Any Landscape Suggestions?

squirejohn zone4 VTFebruary 24, 2011

I am looking for suggestions as what to plant along the foundation along the "back" of the house. I say "back" of the house but it's what you see when you drive into the driveway (see photos). On the left corner of the house is a Potentilla and right Bridal Wreath Spirea In between there is a two foot wide border with white bearded iris and blue forget-me-nots. I'm not thrilled with the iris although they do cover the foundation and the forget-me-not are nice but don't last long and look ratty after blooming. I could pull them out but needed to re-seed for the following year.

I am partial to perennials; shrubs are not an option as snow sliding off the roof would flatten them. I'm primarily interested in relatively "low maintenance" foliage plants. Peonies, hostas and daylillies have done well for us although since this side of the house faces SSW, hostas may not be an option even though there are several kinds which are said to do well in full sun.

I'm not limiting myself to these three plant types as there are many other foliage plants available. I'd appreciate any ideas you may have including the size and shape of the bed. I'd like the plantings to be somewhat subtle since I don't want to overwhelm the house or view.



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spedigrees z4VT

What a lovely home you have, with a view to die for! Your photos answered my unasked question of whether or not you are the same squirejohn (vice versa actually) who sells me hay. I guess not since his house is in town on the main drag.

If it were me I wouldn't change a thing. I think your foundation plantings are picture perfect just as they are.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 6:34PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

How ambitious are you? I like the current bed size with the house. However, I can also see some sort of parterre garden there. A very formal bed layout with almost entirely short (3 ft or less) plants. I'm not seeing a deeper version of the same bed there because it would want height at the back, which would detract from the house.

For plants, I'd stick with things that look good for most of the season. Nepeta, short ornamental grasses, Siberian iris, maybe rhubarb.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 8:29PM
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I also don't like shrubs right in front of my house. In my case, it's a pruning thing. I have a 1/4 circle garden in front of the house - bordered by the house, driveway and front walk. To add height in the back, I have White Heliotrope - it gets 5-6" tall, blooms in mid summer, and has interesting foliage for the rest of the summer. All the foliage dies back in the Fall. I have the 2 Heliotropes - one on either side of the window.

In front of the Heliotrope, I have Lilies - in particular the Simplon Oriental Lily and the Eyeliner Asiatic Lily. They also add height - close to 5' for the Simplon, and about 4' for the Eyeliner - and they bloom later than the Heliotrope.

The other side of my front entry, I just have a border foundation garden - I have white peonies there. They "hide" the cement of the foundation. But don't add enough height to block the window.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:46PM
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Both your house and your view are really lovely, and the two look nice together. One thing that strikes me is that it is difficult for a visitor to know quite how to approach your house. I don't have any ideas about how to make this clearer, but it might be something to consider - if as part of your planting plan you can add something to help guide folks to your door.

In general I like having deeper beds - mine along buildings range from about 5 feet deep to 8 or 9. I like having the depth to have more plants rather than just one line of plants so that there is more texture and contrast and if something isn't doing well, it isn't so obvious. I don't do deliberately curvy edges unless the plants require it (such as a big shrub in a bed that isn't deep enough.) As far as I can see, your house doesn't require a deeper bed (or really any bed since the view is what catches one's eye) since it sits low and has little of the foundation showing, but it may be easier to get a pleasing garden with a wider bed. You will probably need to leave a strip of mulch of some kind where the rain drips off the roof as most perennials won't grow right under the drip line. Shrubs in general do fine there.

If you want them, there are a few kinds of shrubs that are possible in the roof dump zone, as some do well cut to the ground annually. Under my roof edge where snow lands I have a couple kinds of hydrangea: Annabelle (or you could use any other kind of H. arborescens) and Endless Summer. Both bloom on new wood and have no problems with being cut to the ground in spring. They should be hardy for you. Whether they would do well for you depends on how dry it gets since they aren't tolerant of dryness. I also have a summer-blooming spirea which does fine being cut to the ground each year. It will grow well in your conditions and there are many varieties with different heights, foliage color and texture, and bloom color so you could find one that looks different from the one you have. Spirea are relatively subtle. In years when snow dump hasn't damaged the shrubs, both hydrangea and spirea do fine without the severe pruning.

