We had been in our new Florida home for two years. During that time, we had gotten a lot accomplished. Interior walls were painted, chair rails were put up and beadboard was installed in the kids’ playroom. The inside of the house looked beautiful. But the outside left a lot to be desired. The landscaping in the front yard had remained untouched. The plants that were growing there were the ones that the builder had included as part of the landscaping. We had unsightly hedges, a couple of yellowing palms and groundcover that had been overtaken by weeds. Up until then, I had done my best to at least keep the weeds out. But now I wasn’t even getting around to doing that. I had thrown myself into every other possible indoor project in an effort to avoid working in the scorching Florida sun. But my gig was up. We were throwing my wife’s brother a surprise birthday party at our house. It was June, it was hot, and my wife was done putting up with my excuses. We either paid somebody big bucks to redo the landscaping or I would need to do it myself. Being the frugal (cheapskate) person that I am, I decided to do it on my own. I figured I’d attack it head-on and took a week off of work. On day one, I stood at the front of my house looking at the job that lay ahead of me and wondered, “Where in the world do I begin?”
After giving that some thought, I decided I would rip everything out with the exception of a robellini palm which didn’t look half bad. Out went hedges, out went ground cover and out went my back. I was beginning to feel my age and I was only one hour into the job. Nevertheless, I continued tearing everything out till all that was left standing was my robellini and three small queen palms. It was beginning to get late so I figured I would call it a day. I would tackle the queen palms in the morning.

When I awoke the next day, everything hurt including my fingers! I never thought that was possible yet there I was with achy fingers. After a quick breakfast, I headed outside to remove the palms. Each tree took me approximately one hour to take out. It was extremely difficult. The roots had taken hold and it was hard trying to get my shovel under the root ball. After loosening the roots and soil with water and after an eternity of pulling and pushing, they eventually came out. Luckily for the palms my neighbor asked if she could have them. I helped her move them across the street and they look much happier in her yard.

Now that everything was cleared, it was time to go to the local nursery and pick-up the new additions. My yard would now be anchored by the robellini on the left and a bottle palm and two foxtail palms on the right. The palms were the first to go in. I thoroughly watered the soil to remove any air pockets that may have collected. The sweet vibernum hedges went in next and were placed along the walls of the house. In front of those, I planted the silver buttonwood hedges. The idea was to trim the buttonwood approximately one foot shorter than the hedges in the back. Their silvery leaves would make a nice contrast to the dark green foliage of the sweet vibernum. The ground cover went in last and consisted of bougainvillea and juniper.

On day three of my landscaping project I laid the groundwork for my low voltage lighting. This was actually easy and enjoyable. Unfortunately, I could not get a real sense of how the lighting would look until night set in. Since I couldn’t do much else, I figured I’d make a run to the local home improvement store and pick-up eucalyptus mulch. The mulch would be my first line of defense against weeds. I wanted to lay it on nice and thick; approximately three to four inchesdeep. It would take eighty bags. By the time I made it home it was dark enough to make the minor adjustments necessary to my landscape lighting. The work was now almost complete.

Laying the mulch was my final task. I started early the following day. Even so, I did not get finished until noon. It was back breaking work. By this time, I even got my wife to help out. I would pop open the bags and dump the mulch strategically in different areas of the yard. She would then spread it out making sure to cover every possible nook and cranny.

The work was finished and I was dead tired. But it looked amazing. Since then, the upkeep has been minimal. I spend about twenty minutes a month pulling weeds and another thirty minutes trimming the hedges. That’s it. Of all the work we’ve done around the house, the landscaping project has been the most rewarding. It gives me great pleasure to drive up to the house where before I’d cringe and hope that my wife wouldn’t notice the weeds.