Some much needed advice..

xgreen23September 5, 2012

Hello All!

I recently bought a house in CT that needs lots of gardening help- some areas were beautifully done and some beds were completely overgrown when I moved in. Since everything is a bit overwhelming for a woman that has zero gardening experience, I've decided to focus first on just one bed. I'm looking for any advice I can get on how to best bring life to this area...Basically, it's a spot between the driveway and the mudroom entrance that will be seen quite often from many angles. It gets ( about 80% of this area) full sun and the soil is fairly rocky.

A few weekends back, I spent quite a while pulling out weeds and what was left was a combination of mostly ferns and hostas ( which really should be transplanted because they are not doing well here in the sun) and probrably some other combination of weeds/ plants that I'm unsure of. I did plant some flowers that were given to me as a housewarming gift( which, again, I have no idea what they were) which seemed to take decently well. I also, just yesterday, bought two drawf butterfly bushes and a knock out rose that I'm waiting to plant...

I'm looking for advice as to what would work well together in this spot and how to best arrange things


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Can you take a larger view photo and post that as well? It may help to see the whole landscape, even though you will be working on just this one bed for now.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 8:27PM
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Everything there looks like it will die back in winter. How about adding a nice-size evergreen in the center of the bed -- one of the smaller rhodies or a grouping of short arborvitaes? Or some such. Sorry -- shrubs are not my are of expertise!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2012 at 9:39PM
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bill_ri_z6b(Zone 6B)

I can't quite judge the size, so more photos would help. But it seems like a small flowering tree (not necessarily exactly centered since the shape looks a bit informal) that doesn't get too large might be nice. Perhaps a Laburnum (Golden Chain) or something of similar size....perhaps a nice Japanese maple. Around it, some small evergreen shrubs, like dwarf boxwood or holly or one of the many dwarf conifers. I'd say something less than 3 feet at maturity. You could mix conifers and the broadleaf evergreens, along with various leaf color, variegation and leaf shapes. This would make it interesting all year. Then along the outer areas and edges, you could use some good old standby and reliable perennials, such as daylilies, irises, and so forth. Plant a few spring bulbs among the perennials and you have something that is attractive and interesting all year long.
Just my two cents. Good luck with whatever you decide.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 11:38AM
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Here's another shot I have off the area ( looking towards the neighbors yard)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 12:01PM
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And here's a pic of the front of the house.
We're a corner lot,so the property is a little difficult to describe.. In this picture though, the driveway and the bed that I'm looking for help with, is to the left.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 12:21PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

It looks like there is a line of rocks and then about 4' more? Can you expand into that space? Expanding would open up lots of opportunity for what Bill was talking about with a nice, smaller tree, some evergreens and perennials and bulbs. There are so many nice shrub roses that bloom all season long. If you gave yourself some extra space you could plant some multiples and really make a nice statement.

Very cute house and what a nice yard for many more gardens!!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 7:26PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

So when *exactly* is this sun of which you speak? I see lots and lots of shade producing trees, a shade producing house, and a picture of the bed in total shade.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 7:33PM
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I am still having a bit of a hard time seeing how this fits into the landscape. A photo that includes the drive, the corner of the house and this bed would be good.

It looks like a relatively small area, perhaps 10x10 feet? The stump would indicate that a tree has been removed, and I imagine that you probably want to try cutting that down to ground level. Otherwise, use it as a base for a large saucer for a bird bath, or as a pedestal for a large pot of annuals, or plant things that will grow up to camouflage it. The hosta plants there do seem to be suffering, so if you have a shady spot to move them to, I'd do it before doing anything else, along with moving any other plants that prefer more shade. If you don't, give them away as they currently aren't ornamental.

Since it's between your driveway, a parking pad, and a walkway into the house, think about snow removal. Will you want to be able to pile snow here? If so, you want to stick with plants that die down to the ground in winter, or can be cut down to the ground without problems if they are damaged by snow. I have an area that gets snow dropping from the eaves, and planted there I have a large rhododendron, which hasn't been damaged by the snow, but if it were damaged could be pruned severely with only the loss of the year's flowers and a few weeks without full leaves. I also have two types of shrubs which can be cut to the ground if damaged, spirea and Annabelle hydrangea. They have sprouted back quickly and bloomed well the years they have needed severe pruning to remove broken branches. Your butterfly bushes are in this category, and the roses can be pruned a fair amount if needed. I have a couple of clematis growing on trellises and some climbing roses. In winter the rhodie and the trellises provide interest. Bulbs provide early spring interest, and in summer through fall the shrubs along with perennials provide color.

The other consideration because of the drive and walk are how the plants and people will interact. You may want to avoid plants that spill into the walkway or onto the parking pad so they aren't shedding moisture, pollen, etc onto folks' clothes as they walk to the house. Where car doors might swing across the garden keep plants low so that stems won't get broken.

The feathery plants with pinkish flowers is a Cosmos, an annual plant which will often self-seed, so you can pretty much ignore that as you plan since it won't be there. You can collect seed if you want to plant more next year.

If you don't need to worry about snow removal, a small tree or a large shrub might look nice, and I would place it to the side farthest from the drive/closest to the neighbor's yard so you have more room to plant lower growing plants around it. What you else you plant depends on what you like, the answers to the various comments above, and what is available in nurseries near you. I would visit nurseries and see what's there. Read tags, talk with nursery workers, and make lists of what you like so you can look things up when you get home since either the tags or the workers may occasionally have misinformation. Try to avoid buying too much on impulse since you may end up with plants that become too large or like different growing conditions. You can also wander around neighborhoods where you like the plantings. Developing an eye for what appeals to you will help you when it comes time to make selections and actually plant.

You have chosen a good time to be doing this, since starting now is the best time of year IME to be planting since the soil is warm (good for root growth) while the air is cooling and so plants won't be as stressed.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 8:40PM
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