Before & after: How my front yard went from ho-hum to awesome

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Landscape makeover by Busy Beaver
AFTER The design and installation by Busy Beaver Lawn & Garden in my front landscape addressed several issues for me, including having four-season interest. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

by Connie Oswald Stofko

The part of my landscape that everyone sees– the front yard– was so plain it bordered on unattractive. (See the before images below.) I knew what I wanted to achieve, but I didn’t know what it should look like or how to make it happen.

So I called in the experts at Busy Beaver Lawn & Garden and gave them a list of things I wanted to accomplish.

design by Busy Beaver Lawn & Garden
Busy Beaver Lawn and Garden produced images from six different angles to help us envision what the garden would look like. Notice that our existing arborvitae and the neighbor’s fence, left, and the rose bush we kept, right, are included in the picture. Image by Busy Beaver Lawn and Garden

That list included:

  • Create a privacy screen between the side of our porch and the neighbor’s window.
  • Don’t have tall plants in front of the porch. My husband and I like to wave to people strolling by.
  • Make the garden interesting in three or four seasons.
  • Have some color.

After talking about what my husband and I wanted, Elizabeth Bonadonna, owner of Busy Beaver, and her staff created three different designs. It was easy for us to get a feel for the designs because Busy Beaver produced images of how the gardens would actually look at our house.

I wasn’t surprised by the finished garden because it looked like the image Busy Beaver had created.

If you prefer to do the planting yourself, you can have Busy Beaver create a design for you and you can take it from there.

before photo side of porch
BEFORE On the left side of the porch, we had an arborvitae and daffodils in spring, followed by hostas in summer. In fall and winter, there was nothing but the arborvitae. Notice that the side garden and front garden didn’t connect. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
left side of porch after landscaping by Busy Beaver Lawn & Garden
AFTER The garden now curves from the side to the front. The arborvitae we already had remains, and is joined by a dogwood that will get about five feet tall and serve as a privacy screen between our porch and our neighbor’s window. The tree hydrangea ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ has white blossoms that turn pink. The small, round shrubs are ‘Magic Carpet’ spirea and the darker shrubs to the right are ‘Wine and Roses’ weigela. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Shrub to add privacy

When my husband and I sit on the porch in the evening, the sun is often in my eyes, so I turn my chair and find I’m looking into the window of the house next door.

To solve that problem, Busy Beaver planted a ‘Baileyi’ red twig dogwood, which is native to much of North America. It will get about five feet high and can be pruned back if it gets too tall.

garden on right of porch before Busy Beaver work
BEFORE Some spring bulbs and pots were the main focus in the garden to the right of the porch. Near the steps was a clematis in an odd spot that we moved to the backyard. Notice that there is no garden on the other side of the sidewalk, just grass. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko
garden to right of porch after Busy Beaver installation
AFTER The dwarf dogwoods nearest the house have variegated leaves, and the red twigs add interest in winter. The garden in front of the porch now continues to the sidewalk. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

Four seasons of interest & color

The red twig dogwood ‘Baileyi’ is just one of the plants that change and have interest in three or four seasons. It starts out with green leaves that turn red to orange and eventually fade to purple in autumn. It does get flowers and berries, but the berries are considered more attractive than the flowers. When the leaves drop, the red branches add color for winter.

Here are some of the other plants that change through the seasons:

  • ‘Dark Horse’ weigela has dark bronze foliage during the summer. Elizabeth Bonadonna, owner of Busy Beaver, chose it because it contrasts well with the white porch. This weigela also gets  purplish pink tubular flowers.
  • In spring, the new leaves on ‘Magic Carpet’ spirea are a bright red. In summer, they turn bright gold, contrasting with clusters of small pink flowers. In autumn, the leaves turn a rich russet red.
  • ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum looks great from spring to summer, then gets plate-like flower clusters that start pink, then age to rosy russet-red in the fall. The foliage will die back to the ground in winter, but will re-emerge in early spring.
  • ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ hydrangea starts out with white flowers in midsummer, transitions to pink and finally to a deep strawberry pink in fall. 
  • A dogwood cultivar called ‘Ivory Halo’ is a dwarf variety with variegated leaves. Like the ‘Baileyi’, its red branches provide winter interest.
rocks and flowers installed by Busy Beaver Lawn and Garden
AFTER The rocks add color and interest throughout the seasons. The tall succulents are stonecrop ‘Autumn Joy’, the red flowers are blanket flower ‘Arizona Sun’ and the purple flowers are geranium ‘Rozanne’. Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

I think many gardeners are like me. When we think of color, we tend to think of flowers.

Notice how much of the color in this garden is supplied by foliage and even the branches of the shrub. The black mulch contrasts with the plants and lawn. The rocks also add interest throughout every season.

You can contact Busy Beaver Lawn and Garden at info@busybeaverlawnandgarden.com or (716) 393-3575. They have a garden center at 3229 Broadway, Cheektowaga.

16 Comments on “Before & after: How my front yard went from ho-hum to awesome

  1. Hi Connie! Hope you are doing well. I love your new landscaping. Great selection of plants with continuous colors and interest. 🙂
    Busy Beaver also sells plants, they are on Broadway in Cheektowaga.

  2. Hi Sue, the weigela and spirea will stay small, so they shouldn’t need to be pruned a lot. The dogwoods can be pruned back to keep them at the height we want.

  3. Connie, your front yard looks great! What a difference the right plants make. Did they offer any guidance on pruning the shrubs like the weigela and spirea? It’s going to look amazing as the plants grow and you’ll love the red twig when it snows.

  4. I am impressed with the changes–when the plants grow a bit it will be very lovely!
    I am curious about the rose bush. You have full sun in the front of your home?

  5. What a satisfying outcome that you can enjoy for years and years. Busy Beaver Lawn and Garden made your vision a beautiful reality.

  6. Becky, it’s great to hear from you! Yes, we’re doing well and I hope you are, too. Phil was just looking at the before pictures and was surprised at how bad “Cookie’s garden” used to look. That’s the garden to the right of the porch where the dog used to like to sit.

  7. Please add to these photos as the season changes the plantings and they mature over the next few years.

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