We were planning a trip to Italy this spring, but it was inevitably canceled due to Covid-19. Instead, we decided to take that money and invest it in our home through some outdoor projects with a local landscaping company called Buds & Blossoms.
This was actually the perfect project to do during quarantine because it was very low contact, no one from the Buds and Blossoms team ever needed to enter our home and due to Marcus working from home, we were both available 24/7 to answer questions and make decisions in a timely manner.
I am so excited to share our outdoor transformation and our experience working with Buds & Blossoms.
Before and Afters!
Muddy side yards before Buds & Blossoms
Side yards regraded and covered in crushed granite
It Started with Functionality
We started thinking about this project because we had drainage problems in our back yard and along our side yards. During heavy rains, our backyard would pool up, and with Hurricane Harvey not THAT far in our rearview mirror, we wanted to address this issue.
In addition to fixing the drainage along the side yards, we also had it graded and covered in crushed granite. It’s much easier to walk along and there is ZERO mud!
New sidewalk from drive way to side gate
The second project we opted to do on the functionality front was to add a sidewalk from the driveway to the side gate. Now we are able to easily roll our trash cans back behind the side gate. This keeps them out of our garage – which frees up some more space for getting in and out of the car and keeps anything that smells far away from the house!
Purple Shower Ruella
Lastly, we have been wanting to widen our driveway by about a foot on each side for quite a while. Our reasoning here was it was a pretty tight fit if we had two cars in the driveway. Additionally, we would normally end up stepping into the grass when loading and unloading, and if it was wet outside, there was no way to avoid the water into the house.
And finished with blooms!
We then decided we also wanted to give the front yard a facelift. We have changed out a couple of the plants in the front beds over the years, but as you can see in the before photos, it was pretty much untouched from the day we moved in. Before calling Buds & Blossoms we thought we would just add some different plants and stonework around the beds and the trees. Instead, we completely changed the look and honestly the vibe of our front yard. We love it so much!
We laid flagstone on top of our existing concrete sidewalk to the front door and added a small seating area covered in flagstone.
A quick list of the upgrades to the front yard:
- Flagstone over our existing pathway to the front door
- Seating area covered in flagstone
- Polywood bench
- Three retaining walls
- Two color bowls
- Four boulders
- Address numbers to boulder (edited out for this blog post)
- One large piece of pottery
- A sidewalk from the driveway to the side gate
- Removed one tree bed, replaced with sod
- Expanded driveway by one foot on each side
- All new plants!
Fern and purple potato vine in color bowl, fuchsia Salvia in bed
Backyard flower bed up against the master bedroom: Meyer Lemon Tree, Salvia, Golden Thryallis and Dwarf Chenille
Upgrades to the back yard and side yard:
- Flower bed against the back of the house (pictured above)
- Peggy Martin roses along both side fences
- 6 bottle brush plants alongside the patio
- Removed one tree bed, replaced with sod
- Major drainage work
- Laid crushed granite along both sides of the house
TEN years after my parents gifted my this garden rock, I finally have a place to put it!
The Design Process with Buds & Blossoms
Fred Billings, the owner of Buds & Blossoms, and his unique approach to landscape design was really what made this experience so much fun. Just from our initial conversation with him, we could tell this industry is a huge passion for him. It was obvious that he knew his stuff.
I appreciated how he let us into his thought process during the design stage. He told us why he did this or that, and how it would affect the whole yard and how people perceived it. We learned so much just through our conversations with him. I don’t think we will ever look at a yard or outdoor space the same way again.
Fred offers consultations to anyone who reaches out to him, so there is nothing to lose by setting up a time for him to swing by. During our consultation, he asked about our pain points in the yard and listened to what we were looking for. He also shared his general ideas for our yard and how he would look to fix the issues we were experiencing.
Purple Potato Vine, Salvia and Vinca in color bowl on top of a boulder
Going into this process, we didn’t know what to expect on the design front. After our initial meeting, Fred took our hopes and ideas for our front and backyard and went to the drawing board. He created three unique designs for our space and came back to present them to us.
We were blown away with the amount of thought and purpose behind each design he presented. He thought about things like where the eye naturally goes first and what we want to accentuate versus conceal in the space. It was obvious he had not only the experience but also extensive knowledge on the topic.
We also really liked that he created the designs on top of our plot plan. Having the designs set to scale was important in helping us visualize what it would look like. From there we talked through what elements we liked best from each of the three drawings. We were able to pick and choose different parts to create exactly the look and feel we were going for.
Note – You can use Fred for his design services alone. You can hire him to create drawings for your space, and then hire different contractors.
After learning our preferences and selections, Fred went back to the drawing board again and created our “pre-final” drawing. In the final meeting, he presented it to us along with the costs for each part of the project. He gave us options for different materials at a range of price points. We also discussed a mulit-phase approach to spread the cost over a greater period of time.
He also suggested types of plants that are ideal for the orientation of our house (sun versus shade), plants that would cover more ground (less mulching!) and were hardy enough for gardening beginners like us. Fred is not only a landscape designer, but he also has a farming background and owns a nursery in Cypress. It was nice to be able to lean on him and his expertise in the picking of the flowers, too.
