Garden Photo of the Day

Susan’s front yard makeover in Illinois

—AFTER— Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Susan Ware

Happy Monday, everyone! And while we’re at it, Happy Tax Day! Perhaps today’s makeover will inspire you to spend your tax return in the front yard. It’s from Susan Wawrzynowicz in Chicago, Illinois. 

—BEFORE— Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Susan Ware

She says, “As we all know, gardens are not only in the back yard. A few months ago I finally decided my home in Chicago desperately needed a curb appeal garden makeover. The makeover included landscaping, railing, stairway, and walkway.

—AFTER— Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Susan Ware

“The stairs and walkway were clad in a Unilock paver product: Yorkstone Honey Gold and the railing is powder coated steel. The landscaping includes two Hinoki falsecypress, Hydrangea ‘Little Lime’; ‘Coral Carpet’ rose; Vinca minor ‘Bowles Variety’, ‘Karl Foerster’ reed grass, ‘Plum Pudding’ coral bells , ‘Crimson Queen’ Japanese maple, Echinicea purpurea ‘Magnus’; Coreopsis ‘Full Moon’, loosestrife, Hosta ‘Great Expectations’, and ‘Happy Returns’ daylilly, accented with Kichler Path and Mini accent lights. The mulch is pine bark. The plantings are rather simple, low maintenance, in bright colors, with resistance to drought and hungry rabbits and leaving plenty of room for growth and newer additions.”

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Susan Ware

Your front yard looks so much more interesting, Susan! I would love to see how it evolves of the next few years. Keep us posted!

Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Susan Ware
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Susan Ware
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Susan Ware
—AFTER— Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Susan Ware
—AFTER— Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Susan Ware

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View Comments


  1. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    nice job! i especially like the new treatment on the walkway/steps , really makes a statement and i think works perfectly with the entry door surround. looks great

  2. bee1nine 04/15/2013

    Hi Susan, By far.. I like your 'after' results as it most
    certainly adds so much more appeal and attractiveness.
    Nice touch with the mini lights too! Great makeover!!

  3. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 04/15/2013

    Much more interesting and inviting. Well done!

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 04/15/2013

    That was a big step, Susan, but one well worth taking! The pavers are very handsome and, like tntreeman observed, really set off your door entry treatment perfectly. You now have lots of interesting plants that will be fun to see mature. Love the last shot showing off your new all creates such a welcoming ambiance.

  5. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    that was a big but worthwhile step. i always go through nail biting and second guessing myself when comtemplating a major and expensive re do like the pavers. no second guessing here, it's perfect... your calycanthus seed are on the way Meander1

  6. GarPho 04/15/2013

    The new design is stunning, Susan Very eye catching! Love it!

  7. wittyone 04/15/2013

    Quite an improvement. I love the shapes of the beds. Reading the list of the plants I would (if it were mine, of course) eliminate the vinca minor immediately. True, it is an attractive flowering ground cover but it can be terribly invasive. The roots twine themselves around other plantings and are virtually impossible to eradicate once it's established since any little bit of root left will regenerate. Just a heads up here!

  8. tractor1 04/15/2013

    To me the railing appears to be the same as in your original photo, perhaps it was added prior to the paver make over... and so then where's the railing in that night photo?!?!? I'm not crazy about that stark white window and shutters, I'd have chosen an earth tone that doesn't clash with and over power that small but very attractive brick house on a small city lot. The plantings look fine and will certainly fill in, in fact they'll soon need constant pruning (they can always be added to, subtracted, and moved about). The only plant I'm not sure of its location is the Japanese maple, to me it looks too close to the house... it will grow... I'd have placed it directly in one of those grassy areas, right in the lawn, needs no surround coping to detract from the beautiful tree itself. To be perfectly honest, without seeing a wider angle photo that includes both houses alongside and includes the house roof with some sky above and that includes what appears to be a poured concrete sidewalk at the roadway I can't comment on the Unilock (I'd need to see what people see as they drive past). I'd like to see the back yard too.

  9. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    i thought the same about the railings but ifyou look closely the new railings have rings just beneath the top rail. if the installation went as mine usually do not all components are ready at the same time. maybe the plantings and pavers , , lighting were in and waiting for the railings to be finished/delivered.

  10. briandowns 04/15/2013

    OK, definately an improvement over what was there, and kudos for the effort. It seems like $$ was thrown at it, and it's more about the type of pavers and railing and such than the plants,a trend that is disturbing to me. Personally , straight lines for formality would be better ( though I am a big fan of curves, just not where formality should rule). The gorgeous house ,which should really be the focal point, is diminished by the installation. which is visually distacting.
    I feel like a buzz-kill now.

  11. cwheat000 04/15/2013

    I really like the landscape lighting. That is one thing I have overlooked in my own garden and it really makes a difference. I have a large Harry Lauder's walking stick shrub that is crying out for an uplight. My brother is an electrician. I may just have to pester him. Thank you for the inspiration.(p.s.- my brother may not thank you)

  12. cwheat000 04/15/2013

    I like the idea of painting the shutters a darker tone. It looks like there are some muted red tones in your roofing shingles. That might be nice. You could then add some more plant additions, like your red maple, with that color in the foliage. Well done. Have fun with your new project.

