landscape makeover suggestions wanted

oliveoyl3May 2, 2013

I posted on the landscape design forum and would appreciate input from our fellow northwest gardeners who know the climate well and can appreciate our quest for more natural lighting in a clearing in the woods at 500' SE of Seattle.

How would you update this almost 30 year old landscape?

Would you bother transplanting the established shrubs that have been karate-chopped the past 4 years? The occupants before 2009 did very little pruning & rhododendrons had branches laying on ground making it difficult to mow, so that could be what started the excessive pruning.

We thought we could use the larger shrubs as an instant screen next to the garage, but not between garage & house. That would create more privacy for the front there since there are 2 other backyards nearby on that side. Until the big trees are gone we don't have a spot for the larger rhododendrons to go, so I am so tempted to take out the chain saw to just make them smaller so they could be moved to a temporary spot. At over 10' some of those aren't going to be very easy to move and camp doesn't have a working backhoe at the present time. Renting a bobcat is an option, but probably not large enough for the job either. The first occupants of the house who planted the shrubbery are still around at our camp and she was pleased that we were moving in to take proper care of the rhododendrons. I have avoided telling her we're thinking of moving them or even removing them entirely because they are just too much work to save. I wonder if she'll notice if we work fast enough to replant...

Other screening ideas include using wood fence panels plus evergreen shrubbery and/or vines on trellis. The backyard is more private, but the forest is currently only 10' away with blackberries, stinging nettles, and underbrush that is going to take more time to remove. I didn't even include any photos of the backyard on the landscape forum.

I've identified shrubs such as: highbush blueberries, 3 Pyracantha, several resprouting 18" tall Camellias from 4" calipers, David's Viburnum by the front porch, big leaf Rhododendrons, and a few smaller leaved Rhododendrons currently around 5'. We already dug out the plants & roots of English holly and yellow archangel Lamium from the King County noxious weed list as well as spread cardboard & compost topped with wood chip mulch over the weedy bed of blueberries & smaller rhododendrons on the right (east) side of the home.

There are 2 dwarf conifers under a window to the left of the porch that are suffering from lack of light and moisture: dwarf Alberta spruce & a pine. We may leave them to see how they do once the others are removed; however, the spruce is within 3' of the siding and the pine is within 3' of the porch.

Hoping you'll have some good suggestions!

Here is a link that might be useful: landscape makeover on Landscape Design Forum

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I'd suggest you read Cass Turnbull's "Guide to Pruning"- it is a great "guide by your side" support for all things shrub-like, including transplanting and planning for plants' ultimate sizes. She has a Pacific NW frame of reference and it is a humorous and great read! I know I sound like her publisher or mother or something, but no, a neighbor loaned me her copy and I had to order my own; it is that good!

I'd also suggest you sell me that great bench!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 12:32AM
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Thanks for the great book suggestion. Yes, I've read her book 2x & have printouts from her website. It helped me shape our double snowball bushes into tree form a few years back & then we moved them where they would have more room and gave them better soil. They've thrived & are still my husband's favorite even encased in ice from a storm. Waiting for Japanese maples to grow up a bit more.

I have removed just the dead wood & stubs today and that helped me see more potential. At least we won't get wounded by the sharp points of them when transplanting. I was surprised at how much dead wood there was inside them when I got down inside like Cass suggests. The twisting skinny branches aren't pretty & there were a lot that died as a result of not being hardened off after pruning last year.

The worst are on the left side next to the driveway and you can't tell unless you look closely that there are 3 growing altogether at 20 feet tall. You can't see it, but there is another David's Viburnum shooting up from the 3 stumps cut flush to the ground even closer to the driveway. The stumps are 4" wide & probably planted at the same time as the one next to the front porch.

My hubby moved my pink chair over there this week, so I enjoyed a rest in the sunshine today while the texture was drying inside on the walls. A chair always makes a garden more pleasant.
From 2013-05-03

The form is gone on the tallest rhodies as they grew out seeking more light and the malpruning the past 4 years. There are 2 more that have broke buds lower down that will be fine if moved away from the house. I hope that the 3 that are still shaped nicely will transplant well for us whether we get them moved before bloom or not.

The smallest one on the far right next to the driveway opened in bright rose pink today -- my color! It's still too close to the driveway for for passengers to get out, so if it's too late this spring it will be moved in the fall. From 2013-05-03

I've seen the same bench online through Amazon for under $100. We bought ours off Craigslist after it was used for a home staging. It's surprisingly comfortable for a metal bench.

Here is a link that might be useful: tubular steel with antique black finish with bronze highlights

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 2:20AM
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Well you are ahead of the curve research-wise! I vote for moving the rhododendrons and siting shrubs so that you have some good sight lines from targeted rooms in the house as well as considering the sight (or privacy, or sun!) lines while resting on that pink chair or "my bench." Have you done some drawings (doing the "fluffy-cloud thing to show trees, etc....) with your potential plans?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 12:17AM
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I'm just a noob and don't have much to offer but I am a big fan of putting the most beautiful landscaping out away from the house, and towards the property edges, so you get to enjoy it yourself while looking out the windows. Good luck, I'm sure you'll do well and enjoy yourself in the process, too!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2013 at 1:51AM
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