ORC Week 4: Our Bungalow’s Front Yard Landscaping

Hey, we’re out of the basement and back into the fresh air! This week’s One Room Challenge post is about our front yard landscaping. I believe this is the last view you saw of this area, when the plants were installed in spring 2016. Things have filled in since then, though it hasn’t been a 100% success. I’ll get into the hits and misses below.


At the beginning of May, I installed a row of paving stones. I prefer a clean edge along a garden bed. I used these Oldcastle Mini Beltis Tan Charcoal Concrete Retaining Wall Blocks from The Home Depot.

Front Yard Edging Installation

I’ve learned to install stones a little higher than I want them to be ultimately. They quickly settle into the ground.

Front Yard Edging After

This is how the landscaping bed looks now.

Front Yard Landscaping Bed

The company where I work previously used three ratings for annual performance reviews: you could be Among the Best, Getting Results, or Falling Behind. That is how I’ll rank my plants. I won’t get into their specs – I’ll link to The Morton Arboretum or Missouri Botanical Garden, if you want to read details. For reference: we’re Zone 5b, our soil is very heavy with clay, and this area gets sun exposure from the south and the west. All of our plants are native to the region.

Among the Best

Shrubby St. John’s wort (link): Great rounded shape, hilarious name.

St John

Prairie smoke (link): Solid performer. Very cool flowers without making a big deal about it. Spreads slowly – we have a lot more now than when we started, but they’re not taking over the bed.

Prairie Smoke Plant

They attract bees – a team player!

Prairie Smoke Bee

Getting Results

Bayberry (link): One of our compact cranberry viburnums died, and I replaced it with a bayberry. This is its second year on the job and it shows promise.


Bush honeysuckle (link): Amorphous shape, which fills in the space behind the serviceberry tree. Tends to spread a little aggressively but is manageable.


Star sedge (link): Fine when it stands up straight but tends to flop under pressure.

Star Sedge

This plant (link): I do not remember what this plant is. I look forward to its growth this year.


Falling Behind

Serviceberry tree (link): Disappointing! I was so excited about this tree when we hired it planted it, but I think it exaggerated its qualifications. All of the lower stems/branches break off, so the only leafing happens at the top, and that leafing is sparse. The house kinda feels like it’s up on its haunches, so I really wanted something to soften this corner, draw up the eye, and ease into the house.

Serviceberry Tree

The serviceberry trees I see on the North Park University campus (just north of our house) are bare on their lower half, so I think this is common. If I had known that, I would have chosen a different tree.

Cranberry viburnum (link): As I mentioned above, one of our five shrubs died for reasons unknown. The remaining four have always struggled, and now they’re under attack by viburnum leaf beetles!

Cranberry Virburnum Beetles

These pernicious larvae arrived in Chicago only within the past few years, and cranberry viburnum are highly susceptible to them. They have decimated our shrub leaves – one of the shrubs is a ghost now.

Cranberry Virburnum Beetle

Cranberry Virburnum

The landscaper we’ve worked with recommended we spray the shrubs with a mixture of water, vegetable oil, and dish soap. We did that this past weekend, and it seems to have worked: the larvae on the leaves are dead now. Time will tell if the shrubs are dead as well!

You can check out all the other guest participants on the ORC website.

3 thoughts on “ORC Week 4: Our Bungalow’s Front Yard Landscaping

  1. Whoa, that ghost shrub looks wild! And I love the prairie smoke. Next in line for that big promotion.

  2. What is that white thing hanging on the front of your porch? Love the addition of the stone as a border.

    1. Thanks, Gigi! Great question: it’s a spout, but I don’t know if it’s entirely decorative or was once used to shed rain water from the formerly-open front porch. I need to ask the Chicago Bungalow Association for the history on this!

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