landscape project in Mt. Airy, MD (pics inside)

chris_tx9(z9 Houston)December 22, 2005

Hi fellow Gardenwebbers from Texas:). I am assisting a friend in redoing her front yard in Mt. Airy. As an amateur, I have designed and installed quite a few gardens in Zone 9 Houston, but Maryland is new territory for me. I would like to call on my fellow enthusiasts to assist in making this transformation the best it can be by helping me select the best plants, answer my (seemingly) basic questions, etc. As a thank you, I will post pics regularly as we progress so that future members may learn a thing or two.

I have a number of pictures, both current and proposed, to share in the attached link. The proposed are strictly conceptual so that she can visualize what is in my head. once she approves, and measurements are taken, I will sketch out a plan on paper. You are welcome to critique anything you see (don't worry, my skin is thick!).


-Relatively low maintenance

-More formal than casual. I would prefer something a little less structured, but this is what she likes and what fits into the neighborhood, so I gave in ;)

-No sprinkler system present, but I plan soaker hoses to go under the mulch in the beds.

-House faces NNE, so while the main part of the yard receives sun, the front bed against the house does not receive much.

Immediate questions:

-What zone is Mt Airy, 6 or 7?

-Where are the best nearby places to buy plants? HD/Lowes? I donÂt want to break her budget.

-Where are the best places (that deliver) to order garden soil and stone for a small retaining wall on the left side?

-What is the best type of mulch to use? In Houston, hardwood mulch is preferred.

-When is the earliest we can safely plant? Here, I plant in late Feb/Early Mar.

-How best to remove grass? In Houston, we use sod removers for our thick St. Augustine, but maybe RoundUp and a shovel is the norm in MD?

In my next post, I will list the style of plants I am interested in using so that you can respond with specific plants that satisfy our needs.

As an aside: This project is very important to me as this is my oldest friend, recently divorced and now raising my goddaughters on her own. I want to really give the front of the house a boost while not wasting any money. I used to participate regularly in the Texas forum, and now hope to find many friendly faces in the Mid-Atlantic.

Cheers, Chris

Here is a link that might be useful: 'Current' and 'proposed' on my Flickr site, scroll over pics to read notes

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It's really nice of you to undertake this project. I like how the plans have evolved. Wish I could answer more of the questions that you've posted.

What zone is Mt Airy, 6 or 7?

Zone 6, IIRC. But, we don't know about any microclimates at work, and the foundation planting needs to be a little more cold tolerant (I have similar exposure).

Where are the best nearby places to buy plants?

Don't know. But, if she is willing to mail-order, you can probably count on a better selection of plants. That said, she'll probably need to scope out the nurseries you select to make sure that she's comfortable with the prices and the quality of the stock.

When is the earliest we can safely plant?

Playing it safe, I'd say late April. I'm a whole zone higher, and I start planting around the middle of April. That way, excessive babying of plants will not be required.

How best to remove grass?

If you had time, I'd suggest lasagna. That's what I've always done, with great results. Otherwise, both methods you've suggested will work fine.

Chris, may I suggest that your friend attend the Spring plant swap? It's a good way to meet a whole bunch of nice people, and get lots of free plants. You may want to check out the 'Haves' list from the fall/spring '05 swap to see if it might be worthwhile.


    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 11:15AM
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chris_tx9(z9 Houston)

Suja, that is a great idea. I have particpated in plant swaps before and haev always had good luck. Of course, we really don't have anything to swap, per se, but that doesn't mean we can't go and check things out. :) I'll keep my eye out for the dates.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 4:28PM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

Hi Chris, are you saying that you'll be installing this?

I hate to admit it I buy many of my plants at Wal-mart, HD and Lowe's....I've even found a few surprises at K-Mart. You just can't beat the prices and sometimes you can find unusual plants. You can also find hardscape surfaces there but not a great selection. I like shredded hardwood mulch personally and I pay $15 a cubic yard, 5 yd minimum. I plant shrubs and trees as soon as I can work the ground in spring, generally by April 1. The temps start to heat up consistently by mid-late June.

It's hard to say what the best solution is to removing grass. It all depends on why you wish to remove it.

I'm kinda partial to hollies and there are many to choose from for this area. A couple of years ago I discovered gardenia Chuck Hayes. Mine grows near the foundation on a south facing wall and does very well. It's definitely low maintenance. I have a beautiful little Siberian spruce that only grows to 3'. I forget the botanical name but I can look it up if you're interested. I despise those alberta spruces which seem popular around here. All spruces that I'm familiar with are prone to bag worms. Not a major problem but if you inspect them regularly. I found arbovitae "smargyd" at Wal-mart a few years ago for an excellent price. ($2) Smargyd only grows to about 16'X 3'-4'. I planted 1' plants in 2001 and now most of them are 7'. They look very pretty and will grow in sun to part shade.

FWIW, the list below will give you an idea of plants that will grow well here. They're all natives and just a guide.

Here is a link that might be useful: Native plants

    Bookmark   December 26, 2005 at 9:15PM
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annebert(6b/7a MD)

Mt Airy is probably 6b. But z 7 plants could be experimented with. I live about 15 miles from Mt Airy, and I grow z 7 plants.

In addition to HD and Lowe's, Dutch Plant Farm on Rte 40 in Frederick has decent prices for a real nursery, and often has specials. If you want a nice named variety of crape myrtle, for example, this might be the place to go. Thanksgiving Farms on Rte 85 in Frederick has amazingly overpriced stuff, but beautiful display gardens where your friend might see good sized examples of the plants you propose.

