First post

DocFairviewAugust 17, 2014

Hello! My husband and I bought our first house this summer, after previously owning a condo. We have about half an acre, most of which is sloped. At some point around ten years ago, the house was owned by a serious gardener who had beautiful gardens, including a terraced slope with stone walls and steps. The gardens have mostly been overtaken by weeds, so we're starting a long, slow process of reclaiming them a bit at a time. This year we're just focusing on getting the front under control. There are some hostas, a peony, and a wiegela in the front. On the side, there are some lupines, phlox, irises, balloon flower, bee balm, and a poppy.

I would appreciate suggestions for what to plant along the front pathway. Right now it's a bit of a hodgepodge. Besides a large pair of hostas at the top, there is a one liatris, one coneflower, a few different irises, and a bunch of evening primrose. I'd like to move those things elsewhere and find some kind of perennial that would make a good edging. Because of the large sugar maple up front, the right side of the path gets a bit more sun than the left. Any ideas?

Thanks in advance! :)

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Here's another shot that shows the front path better. The slope to the left looks pretty spare because we had just removed all the black swallowwort that was there.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 4:12PM
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What a lovely house! Congratulations!

Liriope muscari makes a nice edging for a walk. It emerges out a little late in the season, so you could intersperse it with spring bulbs. By the time they start dying down, the liriope will cover them. The liriope can spread a bit, so plant it slightly away from the walk. Do NOT get liriope spicata; it will run wild.

Another idea (if you don't have deer) is hosta. If the area gets a lot of sun, look for one of the more sun-resistant varieties.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 4:18PM
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Great house! Where are you in VT or do you know what zone you are in? I ask because what you can grow will depend on how cold it is and what your soil is like. For instance, I can't grow Liriope here at the cold end of zone 5. Once we have a bit more information you'll get more concrete suggestions.

One issue you will have to think about is the different shade/ sun regimes on the various parts of the walkway. Even if you grow all the same kind and variety of plant, they won't look the same, so I wouldn't try to make it a complete match. I like Chibimimi's idea of all the same kind of plant, but different selections. With a mix of kinds of hosta, they will have similar growth patterns and leaf shape, but you can mix ones of different sizes, leaf colors, and sun tolerances to get a tapestry effect. Chibimimi's suggestion of underplanting with spring bulbs is also a great idea. Alliums and daffodils will be perennial IME, but only a few kinds of tulips will be. Tulips and many of the smaller bulbs may get eaten by voles or mice, but Alliums and daffodils don't appeal to most critters and IME don't get eaten.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2014 at 9:29PM
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Steve Massachusetts Zone 5b

Liriope might be a good choice for the walkway, but it may be zonally challenged in Vermont. Can you tell us what your zone is? Most of Vermont is Zone 3, and 4 with the southern and western part Zone 5.

Since you know that Hosta grow on the left side of that small hill, you might want to try those. But try the newer more interesting varieties that are mostly available online. LIke this one called 'June'.


Here is a link that might be useful: Vermont 2012 USDA zone map

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 12:24PM
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spedigrees z4VT

I don't really have suggestions for edging for your walk/stairs, but just want to congratulate you on your new home. That's a beautiful house and nice property!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 1:23PM
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Very nice house! And, welcome to the NE forum - I hope you'll stick around so we can see what you do with your garden!

I have one suggestion or comment that isn't really an answer to your question...

If I were working on a plan for this yard, I'd want to completely plant the slope, where the bannisters are, and leave the path itself open. I think that would look wonderful, and would have a few practical advantages.

Please believe me, I have very little grass in my yard, and I'm not big on bare concrete, but narrow plantings along a narrow path often look skimpy and unsatisfying to my eye. And for the practical part, because of the hill, mowing would be much easier if you could go right across the path.

Just because the previous owner had a garden along the path, doesn't mean you have to go that route. Especially with so many sections to work on, you might want to eliminate this one little feature, at least for the first phase of your plan.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 8:54PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Wow, beautiful house! Congratulations and welcome to the forum!

I have to agree with DTD - I think I'd completely plant the slope, and leave the path open. Or... I might add fuller beds along the path. In other words, I wouldn't just plant a line of something along either side of the path, but make full beds on either side, although not necessarily along the whole path.

Any chance there's room in the budget to replace the walkway? Might be nice to widen it and use some nice stone/pavers. Is it just concrete right now?

Geez, what a wonderful porch! I foresee many a lovely summer evening sitting out there with ice tea enjoying the view of your new garden!


    Bookmark   August 18, 2014 at 10:58PM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Welcome to the NE Forum, DocFairview! You have a wonderful house and will surely enjoy that front porch, especially as you make the front yard "your own".

