Need suggestions on plant choices

sarah923March 18, 2007

Hello everyone!

I have a thread going on the landscape design board, but keep changing my mind, so thought I would start over here since I live in Springfield. We just moved to our house in August and I want to redo the front bed of our house. This is really my first time with any major landscaping project and I want it to look nice. I will put some pics on in a minute, but want to tell you a little about what I'm going to do. I want to take out the current beds and redo with flat rocks that I'm going to get out of an old rock fence in Kansas. My parents have a cattle farm and so good rich soil is not a problem. I will bring the bed away from the house at least 5 feet (right now it is only about 3 to 3.5'. You can see in my picture that there is a current narrow bed around our sidewalk that is full of white rock. I'm taking that out and planting grass up the the edge of the front and about halfway down the side. I thought of doing a slight curve in the front of the new bed and then a circle at the left side. Even contemplate a lower level that goes around the edge of the house a little bit. The front of the house is on the west side and though there are three trees in the front yard they are still fairly small and don't create a lot of shade.

As I said I don't really have any experience with choosing plants. I want to have lots of color, yet I don't want it to look all dead in the winter. Does anyone have any suggestions that will look nice together in this area? I've been looking at books and such and I like the way a japanese maple looks and wondered if I could put that in the lower bed that I want to do on the end. Anyone with ideas about that? Last year the owners had a really pretty moonvine that caught everyone's attention. I thought of building some sort of trellis and having it go up the small corner that is between the windows. Also, there are currently six mums planted kind of randomly in this space too, that maybe I could incorporate in? I would love to hear what you all have to say. I'm just at a loss - I don't want to spend a bunch of money guessing on stuff, yet I can't afford to hire a professional landscape person :) Thanks so much. Sarah

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Check with the Greene County Extension Service. Each county in each state should have it's own Cooperative Extension Office which provides free publications and information for the asking. They will have valuable gardening guides, tables, information available specifically for your area determined by universities, and horticultural research scientists have collected data from growing them in the state.

Call the Gardener Hotline at 862-9284, Ext 18.

Ask for landscaping information as well as information on annual, perennials, and Missouri natives. (Natives are indigenous to the area and will be extremely hardy.)

You can also get out to the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden and browse throughout the year. There is specific attention for four season interest in the perennial beds.

I definitely recommend getting rid of the straight line borders. It's not organic looking, too stiff. Use a garden hose and chalk to make an outline of shape.

Also contact the Missouri Department of Conservation
(417) 895-6880 for info on Japanese Maples and other trees. They have plenty of information on planting the right tree in the right place and how to plant them properly. (9 out of 10 people plant trees incorrectly, not only in the wrong loation, but they plant them too deep. Some of the tops of the roots should be above ground.)

Where are you? Feel free to contact me and I'd be happy to come out and provide advice.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 5:40AM
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The garden hose idea is very helpful. You can move it around until the curve looks right. You can also set pots, buckets, boxes, etc. where you want to put shrubs to see if it looks right before you plant. Make the beds wider if you want to have room to plant perennials or annuals in front of your shrubs. That's more work but if you like to garden a little, it will give you some color.
There may be other houses in your neighborhood with a similar house plan. Drive around and see what they've done. First look for outlines/bed shapes that you like then go around again and take note of what's been planted especially for other houses facing west like yours. Take your camera with you so you can show your pictures to the nursery workers. They can help you identify the plants you liked. You can show them pictures of your house too. They'll give you a little advice if you're buying plants. Maybe someplace like Wickman's or....? I'm not sure which nurseries would be helpful that way.
Bet the white moonflowers showed up great against your red brick house. Background makes a big difference. The dwarf burning bushes would not look so great against red brick and those things get much larger than the tag says anyway. Maybe you could use them to help screen your backyard if there are any views you want to block.

I do think a little tree would look nice on the corner of your house. I like Japanese Maples or maybe something with white flowers again.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 9:53AM
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Thanks for the wonderful advice. I have driven around the neighborhood and that's where I got the idea of a terrace on the left side. I actually spent some time at Wickman's this morning and I'm trying to get some more info on different choices. I need to go back now with some pictures and some ideas from my books to see what they think. Again, thanks for the advice. Oh, does anyone have any suggestions on how to do a trellis for the moonvine. Last year it was just on the ground, but I thought of having it go all the way up the wall in that little corner in the middle. The trellises that I've seen at Lowe's and such aren't tall enough. Can I use some kind of twine and masonry nails or do any of you have any ideas. The vines on last years plants are rather large and I'm concerned about the weight of them. Thanks, Sarah

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 12:59PM
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sarah, the biggest mistake I see people make is not considering the mature size of the plants so that they end up encroaching on the sidewalk or the roof or the wall of the house.

