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hey there! I'm monica 

I pride myself on making amazing style and design accessible for everyone, regardless of location, budget, or ability! My design philosophy is rooted in authenticity + attainability - If I can do it, you can too! My work has been featured in countless publications, but I take the most pride in homeowners that have been personally inspired by my DIY ideas and have tried something in their own homes!

learn more about ME + MY BIZ

I will be the first to admit that my husband and I are absolutely clueless when it comes to landscaping of any kind. Our home came with well-established flower beds that we we had no idea (and still don’t!) how to care for.  Up until this year, I really didn’t care that much, but this year, enough was enough. We plan on making small (as in, very small) updates to our yard and outside of our home this summer and of course, I’ll share them with you! The first job we tackled was rather big and ugly:

Isn’t that awful? We’ve been living with it like that for almost five years. Blech. Our poor neighbors. That out-of-control tree/bush/thingy is hiding a corner of our house, a small stone-filled flower bed, some decorative grasses and who knows what else.
The worst part is that our deck directly overlooks this area, so whenever we eat outside this crazinesss stares back at us. And I’m not joking when I say that that tree/bush/thingy actually blocked sunlight from coming in the dining room window. Can you see my hubs hiding in the jungle below? He got to work cutting it down, which was no easy feat.
Once the tree was down, I had the pleasure of clearing out the remaining weeds, which, unfortunately for me, included both poison ivy and poison sumac. As a result, I ended up with a mean case of both and had to go on steroids. It was fun, let me tell you.
But it was worth it! There are lots of things that still need to be addressed in this area, but the difference already is unbelievable!
I literally couldn’t believe it when, early the next morning, I went into my dining room (which is the window overlooking this area) and the sun shining through was almost blinding. Ha!
Next on my agenda is adding some decorative grasses, repainting the bench a fun color, edging the whole area, and deciding whether or not to fill the area with more stone, or wait and go for a paver patio later. Ideally, I’d like to remove our deck and put in a paver patio, which would encompass this area, but that’s just a dream, at this point. And oh yeah, we definitely need to powerwash the side of our house. But for now, I’m just enjoying the open space and extra sunlight. Let’s take a look at the before and after side by side, shall we?
Ahhh….so much better.
So, are you a landscaping idiot, like me? Throw your ideas at me for finishing this area off- I need all the help I can get!

The comments +

  1. christigpa says:

    hydrangeas if the spot stays shady!

  2. Janelle Speca says:

    it looks great!
    when covering pipes like that I usually use hostas.. they are hard to kill and aren’t huge and in your face like the grasses. you could also do some potted plants to bring in some color.
    i would also make sure you spray down the area really well so that the poison ivy doesn’t come back..
    But it does look amazing… and it probably feels so good to have that cleaned out and usable space again 🙂

    • Thanks, Janelle! I actually have a whole row of hostas on the other side of the deck along the house and they’re growing beautifully, so you might be right about bringing them to the other side. And Kevin was already out there spraying the heck out of the poison ivy, so I think we have that covered. 🙂

      Hope you’re well!


  3. says:

    It looks great and sunny and open. I agree, if the area is shady, throw some hostas in there. They come in all sizes and different green colors. Hard to kill but nice to fill in an area. The poison ivy should be killed off before you do more planting in there too or it’ll grow back quickly. You could also put some Lamb’s Ear down as a soft ground cover or Lady’s Mantle. It does spread out. Or I grow some White Yarrow. It is mostly a soft feathery tall green bushy thing that has white yarrow blooms coming out right now (you can dry them for use later on). Would fill in nicely in the corner of the house. Yuca plants might work too if real shady. Just some thougts…..

    • Oh man, just reading your comment made me realize how little I do know about this stuff! Thank you for all your suggestions- I really appreciate it and will definitely look into them. Of course, I’ll let you know what I decide! 🙂

      Have a great day!

  4. beth says:

    Hostas are a great idea( esp. up along the deck)……I would clean it out take the larger stones and outline an area and fill in with small red stone. Either paint the bench or get a hammock and attach to tree and deck. A quiet reading, napping area will be born!

    • That’s exactly what I want- a quiet reading area! Maybe I could put some adirondack chairs there instead of the bench? My mind is reeling with all the possibilities!

      Thanks for your thoughts-

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree hosts are the way to go. I hate to say it but that tree is too close to the house and should probably come down.

    • You are absolutely right. We’ve been told that before about this tree, and a few others. Unfortunately, this tree is HUGE and will cost a ton of money to take down, so we’ve been holding off. Hopefully soon! Thanks for your concern!


  6. Cocalores says:

    A lot of progress! I love hydrangeas and sedums, they’re easy to take care of – even for gardening newbies like me – and they can become kind of big and bushy. I could also imagine putting a trellis over that pipe and have some climbing roses or wisteria cover it up! But it’s been a lot of time and sweat that you have already invested – my sympathies for the sore muscles that you must be having right now 😉

    • Haha, you’re so right about the sore muscles. It was a ton of work…and we still have so much left to do! I love the thought of hydrangeas, but was always afraid I might kill them. 🙂 I think I’ll have to give them a try! Thanks for your encouragement!


  7. Pam Robinson says:

    So Jess, you have gotten many great ideas and I agree with all of them, especially about killing the poison ivy/sumac before planting. While you are waiting on that I would put together a little vegetable or herb garden in a deck container. Have you seen those containers that hang from a deck rail? You can do tomatoes, basil (good for mosquitoes), parsley, green onions, etc. Once you see how wonderful it is to harvest fresh veggies/herbs, you will know exactly what to do in that open area. Hugs, Pam

  8. Anonymous says:

    I like the bench, BUT a swinging bench would be perfect there, as well especially with the nice shade from your large tree! You even could have a neat hammock attached to the other side of the tree with nice landscaping around both and maybe even a nice country walk made with stones to reach both spots.

  9. Oh my gosh. All of these comments show how knowledgeable other people are when it comes to plants and just how bad I am! lol! I seriously need help here at my house so I am anxious to see what you end up doing. And I just spent two full days power washing my wrap-around porch only to come back to the front and see I needed to start again! grr! Good luck doing that, too! 🙂

  10. Maura says:

    Great job! What a big difference. Landscaping….our never ending projects around here too! weeds….yuck! they are everywhere. our siding looks like that too…need to get some power washing done myself. I don’t have a lot of advice. We got professionals to help us last year. They did the plan and then we planted it all ourselves. You could just do something simple and inexpensive now for the long-term goal of a patio.

  11. WOW — it’s crazy how tearing out a few things can make all the difference. We must have been enjoying the same sunny weekend because I posted our garden re-do on 6/5 as well! (

    Besides seeing all that you did, I’m enjoying reading all of the comments that other readers have left… especially about the hostas because that’s pretty much all my shady garden can handle. Love this post and LOVE the blog <3

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