Need help for a big gaping hole

north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)October 26, 2008

Yesterday, I was just intending to finish pruning a few branches since DH was taking a load to the dumps. He decided to help by bringing out the power tools. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew we had cut down the spruce tree growing next to our front steps.

Now I know we'd been talking about doing that for some time, but I wasn't prepared for the barren looking hole we created in such a visible spot. It's going to snow any day, so the evidence will be hidden for the winter, but I really need help deciding what to replace that tree with. We removed it because it was getting too large for its location. I knew when I planted it that it was too close to the house and would eventually have to be cut down. But it was difficult for me to actually have it happen. I hate cutting down healthy trees.

So the problem is, the house faces north. The sun never reaches this spot. What kind of shrub can I plant there? It will be in the shade in summer, but will be totally exposed to the harsh winds in winter. The 5 front steps go up to a small landing, so the shrub needs to have some height to it.

The other 2 shrubs currently in front of the house are a nest spruce and a golden variegated dogwood. They do fine, but the dogwood always gets attacked by aphids in the spring. I've wondered if its location contributes to that problem. But it always recovers and looks fine for the rest of the summer.

Can anyone help?

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I am wondering if an ordinary lilac would work for you. If it will grow for can prune it to keep it the right size.....this might be at the expense of having flowers in the spring though.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 12:38PM
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Crazy_Gardener(Z2b AB Canada)

That must of been sad to chop down :(

Insects will attack weak and healthy plants, so its hard to really pinpoint why. I guess in early spring give your shrub a good hard spray of soap/water and see if that helps.

I have a Red Twig Dogwood and a Redberry Elder on the north side of my house, they seem to do just fine there.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 3:28PM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

Thanks Sierra and Sharon for responding.
Sierra, although a lilac would probably be right size, I really think they require more sun than would be available there.
Sharon, I was just pouring through my books and wondered about the Redberry Elder. What does it look like? Can you tell me more about it?
Another shrub I was considering was Diablo Ninebark, but wondered if it would have its deep colour in the shade. My island bed has a cistena cherry though, so another dark colour might not look so good.
Thanks for the suggestions.
Yes it was sad, and I'm regretting it today.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 5:15PM
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Pudge 2b

I've seen globe cedars growing right up against the foundation on the north side of a house and they're beautiful, never get that winter wind burned/reddish hue that often happens. One I'm thinking of would get zero sunshine since it also has bigger evergreens on the east and west sides of it. It's really a beautiful, healthy cedar (I used to take some trimmings in the winter from this shrub for fresh centrepieces).

I have 3 globe cedars on the north side of my house, but they're far enough out that they get about 2 months of summer sun.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 6:43PM
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Crazy_Gardener(Z2b AB Canada)

Redberry Elder grows aprox 8-12 feet tall, yellowish white flowers, red berries in the summer, dark green, cut leaf foliage, a very vigorous, attractive, fine-textured shrub.

You might want to try a golden cultivar as well, although they do prefer more sun, they seem to be more greener in shaded sites but still will grow.

I have a couple of Diablo Ninebarks in part sun, not sure how they would do in full shade thou.


Here is a link that might be useful: Sambucus racemosa

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 3:31PM
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marciaz3 Tropical 3 Northwestern Ontario

Sharon, thanks for that link. There's one of those growing wild down near the lake and no one knew what it was. I was supposed to take a picture of it and try to find out, but as usual never got around to it. :) I'd never noticed berries on it before - it's tangled up with something else, can't remember what - but they're a beautiful bright red.

I have a golden elder on the northwest side of my house and it does quite well there. I was thinking of suggesting that for you, Marie, but mine has quite a spread, so it may not end up fitting in your spot.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 9:52PM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

I'm going to try to remember to take a picture tomorrow so you all can see the space better. I should have done it before the tree was gone.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 10:20PM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

So here's the front of the house with the missing tree to the right of the steps. The white spot is the stump. You can see a nest spruce and the dogwood in the background. The tree was hiding the ugly sump pipes which are so visible now.

I wouldn't mind a shrub on either side of the steps. I currently have hostas growing on the left, but they're really not visible over there.

It really looks naked, doesn't it? I don't know why the roof line looks so wonky; it isn't really.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 11:10PM
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Crazy_Gardener(Z2b AB Canada)

Ok, this is what I would do, I would take out all the plants and redo with perennials, tall, med and short ones. Replant the dogwood out more because in about 3 years that shrub is going to be huge, otherwise you'll be pruning every year.

What do you feel about using perennials instead of shrubs?


    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 1:41PM
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The wonky roof, I suspect comes from barrel distortion from your cameras lens. This is a common problem with some lenses or cameras.

When I saw your photos, I was thinking the same thing Sharon said. Can you grow Astilbe? There are many different sizes. Hostas, coral bells, add some bulbs, tulips, crocus for early spring colour. You might be able to even add liatris. To fill in you could use annuals, impatiens, torenia, fuchsias, begonias, lobelia, coleus, and maybe even pansy, marigolds and zonal geraniums.

Of course this is more work....were you looking for shrubs or trees to make it less work?


    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 4:32PM
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north53 Z1b MB(zone 1b Canada)

I am a perennial lover and have many, probably too many. I'm not opposed to perennials at all. I guess I was thinking shrubs because I don't like how it looks at this time of year once the foliage of the perennials is gone. For instance, on the left side of the steps there are solomon's seal, ferns and a bleeding heart in the background with hostas, columbine, heuchera and a corydalis lutea in front. But in the picture they're all collapsed now.

What the picture doesn't show is the large bed off to the left that I've been creating under 2 mountain ashes. It will be mostly perennials. On the right side you can just see a tiny bit of a large curved island bed that is situated in front of the picture window. The front tip of it is in line with the steps. The driveway runs along the right side of it. The shrubs and spruce tree provided a backdrop for the island, I thought. The island is a mix of shrubs, perennials and annuals. From a design perspective it is all wrong, I know. It just evolved and every year I make it bigger trying to correct my error. But for now I just want to fix the front of the house bed. Jeez, that whole picture makes me realize what a mess I've created.

I tried to stand in the middle of the yard to take my picture but the sun was low in the sky and shining directly at me, so I stood off to the side, hence the poor angle. It would have been more helpful if I had stood out on the road so you could see the whole front yard.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 10:38PM
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I like the idea of shrubs there myself...I think either of the elder varieties suggested would be beautiful, especially a golden variety across from the mountain ash trees!

What about other varieties of dogwood and dwarf spruce or even juniper? I really like the look of sprawling juniper (I'm thinking of Brenda's junipers and peony beds :)) They should all be tough enough for the north side of a house in our zone.

Would Viburnums do well in full shade? It may not bloom, but the foiliage would be nice in the fall.
Good Luck :)

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 10:42AM
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