I would draw a layout on graph paper measuring out how far from the foundation I wanted it, laying out the circles, etc. and then decide first on the tree, figure the mature size and place it on the graph, then the rest will be easy. I would do the trees/shrubs first since they will take longer to grow.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 3:48PM
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That was a mistake we made - using shrubs that got too big. Very often, on plant tags, they fib a little on the mature size of shrubs but if you'll be moving soon, that won't be a big problem (for you anyway). lol
I think dwarf hollies will work on the west side of your house, but there are different kinds and I don't know which ones would work best. Use full sun plants even though they're getting shade in the morning since afternoon sun is so hot. It would bake a shade plant.
I wonder if Big Lots would have trellises. They carry garden arches and things like that.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2007 at 5:07PM
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pauln(z7B Arkansas)

I would avoid a japanese maple on a west face. The hot afternoon sun will burn the leaves, especially up against brick. How about a standard crepe myrtle near the corner about 5 feet out. One of the whites like "natches" will stand out well against the red brick. That variety has wonderful peeling bark and usually good autumn color. Let it grow and do not give it a flat top cut every winter like most people do. The only pruning crepes need is the occasional shaping to eleminate crossing branches, and to reduce the number of trunks emerging from the base. Another choice might be yaupon holly. There are some varieties that are more upright such as "pride of houston". This may be too big for the site however. How about American Smoketree (Cotinus obovatus)? One of our finest natives and guarenteed to be the only one in the neighborhood! Wonderful sculpted shape, large blue/green leaves, flowers that "smoke", and perhaps the best autumn foliage around.

The white rocks need to go! Try to avoid lumping a bunch of evergreen shrubs up against the house. Some low growing perennials would look nice, such as cheddar pink dianthus which has wonderful grey foilage all year round. If you can fine one with a light pink flower you're in business. Other choices against hot bricks include grey santolina, moss phlox, junipers, mondo grass, native grasses such as little bluestem or muhley grass.

Good luck. Do some reading, look around at good nurseries as well as big boxes. Find out what you like, if it will work there, how big it will get. If you end up with something you are not quite happy with, you can alway hoik it up and slap something else in it's place. Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 9:50AM
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Thanks so much!! Your suggestions are great and give me a little confidence because I had kinda decided to scrap the JM and was spending a lot of time yesterday on a crepe myrtle site!! One thing I'm wondering about though is if I put a crepe myrtle on the left side (actually it won't be against the brick because I'm going to do a lower terrace), but then do I need to do something similar on the right? And what is the rule about something right there by the front door. I don't want something too large, but do I need to balance out the front with the CM on the left? I wondered about a smaller variety or something? Do I need to use the same kind of tree, or is it okay to mix and match. How about a "dainty" little tree, that is taller, but not so full? Any ideas? As you can see our front door is kinda recessed and I hate to make it any more darkened? I need to get some containers and a bench or something to dress it up a bit.

I've looked at the smoketrees also and really liked them too, but think I like the CM better. I haven't seen a yaupon holly, I'll have to look at that. I really like the idea of the flowering trees.

The white rocks - I'm in the process of tearing them out! Had to take a break because of the rain. . . I'm going to plant the grass right up to the sidewalk in the front and start my new bed about halfway back on the side. I'm not a big fan of evergreens either, do you have any suggestions of bushes that will still be green in the winter, but not evergreen? I thought I should probably try to have something there that will still look "alive" when everything else looks like a bunch of sticks:) I'm anxious to look up the other choices you suggested, especially the grasses, I love the ornamental grasses. I actually thought of putting some around the base of the CM and then maybe some early bloomers, like daffodils or tulips. I just love the bursts of color when everything has been brown for so long!

Thanks so much!! sarah

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 11:37AM
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I forgot to say that the information from the Extension Service and the Missouri Department of Conservation will be sent it to you for free. Call today and it will arrive at your door with 48-72 hours.

Do you have an email? You can click my member page to email me directly.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2007 at 3:42PM
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Sarah,, I'd like to hear an update on your landscaping plans. If it isn't too late I have some suggestions.
Since you don't plan to live there for very long I'd use less expensive plants, even annuals. How about russian sage which grows fast and has lavendar blooms all summer. I'd also plant daylilies. That red brick seems to me to be tricky to plant against. A varigated or light green shrub might be pretty.
As for the annuals, cosmos, larkspur,zinnias, the smaller sunflowers, come to mind. Just about anything you like would work and your investment would be small.
A trellis and vine would be lovely. Just keep in mind that the moonflower won't bloom until very late in the season. White morning glories are pretty.
Send us some pictures later in the season so we can see how it turns out.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 9:06AM
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Don't worry about rules as much as plant requirements and ultimate size, and color against that red brick. A small tree--not too close to the house--would shade the double window in front and give you something to look at out that window. Kousa Dogwood can take more sun than the native and bloom later.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 6:01PM
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