On our way to Southern Living landscaping

I’ve spent years celebrating with my friends as they buy their dream homes. Some have purchased perfectly ready move in gems, while others have done renovations to create just the look they desired.

When I was a young mom with three babies ages three and under, we moved into our dream home. A dream home not because of the beautiful architectural design or the lush landscaping, far from it, but it was our dream home by choice.

We decided that this was where we would build memories for years to come, welcome friends, share stories,  lives and open our hearts and home to all those who came through those doors.

Building a dream home over two decades

I just never could have imagined that the thousands of people who came through our doors would enter through the side door for nearly two decades. Yes, the door that said “Welcome” came right into our always lively laundry room because our front walkway has taken that long to complete. 

For those new to our story of creating this dream homestead of ours over the last 18 years, please take a minute and read about our Front Porch. The porch shown above in the pictures was just finished last year and it’s so much more than a porch. It’s a piece of our history, our story of lessons learned, patience revealed and hope restored.

The Porch That Took 17 Years to Build - an inspiring story for anyone who wants their dream home

Yes, all that in a little landscaping post.

When you find your spot here on my blog,  I want you to see real life and for most, dream homes don’t magically appear. They are a long process, so sharing my Baby Steps on this road to Southern Living Landscaping is our next step on the journey.

Landscaping design

Our front porch was completed a year and a half ago and ironically, people still come in the side door. We knew we needed to build  a walkway so that people could feel the freedom to come on in the way normal people do without getting their shoes all wet and full of grass.

Since we’d waited so long and every step we take now on this dream home of ours is paid for in cash (debt free living is freedom), we wanted to do it well with no shortcuts. Ideally, that meant hiring people to do it for us, but as quotes started coming in and I repeatedly had to pick my jaw up off the floor, I knew that much of this would be on us. (That was very stressful because we were already over the top busy with no free time.)

Since we live in NC where heat and red clay are the achilles heel of planting, I hired a landscape architect to help with our design. While this was a considerable investment, she came out to our home, assessed our needs, took into consideration my favorite plants and must haves, knew our soil, our shade and sun balance etc – all those things that would have taken me months of research and drew up an amazing design for us.

It was the best money we spent and for this frugal girl who always wants to find ways to save, I’ve realized that on things with lasting investment like this, do not take short cuts!!

Creating a dream home over 18 years

There’s a fun twist in my story because back in July I met some delightful women with Southern Living Plant Collection at a conference I spoke at.

I think every one of us adores browsing the pages of Southern Living’s iconic magazine and the amazing gardens, flowers and landscapes have always been a favorite. Some of the women I spent time with are the gardeners and writers behind the landscape features that you read on a regularly basis.

While I’ve been so blessed over the years to have our home nestled back in the beauty of some of the most gorgeous wooded acreage possible offsetting the lack of landscaping, it’s a dream to finally have built up our landscape nest egg to tackle this next project.

southern living plant collection

I shared our porch story with the Southern Living women and they were thrilled to partner with us on providing some of our beautiful plants. While our porch may never truly land in the pages of Southern Living, I really think it would be an encouragement to many. In the mean time, we’re making steps towards making that reality awfully tempting for them. 😉

The Southern Living® Plant Collection, first introduced in Spring 2008, provides gardeners with innovative new plants designed to solve specific landscape challenges and to excel in Southern gardens. Each plant in the collection is the result of years of plant evaluations, plant trials and research.

For us, quality plants were an integral part of this design because after the more than 50 hours of manual labor we (ok, honestly, mainly my husband) put into this, I can’t have those plants dying come spring. The fact that so much research has already been put into creating high end plants that will excel in Southern gardens, as well as solve common landscape challenges, that was a dream for this gardener who needs as much help as possible. You can browse the Southern Living Plant site to see your local retailers that sell them, but I’ve found them at many of our local nurseries, as well as both Home Depot and Lowes.
Slowly adding landscaping to our yard

This is my amazing husband who would come home after a long day of work and then plug in outdoor spotlights to continue working for hours every night to help make this dream come true.  The reality that we have two sons incredibly hard working sons that did landscape work as a summer job, but they were hours away at college was quite painful. Our three remaining kids pitched in but nearly enough. That would be the same for me. 😉

Creating a dream homestead one year at a time

We knew how important it was to cultivate our soil and we put in a lot of time to make sure it was ready for planting.  We knew this was a step we could not skip or scrimp on, but wow, this was incredibly hard work when all we have is rock solid red soil.  We mixed it with lots of great stuff.

