It’s Almost Planting Time

As the house nears completion (hopefully only about four weeks away!), we’ve spent the last month researching landscaping options. I’ve heard that most new construction projects end up devouring the homeowner’s entire budget and landscaping is usually the first item to get axed, so I’ve been anticipating that the same would happen with this project. Thankfully, we’re currently still less than $10,000 over our original budget so we can follow through with landscaping.

In talking to a few landscape design firms, it quickly became clear to me that “landscaping” can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. For $500, you can put a lawn in, and for $250,000, you can create your own Buchart Gardens. Solo design/landscapers may charge as little as $25 a hour while high end firms are closer to $100.

My problem with spending a lot on landscaping before we even move into the house is that I’m really not sure what sort of scheme will work best yet. There are a few things we know we want like black bamboo and an understated Japanese motif, but beyond that, it’s a crapshoot. For that reason, we’ve hired a woman named Alex Tomy (of Alexandria’s Creations) to collaborate with Build on a design that will get us off to a good start and let us make any modifications or enhancements later. Alex has been taking care of two of our neighbors’ houses for over 10 years so she knows the micro-climate better than anyone. While Build handled the hardscape design, Alex is handling the flora.

We decided to concentrate 80% of our effort on the front yard and 20% on the south side yard for now, since those are the areas in most need of design. The backyard (pictured in the header of this blog) is already beautiful, and although it will get a trim and a bit of a refresh, it can wait.

We also decided to go with a ryegrass/fescue lawn in front, despite some earlier flirtations with ground cover. Thanks to Dave’s encouragement, I think we can easily handle the small amount of maintenance that this will require… and if not, there’s always neighborhood kids to do the mowing. We will, however, be using ground cover in the backyard when we get around to it.

Finally, we also decided to line the house and many paths leading to and around it with black mexican beach pebbles. See this concrete path for the inspiration behind the idea. I’ve always loved this look, and for about $1300, we got 6000 pounds of them… enough line the entire house and probably also create a fire pit with.

I don’t have the final bills for landscaping related stuff yet, but I estimate the actual planting part of it (i.e. minus the hardscapes, decking, etc.) will come around $7,000.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of what’s going in and a PDF of Alex’s handcrafted plans:


  • Hydrangea Macrophylla (Red Mopheads)
  • Hydrangea Quercifolia (Alice)
  • Nandina Domestica (Moon Bay)
  • Nandina Domestica (Moyer’s Red)
  • Osmanthus Burkwoodii
  • Osmanthus Delavayi
  • Pittosporum Tobira (Mock Orange)
  • Pittosporum Tobira Variegata
  • Rhaphiolepis Umbellata (Gulf Green)
  • Viburnum Carlesii (Compactum)
  • Cupressocyparis Leylandii (Leyland Cypress)
  • Lavandula Stoechas Otto Quast (Spanish Lavender)
  • Lavandula Intermedia Grosso (Fat Bud French Hybrid Lavender)


  • Carex Buchananii (Viridis)
  • Carex Morrowii (Ice Dance)
  • Carex Pendula (Drooping Sedge)
  • Festuca Glauca (Elijah Blue)
  • Liriope Muscari (Big Blue)
  • Liriope Spicata (Silver Dragon)
  • Ophiopogon Planiscapus Nigrescens (Mondo Grass)
  • Pennisetum Alopecuroides Moudry (Fountain Grass)
  • Phormium Tenax Rubrum (Red New Zealand Flax)
  • Phyllostachys Nigra (Black Bamboo)
  • Stipa Tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)
  • Yucca Filamentosa (Adam’s Needle)


  • Helleborus Hybrida (Ivory Prince)
  • Helleborus Orientalis (Blue Metallic Lady)
  • Hosta Hybrid (Krossa Regal)
  • Hosta Sieboldii (Elegans)
  • Lilium Oriental Lily


  • Clematis Armandii (Snowdrift)

Ground Covers

  • Veronica Repens (Georgia Blue)
  • Perennial ryegrass and fescue mix for front lawn

One Response to “It’s Almost Planting Time”

  1. Jason Says:

    Hey Mike,

    This is a great blog!…I’m a designer starting my own practice and some these information is even helpful to me. Sometimes, when we spend most of our careers in a big office we are sheltered from real everyday information like you’re providing.

    You mentioned you’re around $10,000 over budget (which is nothing when you’re building a house), so what is your budget? I see the amount you’ve put in and was wondering if that included the property.
    I’ve tried reading most of your blog and don’t remember if you mentioned what the total living square footage of the house ended up…thanks and again, awesome blog!