My Summer Projects! {Painfully Embarassing Before Photos}

My Summer Projects! {Painfully Embarassing Before Photos}


As I’ve mentioned on Facebook a few times, I’m super excited about my summer projects. Our house was brand new when we bought it and sadly that means it has next to no landscaping. Even the few plants we had have now since died. Sad.

When I see those lush rolling hills and open fields of green outside the windows of those of you who live in other parts of the country I must admit I feel a little jealous!

With a tiny new lot, that means our entire yard is pretty exposed and empty and the view into our neighbors yard from our back yard is not my favorite. But, I’m grateful to have a home. Not complaining. I just miss plants and trees!

My Summer Projects! {Painfully Embarassing Before Photos}

Dead Sticks on a Trellis

Landscaping the yard is unfortunately not in the budget this year, but my back deck and front porch are going to be my summer makeover projects! I’m very excited about creating pretty, usable and enjoyable outdoor rooms to spend time this summer!

Last year I was able to complete just a little project. I added a couple of vines on trellises to our teensy tiny back deck and we enjoyed them all summer,  but unfortunately those plants didn’t make it through the winter. I was left with what looks basically looks like dead brown sticks on a trellis. Pretty, huh?

Not only are our vines completely dead and all of our pots filled with the crispy remains of last year’s plants, but the cushions on our chairs are completely faded and just really yucky. And our deck just looks boring and sad.

My Summer Projects! {Painfully Embarassing Before Photos}

Oh. And these. Gah. So embarrassed.
Who lives like this? Oh. ME.
Where did I go wrong?

I know, it is all pretty appalling. I almost deleted this whole post to spare myself the shame.

Our covered front porch is pretty much the same story. Only slightly better because it has a little nicer view, you can kind of see a lake from the porch and the neighbors are not as close! But still, it has dead plants.

I definitely need to spend some time outside adding life and personality to our spaces, and hopefully be able to create lovely outdoor rooms we will use all summer long.

My Summer Projects! {Painfully Embarassing Before Photos}

So, yesterday, on the first day of summer (which was SUNNY and WARM) my middle daughter and I headed over to Lowe’s (who is providing many of the items for this fun makeover) to get this makeover going! We had the most fabulous time shopping, the Lowe’s team was sooo helpful!

My Summer Projects! {Painfully Embarassing Before Photos}

I found some great plants and vines (lush, green and …. ALIVE things!) and some easy, creative solutions for making my decks more private and more like a real outdoor room.

I look forward to showing you what I found, what my plans are, plus a couple of really easy weekend projects! And then of course, the AFTER PHOTOS will be revealed! I’ll have the AFTERS up in the next few weeks.

My Summer Projects! {Painfully Embarassing Before Photos}

Meanwhile, tomorrow, I’ll be sharing the grand finale post from the Every Day Elements Home Office Makeover!

My Summer Projects! {Painfully Embarassing Before Photos}

Ha. Don’t even laugh at my pathetic green plant.

What projects are you doing this summer? And, do you have a green thumb?


  1. I’ll bet it is coming together nicely. I chose the wrong plants for my baskets on the deck. Most of them went brown within the first two weeks. Uggh. They looked amazing initially. Guess I’ll redo it. And then there is the fact that I began painting our deck furniture and never got back to it. I’m putting high hopes in your deck post to inspire me to finish what I have started. No pressure…lol.

  2. I love outdoor spaces and I can’t wait to see the outcome!

  3. I often forget about my container plants and they go without water which, as you know, often results in crispy critters. Good luck with the transformation,…can’t wait to see what you do.

  4. Youre getting me inspired!

  5. It’s gonna be great! Can’t wait to see the afters! And, just FYI, Lowe’s has outrageous clearances on a lot of their plants fairly often. I just make a habit of running through their nursery clearance racks (usually on the FAR, FAR away side of the nursery area!) every time I go to Lowe’s. Which might be kind of often. :) I am pretty sure I’ve landscaped about 75% of our house with clearance plants from Lowe’s. A lot of times, the plants look sad just because they are between bloom times. Maybe I should do a blog post about this, instead of taking up your entire comment section! :)

  6. My family bought me a gazebo for the deck this year and it has added so much to our using the deck!

    Our gardens are doing well, lots of green – I don’t do very many pots, I tend to kill those!