Creating a beautiful landscape plan

Having the design was so helpful because once the majority of the Southern Living plants came we were able to place them where we needed to dig.

With over 70 plants, you can’t even imagine how long each hole took.  It took us well over a month just in the digging and cultivating and by the end, it was a race against the forecast of the earliest frost warning in NC history.  Of course, only when we finally are doing this ourselves would this occur – bedlam.

My favorite Hydrangeas

When this gorgeous Hydrangea bloomed in the beginning of November, it was a little gift from God reminding me that this perfect little peek of beauty is only the beginning of our next growing season (both literally and figuratively.) I love finding life lessons wherever I can get them.

We’ve been working tirelessly on this front yard for over two months now and in the next post, after Christmas,  I’ll show you where it’s at. We’ve come a long way but here’s a tiny little teaser shot.

The porch that is still in progress

I know, I know. It’s so unfair to only give you this. 😉

My dream is to fully decorate our front porch and home for the holidays. I was hoping that our front landscaping would be done by now, but as you can see and as our 17 year old son so aptly put it, “Mom, why are you worrying about decorating the porch yet? The front looks like a dump yard.”

Yes, from the mouths of babes. NC has had weeks of rain, so the time table for any outdoor work was pushed back. We were supposed to get our icicle lights up last week, but with the rain and moisture on the ladder, I forbade him to attempt that third story tragedy waiting to happen.

Since this was our first go around with decorating the porch, it was a trial run. Since the front porch is so large, I realize now that I will have to double up on the garland and lights. The Christmas Tree Market kindly sent me their lighted Mountain Mixed Pine Garlands, seen here, as well as the matching wreaths for our front doors.  The wreaths on all the windows are ones we’ve had for years. Admittedly, they have seen their better day, especially side by side with the full Christmas Tree Market wreath.

Adding garland to our front porch

There’s just something wonderful about white lights twinkling as we pull up our drive and when my husband hangs the icicle lights (preferably before Christmas Eve since we host 40 people), hopefully I’ll have decided what to do with our main pillars – either red ribbon giving them that candy cane appearance or maybe just the white rope lights circled around them.

Welcoming door for the holidays

Decorating through trial and error this year, I learned something about my garland needs. When I was browsing the Christmas Tree Market site with so many wonderful choices,  I didn’t even look at the amount of branch tips on the garlands or note the diameter. I only looked at how long the garlands were to accommodate our porch. These garlands are only 8 inches in diameter, so next year, I’ll make sure and go with something like their fir garlands which are 12 inches wide.

Creating our dream porch over the years

That will make a huge difference and really highlight the garland from a distance because I just adore garland on porches.

Christmas Tree Market Garland

I decided to bring some of the Christmas Tree Market garland inside as well and I hung it over our french doors, as well as draping it on my small cabinet. Yes, a mini home tour from me to you. 🙂

My Christmas happy place corner

There’s pure magic going on in our great room. It’s so cozy. Doesn’t the Christmas Tree Market garland cozy up that room? These decorations may be up till Valentine’s Day. 🙂

christmas decor love

And here’s where I want you to embrace your season of life. I just say NO to pinterest perfect living.

simple vignette

The not so perfect Pinterest Christmas

Did you notice anything out of the ordinary? Or even if you look back at my walls?

I’ve embraced the five different shades of paint choices on my wall and chalked it up to Monet-like style. 🙂 I even kept the laundry in the corner of the sofa for real life living sake. This is our life and we don’t want to let unrealistic realities of the internet rob us from our greatest joy this Christmas season.

just say no to pinterest perfect

Thanks for taking this journey with me and if you are in a season of waiting for that “dream home,” remember you have the choice to create those dream memories right now.