A North Carolina 'Fixer Upper' Gets New Life!

Back in 2005, when my husband and I had much more energy than we do now, we purchased a 'fixer upper' home (Let's just say somewhere in NC.) This home was originally built by a local, now defunct, home builder. We fell in love with the property, 5 acres complete with a creek alongside, pond and barn. The home needed updating, but had the four bedrooms and baths that we needed for our family. Lastly, the price was right (unbelievable, really.)

In this article, I will only discuss the outdoor improvements we made, (not to mention the entire gutting of the inside of the house that ensued at the same time.) Needless to say, we will never undertake a project like this again! Now, ten years later, we own just about every tool known to mankind. We also know how to pour concrete, install stone veneer, showers, tile, suspended ceilings and lay hardwood floors, use a Bobcat, and build a retaining wall by hand. We are tired, very tired. These pictures will immortalize our outside efforts.

The picture above shows the condition of the 'front' of our home - which is in reality the back. You can see the condition of the landscaping, i.e. moss, and some minimal plantings. No final grading or foundation plantings. The home was built into the side of the existing wooded hillside, but since no grading was completed, everything sloped towards the house. Not a good situation on several different levels. The 'back' of the house, shown right,  (which is in reality the front) was in a similar condition. Our first goal was to correct the grading and improve the 'front' entrance to the house. At the same time, we also had a three car garage addition with a 2 bedroom apartment constructed for my parents who were moving down from Md to live alongside us.

Here are pictures of the new 'Front; of our house, after retaining walls, patio and plantings were installed. Since we live in a natural wooded setting, I installed mostly shade loving shrubs and perennials. 

The plant materials used:

  • Crimson Queen Japanese Maple
  • Fernspray Cypress
  • 'Duke Garden' Cephalotaxus
  • Dwarf Yaupon Holly
  • Harbour Dwarf Nandina
  • Kaleidoscope Abelia
  • 'Red Charm' Hydrangea
  • 'Sum and Substance' Hosta
  • 'Paul's Glory' Hosta
  • 'Francee' Hosta
  • Hellebores
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Ajuga ' Burgundy Glow'
  • Autumn Fern
  • Perennial Begonias
  • Dwarf Mondo Grass
  • Germander
  • Flower Carpet Rose (in sunnier corner)
  • Miscanthus
  • Bee Balm

In the sunnier 'back' yard, we re-graded the front, installed a new retaining wall and installed:

  • Miscanthus
  • 'Otto Luyken' Laurel
  • Sun Loving Perennials: 
    • Lambs Ear
    • Salvia
    • Daisies
    • Bee balm
    • Purple Coneflower
    • Peonies
    • Black Eyed Susan
    • Veronica 

So far the shrubs and Miscanthus have done well, but the local vole population has made a meal of  some of the perennials (that will be the subject of a future post.) I am going to install an underground wire 'barrier' to the perennial areas this spring and see if that keeps the voles at bay. The stray cat, 'Puddin' we got from one of my customers was of no help. The two cats my mother brought to our property were also of no help. So much for natural instinct!

This house will continue to be a work in progress, but we are doing less little by little. I don't think we will ever be completely done with this project. The reworking of the perennial garden is next on my agenda. If any of you have some suggestion for 'vole proof' plant materials or eradication techniques- I would welcome the information!

About the Author:

Lori Hawkins, RLA, ASLA has been a registered landscape architect and active in the landscape design/build industry for over 29 years. For additional inspiring project pictures, design ideas, or great garden gifts, take a look at these websites:

HOUZZ:    http://www.houzz.com/pro/hawkinsla/__public

FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hawkins-Landscape-Architecture/107145146130?ref=hl