cottage garden foundation planting ideas

sarahrock(6)April 29, 2010

Hi all. The foundation area around the front of my house has turned into quite a hodgepodge and I could really use some advice on how to make it work!

Currently, the beds between my house and the sidewalk make me really happy -- they are full of perennials and look pretty awesome all summer long. In there I have russian sage, coreopsis, heliopsis, yarrow, woodland phlox, new england aster, echinacea, astilbe, heleborus and probably more things I can't think of off the top of my head.

The two beds by the front of the house, however, are pretty sad. There are 3 different azaleas -- 3 colors, no less -- that are really sad looking, a couple of daylilies (there were tons in that bed originally but last year I started removing them), two nice lavenders (which I really like), two red dogwoods on the corners (which I do like once the snow comes), and tons of bulbs (a nice spring treat, but a bit odd since they are only on one side of the house).

Since the front beds are a wild riot of blooms all summer, I'd love to keep up the cottagey vibe by the house, but I also want to keep a little height to distract from our concrete slab foundation.

I keep reading forums and looking at pictures of cottage gardens, but for some reason I can't make these little beds come together in my mind. Anyone have any suggestions? Here's a picture of how everything was looking at the beginning of March (just about the grossest time of year, but oh well).

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memo(Zone 4B Nebraska)

I have a couple of questions for you before I give suggestions. Is that your driveway on the side where that car is? Do you love your grass? Do you have any plans for a low fence, arbor, obilesk, trellis anywhere in the front yard? Is your house facing south? If you could answer these questions it would be easier to help you with landscaping ideas. Thanks!


    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 11:37AM
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1. Yes, that is my driveway beside the house.

2. No, I do not love my grass and I'd be fine with getting rid of it altogether... BUT it is hard to access the backyard from the driveway side (we usually have a big van parked between the house and the neighbors fence) so we need a large access area through the front yard and around the side of the house for trash cans, wheelbarrows, etc.

3. No, I don't have any plans for fencing, arbors, etc in the front yard, though I wouldn't be opposed to them; I guess they just unnerve me a bit considering how small the yard is to begin with.

4. The house faces south-east, and that foundation area gets a good amount of sun. The area that catches the most shade is the nook to the right of the front porch. There is a tree between the street and the sidewalk on the driveway side of the house that gives some shade to that left front bed, but it doesn't reach to the front of the house.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 11:46AM
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memo(Zone 4B Nebraska)

I think the best way to tackle this garden is to treat both areas as if they are one and the same. Here is my vision, take from it what you think would work. I am only looking at a picture and you are there in person so only you can judge the scale etc.

I would place a garden arbor (walkthrough) the entrance from the driveway and again at the entrance out near the curbing. This will help to unify the two spaces as one garden. You can plant any variety of climbing vines, roses, morning glories from seed etc on the arbors. Next I would create a path with something other than just grass that goes through the garden in as winding a fashion as possible. If you used flat rocks, broken cement or pavers you could plant steppable ground covers between the pavers, spreading them a little into the garden beds on each side to connect the two sides together more. Behind those you can add short perennials like shorth dianthus, creeping phlox and millions of other things. Against the house you may need to move some of your shrubs out more here and there but I would want something taller at the corners to soften them a bit. Sky Rocket Juniper is a great tall shrub that takes up only about 1.5 feet in diameter. I would use some taller shrubs (preferably blooming or evergreen just inside of the skyrockets, or place your red twigs beside them. You need some more plants that will provide some winter interest that's why I'm making some of the suggestions that I am. I'd also add a skyrocket in the outer bed to tie the two together. There are also small evergreens that can be added in just like you would a perennial, like those cute little Alberta Spruce, or Mugho Pine. In the areas of blank siding on the house I would plant tall perennials like hollyhocks (from seed), Delphiniums or larkspur, foxgloves if you don't have kids or digging pets, tall phlox etc. Below the windows I would plant more shrubs like Peonies, dwarf lilacs or flowering almond. In the window boxes I would add annuals that have a trailing habit so that those flowers would swoop down and greet or meet with the flowering shrubs. I'd move all the azaleas together in group. Now just fill in with more of the perennials that you have in your outer border and bring both beds up to meet at the side walk. Add annuals this year (and any year) to fill in blank spots while you wait for your perennials to mature to full size.

Having said all of that I think you have a perfect size yard for a full cottage garden. In future years you can work your way back along the east side of the house so that it looks from the street like your garden goes on forever. You have a great start and really just need to tie the two sides together to create a connected whole. Have fun, your on the right track.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 12:40PM
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Thanks so much for the ideas; you've certainly given me a lot to think on. Even though I know they are great for winter interest, I feel so uninterested in all the standard evergreens I see around. But I think your suggestion of mixing them in like perennials might make them a bit more palatable for me. The Sky Rocket Juniper, though, seems a little too dramatic to me. Although, granted, that might just be the images I'm finding when searching online.

