Landscape Plan was a Great Investment!

How to Get Great Landscape Design for Less Money

A landscape plan using landscape design focused on your personal home can help make your house look great, and it can be a great investment. Front landscaping just makes you feel good when you come home after a hard day at work. Plus, it can add significant value to your home. Professional landscaping can be expensive, but there is a way you can get the awesome results of professional landscaping without spending a fortune.


Front yard landscaping before

Landscape Problems

The problem I had was pretty common. I lived in a relatively modest, new neighborhood.  What landscaping there was, was done by the builder. It was the bare minimum, and the plants, trees, and bushes were not exactly the highest quality landscaping material. Plus, the soil in my neighborhood was horrible! In my yard, it was mostly clay mixed with crush and run. Hard do great landscaping with bad dirt!

Landscape plan with landscape architecture, showing yard design, landscape design, backyard designs, and landscaping ideas.

Landscape Plan "sketch" showing yard design and landscaping ideas I asked for.

Landscape Architecture to the Rescue

My first step was to find a local professional landscape architect. Luckily, I had worked with one before in my day job. So, I hired him to come up with a simple landscape plan for my house.  I went over my current situation and explained what I wanted to end up with. I needed a landscape plan for a yard that was

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    Great Looking
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    Easy to Maintain
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    Drought Resistant.

I wanted plants, shrubs, and hedges that were one or two steps above what the builder had used.  But I didn't want to have to pay expensive stuff or to have to baby exotic plants. Finally, I talked to him about his suggestions for what type of grass to use, and whether to put in a sprinkler system, drip irrigation, or some other type of irrigation system.

Second Step: Fixing the Dirt

I had horrible dirt. To fix it, I had 2 dump trucks of compost - not topsoil -  brought in. I killed what was left of the fescue grass with roundup, and then spread the compost (about 3 inches deep), tilled it in to about 6-8 inches, and then re-graded parts of the yard by hand. (Mistake!)

The compost was available locally at a municipal dump, and the folks who run it gave me the name of a dump truck driver who frequently delivers for the cost of the compost plus a very reasonable fee.

BONUS Step: Irrigation System

While I had the whole yard dug up, I added an irrigation system / sprinkler system. You can see some of the photos of that part of the project below. They do a good job of showing all the landscaping material that wasn't there before I got started.  

(If you're interested in me doing a separate post about the irrigation system, just let me know know in the comments below.)

Next Step: Buying Plants and Bushes

The landscaping plan called for a complete overhaul of my front, side, and back yards. It meant purchasing large numbers of shrubs and trees. For example, the plan showed the side yards edged with a total of 54 dwarf Yaupon hollies. Around here, big box improvement stores and garden supply stores routinely sell 3-gallon dwarf Yaupons for $15 a piece. In the backyard, the plan showed 10 fortune tea olives. Regular retail on 5-gallon fortune tea olives was about $90 per plant.

When I saw the numbers adding up like this, I started asking around about wholesale nurseries.  I found one or two not too far from home. That also made a huge difference in my total cost.

"After" Landscape Plan was Executed

Here's the short video again, showing the before, during, and after.

Mistakes to Avoid!

Doing this landscaping home improvement project was a big adventure.  I've have been very happy with the results, but I made some key mistakes along the way.  I want to share those with you so that you can avoid them and save yourself aggravation, time, and money. So do yourself a favor and grab my free quick checklist of mistakes to avoid:

About the Author Christopher Simmons

Christopher Simmons is a homeowner in the Raleigh, North Carolina area who enjoys home improvement projects.

Leave a Comment:

Bob says October 7, 2010

You did an outstanding job – well done. It is really fun working with enthusiastic people.
It’s interesting what you noted about the cost of watering vs. the cost of sod; I’ll surely keep that in mind. Again, well done, and thank you for the kind words.
Bob Peter

Rich says October 7, 2010

Very cool. We did a similar thing with our yard using Laura Kiper with Kiper Landscaping to draw up a plan. The landscaping plan really helps you feel confident about what you are doing and you can still make changes along the way (or over time) as you see how it all comes together.

Old Stage Road Nursery is awesome. If you really know what plants your are after (meaning you can recognize them if you see them), then you can go across the road to Broadwells and get plants even cheaper. Old Stage Nursery was where I’d go when I needed a little more hand holding (or at least labels) in choosing plants.

Great job!


Donna says October 7, 2010


I really like the fact that you have detailed each process, the estimated cost, and recommendations of vendors for the products. The honesty in “what we would do differently” should be very helpful.

Overall, I found the information very detailed and informative.

Uli Wiegand says October 7, 2010

I pesonally visited the house a few times. I saw it before and after. The work Chris did is amazing. He transformend the yard from a “contractors wastsland” into a green scanctuary. Well done Chris. Congratulations.
– Uli Wiegand

    Christopher Simmons says October 22, 2011

    Uli, Thanks very much.

Rachel Daniel says October 12, 2010

Amazing! So one day when Matt graduates and I have a yard, instead of hiring a professional landscaper, can I just hire you? We can barter. I will babysit my cousin once removed while sharing a bottle of wine with your wife. You can work in the yard while we relax. I will even allow you to use my free labor, Matt Daniel.

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