Nhbabs gave good advice about knowing your zone and Steve's link should be very helpful. Over time you'll learn about the sun's orientation throughout the seasons and about the kind of soil you have in the front and back yards.

The best thing for you to do would be to research ideas and plan an overall look for the yard. For example.... what do you hope to eventually have on the left side.... gardens or lawn? I wonder, is that car on the left in your driveway or a neighbor's property?

While I don't have specific plants to recommend, I agree with many of the suggestions you've been given.

Like others, I think that the front slope should be planted. You could use low, spreading evergreen shrubs or perennials to hold down the soil and repel weeds. Visit some local garden centers to see out what grows well in your area of Vermont. You could also Google "evergreen ground covers Vermont zone"... or some combination of those terms... to look at plant ideas.

I would not plant along the sidewalk path. Keep that open. It will be easier to maintain the lawn on both sides and give you room in case you decide to change the front walkway.

Have you thought about planting some low evergreen shrubs in front of the porch? I ask because when those hostas die back in the winter, the front of the house will be bare. If you were to enlarge that front bed to at least triple its depth, there'd be room for a mixture of evergreen shrubs and what you have there. You could move the shorter perennials forward and put the shrubs near the back (but not right next to) the porch. Daffodils and other early spring bulbs could be planted along the front edge. These would look spectacular from the street.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 10:32AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Welcome to the forum, I think you'll like the people here. The house and porch are wonderful!

I'm with the multitude that suggests you plant the slope and leave the edges of the path open. You might consider a row of nice pavers along the existing path which would give a decorative appearance and widen the path, but still allow the lawn mower to cross over.

You said you bought the house this summer so you may not have an idea of what winter will bring in terms of snow. I'm thinking of huge berms along the front road courtesy of the town snowplows, and smaller berms along the path courtesy of your own shoveling. Not to mention avalanches sliding off the roof onto the foundation beds in the front. This would affect your plant choices - maybe better not to have shrubs in the front which would get squashed. The side of the house looks less likely to have snow dropping down so evergreen shrubs might have a chance. The nice thing about perennials is they mostly disappear during the winter and come back up in the spring when it's safe.

Are you looking for showy plantings on the slope or a more natural groundcover? You have lots of choices there, so long as the town snowplows don't reach over there.


    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:15AM
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mjc_molie(z6 CT)

Yikes, Claire! I should know better about suggesting foundations shrubs for VT and NH because I lived there years ago. Yep, it's cold .... the snows are deep ..... and that roof is steep.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 3:47PM
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Hi all,

Thank you so much for all your thoughtful suggestions! I'm sorry I haven't been back to respond yet. Right after posting this I got slammed at work and I haven't had a moment to think about home/garden stuff. It's also been freezing here (we had our first frost a couple of weeks ago), so I figured my gardening options were pretty much up for the year. We're finally getting a bit more sun and warmth this weekend, though.

A few responses:

--According to Steve's link, we're in zone 5A.

--I do hope to plant the entire slope eventually. If it were up to me, I'd plant the whole yard with different types of ground cover, but my husband actually enjoys having grass to mow. (So far, anyway!)

--Replacing the pathway and not planting a border is a great idea! It hadn't even occurred to me but I think that would really be best. The path is just tar right now, so we could do a lot better.

--Between the hostas and the house, there's a strip of gravel to absorb water coming off the roof. We just moved to this house this summer but we've been in the area for several years, and yes, we expect tons of snow. The man who sold the house to us didn't do any landscaping, so these hostas have survived at least a few winters. I don't think we'll add any other foundation plantings, at least for now.

I just bought a bunch of bulbs that I plan to plant tomorrow. I've got mixed late-blooming double tulips and a big bag of muscari armeniacum (this has been one of my favorite flowers for years, so I can't wait to see them next spring!!!). I'm not sure if I'm going to plant them at the top of the slope, to the right of the weigela, or on the slope. (The local movie theater has a slope out front that is always planted with muscari, tulips, and daffodils, and I've been admiring it for years, so I'm thinking of going for the same look.)

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 8:53PM
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MJC, that car is actually in the neighbors' driveway. The sugar maple is near the edge of our property. Our property is a big triangle, and the line of bushes extending back from the sugar maple is the short base. The property extends for quite a ways to the right of the top picture, well out of frame.

I've been collecting inspiration on a Pinterest board here:

    Bookmark   September 27, 2014 at 9:09PM
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persimmons(6b Southern Mass)

How about creeping flox? What a beautiful feature once they've grown in..

    Bookmark   September 28, 2014 at 6:17PM
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Ooh, that's a great idea! Thank you!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2014 at 9:09PM
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