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With the cold temperatures finally arriving, our yard/exterior has been looking pretty pitiful. Well, even more pitiful than usual. We aren’t much for landscaping around here.

Evidence of that are our hanging baskets that have been empty all year.

So when I spotted (2) hanging baskets of pansies on clearance at Wal-mart for $5, I just couldn’t pass them up. Sure they won’t last long since I’m sure full fledge winter is right around the corner but heck, they were $5! So a quick and cheap little makeover for the weekend brought a little life to the front of our house.

Doesn’t it just brighten your mood to see a little color during the bleaker months of the year?


You read that right ladies and gentlemen. I actually remembered to water the plants. Well mother nature has helped me out a bit by bombarding our yard with inches of water a day for the past week but before that…I was all over it!

If you recall from this post, I decided to cheat and use a pre-planned garden for our front yard foundation plant beds. Well let me tell you, this is one crime that I am proud of because these plants are actually growing! Thats not to say that we haven’t put a little elbow grease into these suckers. We most definitely spent the time preparing our soil properly before sticking these guys in the ground.

Here is a reminder of what we were working with before.

We had a plethora of overgrown holly bushes and weeds galore. I started by pulling all the weeds from the beds. I’m embarrassed to say that task was an entire day unto itself!

After my knees and legs recovered from that battle, we decided that the holly bushes had to go! After some thorough research we realized that (a) holly bushes are virtually indestructible (b) our’s were planted way to close to our foundation and (c) they are ugly. Because the holly bushes were planted by Moses the previous home owner eons ago, we knew we needed to bring in the big guns. A chain and a truck with 4 wheel drive. Thats right, we chained the bushes to our big ole F-150 and accelerated. Those babies didn’t stand a chance.

 With all the previous shrubbery and weeds out of the way, you would think that it was time to plant. Oh no no no. We had, little did we know, 18 hours left of manual labor before the thought of planting could even enter our minds. The evil word of that weekend was ROOTS. Turns out that ancient plants and no previous owner maintenance gives the future home owner an entire bed of roots. We barely even had dirt left for planting! I manually pulled up roots from both beds ALL weekend long and some I just had to give up on. It was very satisfying though once I removed as many as possible and I had a nice blank slate. To help with the next step of adding compost and top soil, we needed to loosen up the dirt we did have so we rented a tiller from Home Depot for half a day (about $35.00) and loosened up all that southern clay.

After removing all the roots, we were left with a lot less dirt than we started with. A few years ago, Wes and I learned a little trick about landscaping supplies. Don’t buy them from a big box home improvement store. Yep, that’s the trick. It will save you bundles. Instead, we visit a local landscape supply company in town and purchase our edging, mulch, top soil, etc. from them. The only catch…BYOT…Bring Your Own Truck. The products are available to the public but they aren’t neatly packaged like a retail store. You pay by the yard and they just dump it in your truck bed. We paid $20.00 for half a yard of top soil which was MORE than enough for our two plant beds. Had we gone to Home Depot/Lowes, we would have paid more than $50.

So we brought home our superior blend of gardener’s top soil and dumped it right on top of our red clay. *Ok, now you can start thinking about planting*. But before we talk about planting, I must confess something else. You know that I cheated with a pre-planned garden layout but I also cheated by simply ordering the plants from Spring Hill Nursery as well. Yep, mail order plants. Seemed crazy to me too but the more I thought about it, the better it seemed. I didn’t have to troll the aisles of our local garden center only to find that they didn’t have the same plants outlined in the foundation plan and then I didn’t have to worry about selecting any substitutes. My gardening confidence is not nearly high enough for that so I ordered them. They arrived in a nice neat little package with a diagram of how to plant them and that’s all she wrote. Now I have this!

The plants are still small and a few haven’t quite come into their own (hence the empty spots up front) but I think it looks 20 times better than the ancient holly bushes. This weekend I’ll be filling in with dirt around the beds to hide the new edging and level everything out. Then adding mulch to help keep the moisture in the soil and to dress it up a bit. But in the mean time, here are a few close-ups. Happy Spring everyone!

Let me just start by saying that I am an overachiever. Thats right, a self proclaimed overachiever, perfectionist, and darn right annoying about it. I have never in my life (and my mother can attest to this) received an incomplete on an assignment or an unsatisfactory. Nope, never. I’m that girl that everyone hates. Now before you quickly start googling for something that doesn’t make you sick to your stomach, hear me out. I am officially announcing that this statement is no longer true. These days I can’t seem to complete anything.

