Help! I need advice on fixing my garden design.

clax66July 15, 2013

As a newbie, I am struggling with the design of my small, eastern facing, urban front yard garden (Toronto Zone 6) that I began last summer.

My main challenge - the huge bridalwreath spirea that came with the house. Puts on a gorgeous albeit overbearing display in May then takes up way too much real estate. I'm not removing it. The problem is that I don't know what to plant directly in front. I've been removing and shifting plants around and I dislike the flat piecemeal affect that I have going on! I planted some lamium and patriot hostas directly underneath the spirea and I want to get rid of the hostas as they are not thriving.

The David Phlox is an unsightly mess suffering from mildew (thanks to our cold and wet spring and summer this year) and I'm going to follow my sister's advice and get rid of it. The lady's mantle will move to the front of the garden underneath the rose floribundas. The columbines will move too (another impulse buy this year:(
The dwarf balloon flowers at the front were an impulse buy as well:( So basically you can assume that whole middle section needs a revamp!

Some background:

I was attracted to a green and white colour theme before I ever even heard of Sissinghurst and colour theory so I prefer to stick with this palette. When I first went to the garden centre last year and confessed to the landscaper that I was a novice gardener and wanted low-maintenance , I received a design that included three emerald spreading yews that would be way too large for the space. I promptly disregarded that design and started learning all I can about plants. Fast forward in one year and I am pleased with the section directly in front of my house that is filling in nicely (annabelle hydrangea, 3 euonymous, 3 astilbes, a lilac tree) but the middle part lacks structure and is very unattractive.

What would you plant?! I need some height and more definition there! The garden doesn't look too bad from sidewalk view, (I have roses, iris and campanulas planted there in mass) but the side view just looks like a mishmash.

Should I plant hydrangeas in mass there? I was reading up on the Bobo hydrangea. Or should I plant some dwarf yew or boxwood there for structure and fill in with tall white perennials like coneflowers?

The garden is east facing and I would characterize it as receiving dappled sun or dappled shade, ie, it gets plenty of early morning sun where the hydrangeas are located, then by noon the sunshine moves to the front nearer the sidewalk.

Advice would be greatly appreciated as I'm thinking about refining for next year!

Thank you!

This post was edited by clax66 on Tue, Jul 16, 13 at 7:14

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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Hey ya Mira. Can you provide some pictures so we can see the area you mention and can better offer advice.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 11:37AM
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Hi, here is a photo from the front taken a week ago in the morning. We trimmed the Bridalwreath in June after if finished blooming. It takes up a lot of space.

We put in a parking pad so our front yard has been reduced and the front porch and walkway was redone (and yes I would have preferred a nice curving walkway but we were dealing with very tight dimensions and city requirements for parking pad permit).

This is my Garden Year 2. The hydrangeas will fill in nicely and I planted an Elaine lilac tree at the corner. I may replace the peony at the front with another rose bush and move the peony to the backyard. There is a miscanthus grass behind the irises that I can also move.

I like how the front and back end is filling in; it's the middle part that is problematic for me. Is there anything you'd recommend or consider?


    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 12:12PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

I don't think it looks as bad as you think. Maybe you will like it more when the plants mature and get bigger, maybe less LOL.

Is the fence yours or the neighbours...if yours maybe some clematis climbing on it will get you some texture in the back and take away the hard feel of the fence.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 10:18PM
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Fence is neighbours; we let them set it up on our prop line. Yes I was thinking of clematis or iceberg roses at the front since i have other roses there.

I pulled out all the phlox over the weekend so need to think about filling in the middle bit.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 11:53AM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Sorry miss this forum once and a while for a to see pics of what was removed.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 10:41PM
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Mira - Have you considered severely pruning back your spirea? I think the balance & scale of the garden would be helped if it was cut back by 1/3 - 1/2. I think the clematis idea is nice, as long as your neighbor doesn't need to paint the fence! C. paniculata would fill in quickly and follow your green & white scheme.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2013 at 10:13PM
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How about a little silver, maybe with some texture?

    Bookmark   October 2, 2013 at 3:23PM
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What about an iris? I have one of the variegated iris. You said you already had iris so this would just carry them over to another bed. Here's a picture.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2013 at 8:36AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

My problem with the garden is every flower seems white. Need some color. The foliage looks nice. Flowers though to me are secondary to texture and foliage color, which in this garden is pretty good! I myself would not move the grass or sedge whatever it is. It makes the texture change.
My garden is wild with overgrowth. It seems with perennials I'm always thinning them.
Another suggestion is flower type, I don't see anything with spikes. You want different flower forms. Maybe a daisy form flower too. Irises etc.

If you like the white look fine, but I myself would add silvers or silver foliage, or pastels would look great!
Another consideration is early, mid, and late flowering plants. So it looks good all season.
I myself am still experimenting, I doubt I will ever actually ever finish but keep changes things. Plus the fun of growing new plants.
I have a flair for the unusual. My porch is full of tropical's, trees and plants like Pony Tail palm, Yucca tree, night blooming jasmine, etc. I have bamboo and cacti in the ground too. Some forms are winter hardy. It doesn't look typical! It looks eccentric, but I'm very much so!
Mostly though I grow edibles and I'm into edible landscapes. I want to grow as many ornamental edibles as possible besides your normal garden. So edible dogwoods, June berries like Autumn Brilliance. Red leafed peach trees
Weeping plum trees. A currant cordon on the fence, I like edible vines like Eastern Magnolia. Edible wild flowers are in the garden too. Strawberry and raspberry ground covers are next to be put in. Yes some raspberries are ground covers. I also grow regular raspberries too, I have 15 plants.
I get 25-50 berries daily for 4 months. I have Pluots, and a Spice Zee Nectaplum. Indian Free peach that Thomas Jefferson grew. It is pretty much a jungle here! Many plants are small give me a few years, and I will show photos. It's still under construction.

This post was edited by Drew51 on Thu, Oct 10, 13 at 10:09

    Bookmark   October 10, 2013 at 9:47AM
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Have you considered geraniums? I've seen some gardens with them and they are outstanding for adding color all season long. Here is one called Rozanne-Cranebills. That green bush seems too big for that space and should be cut or removed.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2013 at 10:24PM
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Hi all, I've been lurking these forums for a while but it's my first time posting here. I hope I'm not too late for this post. Your garden is very lovely, but I think the spirea just looks too big for the space. Pruning it a bit more and adding some "fillers" around the base will help you get a more balanced look and will soften the look of the spirea bush. Bleeding hearts or coral bells might make nice fillers under and around the bush. Then, space permitting, plant another hydrangea on the right side of your picture and I think you will get the more pleasing visual balance that you are looking for. I also see some daylilies (or irises?) on just one side and none on the other? You might want to divide it and plant some on the other side, again, for visual balance. I agree that a climbing vine like clematis would look beautiful on the fence. I personally love lots of flowers and bright colors in my garden, but if you enjoy a peaceful, relaxing green and white color combination; then, why not?! It's your garden, first and foremost, it must be pleasing to you. Just don't forget to make it more interesting and welcoming by adding different textures and color foliage. Play with your garden.... it's your magical space! Please don't forget to post after pictures... I'd love to see how it comes out. Happy gardening next Spring!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2013 at 11:51PM
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