I use a shovel to get rid of sod here. I plant around April 1, like Peggy - mid March is probably ok, depends on soil/mud factors on your site.

Hardwood mulch is common. Can't recommend suppliers as I haven't bought in quantity. I know there is a place called Broussard Brothers in Monrovia (near Mt Airy) because I drive by it all the time, but don't know much about it.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 12:47PM
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gardengranma(6a/6b MD)

I would suggest the following shows and search this forum for old posts. But first and foremost make a plan (I didn't). Secong the Burtonsville swap is good (bring a few boxes to store all the goodies and you can dig some more at GardenGranma's where the swap is held (that's me):
Feb 24-27 - Richmond VA Maymont Garden show
Feb 27 - Behnke's Lecture Evergreens for Screening
March 4-6 - MD Garden Show Timonium Fairgrounds
March 11-13 MD Garden Show Timonium Fairgrounds
March 12 - Residential Landscaping Workshop - College of Southern MD
March 6-13 - PHILLY Flower Show
March 17-20 - DC Flower Show - Convention Center
March 20 - Behnke's Lecture Gardening for Hummingbirds
April 9 - Behnke's Lecture Hostas
April 16 - Alexandria Garden Tour
April 16 - 23 - Historic Garden Week VA
April 20 - Northern Neck House and Garden Tour
April 22-23 - National Hort Society Plant Sale - River Farm
April 23 - Brookside Gardens - Wildflower appreciation and Plant Sale
April 30 - Londontown Flower Sale
April 30 - National Arboretum Plant Sale
May 7 - Clyburn Arboretum Spring Market Day
May 7 - Paca House Plant Sale - Annapolis
May 14 - Midatlantic Garden Forum Plant Swap Burtonsville*
May 14 - Green Springs Plant Sale (Arlington)
May 14 - Beltsville Garden Club Sale

    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 2:57PM
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creatrix(z7 VA)

From a design point- watch the mature size of the crepe myrtle- it looks close to the house and some varieties can get 20-25' high and wide.

How deep is the bed between the house and the sidewalk? It looks to be about 6'- shrubs should be almost 2' from cthe house at maturity, do you have room for two rows? In my experience, FWIW, most barberries are deciduous and trap leaves horribly. And they are extremely unpleasant to brush against or prune.

You may want to consider smoothing out some of the curves in the front bed- too many and it looks scalloped. And larger curves are easier to mow. It's hard to tell exactly what the bedllines will be from your mock-ups.

Be careful of blocking the view of the house from the approach road.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 11:35PM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

Just a couple random thoughts from an amateur...

Make sure you consider how guest will get to the front walk. Will they have to squeeze between a car parked in the driveway and the bushes in the planting bed? If it were my house, I would want a walk (maybe just stepping stones or pavers) from the point before the driveway narrows to the front door.

I would be tempted to start off by bringing in a professional to design and install the retaining wall. The slope of the yard is probably the biggest issue with this property. I like your general idea for the retaining wall, but I would be tempted to say that it needs to be taller...or maybe there should be some terraces.

I am not sure about the plans for the "right side" of the property. Is there really enough room to fit in three River Birches? It looks like the canopy of the neighbor's tree comes very close to the driveway and would interfere with the proposed Birches. Also, the deciduous trees you recommend won't do much in the way of screening during the winter months. It looks like the neighbors already have a River Birch up near their house and it is not doing much screening in the picture. I would also question how "exposed" the neighbor's house looks during the summer when their tree has leaves. How much of this property does your friend own?

- Brent

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 12:48PM
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chris_tx9(z9 Houston)

Lots of good responses, thanks!

aka_peggy: I will be doing most of the work myself, with other friends adding a bit of labor. Thanks for the plant ideas and the link to natives. I am big on natives, so will definitely use this!

annabert: I'll send her to Thanksgiving Farms--do they have nice designs going all year 'round? Could she go in January?

GardenGranma: Wow, so many shows and tours! If I could only choose 3 or 4 to attend (I have to fly up there and all, LOL), which would you recommend?

creatrix: The CM will be any variety that gets about 10" high or so. Down here, we have a variety called Natchez that I love, but I'm not sure it is available in your area. The bed at the house is about 6' deep and, yes, I plan to put in a hedge row and then a smaller variety in front of that. I need to take a closer look at this though, once I have the measurements. The curves are supposed to be gentle and flowing, not scalloped. I guess my picture appears a bit busy, LOL, but that isn't my intention.

Brent_in_NoVa: Thanks for reminding me about foot traffic. I think I will add a stone 'landing' so that people walking up the drive won't be crammed between a parked car and the bed. My parents have the same type of walk/drive and it is a pain for this very reason. For the retaining wall, I think this is probably as high as it will go. She really doesn't want it at all, but I think it is necessary for erosion control. Other homes have the same slope and very few have walls. One the right side of the property, I would like to pull the neighbor's yard into hers, hence the river birch. There is more room than it appears, and I wanted something that would get pretty dense. She has probably 15' of that part of the land, but I will need to measure again.

I will be posting a 'real' landscape design once I have the measurements. I think this will help me (us!) to gain some perspective.

Thanks again, keep your thoughts coming!


    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 8:23PM
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