He answered all of our questions and then gave us the time we needed to make decisions on how we would move forward.
Variegated Abelia, Prostrate Rosemary, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
An interesting tidbit:
Fred originally asked us what we would have in our “dream backyard” if money was no object. This seemed a little lofty because we knew our budget would not allow for that kind of project. However, we later found out that he asked us this because he wanted to make sure he designed the space to work for us in the long term. He was forward-thinking enough to ask thorough questions, so we wouldn’t have to backtrack on anything in the future. For example, if you ever wanted to install a pool, he would make sure to not put any drainage pipes in that area that would require reworking in the future.
Flagstone overlay on walkway to front door
This kind of a project, with the level of design work and the quality craftsmanship by Fred’s team was definitely an investment. However we are incredibly happy with both the outcome and the high-touch customer service that Buds & Blossoms offers.
It’s difficult to give any specific numbers around what his service costs, because it is highly individualized based on what each client is looking for. I recommend contacting Fred for a consultation to get an idea of project costs. As an example, our drainage issues accounted for a good part of our project, but that is surely not something everyone would need.
I also wanted to note that Buds & Blossoms rarely works with sub-contractors. Everyone who was on our property was employed by Buds and Blossoms and was hardworking and respectful from day one.
We have been in our house for three years, and I have never enjoyed being in my front and back yard as much as I do now. We’ve so many compliments on our front yard from family, friends and neighbors in the past few weeks, but most importantly it brings US a lot of joy. Marcus and I literally say how much we love it every time we pull up to our house.
These projects will undoubtedly help with resale value in the future, too!
Blue Plumbago and Vinca in flower bed, Peggy Martin Rose against house.
Tips from Buds & Blossoms
Because not everyone lives in the Houston area and can have the pleasure of working with Buds & Blossoms, they kindly shared some of their BEST landscaping tips that anyone can implement no matter where they live.
Example of the tree bed removal we made to one tree in the front yard and one in the back. The sod quickly took hold and after a times of being mowed it looks seemless.
Trees beds aren’t necessary!
It’s a myth that circle beds around trees are necessary. They actually make your yard look smaller by cutting up the space, and they distract the eye from your other, more visually appealing features in your yard.
Think about where the eye naturally goes
Visually orient your landscape plan for the drive up to your house, not the real estate photo. This will usually be on the diagonal and should gently move your eye toward the entrance (front door area). Focus on where the eye will go as you approach your home and put your favorite plants and features there!
Prune early and often.
Promoting branch growth forces roots to spread the energy, you get a denser plant (more leaves), and more flowers. This is especially important for year-round bloomers.
- The objective of your sprinkler system is to first balance the water coverage by zone. Zones should be set up by common sun and/or shade needs and the plant type in different areas.
- Once the zones are balanced and set up for the right number of minutes, all other adjustments should be made by “seasonal adjustment” which is by a percentage of the watering time specified.
- We suggest only four changes per year: 100% from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 75% from Labor Day to Thanksgiving, 50% from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day, 75% from Valentines to Memorial Day.
- Always run your sprinkler on the dry side of watering. This keeps your soil and your plants healthier. Anaerobic conditions in the soil from overwatering promote disease and chlorotic conditions which malnourish your plants.
- If the soil is too dry you just add water: hit manual start once. If the soil is too wet it can take 3-4 months and aeration to get the soil healthy again.
- Plan your pottery planting according to the old Southern Living suggestion: thrillers, spillers, and fillers.
- A thriller would be centered and upright, usually a perennial staple.
- Spillers drape over the edge, usually an annual or perennial vine.
- Fillers are something flowering that fills the space in between, usually annual/seasonal color.
- Take the fight/forgetfulness out of watering your pottery by using adjustable emitters tied to the nearest sprinkler zone. Once the water quantity is correct (by adjusting the flow of the emitter) the seasonal adjustments described above will keep pottery plants well-watered.
- Always use coarse gravel at the bottom of your pottery with a water-permeable liner between the gravel and soil to keep dirt from filling up the gravel. This will ensure good drainage and breathability for the soil/plants.
- Select pottery that gives good space for root development. More of a “U” than a “V”. This will reduce frustration with getting plants to do well in containers.
Sun Coleus, English Ivy and Vinca in pottery
Local to Houston and interested in a outdoor transformation of your own?
If you are in the Houston area and have an outdoor project coming up, we highly recommend looking into Buds & Blossoms. And Fred’s team can do a lot more than what you see in these photos! They do outdoor kitchens, fire pits, water features, pools, patio extensions, vegetable gardens and so much more. If you can dream it, Fred and his team can build it for you!
Buds & Blossoms is a family-owned business in the Cypress area. They are genuinely kind people and were an absolute pleasure to work with from start to finish. We would hire them again in a heartbeat.
Disclosure: Buds & Blossoms gave us a discount on their standard pricing in exchange for documenting my landscaping project and sharing my experience with my readers. All opinions are always my own.
Our bench is made of Polywood. It’s easy to wipe down and won’t rot!