Mad Gallica's suggestions of rhubarb, nepeta, and Siberian iris are good suggestions that will tolerate your conditions and provide you with a range of foliage sizes and colors. Some other plants that I grow and should do well in those conditions: sedums (tall or groundcover), perennial geraniums, fall blooming asters, some of the hardier varieties of Amsonia such as tabernaemontana, Baptisia (a large shrubby perennial tolerant to a wide range of conditions and decorative in both bloom and foliage), and Liatris. A non-flowering variety of lambs ear such as 'Silver Carpet' or 'Helene von Stein' will add low silvery folliage. (I wouldn't recommend the flowering kind since it will self-seed into the lawn and everywhere else and is quite a weed.) If you want some height, consider Clematis on an obelisk. Late-blooming clematis get cut to near the ground annually since they bloom on new wood. There are also varieties of clematis that do well rambling along the ground or over a shrub, and even some that have the growth habit of a perennial (1-3 feet and non-climbing) though they would probably need to be bought mail-order. You may be able to tuck some hosta partially under or behind one of your shrubs to give it a bit of shade during the worst of the afternoon sun if you want some, but even sun-tolerant hosta would have some difficulty with full afternoon sun in a SSW exposure in my experience. Consider adding some of the spring-flowering bulbs that aren't bothered at all by critters: alliums (various kinds from early to late spring and short to tall) and daffodils. We have such a short growing season that having those early flowers is quite welcome.

One other quick note: you don't need to leave all or even many of your forget-me-nots in order to get reseeding. I rip most of mine out each year as they finish blooming and find that enough seeds have dropped that I get more than I want the following spring without problems.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 11:00AM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

Thanks for all the responses. I'm sorry about the 'wide' post. I need to try out the "test' forum for posting photos.

speedgres - no hay here; just a 4 acre weed field that only needs mowing a couple of time a year.
If you're sick of the snow you may want to check out the flower show at the Fair Grounds in Essex Jct. this weekend - 3/4-6

Mad-gallica - Thanks for the perspective re depth of bed and house. I've never tried Nepeta or ornamental grass but may try some and see how they perform.

I do like Siberian iris with Super Ego being one of my favorites. However my gut feeling is they won't do well in this location. The only rhubarb I've seen is huge - over six feet. I guess there must be some smaller varieties out there.

pixie lou - I looked up heliotrope and see it's limited to warmer zones. I see you're in zone 5 so do you mean garden heliotrope or Valarian? We have some but hasn't performed well here; kinds spindly. Peonies are one of my favorites and have some extra white (Festiva maxima) ones, but don't know just how to "fit them in" as they grow pretty tall.

nhbabs - I know what you mean about "how to approach your house". There is a grass path that is barely visible in the photo and I've thought about pavers, slate, etc., but would rather keep it simple and unstructured (word?).

I like your suggestion about not needing any foundation plantings although I would like to hide the concrete. Maybe Sedum spectable would look okay; nice foliage and Fall interest. I will definitely put in some dafodils (why couldn't I think of that?) for spring color. We have a flowering variety of lambs ear that's been well behaved, too much so, it never seeds in and the patch doesn't expand. On the other hand laydys mantle seeds all over the lawn if I don't cut down the spent flowers. Geraniums have done so-so although bloody cranesbill do very well. I tried some two years ago along the right side of the foundation (still there) but have remained small. Amsonia and the hydrangeas look interesting and will look into those; probably for other areas.