  13. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    quite frankly, i'm beginning to be amazed that anyone even shares their photos anymore what with the abundance of landscape police and what not. i always took this as a forum to share what we have done in the garden/landscape that makes us happy and of course we are proud of the end results or we wouldn't share it. this is not the review board for landscape architecture magazine and i dont' think many of us if any are qualified for that position. fine line between a tip such as vinca becoming invasive and outright ripping someones efforts to shreds

  14. cwheat000 04/15/2013

    I hear you tntreeman. Susan, I really hope my comment doesn't offend. I truly applaud your efforts. I by no means, work for HGTV. If you don't want darker shutters, please feel free to tell me to go fly a kite. I really like what you have done. I hope you take anything else I said as just a friendly suggestion.

  15. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    cwheat i did not direct that comment at you at all. in fact, i had not even seen your comment. you give suggestions and those are almost always welcomed by anyone. edicts are different , at least to me. i just want people to be encouraged to garden MORE not throw up their hands and say why try ? nothing i do is right,,,,,,,,,,,which is never the case. you, cwheat, always have helpful suggestions and i've seen your garden photos and would welcome any comments you made concerning different ideas as to mine. i was only making a generalized observation,,,,,,,,,,and i did find your tomato suggestions and have them waiting to go in the earth now!

  16. davsav 04/15/2013

    Beautiful! Thanks for sending in the pictures to share.

  17. cwheat000 04/15/2013

    Tntreeman-Even if your comment wasn't directed at me, I appreciate the reminder to encourage all gardeners. There are times I look at what is wrong with my own garden, and get I discouraged. I don't want anyone to feel that way. Gardening should be fun and bring us joy. On another note, I hope it is a good tomato year. I will keep you posted on what I am growing this season.

  18. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    i don't get discouraged with parts of mine but i have considered bringing in a bulldozer and just removing big chunks

  19. sheila_schultz 04/15/2013

    Susan, you must be so pleased with the outcome of your redo... it's lovely, and I bet you'll find more and more plants to add to your already fun selection! It's so difficult to be a gardener and not a plantaholic, too ;)
    Thanks for your comment tntreeman, I agree wholeheartedly.

  20. MichelleGervais 04/15/2013

    Let's all keep in mind that when people submit photos to the GPOD, they are very proud of what they've done, and that all gardens are works in progress. A bit of constructive criticism is great, but watch your tone, and don't insult. I know if it was my garden, I wouldn't want anyone pointing out the ugly bits. There are LOTS, by the way. Why, just the other day, I looked at the pitiful ornament I plopped on the pillar in my front yard, just to get it out of the way of something else while I was taking out the trash, and thought, UGH. I'll bet everyone who passes by thinks that's permanent and on purpose. Yikes!

    We're all real people here, people, with feelings. BE NICE!! If you couldn't imagine yourself saying it to their face, don't say it at all.

  21. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    Sheila Schultz,,,,,,plantaholics anonymous?!?!? i say no no no

  22. Happily_Gardening 04/15/2013

    For some time now I've read with a shake of my head the sometimes rather tart comments. I chose to not voice my opinion because I felt it not my place but reading today's comment string I've chose after all to add my two cent opinion. My opinion is sight has been lost on what GPOD was all about, at least what I believed it was about. I believed it a place to come and see a garden picture or two to start and brighten your day. A place where gardeners from near and far could come together over a virtual cup of coffee and share a garden place. Share the happiness of another gardener in their garden for they would not have shared if it did not please them. Their garden is for them first and if others like it then it is the same as lovely blooms in the garden. And if it is not quite your cup of tea, then so be it, let it be. Show respect to another as you'd like it shown to you.
    Thank you!

  23. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    happily_gardening,,,coolest chick on the west coast :) and she is a snazzy nature photographer as well. incredible closeups of flowers and sometimes with pollen covered bees in there too. got to take those pics,,,,,,real slow like.
    out the door, i'm gonna look at pavers , , i now want a new sidewalk, thank you Susan for making me spend money i don't have! it's 15 april after all

  24. tractor1 04/15/2013

    cwheat000: for landscape lighting Go Solar... no electrician needed. I have several solar lighting fixtures around my yard that have been working flawlessly for ten years, easy to install, easy to relocate, and no 'lectric bill.

  25. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    tractor, what brand of solar lights? i've only ever had the cheap cheap ones and haven't been happy. i would be most interested in knowing what brand you have had success with.

  26. Happily_Gardening 04/15/2013

    Solar, yes, yes, yes!! As tractor1 mentioned, a lovely option; no added electric usage, electrician installation fee and on sale the are really pretty inexpensive. I have quite a few sprinkled throughout the yard, including a flood light or two. Love the softer lighting effect they lend. Generally if they stop working it's only a new battery, I believe it "AA or "AAA" that need replacing. They don't stand stand up to rodent chew though :)...we lost a flood light when the squirrels chewed the separate charging unit. Teach us to not put out peanuts :)! tntreeman: As far as brands, really don't remember off the top of my head but I do remember they were not anything special...not super inexpensive, middle of the road. Buy ours at OSH and Lowe's.