  7. Please don’t be embarrassed Melissa. It’s just reality – we can’t keep up with everything all the time and we shouldn’t put so much pressure on ourselves!! I know you will have your deck looking wonderful – so take your time and we will enjoy seeing it when the time comes! Have a great day!

    • Thanks JoAnne, it is definitely my reality! But I am looking forward to my new reality of a little more green ;-)

  8. I look forward to seeing your ‘after’ photos. I live in the deep south and any spring projects that didn’t get done will just have to wait until fall – it is too dang hot for anything more than maintenance. This spring I pressured washed my screened-in porch, deck and pebbled patio, then I painted the ‘sip’ and deck, potted and hung some ferns and planted a few containers and called it done.

  9. I can’t wait to see what you do with all that fun stuff. Makes me want to go to Lowes..NOW!!! I am trying to complete my goal of 100 “Deployment Projects” while my hubby is on a year long tour in Iraq. He comes home in just 9 days, and I am Project #95. I have 5 more to complete in the next week! EEEEKKKK!!!! He’s been gone 14 months, and I have been able to do 95 home projects…just 5 more to go!

    • That is truly an accomplishment Paige, you should feel proud of yourself. I think you can stop at ninety five and just start the welcome home preparations, you both deserve it! And, have a wonderful reunion with your husband!

    • WOW, that is amazing Paige! Way to go!!! Enjoy that homecoming!!!

  10. we are putting the finishing touches on a complete backyard makeover, from a small rock wall to over 100 plants to new grass on the ground….and of course spray painting pots. it will all be finished in about 2 weeks and ready for its big reveal.

  11. Can’t wait to see what you do with your outdoor space! We are in a terrible drought in west texas right now, so I’m struggling to keep our grass green! No pretty potted plants for us this summer! I will live vicariously through you!

  12. Can’t wait for the After pics!

  13. oh and I am so glad you shared this!! I too have a sea of brown on my porch- sometimes i get so caught up in fixing my inside that I forget about the outside. and hello!! thats the 1st thing people see when they come to my house! :-)

    • Oh yes, I was thinking the same thing as I was taking these pictures!! I need to switch gears for a bit!

  14. Durn, I was hopin’ the ‘after’ was going to be at the bottom of the post. Alas, now I must wait.
    I posted my to-do list yesterday, which made it way more atrocious than I originally thought. Refinishing the deck is on there somewhere. I do, however, have a yard I am happy with on most days. I feel your pain in the no-landscape department. I couldn’t function without green in my life.

    • Heeeee heeee I’m tricky, making you wait for the afters!! But not too long, I hope to be done pretty quick! These are easy makeovers!

  15. We just moved from lush Vancouver Island, to the prairie lands of Alberta. How I miss our temperate rain forests, gorgeous, extensive gardens, flowers, green… our new home is wonderful, but is literally plunked on a 3 acre field. While we’re grateful for the space, I am here to prove that gardening in Alberta IS possible, and I strive for a full, lush garden once again. G’luck in your project; I look forward to seeing it come together!

  16. Can’t wait to see the after photos!!

  17. I can SO relate to this!! Our house was new 3 years ago with only the front yard landscaping done (which was pathetic). This year was the last straw, I wasnt cleaning up a dangerous yard full of weeds (not to mention the creepy crawlies living there) again this year. We finally laid sod and planted some shrubs & flowers Memorial Day weekend! Only took 3 years! I do NOT have a green thumb, but our yard is still green and I’m determined not to kill the PRICEY plants. So far so good! Cant wait to see what you come up with.

    • I can’t wait to landscape our yard, that will be a happy year indeed!! Maybe next year. ;-)

      • Tip – in my previous house the local nursrey teamed us up with a college student who did our landscape plan for fairly inexpensive dollars. She did a drawing for us vs. a blueprint but it worked just fine.

  18. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  19. Oh I feel something good on it’s way! sad but I am in the same boat with you it’s just so dang hot you don’t want to get out…still no excuse right…

  20. I know how you feel Melissa. I live in the Northwest too north of Seattle and it’s a crapshoot if the weather is nice when you have the availability to ge in the yard and make a difference. I did update my front porch a couple of weeks ago with a minimal amount of dollars and I was thrilled.
    Good luck, can’t wait to see the new looks! :-)

  21. If I had a tiny lot I would be doing more container gardening. OK – to be honest I kill every plant I look at, but they’d be easier to replace if they were in individual containers.

    A trip to Lowes where they are helping pay for some of it? You did win a lottery!

