A Garden Transformation

When you live in a small residential community, the homes and the landscaping around them often look very similar, especially if the community is governed by a Home Owners Association. Wishing to have a garden that would distinguish our house from the other forty-nine in our gated community, my husband and I decided to hire a landscape professional to redesign and plant gardens that would be different from what the builder originally provided.

Our New Tropical Landscaping
Our New Tropical Landscaping

The only plants in our front yard that we wanted to keep from the “landscape package” that was included in our building contract was a Pygmy Date Palm, a small Oak Tree, which was mandated by a county ordinance, five Gold Capella Arboricola shrubs, two Gardenia bushes and several dwarf Xanadu. We also were keeping two large Sylvester Palms that we purchased and had planted in our front garden right before moving into our home.

Our New Home With Original Plantings
Our New Home With Original Plantings
Narrow Backyard With Swale In Front Of Oleander Hedge
Narrow Backyard With Swale In Front Of Oleander Hedge

The problem with our narrow backyard was not only the lack of any plantings but also a swale that runs the length of our property in front of a large Oleander hedge that is part of the community’s and our back property line.  The swale has a storm drain that allows excess rain water to flow into an underground system that slows and filters the water before it reaches the Indian River Basin and the Atlantic Ocean just a couple of miles from our home.

View Of Back Yard From Great Room And Patio
View Of Back Yard From Great Room And Patio

Because of our home’s open concept design and large glass sliding doors that lead out to our patio, the swale was one of the first things you noticed from our great room…not a very pretty sight by any means.

While some might not think our landscaping was that bad, it was the one thing that I didn’t like about our home. I wanted to have gardens that would complement the design our new home in Florida…a tropical garden with a mixture of plants that would make us feel like we were on a vacation in your own backyard.

Over the past eight months, we had three different landscapers visit our home but were not happy with any of their proposals. Then I discovered  Jennifer Bevins of Construction Landscape one day while I was looking at Houzz on the internet.  Jennifer was a BEST OF HOUZZ AWARD WINNER for the last three years. From our first meeting with Jennifer, where she listened to differing ideas from my husband and I, all the way through to the four days of installation, she was a delight to work with. Let me show you our garden transformation.


In a hard tropical downpour, mulch in the garden area would wash away so Tennessee river rock in beige earth tones was used to slow water flow as well as a durable and low maintenance ground cover. A landscape fabric was laid under the stone to keep it from settling into the ground. The fabric discourages weeds yet it is permeable enough to let water slowly drain through it.

Tropical Plants
Tropical Plants

The rounded stones of various sizes add both texture and color contrast between the driveway and walkway pavers and the dark brown mulch. The curved rock area is planted with low and compact Liriope to soften the look yet they won’t overtake the walkway when mature. Gold Capella Arboricola, Flora Nora Aunte Lou, Breynia Disticha Snowbush, Dwarf Ixora, Foxtail Fern, a Furcraea Foetida (similar to an Agave), a Queen Palm and Spindle Palms were planted behind to create height, visual interest and color. The design makes the walkway look and feel wider.

Plants Of Different Colors And Textures Add Interest In The Garden
Plants Of Different Colors And Textures Add Interest In The Garden
Shape And Texture In A Tropical Garden
Shape And Texture In A Tropical Garden

We now have a tropical landscape design that will grow into an overlapping mixture of palms trees, shrubs, and boarder plants of varying heights with layers of texture and color. The palm tree’s fronds create much needed shade for the under plantings during the hot summer months.

Palms Will Add Much Needed Shade In Summer
Palms Will Add Much Needed Shade In Summer

Our yard was too small for a backyard pool but landscaping has given it a resort like feel. The covered and screened patio is now surrounded by new plantings that create a nice view from our great room out to our patio and the backyard. A Gardenia that was once planted by our front entrance is now growing just outside the screened patio where the breeze will perfume the area with its heady fragrance.

A stately Dypsis Decaryi Triangle Palm with Pigmy Date Palms flanking its sides and a underplanting of colorful Codiaeum Croton Magnificent, Flora Nora, Dwarf Xanadu Philodendron, Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ and Dwarf Oyster Plants now can be seen as you enter our great room.

Even while small, the patio garden is distinctive with both sharp edged spikes, soft rounded leaves, lush green mixed with brightly colored leaves and variegated foliage that add both texture and light.


