As our landscaping is finally coming to a close, I wanted to share what we’ve learned over the 8+ years of home ownership with lots of opportunity to landscape – which means making mistakes and learning from them. We have spent tens of thousands on trees and plants. I would estimate at least $20,000 over the years (but honestly if you break it up over the years that’s about $2000-$2500 a year but also keep in mind our big front landscape costs this year. Trees are not cheap, same goes with plants and garden starters, and the cost of planting them (which you want the nursery to do) – it can all add up.
We have also spent a lot of money trimming, or removing plants and trees that don’t work, safety, died, and that’s another expense. Recently removing our front yard trees (palm trees, juniper, sisso) was $7,000. But the cost of removing a tree can be worth it due to the maintenance (like trimming 5 palms 2x a year!).
The reason I’m being candid about the cost is because I want to save you money – because some of the trees we spent money on are no longer with us, as well as the plants, and I’m hoping this post helps!
Our landscape lessons, mistakes + Tips
- Live in your home for a year to see all 4 seasons before you do anything major, like – build a garden, remove trees, or add a tree. You want to know what windows need shade, which ones are useless and don’t look great on your property, and where the sun hits for the best location for your garden.
- Trees should be placed between windows and used to frame your house.
- Invest in a landscape designer or horticulturist to advise you on what to plant and what might work for your area.
- Decide on a color palette so when you buy flowers it will help when selecting your plants. I removed all red and orange flower plants. The color palette we have is white, pink, and purple with pops of yellow. Think of decor, it’s the same outside as it in inside your home, you have a color palette.
- Don’t plant a sisso. I was told they are the most removed tree due to invasive roots, we removed ours a few years after we planted.
- Don’t plant cat’s claw vines unless you are OK with it being unruly in an area, it will take over and when you try to remove it, it will come back for the rest of your life.
- Consider the lifetime cost of a tree. When you plant a tree, you will need to maintain it and hire a tree trimming service every year so consider the additional cost.
- It is OK to remove plants and trees that don’t bring you joy. I read this from a horticulturist and I felt like it gave me permission to do this! So much relief. She gave me permission, and now I give you permission. Plants and trees will be mulched to return into the Earth. Sure there are some who would argue you shouldn’t, but I am not talking about a rainforest. We have cut down palm trees that have cost us so much to maintain over the years, didn’t offer any shade – we will recoup our money spent to remove them in 5 years. Also plants that stood in the way of our expansion areas, ones that got sick and died, etc. We have planted trees that will provide more value, and blooms for pollinators. We have planted over 10 more trees on our lot, more than we’ve removed that bloom, provide fruit and shade.
- Avoid buying too many lawn ornaments. I bought so many and my garden began to look cluttered I had to give them all away.
- Use mulch around the base of plants that need to retain moisture in dry heat like Phoenix – such as roses. It can retain up to 50% of drip irrigation on hot day.
- If you can plant indigenous trees, do so. We tried to plant a California Eucalyptus and it didn’t make it, and then we replaced it with a single Australian Bottle which looked so dumb where it was planted. Buy plants that are used to the climate you live in to ensure it will survive. Don’t try to force trees to make it here if it’s just not meant to be. You can however, create microclimates in your yard, everyone around the city has different microclimates depending on what’s around – other trees, concrete, etc.
- Understand the maintenance of plants/flowers. For instance, hedge roses don’t need as much pruning – like no need to deadhead for more blooms. I take an electric saw and hedge them to shape, they are fine. Other roses however, need deadheading to have better blooms and also look better – just know the time you want to spend to have pretty flowers, or if you want less of them if you don’t have much time. Depending on your location, you can plant flower bulbs that pop at at different times of the year and never worry about having to replant flowers (unless you want to!)
- Perennial or annual? I spent $20 on flowers brought them home and realized they were annuals. Shoot! Not bad for 10 small plants of course but my goal was to fill that area permanently so I needed a perennial. Next time I will pay more attention.
- Know if you want evergreen or deciduous tree if you want sunshine in the winter. We planted all deciduous trees in our backyard corner because we want the leaves to drop so we can get some amazing Phoenix winter sun on our green grass!
- It’s also OK to spend money on plants that might not be around later. If you’ve enjoyed it, that cost has been worth it. I can’t tell you how many daisies, honeysuckles and even roses have been moved due to expansion or just bad gardening (oops) and it happens. Or, you change your mind.
- Always ask for advice. I don’t know as much as my friend Jill or Anne. They often give me feedback and I appreciate so much!!! I am still learning and while it may seem I know more, it’s only because I’ve done it longer and tried, there are always others who know more and you can ask for their feedback, so don’t be afraid to ask – and even ask the nursery, make sure it’s not a teenager who got a summer job there but someone who truly knows plants and trees!
If you know you will one day hire a landscape designer (we highly recommend K Design who did ours) wait on purchasing any major big plants or trees.
There is a small chance all the plants or trees will stick around once you get the plans back so it might be worth looking into a landscape designer sooner rather than later. It is absolutely worth every penny.
Diana Elizabeth thinks they put in their last HUGE order at the nursery. There is no more room and they won’t mess up landscape plans. Of courses she’s looking at her orchard now and thinking maybe some more fruit trees wouldn’t hurt, like another peach…