to the street.

Ready for planting


Once I had my flowers laid out, I just had to get to work!  I used a little gardening spade to dig in the earth.

Washout pipe

As I was digging I quickly noticed that the ground was very clay-ey.  When I was at Mike’s I wondered to myself whether or not I should buy some potting soil, but I decided against it.  Well, I regretted that decision!  But, since I wasn’t removing the old mulch, just adding the new mulch on top, I figured it would be ok.  In my opinion the best way to convert a clay based flower bed to better soil is to dump lots of mulch on it every Spring and Fall.  That’s what I did at my home over the past six years and now I have this incredibly rich soil full of grody earth worms!  They make for healthy plants and occasional frights while planting.

After hours of backbreaking digging and planting, the clouds parted (not really) and a ray of sunshine (it had been sunny and sweltering all day) fell on the pretty new flowerbed.  I was pooped and the thought of adding the mulch made me have a heatstroke.  So I popped on over to Mr. Bentley’s house next door to lounge on his deck and take a couple of pictures of his awesome view.  He’s going to be the subject of the next Celebrity Gossip post.

Ruby says I need a pedicure...

The next morning I was at the home bright and early to spread the mulch.  Sounds easy enough right?  Right!  Today I was wearing my heart rate monitor because I thought I needed to know exactly what my caloric commitment was to this project.  It was a day late and the majority of it was done, but I figured I could do some math and guess.  Mulching burned 640 calories!  Yay!  Ok, way off topic.

Anywhoo, I had four bags of black mulch and I laid them out near the places I thought they would be going.  I opened each one and threw the mulch out and covered up all the old mulch.  Occasionally I had to free some leaves or petals from under a little bit too much mulch, but it was pretty quick work.  The only problem was that I forgot about the tree in the yard.  That made me a bag short.  So I spread it as best I could and it was a little thin at the end.  I was regretting that I didn’t start at the entry and work my way out.  So when I was running out of mulch, I was at the most important place!  Oh well.  Since I was sooooooooo tired after I finished, I decided I would finish the mulch the next time I was at Parkview Hills.  By the time you read this, it will all be complete.  But I did manage to take pictures with what I was able to cover and from the street, you can’t even tell I ran out!

By the end, I was pretty impressed with the effect that some flowers and mulch had on the appearance of the home.  What do you think?

7017 Meandering Creek Lane after sweat equity

The Trials and Tribulations of a Shady Gardener


Shady Problems Solved!

Let me begin with the disclaimer that I am an absolute novice gardener and I have been known to have a black thumb on occasion.  I do take an interest in what goes in my flowerbed, but usually I pay someone to bring the plants and plant them.  But this year I decided to do it all myself.  I have had a really tough time with my flowerbed this spring.  You see I have a north facing home and my flowerbed is mostly in the shade.  I detest shrubbery and I adore flowers, so you can tell that I have quite a dilemma on my hands.  A few years ago I planted some Day Lilies in my flowerbed along the border where I do get patchy sun.  They are pretty big, but they are only in a few spots and I wanted more variety and color.

Daylilies and Impatiens

I Googled Texas shade plants and could find nothing that flowered and that I thought was pretty.  I went to the plant store and found nothing except for Impatiens.  Not cute.  I was yeaning for Gerber daisies and Snapdragons and all sorts of sun loving pretty blooming flowers!  I knew that I had a tiny patch that saw sun for about two hours and I did plant three little Snapdragons there.  Snapdragons, I read, were good for part sun.  I was hoping and praying that they were going to be happy.  I also planted some Lobelia in another part that gets about 2 hours sun as well. 

I knew there were no alternative to the Impatiens so I bought a few different types and tried them out.  After about a week, the impatiens began to grow on me and my Snapdragons looked very sad.  The Lobelia was droopy.  I added some Caladiums that had little blotches of red in the leaves for some variety.  No flowers, but at least they are pretty and flower-like.  But I had to dig up the Snapdragons and plant them in a container in my south facing back yard. 

Caladiums, Agapanthus, Impatiens and More

Well after about another week the Impatiens were fluffing out.  They were flowering and every time I backed in or out of my driveway I was gazing at them.  The Lobelia looked like it was dying, so I dug that up and planted it in my mom’s yard.  I gave in to the superiority of the Impatiens in a shade garden and bought more and planted more.  I also remembered that I had an Agapanthus once in a shady spot, so I bought one and planted it in a tiny, sometimes sunny, spot under my Japanese Maple.  I also got a Diascia and planted it where the Snapdragons used to be.  It was very clearly labeled “2 Hours of Sun” and I knew that would work!

So now that I have stopped trying to make my shade garden into a sun garden, I am finally happy.  There is definitely a lesson to be learned and although I think it’s kind of obvious, I have never shied away from stating the obvious!  You can’t make a shady garden into a sunny one and you can’t make things be other than they are.  The minute you give up trying to impose your will, you will find peace! 🙂

If you have any links to good Gardening Tips, I am obviously in need!  Send me some pictures of your gardening handiwork with a little back-story.  I’ll post them here and we can have a contest and vote for the best one!  [email protected]