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The biggest issue we run into is not having enough black dirt (quality soil) on on hand. Trucking in more soil can add thousands of dollars, and it's not often evident at the start of construction or remodeling.
There could be infection spreading under the bark. Sooty Canker is one possibilty, black powdery fingus spreading under the bark. Have an arborist look at it. May be able to remove infect branches, treat with fungicide and save the tree if it has not progressed too far
sounds like too much water. Pine straw has acidity in it and helps transfer the nutrients properly to acid loving plants. Fertilizer could also be needed. Plant nutrient deficiencies vary and sometimes the necrosis in the leaves can identify the issue or which nutrient is lacking...
Gardenias, I love Gardenias! Have you tried a fertilizer for acid loving bushes? You can go to a nursery or even The Home Depot or Lowe's and explain what's going on, and then they can recommend what you should do for them.
Besides the painting suggested by Chad of Lonestar Painting which can truly makeover the appearance of a home, I suggest that the trees and shrubs be professionally trimmed and thinned out. Application of weed control and fertilization of the lawn will provide a healthy and attractive canvas to your yard that can be supplemented with a dose of spring color annuals
A very quick and cost effective way to upgrade your homes exterior is a cleaning and color change. Pressure wash to clean it up and paint the shutters and front door. They can remain the same color or pick a fresh new color. You can also take any old fixtures that have faded over time and paint the metal with a fresh satin or gloss paint. Same with metal railings or metal awnings. Possibly a one day job with big results.
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