10-year-old retirement home we purchased in Virginia
Beach, Va., in February was tired and outdated —
including the front and back yards.
months of redoing the home’s interior, we focus on the
to maximize use and enjoyment and minimize maintenance,
we opt for pavers for a side yard walkway and backyard
patio and all new shrubs for the front.
Shrubs. Larger-than-life hollies and other
non-description shrubs planted 10 years ago hide the
house and make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to
get out of a vehicle parked on the driveway.
Virginia Beach, Coastal Landscapes and Nursery —
http://coastallandscapesandnursery.com — sends a crew
and small machinery to remove the 10-foot hollies and
other plants. Utility markings — http://va811.com/ or
call 811 — are done to prevent any digging that
accidentally hits utility lines.
important to refresh a landscape because overtime the
constant pruning and shearing that plants endure creates
an unnatural growth habit that leaves each plant with
poor access to light," says John Ingram, a graduate
of the landscape architecture program at Penn State
University and landscape designer for Coastal
Landscapes, which installs and redoes existing and new
landscapes throughout Hampton Roads.
in turn creates interior and ground-level die off.
refreshed or new landscape adds curb appeal and is often
a deciding factor when choosing a home."
Ingram’s guidance, our goal in the new landscape is
twofold. First, we want to avoid any possible annual
pruning to keep the plants healthy and looking good.
This goal is accomplished by choosing the right plant
for the right place, a Master Gardener golden rule.
Secondly, we want a cleaner, simpler landscape look, one
that allows our home’s good structure — gabled roof
lines, front porch, columns and attractive brick — to
be front and center. This goal is accomplished by
choosing plants that don’t swallow the house, or block
the view of the front door and porch.
also choose to put no foundation plants on the sides or
back of the house — keep-it-simple landscaping that
also means the house stays drier and cleaner. Mulch,
especially heaping piles of it, and too many, too-large
plants invite moisture, mold and insects.
beds need no sculpting or soil added because they
already have nice curvy lines and are raised for good
drainage and appearance. Plants that we select include:
arborvitae. One of these stately evergreens is placed at
each front corner of the house, replacing giant hollies
that littered the landscape. The narrow, tall plants
reach four to five feet wide and maybe 20 feet tall (I
am not above snipping out the top down the road, so the
evergreen stays lower; careful snipping can be done so
it is not seen. The sides should never need shearing).
The rich green foliage takes on a purple cast in winter.
Gem boxwood. Three of these evergreens were placed in
front of a bedroom window. The moderate grower will
reach four to six feet tall and wide, but I plan to
selectively hand prune each, not shear them, so the
plants stay at their current size — about two feet
wide and three feet tall. Winter Gem’s dense foliage
does make it ideal for shearing as an attractive hedge.
Gem boxwood. Smaller than Winter Gem, Baby grows about
three feet wide and tall. I hope to keep it about half
that size because it’s planted in front of the porch.
Stream nandina. This dwarf form of larger nandina red
new growth and fall foliage with small white spring
flowers. I’m hoping it seldom needs pruning, thanks to
the front-of-bed room we have given it to flourish.
nandina. The littlest of the smaller nandinas, this
evergreen is a good low-growing ground cover, reaching
one to two feet tall and wide with deep-red new growth.
We used these in a front bed where their low-growing
personality would not block views of the house,
especially the front door.
grass. These little tufts of a grass-like plant are
ideal for groundcovers and spaces where you want a
fuss-free plant. The plant also likes growing among
pavers in a walkway. We used it as a space filler in a
couple places in the beds and in a small bed between the
walkway and front porch steps.
aggregate concrete patio stretches across the back of
the rancher-style house. It’s rough on the feet and
cracked from the weight of a former hot tub. At first,
we think a wood deck would be the way to go. We don’t
want composite wood because it marks too easily when
chairs slide across it, and it’s prone to moss and
mildew, facts we learned from our previous home.
the longer we think about it, the less inclined we are
to do a wood deck because it needs annual power washing
and frequent sealing or staining.
months of evaluating the back yard, we decide on
concrete pavers by Dominion Pavers, also based in
Virginia Beach. Except for the cracked area, the
existing patio serves as an underlayment for the new
pavers. We expand the patio, going out several more
feet, and add curved edges for a flowing look. A narrow
side yard also gets pavers, giving us a nice walkway
that wraps to the back yard space. All total, the pavers
cover 1,200 square feet; furniture for the patio will be
a spring purchase.
choose Chatham Natural pavers in a James River tan that
blends with the house’s exterior colors. Chatham
Natural is a large three-piece paver with rounded edges
that resemble natural flag stone. The seams are filled
with a polymeric sand that hardens when moistened, and
prevents any weed seeds from sprouting or any ants from
making hills. Sweeping and hosing is all the care the
patio should ever need.
offer unlimited color possibilities and designs,"
says Chris Rupp, a project manager for Dominion Pavers.
have a 50-year or more life expectancy, don’t crack
and are three times stronger than poured concrete."