  22. Barbara (WA) says

    We had all kinds of plans for the outside including pressure washing and painting the exterior. THEN my hubby ordered hardwood flooring for the main floor of the house – yahoo!!! I will be instead packing up the china cabinet contents, removing the old, icky carpet, and just maintaining the garden. I knew it would be a busy summer so I limited the number of containers to care for. Window box, hanging basket and a few containers on the front porch (yes, the first place guests see). Have fun bringing color and green to your outside spaces!

  23. Will be anxious to see the end result, Melissa! You have such great taste and so generously share your talent through your blog. I’m more of a container gardener than a landscape gardener myself. I do love all the perennials that come back every year in our landscape and gardens, but it’s so much fun choosing unique pots and different containers and mixing colorful annuals, flowers and grasses in mini-gardens. You will do a great job on your patio, no doubt! :)

  24. I just finished repainting an old desk and it looks great! Also, I repainted my 20 year old wicker chair. It looks great now, but needs a new cushion. I too, have been loving the 50-75%off plants at Lowes. WHat a way to get a great deal and have a nicer looking yard. Another thing I discovered years ago are zinnias. I just can’t get enought of them-they are extremely easy to plant from seed and you get flowers that last through the hot summer. Last year, I ended up pulling mine up in November-they were starting to look a little scraggly, but they were still blooming!! If you cut them, they return and bloom more! THey are cheap color for your yard!

  25. A little bit can go a long way…so I’m very anxious to see your “after” photos. We have been working on our yard little by little, but it still needs a lot of work. I’ve been putting a lot of time and effort into our planters that we have out front this year. They have been doing well so far and it’s been fun to see how much they’ve grown. I had a lot of fun picking out color combinations, etc for the planters. Good luck with your project!

  26. “After” photos wouldn’t be nearly so much fun if there were no “Befores.” So don’t apologize–thank you for sharing! :)

  27. I have flower pots on my front porch that look like yours …dirt and dead things!
    Only…I’ll tell you how pathetic I am. Those dead things still have some green to them. So I trimmed them and am cultivating a new plant. #1- the IVY was from my MIL house after She passed. #2- I’m cheap like that! LOL…
    what else am I going to do? We’re retired. I’ve got all the time in the world to just sit and watch things grow!

    I’ll be watching your outdoor room make over.
    hoping to be inspired, Pat

  28. Melissa,
    Okay, I’ll admit it…your deck is looking a little rough. :)
    But now I feel so much better knowing that I am not the only one with a back porch in need of help. I do not have a plant one!
    I am hoping to get to Lowe’s soon and get some green things. I’ll be checking your deck makeover for some inspirations. :)
    Thanks for being real.

  29. Well my summer project was planting a vegetable garden. After I stopped those pesky little rabbits with some Liquid Fence (highly reccommend)my tomato plants have become monsterous! Other projects I am thinking about might be to paint some furniture and some walls in my home that need freshened up. If I get real venturous I may take the wallpaper off our master bathroom and put a fresh coat of paint on the wall! Whew…makes me tired just writing about it…LOL!

  30. Sayumi Kamei says

    That looks almost just like our front deck. The wood needs refinishing after years of weather and neglect. But our garden is flourishing with lots of flowers, vegetables and fruits. So the deck tend to get neglected, while the living plants get all our attention.

  31. Ah, good luck! I don’t have a green thumb either. I’ve killed both an orchid and a cactus before. As my mother so eloquently put it, “So, you’re less nurturing than a desert…?”

  32. Can’t wait to see your after pictures. Looks like a lot of trellis and green will be involved.

  33. Looks like a really fun project! I can’t wait to see the ‘afters.’ I will warn you that we bought our deck furniture from Lowe’s two summers ago when we first moved into our current house. I think we bought the same brand of chairs/love seat/cushions/table. We’ve been very pleased with the actual furniture itself and how it holds up to being outside all the time. But, some, not all, of the cushions faded before the end of that first summer. They must not have been made from the same batch/bolt of fabric. I’ll be interested to see/hear how yours hold up.

    • That is how fabric is outdoors, even the Sunbrella fabric after awhile! Especially if it is in the sun. My new furniture will actually be under cover but never the less, I expect it will probably fade too. Same with my back deck furniture, it is all faded.

      My mom had the same problem and she told me to recover everything with white outdoor fabric. Then you just wash and bleach it and it never fades!! She has had her white outdoor patio cushions on her furniture forever now so I’m going to do the same when these new ones fade. And I’m planning on white for my back deck too!