We are very happy with the transformation of our gardens and can’t wait to see how the landscaping will look when the plants grow to maturity. They are hardy, low care plants for easy maintenance that will work very well with our new lifestyle when we are gone weeks at a time traveling.

The New Gardens Complement The Style Of Our Florida Home
The New Gardens Complement The Style Of Our Florida Home

I now have gardens I can be proud of and I think our neighbors will approve when they pass by each day. What do you think, have you done something similar with your yard? Did you do all the plantings yourself or did you hire a landscaper to help transform a garden?

This post is dedicated to all gardeners and landscapers, both amateur and professional, whose tireless work makes our world a little nicer place in which to live and work.


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101 thoughts on “A Garden Transformation

  1. Both front and back yards look wonderful, but I had to smile thinking of a fellow Granitestater looking at Palm trees every day. 🙂 I’ve never hired a landscaper,and I’m guessing that is why as a gardener I keep moving things. 🙂

    1. Hi Judy, Yes I’ve traded a hundred different varieties of apple trees for a small collection of different types of palms…it is a very different lifestyle. Your gardens are gorgeous and you probably know as much as most New Hampshire landscapers.😀

  2. What a wonderful transformation, having lived in a gated community governed by HOA rules in Florida I know exactly what you mean. It was one of the things I loved most about returning to France, our home, I was free to do whatever I wanted with the garden and the trees were over 500 years old in the first place!

    1. Thank you Susan, we are very happy with the transformation. Yes, we had to submit plans to the HOA committee in charge of landscaping for approval before we could plant anything. It is one of the tradeoffs we made when we moved to our community but since they maintain everything, it gives us the flexibility to travel more and that is nice.

    1. Hi Gallivanta, Your comment is very true on both counts. From design to the final planting, we couldn’t be happier that we decided to use a professional landscaper. Jennifer’s love of her job shows through in our garden.

  3. Karen, what a fabulous transformation! Glad you sought the perfect landscape designer. What a huge difference these designs make and rock is the answer. I use it now in all types in my Virginia garden, as rock/pebbles are forever! Yay! Thanks for posting. Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane.I have to agree with you, having a landscape designer really makes a difference. This was especially true as Vero Beach has a different growing climate from south Florida area where we once lived and extremely different from that of New England. Even though the rocks cost much more than mulch, they are indeed permanent and I love the look…I think they go well with the style of our home.

    1. Hi Kiki, While I love our entire landscape project, the transformation in the backyard was amazing. No more ugly view out our sliding glass doors. 😀

    1. Thank you Mandy, I’m glad you like the gardens…we are really happy with the way they turned out. When we sold our home and apple orchard, I left all my gardening tools behind. I decided after caring for 13 acres and 300 apple trees, it was time to let others do the major garden work for me. 🙂

  4. What an emprovement! S…
    I agree back there you wanted to see “pretty” and now you do..I love to walk up and down the street in Fl and look at all the private oceanfront homes landscapings..

    We once owned a small villa in Fl..the back was on a pond..but I have to admit the landscapers/gardeners did a great job.. but in the enclosures.. was up to us..alawsys so much growth to snip and chop upon our returns..things grom so fast!
    Karen we have had such a summer..unprecedented..sunny day after day after day…

    1. Hi Monique, I’m so happy that you have had such a lovely summer, I’ve been enjoying your flower gardens as they remind me of the ones I had in New England. Yes, I do finally have a lovely view in the back. It has made such a nine change when we walk into the great room and have sometime pretty to see from the glass doors.

    1. Hi Loretta, It really was a nice transformation from ordinary to something designed for the style of our home. I’m glad you like it.

  5. What a wonderful post Karen, I have to say I have done a bit of binge reading over your previous posts and love your writing style, from the “yummy” looking recipes to some of your travels. You have a wonderful ability to bring the reader right along with you….I have to say my favorite of course is the Landscape Transformation, it was such a pleasure working with you both on it, I look forward in seeing the tropical layers come in over time once the landscape really begins to take shape. I love my job for many reasons but getting to meet new folks and creating friendship is amongst the best part of it. Looking forward in reading your future posts, I am a fan.

    1. Thank you for your kind words about the post and my blog Jennifer, it makes my heart happy that you enjoyed it. I’m happy to know that you will be following along. I can’t tell you how much we love the work you and your crew did…we love our gardens. As you can see, there are lots of others that feel the same way. 😀

  6. Looks beautiful – and it will be fun to see the “now” and a “year from now” comparison – things grow so quickly in your climate!

