evergreens/shrubs for east side of house

djpwmasonnh(zone 5)March 18, 2009

new member... have new home and into feng shui. looking for recommendations for evergreens/shrubs for east side of house. new bed 5'L x 3'D fragant shrubs would like also.

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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

What is your soil pH? If it's high, that excludes most of the broadleaf evergreens and leaves you with conifers.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 12:17PM
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Welcome to GW, djpwmasonnh.

The bed seems awfully narrow for shrubs. A good rule of thumb is to leave 3 feet between the branches of the shrub (at its mature size!) and the side of the house. This allows access for maintenance and helps keep the shrubs from being in the very dry soil you find right next to the foundation; it also prevents mold and other evils in the house wall. Most designers will go further and suggest something much wider; the best rule of thumb I've heard was that your house-side garden should be at least as wide as the distance from the ground to the tops of your first-storey windows, or to the top of the first floor, depending on the style of your home.

I don't mean to be discouraging, just trying to get you to think a little bigger! A narrow garden squeezed against the house is probably not going to be very satisfying.

Other considerations: What's the soil like? Sandy, or loamy? Are there trees to the south and east, or is this full sun until noon? The path of the sun will move far to the north over the course of the summer, but you should be able to get a fairly good idea of how much sun you'll have here. How much height do you want - are there windows here, and how low are they, and do you mind if they're partly covered?

And last, how much work do you want to do - watering, trimming, dead-heading, etc. Final note: most (but not all) fragrant shrubs are not evergreens, there are a few exceptions though.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 1:51PM
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djpwmasonnh(zone 5)

diggingthedirt thank you for the questions and answers. i should have made myself more clear. i have 2'of gravel up next to the house foundation. the bed i rototilled yesterday(sunday) and the bed is going to be 6'deep,(hope that is the right term). have not had my soil tested. didn't even think of it? glad you told me about how deep to make the bed. i was always wondering how deep to make them, when at foundation. i wanted to have evergreens AND fragant shrubs and also perennials. since the sun comes in the morning it pretty much is there mostly till later in the day. but never gets shade if that is what you are asking.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 10:49AM
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Oh, that's good, you've left space for maintenance and for eventual spread of these shrubs. So, 6' deep and 5' long? Or did you add to the length as well?

The reason for the soil test is that a lot of evergreens, like rhododendrons & mountain laurel, prefer acidic soil. And while most of NE has acidic soil, there are limestone pockets where the soil is very chalky, not suitable for these 'ericaceous' plants at all. Plus, near the foundation you usually find more neutral or even alkaline soil, because lime leaches out of the concrete.

It sounds like a very sunny location (that could change when nearby trees leaf out, if there are trees to the south or east of the bed) and so you have almost unlimited options.

Planning for a mix of shapes and heights, a variety of leaf textures (fine, narrow leaves and big, leathery ones) and bloom seasons (plants that bloom in fall and winter), and using both evergreens and deciduous shrubs will give you something interesting to see all year. Repeating plants along a foundation bed is usually recommended, but if this is only 5' long, that could be a problem.

Now it's just a matter of deciding what heights you want and ... best of all, what you LIKE. I don't know what does especially well in your area, or what kind of flower color you'd like to have. On the east side of my house I've got a mix of rhodies, hydrangea, cotoneaster, azalea, winter heath, and Nandina, interspersed or fronted by lavender, season-spanning bulbs, several kinds of hellebores, tunica, and thyme. The effect is a little haphazard (especially when the volunteer asparagus reaches about 6') but these are some of my favorite plants and I like looking at this bed most of the time.

If you can get to a nearby arboretum, you should go and check out how various shrubs grow in your area and what the overall effect is that each one creates. Most of them won't be in bloom yet, but if you take a good shrub book along you'll have a chance to put together the pictures of flowers in the book with the way you can expect the plants to look in the off-season.

One word of advice: don't plant anything with the idea that you'll keep it smaller than its normal size. This common mistake almost always leads somewhere you don't want to go. Plants are generally best when left mainly to grow as they please - there are very few exceptions to this.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2009 at 1:53PM
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