Real Life Landscaping: I Need a Native Garden Makeover!

We built our home in Tampa, FL five years ago, and the home builder included very standard (non-native) landscaping. It wasn’t beautiful or vibrant, nor did it make the home look better. The following story is how I came to the conclusion that we need a native garden makeover.

Our Home

Front of House

There are three landscaped areas in front of our home. Two areas hug the walkway up to our front door and the other area sits opposite on the other side of the driveway. I feel conceptually the former is intended to escort guests into our home and the latter is supposed to bring balance to the whole presentation of the house. Great in theory, but I have been so underwhelmed with its visual impact. After a year and a half of moving in, we decided to revamp the area to elevate the look. We hired a landscape company to install a cement-block border/wall, put in all new plants and install two new palm trees. They did a really nice job, and we were happy. But that didn’t quite satisfy me long-term. It matured, and I disliked what was happening with the height and foliage.

It was messy despite our attempts to cut it back and try to keep it tidier. The colors and textures weren’t appealing to me. I wasn’t happy with the look. The second big change to the landscape was ripping out the big focal points about 3 years later.

Side of Driveway

Doing that, we were left with an empty area that I wanted to fill with a bird bath, but my husband and five-year-old son wanted a small pond so we went that route instead. We were left with a little extra empty space; my son naturally gravitated to playing in the dirt with his excavators and dump trucks. We decided to formalize his play area by boxing in the space with wood and added sand. He can spend hours out there, and I’m so glad we gave him that space to enjoy! Fast forward to 2021. Despite some of the improvement, I still wasn’t happy with our landscaping.

Here’s the recap of struggles I was faced with and wanted to fix:


I never use chemicals to get rid of the weeds, instead I handpick them. However, in 2020 I was quite pregnant and weeding fell down the priority list. The mulch became overrun by weeds (turns out they LOVED water from the irrigation we installed–#ThingsIWishIHadKnown). I couldn’t keep up and soon, the weeds became a staple of the look!

Disliked the Textures & Colors

The style of the plants created an overall look that just didn’t look homey or inviting to me. A landscaper told me that many home builders now use landscaping plants and a style that is a reflection of the 1960’s around here. The SIXTIES! No wonder it never felt warm and comforting to me!

Not a Lot of Flowers

I love flowers, so this was a thorn in my side (see what I did there??). I would go to the local home store and pick some things up at least once a year. I tried different flowers, but frankly was always basing it on what I thought was pretty and a guess. At one point, I added in Hibiscus for the flowers trying to create a hedged look. Overall, I had sporadic success, and the ongoing need to replace them was wearing on me.

No Plan or Strategy

The evolving version of my landscaping included a small vision of a border and plants of staggering heights. Being without a goal was frustrating and I wasted a lot of money and time trying to guess what would work well.

Fast-forward to Getting it Right

Making our home look better became a higher priority this spring. I wanted it to look nicer and wanted to do it the right way. It clicked one day…Native plants are the perfect solution! Why? I’ve been living a non-toxic lifestyle for 17 years and using native plants never came up on my radar for a planned landscape project. 

All the benefits of natives line up with my lifestyle and desire to help the wildlife:

  • Require little to no maintenance (this busy mom does not have spare time to give it much TLC)
  • No watering needed after they are established (and I can starve off the unwanted weeds that made their home with my landscaping)
  • Beauty year round.
  • Contribute to helping out the bees and wildlife.

After I realized native plants were perfect, taking the next step for the landscape makeover was a no brainer! I hired a landscaper who specializes in native plants and creates lively ecosystems (I’ll be sharing more about that experience later this spring). She helped me get clear on what was important to me.

Here are the goals we came up with for my home and based the project plan on:

  1.     Create a beautiful and tidy (but relaxed) space.
  2.     Minimize the maintenance.
  3.     Incorporate lots of flowers for both the bees and me.
  4.     Add a variety of textures, layers, and colors like purple and yellow (my favorites!).

Using those goals, the landscaper created a beautiful and purposeful plan for the front of our house. I made a last-minute addition just before installation (can you ever really have too many flowers?) and was counting down until Install Day! (#SpoilerAlert. I was grateful and thrilled with the outcome of the project!) Coming up later this spring, I’ll share more about how I chose my landscape designer, give tips for finding yours, and take you on tour of my finished native plant landscaping project! Helpful links: Blog post: Why Use Native Plants in Your Yard or Gardening Project? Blog post: Rewild Your Garden—10 Methods

Nicole Karon is a crunchy momma (to two amazing young kids), wife, Transformation Coach, and marketing consultant. She’s been living a non-toxic lifestyle for 17 years and is highly dedicated to creating a healthy life for her family. More about Nicole can be found on her website,

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