Anyway, I'll keep you posted on what I try! Now if only I can get my husband to buy into the idea of me getting rid of the lawn...

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 3:15PM
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memo(Zone 4B Nebraska)

Good then, I've opened up your mind block. That's all I intended to do. As for your DH...just remind him it's less to mow in the heat of summer! LOL


PS. Search this forum for posts and pictures using the name Eduarda. She is a very good gardener who used to post here frequently and she was so very good at adding winter interest in her garden in Portugal. Very inspiring, see if you can find her pics. She posted most of her pics in the gallery.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2010 at 12:40AM
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Hey folks! I just thought it'd be fun to come back and show you how the yard is looking a year later, thanks to all the great advice from this board! Granted, nothing's really blooming right now and I might have gone a LITTLE overboard on the close spacing, but I am so happy! Thanks so much. :)

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 9:43AM
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You should be pleased indeed. I wish my borders looked like that.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 10:22AM
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Maeflower(Zone 5b MO)

wow! What a fantastic difference. I love it. All the hard work paid off.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 10:56AM
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linda_jo(Raleigh, NC 7b)

I am amazed! What a difference a year makes! (made) Your paths are beautiful. Such an important part of the garden function. I am very encouraged.

Great job.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 2:54PM
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WOW! Thanks for the "before" and "after" pics!!! Inspiring!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 5:22PM
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Thanks! Once I start seeing more blooms (and this incessant rain lets up) I'll post another pic. And this time I'll take it with a real camera instead of my phone. I can't wait to see it in full summer swing!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 11:06AM
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rock_oak_deer(8b TX)

Beautiful job, your garden looks so good.

Look forward to seeing the next set of photos.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 12:22PM
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110% improvement! It looks great.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 8:55PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

We'll be checking back for that summer shot! It's lovely.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 11:01PM
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I love seeing before and after pics! Thanks for posting and it looks lovely. :)

I am only recently coming to appreciate evergreens since we moved to the Midwest from the West coast.

Some small ones I have enjoyed:
Birds nest Spruce-- the spring growth on this small conifer is charming.

False cypress--I have a gold leafed variety which is fitting in well near some golden toned hostas.

Dwarf Mugo pine- also love the early spring growth on this and the mounding shape.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 11:07AM
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Nice picture! If you're still looking for ideas, to use for foundation planting, this is what's worked for me. Shrub roses (my favorite, even the pale yellow knock outs...very pretty) bee balm, peonies, stock...and I'd like to try cleome, hollyhocks and delphiniums and foxglove are nice, but not for gardens with small children, unless they know not to play with/eat them.

Your garden is beautiful and I'm sure anything you add is going to continue that beauty around your yard :)

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 3:38PM
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oceanna(7 WWA)

Inspiring! You should be very proud of yourself. This is a huge improvement. I can't wait to see it in the various stages of bloom.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 12:22AM
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Yeah, I ended up taking out the azaleas in the foundation last year and putting in blushing knock outs, and this weekend I took out the red twig dogwoods and put in some iceberg and pink iceberg roses. So, I have gone against lots of good/standard advice to add in evergreens to the foundation and just gone all roses instead. Everything is covered in snow all winter anyway, so I decided not to bother trying to make it nice. :)

In any case, there is a little extra wiggle room around the roses so I'm thinking I will try to squeeze in something tall and lovely -- foxglove, probably -- in any extra space. I guess that's what I'll be doing next weekend!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 10:36AM
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mehearty(So ME z5a)

You did an amazing job! It always floors me how fast other people's gardens grow.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 3:45PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

Great improvements..have you considered removing the awning/overhang from the front door? Also put same type shutters on the windows on the side of the house to complete the look from the front. Maybe somebody that has a landscape software could show you what it would look like with those improvements. Did you wintersow all your plants or buy them? You've really done a lot in a year's time. Congrats! Can't wait to see the gardens in bloom with color. Keep posting those pictures. I'm proud of you!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 5:17AM
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Pippi - I think about removing that awning every day! I hate it! But it IS really nice when it's raining (which lately is all the time), so I never get around to it. Plus my hubby is a function over style kinda guy and he likes the rain protection, so only time will tell if I win that battle... :)

And yes we have talked about putting shutters on the side, but it's just another thing we never get around to. Maybe this summer will be the moment we've been waiting for! I think you're right though, and it is a needed improvement.

I bought almost all of the plants (except for a few gifts from my mother-in-law) and I'd say they are mostly from bluestone, with a smattering from home depot. Indeed, this yard has not been too kind to my wallet, but I figure I could probably have much more expensive hobbies! :)

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 11:50AM
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Here's the latest in the evolving front yard...

Hope yall don't mind if I keep using this thread; I think it's so fun to have the evolving pics in one place! :)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 10:04AM
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