    1. Hi David, I agree with you, I think the gardens are beautiful. Yes, our climate here is very conducive to plants growing quickly. It will be fun to see what our plants look like in a year’s time.

  7. So pretty, and the selections speak of the climate you live in. You are now going through a learning process similar to what I went through ten years ago when I moved from the Piscataqua to the Sonoran Desert, where not a familiar plant would grow, and no local plants were familiar. It was like arriving on Mars. It is a steep learning curve, but fun. In your extremely long growing season, it will fill out in luxurious maturity in no time. I can’t wait to see your After-After pictures a couple of years from now!

    1. You are so right Mark, we both made drastic lifestyle changes. These gardens are totally opposite of the flower and vegetable gardens we had in Maine and New Hampshire. You gave me a smile…yes, there will definitely be after-after pictures. I’m sure I’ll be amazed at the difference a year makes.

  8. I am amazed at the transformation in your garden, especially the back patio. It’s looks so much better than before. You are a talented designer Karen. In my little garden we planted a hedge to separate uns from our neighbors with lemon trees. I managed to have a tiny little garden with different herbs. It’s hidden next to a fence. We almost lost everything in the last drought . We were able to use our wash machine which saved our tiny garden.

    1. Hi Gerlinde, Don’t the gardens look great. I hated our backyard and didn’t think I would ever find someone to make it beautiful as we weren’t allowed to go back any further with plantings than eight feet. A hedge of lemon trees sounds wonderful…fragrant, beautiful and you can use them in cooking.

  9. Great looking landscape! And it really pays to hire a professional. When we lived in Florida, we landscaped most of our yard. We put in mainly native and drought tolerant plants — hundreds of them. Our designer made the plan, and recommended someone to buy the plants for us (some were difficult to source). This person also installed the larger ones, although we did all the smaller ones. Fun project!

  10. A stunning transformation, Karen. I love the new tropical look garden. We just made our front garden look decent whilst hubby is working on the interior renovations, but once they’re done, we’ll tackle the whole garden and probably design it ourselves.

    1. I’m glad you like the transformation Sylvia, we love it. Knowing how you are transforming your house, I have no doubt that the two of you will do a great job with your gardens as well.

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment, Gloria. We were lucky to have found a wonderful landscape designer. She and her crew did a great job…I can’t take any of the credit. 🙂

    1. Hi Cheri, We were very fortunate to have found Jennifer, we think she did a terrific job. She took both my husband’s and my likes and dislikes into consideration and created gardens that we both love.

    1. Hi Debbie, Yes, the builder doesn’t give you much in the way of landscaping. That is why we had purchased the two large Sylvester Palms that we had planted before we moved in. With seven additional palms and the other plantings, I think our landscaping really fits the style of our home now.

  11. It looks wonderful!! Much like a Spanish garden now. You must just love the view. We are doing mostly container gardening as we have a small tiled yard. We do however have a palm tree which I love!

    1. Hi Darlene, I do love the view out to the back now…what a change. A container garden is perfect for your pretty area. I have to agree with you about the look being similar to a Spanish garden. When we lived in south Florida, we had a Spanish Revival home built in 1904 with a fountain in a center courtyard. You would have loved those gardens as well.

  12. The front does look much better Karen, especially with the red foliage used. I like the beige stones too. And the back yard has been wonderfully transformed! What a lovely view from the house now! Definitely an improvement, and worth waiting until you found the right designer for you. The oleander hedge is a great backdrop for it. I like the way the beds are contained with metal edging too. Our front garden is our so-called ‘nature reserve’ (!) waiting patiently for its makeover when we have time one day! I have plans, but will need a gardener to do all the work. 😉

  13. Wow! What a transformation! Congratulations on both your good taste and landscaping sensemail. The result is a real triumph.
    When we first bought our house 18 years ago in the south of England, we had a war-time concrete coal bunker and a concrete path that ran all the way down one side of the garden and about one meter wide. My husband and I bought a sledge hammer and a wheel barrow and broke it up and took it away bit by bit to the local tip. I bought a BBC gardening magazine and followed ideas about what to plant in a sami-shaded border, like winter jasmine, emerald green shrubs, hostas, lily of the valley and hydrangeas. All these years later we look at it in amazement and feel extremely proud of our hard work. And more importantly, it is all still there!.

  14. Stunning. My front garden/lawn is lucky if it gets rained on for water … it’s been looking pretty yellow cause of the heat. And the back, well, it got weed whacked yesterday and the worst of the thistles and other weeds dug up.