The Gillen household has become  the place where projects go to die. I am surrounded by a half dozen projects that are 3/4 complete. I’m starting to just get used to it. I mean they aren’t hurting anyone (accept my perfectionism) really. With so few hours in the day and so many things on the to-do list we just can’t seem to complete them all. So what does one do when they have an open weekend and 6 unfinished projects…they start a new one!

Ok, this project wasn’t really high up on the to-do list but after a nice letter from our home owners insurance letting us know that it’s priority needed to change, we gladly bumped it up. See we have about 4 steps up to the front of our house and ever since day 1 we haven’t had a railing there. Pretty unsafe I know but it never really occurred to us to add one.

Here’s a quick before without a railing…

Not terrible right. You don’t really even notice that someone could fall right off the side and injure themselves. Now that our insurance company so kindly pointed it out we figured we better get crackin’. So that we did. On a beautiful weekend a few weeks ago we made our traditional trip to Home Depot on Saturday and started putting the pieces together, literally. Wes and I had never tackled a project like this. Luckily Wes can cut wood like a pro and i seem to make decisions on the fly pretty well when there is a miter saw in my face so we Wes was able to build and attach the railing for the stairs and porch all in a weekend. It was speed building and it was a success!


I probably shouldn’t be sharing pictures like this with the blog world because its dirty, tools are lying around, and wait for it…incomplete but I’m super proud of the new railing. My job this weekend is to sand and paint it a crisp white to match our trim and columns.

Psst…you may also notice some lovely curved flower beds on each side of the house. Another incomplete project but I love the way its coming together. More on that one soon!

Spring is here. Well in the south it’s here one day, summer the next, and then a little fall thrown in just to keep you on your toes.

Now that the warm weather has arrived I have got the fever…the planting fever. Thats right Out of Square is officially embarking on yard work. We have successfully avoided it since the day we moved in. I mean, we mow our lawn like the good neighbors we are but when it really comes to beautifying our humble grounds, we have failed miserably.

First I made the commitment to focus on the front of our house. We have two weed flower beds that are in need of some major attention.


They have these lovely holly bushes that have been there from the dark ages and some new species of weed I’m sure was about to grow the height of our house. We need help!

So I committed. I solemnly swear to make our yard beautiful. This, however, is a completely daunting task since I know NOTHING about plants or grass or mulch or compost or…you get the picture. Thats why this project started with research and lots of it. I trolled some of the obvious spots…Better Homes and Gardens, Do-It-Yourself Network, etc. Thats when I realized I was entirely over my head and I cheated. Yep, I am fessing up. I had no idea how to choose plants for my yard. Was I kidding myself?! I can barely choose a paint color, how on Earth am I going to find the perfect plant for my yard that will grow and thrive in my conditions. What are my conditions?! I have no idea!!

Ok, thats about how the anxiety attack went. Thats when I took a deep breath and started with Step 1.

Step 1 : Determine if the area you are planting in is Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, or Full Shade. So I took notes in a little notebook of mine by the front door and periodically checked the status of my front two flower beds throughout the day one Saturday. And the winner is….Full Shade & Part Shade. One side gets full shade due to the large tree in our front yard and the other gets full shade.

Now I am a symmetrical girl at heart so I knew that I wanted the same plants on each side. Luckily full shade & part shade are virtually the same and the same plants can thrive in both conditions. So with that knowledge in my pocket, I pulled out the big guns…Spring Hill Nursery. The beauty of Spring Hill online nursery is that they have pre-planned gardens. Yes, pre-planned gardens. Can you hear that…it’s angels singing because I have been saved! Saved from complete embarrassment. Now I don’t have to waste the time and money trying to figure out what works in my yard and failing right out in the open for the whole street to see. Instead Spring Hill Nursery will do the leg work for me. That is how I cheated. I scrolled through the pre-planned gardens online and found the Complete Foundation Shade Garden. Shade, check. Foundation, check. It was meant to be.

 The beauty about this garden plan is that it involves a little color. It turns out that a lot of shade loving plants are green, just green. Now I love green and all but in the spring and summer I crave bright vibrant color and this garden will do that for me. Well, hopefully. As long as I can remember to water them. Mental note…water plants.

So now that the hard part is complete, all I have to do is plant. That would be Step 2 which we are right in the midst of. Stay tuned for the hopefully Amanda won’t kill the new plants spring planting adventure!

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