  27. cwheat000 04/15/2013

    I been out gardening and stopped at a nursery (only spent 23 dollars-it is a sickness, lol). I am back and I like the solar lighting suggestions I received while I was out. My brother probably likes it more. I am sure with a little research online I can find some nice ones at a lighting store. I figure even if I spend a little more on them, it is still cheaper and less work, than having to install them. I will let you all know if it works out well.

  28. darylsavage 04/15/2013

    Very nice Cindy. I am afraid I must agree with tractor about the location of your maple. I have learned in Master Gardeners that you need to plant a small ornamental tree at least 6' from the foundation of the house. You have to think about what will be the mature size of the tree when you are deciding where to plant. Granted, if you are not staying long in your house, it will be the next owner's issue, but because these trees are not cheap it makes sense to plant it where it will thrive. You generally do not prune those speciman maples, so if you try to hack back the one side next to the house it will not be ideal. I agree that the middle of the lawn on one side would be best. Now is a good time to transplant as it is not too hot yet, and there will be less transplant shock. I know it is a lot of work, but I think it will be worth it. Good luck with it.

  29. darylsavage 04/15/2013

    Sorry, I meant Susan!

  30. restofyourlife 04/15/2013

    Many thanks to all of your positive and encouraging comments. I enjoyed planning the "big step" makeover and held off on the paint until this summer. Thanks to all for the color ideas. Careful consideration was taken regarding placement of the trees due to 1. The llocation of drain pipes, 2. previous costly issues with tree roots invading the pipes and 3. maintaining an unobstuctive view when exiting the "concrete" driveway. My Japanese maple is gloriously happy In its present location, thank you very much. The 6 vinca plants are only at the foot of the stairs not throughout the garden. I'll keep an eye on it for sure. My neighbors love the new look and the makeover bug has caught on. Tntreeman you are right on! The pavers had to be cut and set before any railing measurements could be made and manufactured. A time consuming process indeed. You will love the look of the pavers. It brings new life to this old house. You will surely reap the rewards and not uncle Sam. Thanks to Michelle for the words of encouragement. Everyone, except the landscape cop, are invited to see the backyard blooms. :) Happy gardening season to all.

  31. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    susan, i like you already! i have had jap maples in bonsai pots for 30 years , , judicious drop pruning can keep them in hand for decades and they do not looked hacked at all but after seeing your backyard from last september YOU already know that! that is a beautiful back yard. i'm also glad the makeover bug caught on, you are a trendsetter for the neighborhood and it not only looks good to change things up it feels good to be surrounded by it. now i'm gonna go look at that back yard again,,, what time is happy hour

  32. restofyourlife 04/15/2013

    Happy hour is right now seven days a week! Life is too short. LOL.

  33. user-1020932 04/15/2013

    dang, i like your way of thinking. a friend always says: life is short and we're dead for a LONG time so go for it.

  34. darylsavage 04/16/2013

    Sorry, Susan, I didn't mean to come off as "landscape cop." Enjoy your property.

  35. restofyourlife 04/16/2013

    You are not the one wearing the cop hat :) I appreciate all your advice.

  36. daisy8 04/16/2013

    Thank you, Happily Gardening, for your thoughtful comments about GPOD.

  37. pattyspencer 04/16/2013

    Well I'm gonna be a party pooper here but my favorite picture is the before. For me it gives a real "homey" feel to the home. I'm sure tho that as the other plants grow eventually it will also give that feel. The night picture tho is beautiful and I do love the new walkway - it's beautiful.

  38. skevanston 04/19/2013

    Susan, being a Chicagoan, I enthusiastically applaud your makeover, which highlights the beautiful architectural feature of your doorway, picking up the stone color and the charming elegance of the facade. I love the scattered rocks which give it a bit of a cottage feel, and I know you will have fun watching as your plantings fill in. I also know that one person's inspiration can give 'permission' for neighbors to break the mold of 2 rounded shrubs by the doorway. Next time you are at a bookstore, pick up a copy of the children's book The Big Orange Splot by D. Pinkwater. Once one neighbor follows his dreams with his house, his neighbors catch on! (First grade teacher speaking here!) This book is about you!

    On the topic of paint color, may I add my 2 cents? I think the best feature of your house is the amazing doorway, which your new stone pathway highlights to perfection. I think the shutters themselves are a distraction, and would suggest you consider removing them. And I would paint the window trim black. You have already used this color on the door, railing and around the glass block window, which makes a beautiful contrast with the stone and brick. It would unify the front and keep the focus on the door. Thanks for sharing your work with us.

  39. restofyourlife 04/19/2013

    Thank you skevanston for the recommendation kind comments and suggestions. Breaking the mold is absolutely true in Chicago neighborhoods. We were considering removing the shutters too. The sills were painted black for years, and it just looked dated, so we painstakingly had them chemically and physically stripped. (see the before photo shot). We are considering a darker shade for the shutters/sills (if they are not removed) --and a lighter shade for the window trim (using the brick & limestone color palate). This curb appeal makeover was certainly a gut-wrenching challenge but very rewarding for myself and my neighbors.

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