Thanks again for all your suggestions. I think I'll keep the bed narrow and have lots of plant suggestions to experiment with. I'm not adverse to trying a small planting of a number of different kinds and weeding out the ones that don't do well or don't care for.. If it looks ratty for a while that's okay.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 2:52PM
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I have regular edible rhubarb in one of my beds. It's a large-leaved plant that likes sun and has red stems and leaves with a slightly curly texture, especially the newer leaves. It's the plant to the left and right of the flowers below. In the spring I pull stems for eating, but it replaces them quickly. I usually cut off the flowers, but you could leave them to be ornamental. From June 2010

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 8:17PM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

We also have edible rhubarb that gets pretty "leggy" in the veg. garden. I thought mad-gallica was refering to some sort of ornamental rhubarb.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 4:50PM
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spedigrees z4VT

I, too, have edible rhubarb in with my perennial flowers. Last summer was its first summer. It looked beautiful until the foliage started dying partway through the season. I think this is what it does naturally if the stems aren't cut, because my neighbor across the road put in some plants and his looked just like mine. Because all instructions warn not to cut any leaf stems the first year, only the flower stems, I let it alone to wither. However this year I plan to cut it back and make pies periodically. Perhaps that will keep it looking pretty all summer?? I've never grown rhubarb before so I can use some tips. Your arrangement with the lupine and other plants is very attractive, Babs.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 10:21AM
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spedigrees z4VT

Oh and thank you, squirejohn for the news of the flower show in Essex Jct this upcoming weekend. I'm not sure if we can get away or not, but it would be great if we could, to get a preview of spring.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 10:27AM
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So did any of you Vermonters end up visiting the flower show in Essex Junction and would care to share photos or impressions?

Spedigrees - Thanks, but the arrangement is serendipitous, not planned. The rhubarb and variegated dogwood were stashed there as a holding bed when we moved and didn't have any finished garden space, the lupine and foxglove are self-seeded, and the other plants were already there, just have spread to fill the space. But I like it so I haven't moved anything other than moving the rhubarb out a bit where it will get more sun as the woody plants started shading it. It currently gets full morning and early afternoon sun and bright shade for most of the afternoon due to trees to the W and SW of the bed.

I really don't have to do much with the rhubarb other than what I do for all my beds: compost and mulch. I cut some each spring for cooking and cut off the flowering stalk. If leaves yellow, they pull off easily. This bed has great soil with good organics and enough fine particles to hold water while still having good drainage, and that may be why it is so easy. (This is an old farm, so at one point there may have had a manure pile or an outhouse here since this is near where the door would have been of the old barn and just the right distance from the house for an outhouse, though often those were inside the back of the barn.) It also may be the variety of rhubarb, which I got as a division from a previous neighbor, so I don't know the name of, but it grows well and relatively low, and needs less sugar in cooking than other varieties since it isn't as tart. The stems have a lovely red color. My best advice for your rhubarb is give it a good dose of compost or well-rotted manure and mulch it so that moisture stays even.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 10:12AM
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spedigrees z4VT

Thanks NH Babs. Our property too is part of an old farm and the bed where I planted the rhubarb is also well composted as well as well drained and in full sun, so I suspect conditions are optimal for it. Of course the true test will be how well it comes back this summer.

No, we just had too much to do here this weekend (poor excuse) to drive 3 hours or more to Essex Jct. We should have gone. I suspect a dose of blooms in this unending miserable winter would have done us a world of good. At least the rain today is melting the snow at a pretty good rate, but I expect it will freeze into treacherous ice tomorrow when the temps fall again.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 1:31PM
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The heliotrope I have is valeriana officinalis. I've tried looking through my garden photos to find a photo of it, but can't. I started taking weekly photos of my gardens in September - which is way past it's prime. This will be my 3rd year of having the plants.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2011 at 3:31PM
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squirejohn zone4 VT

My wife has a miserable cold so we wound up not going to the flower show.
After loosing about 4" of snow yesterday the rain turned to snow and so far we've had 14" and it's still snowing.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2011 at 7:48AM
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