  15. Gorgeous landscaping, Karen! It’s all beautiful, I love the mix of colors and textures, and the stones and dark mulch are great with them all. Those palm trees are yet another reason why I want to move South! You definitely hired the right landscaping company!

  16. Lovely, just lovely, what a difference! I too love the mix of colors and textures and the varying heights of the plants.
    Sure wish I could plant what I like and want but with the exploding deer population in our area it is a constant battle trying to keep the garden looking good.

  17. Beautiful, Karen! My sister-in-law has a great vision for landscaping — and she executes well, too. I need her every year (especially this year!) and I learn so much. I wish I could “decorate” outside as well as I can inside. But I’m blessed to have a great amateur landscape artists as a good friend.

  18. Karen, the landscaping is absolutely beautiful! Colorful, interesting and very good in the eyes! Congratulations. Hope to see you this winter. Shelba

    Sent from my iPad


  19. What a massive undertaking! But I love the difference it made. Especially love the changes in the back. Nice view from the great room.

  20. You have less space than I thought! About the same as I have and we seem to be in a similar situation tho’ I do not think ‘our’ rules are as ‘fierce’. Lovely streetscape and you have made your home/garden a showplace!! I have to look more into Florida climate ’cause tho’ you are officially in a sort’of ‘tropical’ zone – I can and do grow most of the beauties you display at 200 metres, 40 kms away from the coast. May all thrive: wish I had your palms . . .

  21. Hi Karen—it’s stunning. You chose wisely and it shows. Amazing what a difference the right landscaper can do with a property. Hope you get lots of enjoyment from the views within.
    Have a great “rest of summer”.

  22. What a transformation! Your new garden is so beautiful, Karen. It really does feel like a tropical paradise in both the front and back gardens! I’m sure the plants will grow very quickly in the Florida sunshine.

    When I bought my 1922 home, it already had a very nice, mature garden. So, I had to learn about gardening very quickly! My parents would visit each weekend and my mom helped me to learn all about my garden. Early on, I made the change from annuals to perennials. My cottage and herb gardens are such a joy! They do keep me very busy, though. I’m really enjoying them in my retirement! ♡

  23. Your new landscaping is gorgeous, Karen! I especially love your mature palm trees.
    When we moved i nto our home in Colorado we knew we had a lot of landscaping work to do. We hired a landscaper and had soem of our large front walk reduced by building a flower garden around a mature ash tree that was set back near the front of our house, We then had a winding rock and shrub garden installed along our driveway to the street to eliminate some of the lawn. WE have a long three tier wooden retaining wall in our backyard that held some aspen trees and shrubs, but we had the landscaper add more aspens and shrubs to fill it in. We have been experimenting with different perennials to see what the deer and rabbits won’t destroy and so far lavender has done the best! I wish I could add more colorful flowers but the deer will eat them even when we spray them with repellent. I love looking at the deer, however, so I don’t mind too much.

  24. A job well done! I like that you listened to several landscape designers before choosing…I think you got the effect you wanted with the gorgeous palms and easy to care for plants. Originality is something I strive for when I garden. I simply love everything and your home is stunning!


  25. Your attention to detail and exquisite talent has blossomed into a beautiful landscape and stunning design. Your lucky neighbors are sure to enjoy the lovely scenery as much as you too!

  26. It’s always nice to have landscaping help -I can’t imagine you planting those big palm trees yourself. That’s what we did – help with the big stuff and then I planted all of the smaller plants, shrubs, perennials. Next time maybe I will let someone do it all 🙂

  27. Glorious transformation! I can only imagine how thrilled you are.
    Just like you we are yard people and notice all of the details.

  28. Your gardens look wonderful. I had never heard of these associations until our friends from Illinois introduced us to it…we really don’t have gated communities so it was a very odd concept to me, but I can see how it would regulate people without as much taste. Our 1928 craftsmen style home is on a street with lots of mature trees so the grass never grew very well. We had a general idea what we wanted but hired a landscape designer to help us put it to life. I am so happy with the results, we utilized armour rocks to define the boundaries, removed all the grass, added river rock and a few local trees and shrubs. Next year we will have in ground sprinkler system installed.

  29. One of our homes is governed by HOA rules and we wouldn’t be allowed to do any landscaping ourselves in the front yard (but backyard is OK). I love the tropical look of your new landscaping- I know it costs thousands of dollars to just do a small job!

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