Wow..Where do I start? I need all of you guys help!!!

orchid_pixie(GAZone 7a)February 22, 2009

We've lived here in our little cottage/cabin for almost 3 years now, and I MUST tackle the landscaping around the house and pathway. It's almost completely bare. We have a retaining wall to the left that you can see in the pics. I admit that I do not have much experience with gardening...But, am very eager to learn. Our soil is all clay and hard packed. I've tried in the past to plant around the house and can't even break the soil by hand..Maybe invest in a tiller? We were also thinking of extending the porch all the way across the house. It seems so tiny in the photos! Any ideas on where to start and what we should do? Any imput is greatly appreciated!!!

Excuse the mess on the porch, we are remodeling the bathroom.....

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esh_ga

Welcome!

It is certainly a very good looking structure. An extended porch would be nice, but you must realize that, if you also continue the overhang, doing so will reduce the amount of light that comes via the two sets of windows that flank the porch now.

Did you have termite treatments? If so, be aware that planting things in the 12 or so inches next to the foundation will disturb any termicide treatment that was applied as liquid (if you have the bait stations, it may not matter). Definitely figure this out before you get a tiller into the area.

Ok, now that we've got the warnings out of the way ... the best way to improve the soil is to add organic material. Prior to digging in the area, you can soften up the soil by getting it wet (or work on it the day after it rains). Mulch (pine straw, shredded leaves, shredded bark) will help soften it over time (if you decide you don't want to plant until fall). As for organic material - you can amend the whole area at once - that would actually be preferable than individual holes. That way your new plants roots would have a lot of room to expand and get happy.

The house is so petite - when considering plants, stay low. The whole "foundation shrubs" concept is a bit overrated these days - people don't have ugly foundations like they used too. So don't get hung up on a row of green shrubs straight across the front. In fact, this is so woodsy looking, I'd try to do something very natural and informal so that it looks like Mother Nature helped you out.

Whereabouts are you located (city)? One of the first things you need to do is figure out the sun exposure. How many hours of direct sun does the front get? Winter and summer sun exposure can be different. If the area gets 6 or more hours, that would be consider "full sun". The other aspect to consider is if that is morning sun (very kind) or afternoon sun (very harsh). That can make a big difference in what you choose.

Consider also what you like. Any personal favorites that you'd like to use? For example, we always had gardenias at my childhood home, so having gardenias was important to me. I'm also a big advocate of gardening for wildlife, so having plants that provide food and shelter were high on my list.

Gardening is a journey for most of us ... we love it for what it brings every day ... and it's a process that is never done. Don't try to do it all at once, especially with potential water restrictions.

Hope that helps.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 6:49PM
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orchid_pixie(GAZone 7a)

Thank you so very much for your response! We are in Pendergrass, in Jackson county I have no recollection termite treatments at all. We are definitely going to bust up that whole front area all at once very soon to get the organic matter in the ground asap. We LOVE gardenias. I'm not sure if you could see the one to the left of the house. And I really detest shrubs..like boxwood and such. I'm a big fan of cottage-y country gardens. Our house is actually a lot bigger than it looks from the front. We have a huge salt box roofed back end to the place. But, yes, it has a very petite front. So, starting small sounds like a good idea. I think our house faces west-ish, so its rather sunny in the front most of the day (afternoon) I guess now I just need suggestions for some perennials that will thrive in this area and I am good to go. thx again!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 8:07PM
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esh_ga

It is important to have a termite bond in Georgia. If you have the drench method, you may need to have it reapplied if you dig too close to the foundation of the house because you'll break the chemical "barrier" that was created. You should have a renewal termite bond with a pest company. We ended up having termites within 3 years at our first house - luckily we decided to have a garage door on the basement converted to windows and found the problem early enough to have minimal damage. That's also when we realized we had not renewed our bond! $700 to get a new bond.

Ok, but full sun perennials are easy (and I agree that with western exposure, you probably have hot afternoon sun). Consider roses, daylilies (get reblooming ones), coneflowers, black eyed susans, goldenrod (check out 'Fireworks') and asters for fall color. Lots of choices and I'm sure that others will chime in.

Consider the bloom season of each so that you pick things that will bloom in spring, summer and fall. Perennials don't bloom non-stop, they each have their "season" for the most part. Add a few sun loving annuals and you have lots of color.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2009 at 9:04PM
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mk87

What a DARLING house! Cottage-y plants would look gorgeous with it! Love the path too!

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 7:37AM
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groundcover

Sedums are tough as nails.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 11:40AM
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orchid_pixie(GAZone 7a)

I just looked up Sedums...Wow, they are gorgeous! Hopefully I will have luck finding them around here come spring. And, also an exterminator out soon to assess our situation.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2009 at 12:13PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

To break up clay, wait until after you have a good rain. Then use a spade fork (not a pitch fork) to help. A till can help, but you need to be careful to break up the clay first and then till in organic matter. If you simply try to till on top of the clay, you will just hard pack it more (it will appear polished). If you then continue to put organic material on top of the clay around your plants, you will develop a layer of nice top soil over the years.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 7:12AM
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orchid_pixie(GAZone 7a)

OOOOO, thanks for the tip on breaking up the clay!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 8:52AM
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mad_gardener

Orchid_pixie,

1. Buy a heavy duty tiller, if you decide to try to cultivate your soil. Don't do what I did and get the "cheap" $188 model at Walmart. It will only leave you $188 poorer & shaking your fist at the sky as you realize you wasted your money on a puny tiller that got you nowhere (and which, to boot, is hard to start unless you have the upper body strength of a titan).

2. I too, love gardenias & have been trying to grow them, with varied success. So far I've killed 1 1/2 plants (I would say two, but I won't know if the last one is dead until it warms up & I can tell if there are any remaining signs of life). Of the plants that have survived my attempts to grow them, I currently have two indoor veitchii (one at home, one at work -- I'm conducting an experiment to see which lasts the longest before dying horribly, or preferably, which blooms first!) and four frost-proof gardenias that I bought at Pike's and planted outside in my front garden bed. As for the frost-proof, they seem to be doing okay, and given that you're in the northern part of GA, I would give those a try before buying some of the less cold-hardy varieties. However, whatever you decide to do, do yourself a favor first and read the suicidal gardenia thread I'm posting for you below. The first time I read it, I literally laughed so hard that I had tears streaming down my face. Enjoy and good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Suicidal Gardenia

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 12:30AM
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bagsmom(7)

I have nothing to add to all the excellent advice - but just wanted to say I am so jealous of your wonderful cottage in the mountains. I dream of that someday!!!!! You will have to post pictures of the "after" landscaping!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 8:16AM
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orchid_pixie(GAZone 7a)

Mad_Gardener:
Haha. Sometimes you just have to leave them Gardenias alone and see what happens. When we moved into our house we noticed a Gardenia bush way down in the woods. Couldn't figure out how it got all the way down there. So, we decided to transplant it to the front of the house to enjoy it more. Well, the first year it was up there it did terrible. Yellow leaves, no blooms, droopy. We thought we had lost it. Well, it pulled through! Bloomed last year. You can see it in the photos above on the left of the house. It's still a lil scrawny, but we're working on it...

Bagsmom: We are barely in the mountains...I guess you could call it the foothills.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 1:06PM
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satellitehead(z8 ATL Metro)

one of the things i love to do more than anything is plant rosemary on either side of stairs leading up to a house. it's so amazingly fragrant, and i can't help reach over and touch it, then smell my hands. it's always good to cook with as well. just something to think about (it's evergreen and some varieties flower purple also)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 6:07PM
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