  34. It makes me feel better to know someone else’s deck is old as the hills and the plants are not looking so hot:) We just ripped our deck up 2 days ago (finally!) and we’re planning a new patio! CanNOT wait to get started on it! Good luck with yours~

  35. HA! Dead sticks on a trellis — I like it. I was working the dead plants in a pot most of last summer. The heat was SO awful, I didn’t do anything out there! This year I’m hoping to get way too much done. :) Can’t wait to see what you have up your sleeve!

  36. I look forward to seeing how you outdoor spaces will turn!
    A green thumb: I’m trying to grow one! I’ve been experimenting on my window sill and now on the balcony for years. There’s been a few success and a lot of failure but I’m learning! the balcony is turning out not too bad right now…
    As to my summer project: a newborn baby! My second daughter and third child was born 9 days ago so that’ll keep me buzy for the summer I guess! If I have any spare time I want to build and paint a new and sturdy blackboard for the children to play with on the balcony…
    Have a lovely day!

  37. I moved into my house a year ago and didn’t have time to do anything with the yard. The back yard is my fun project this year (I LOVE to garden). My last garden was huge and hard to maintain because of the size, so my focus is on creating a pretty yard that doesn’t need a lot of maintenance. Here’s to a summer of sweet smells, bright colours and lush greenery!! (and lots of turquoise because I just bought a ton of exterior paint in that colour) lol

  38. Staring at an empty lot is overwhelming — that’s where we were two summers ago. Then, I met this great guy who happens to be a landscaper and was willing to share his nuggets of gold without charging a cent. Begin with a dream, he says, and make a poster, using all the pictures you love from gardening magazines or stylized shots of outdoor spaces. A collage — such fun! Then, we made “a plan” for the whole property — a map with plantings shaded in, creating “rooms” as we played on paper. Next, we started with one “room” — the entry and the rest is a lot of sweat labor. This spring I hired the football team to do some rock-scaping for me and making paths (a fundraiser for them for camp and two hours of hard labor work for me that would have put my husband in ER!).

    The Formula that worked for us: Dream Collage – Map Plan – One “room” at a time.

    I shopped sales galore, waited until end of season when tress/shrubs go as much as 50% off, did a lot of research on individual plants.

    You will love doing your deck! That’s “a room” on my list . . . .

  39. Had to have a good laugh at the ‘befores’. Weirdly, I have the opposite problem. We moved to Miami from California and I over planted some pots in our rental like I used to, fertilized them like I normally would and now have an absolute jungle. I really need to pull a bunch of them out and throw them away or get a machete. I guess you just never know how to react to a change in climate. I’m sure your afters will be beautiful and manageable!

  40. You know it’s kind of refreshing NOT seeing perfection haha. I’m sure you’ll have a lovely spot to hang out and enjoy the shortest season of the year. Thank you for being so honest.


  41. We just bought a house, and it is our first house, so I am still learning how to have a green thumb. My plan for the summer is to just keep my lawn and the large amount of flowers that came with the house alive through the summer. We will do more stuff with the deck and garden next year.

  42. I am intruiqued by each thing you put in your cart.

    Did you know that Lowe’s has a fantastic guarantee on their plants . . . for one growing season. I always get my hanging baskets there . . . and replace them free – mid summer when they are getting a little tired.


  43. I actually DO have a green thumb! I think I inherited it from my grandmother.

    As far as summer projects we have been clearing blackberry vines. It’s an absolutely huge overwhelming project. But working together we are making a dent in it.

    I also am re-doing my corner flower beds that are set into the patio, planting mint and basil, and I need to make a cushion for the patio bench.

    But I also plan on spending some SERIOUS time with my kids and D by the firepit. I thin the firepit is one of the best inventions ever.

    Hugs and love to you guys!

  44. omg! This has hilariously reminded me of my dying succulent collection. I totally forget I even have it, because it’s on the windowsill and hidden by curtains…and when I remember, once a year or so, I water the poor things.
    I can’t even believe after 5 years of this they are still with me. I am going to go feed them right now..and perhaps move them to my porch!

  45. diane streicher says


  46. Love your honesty! You’re brave for posting the pix, my patio looks exactly the same. Getting it to look lovely is my summer project also. Can’t wait to see your after pix :)

  47. Good luck cant wait to see what you do.

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