Anything other than boxwoods or yews for foundation planting?

JennG(6)May 11, 2005

I have 4 boxwoods on one side of my house (Pittsburgh). I don't like them...nay, I hate them. I think they're boring, they're overgrown (well 3 of them are, one of the ones is very puny) and well, I don't like them. What else can I use in this bed for interest - height - etc. The house faces west. I'm not a gardener.

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springcherry(6/7 Philly,PA)

Something that flowers -- rhodos, azaelias, cherry laurels, peris japonicas, farthingales, mahonias?

Tall grasses? Climbing roses? Climbing hydranger?


    Bookmark   May 11, 2005 at 2:55PM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

Stay away from rhodo's on the West side unless they are hot-western-sun tolerant (the area gets the late afternoon, evening sun, correct?). Azaleas might be OK, if they are the type that likes the hot, western sun as well. You have a great place there for plantings with the sloping area. I can see some lower growing junipers in there - the greens, blues, gold-tipped, etc. Perhaps an upright one like Blue Point at the lower, right corner. Andorra Junipers might work under the windows. They turn a plum color in the fall/winter. There might be newer varieties by now that take on a different color in the winter. Another Juniper similar to Andorra is Youngstown. I can see a laceleaf Japanese maple somewhere in the planting - perhaps at the lower end. Not the upright Jap maples but the more mounded, horizontal varieties like Crimson Queen, Garnet, etc. There are many nice ones - including ones that are laceleaf, but green instead of red. Perhaps they would be more suited for the area since they would contrast more with the red brick. On second thought, maybe the planting should "sweep" upward from the bottom to the top. By that I mean some of the lower growing plants should be at the bottom of the walk with the planting gradually giving the effect of sweeping upward with perhaps any taller growing plants situated farther up the bank. Something taller, but narrow growing could be placed between the windows. False Cypress (if you like golds or yellows for accent) would do well in sun as well. However, avoid a hodge-podge of planting one each of many different plants. You couldd also plant some sun-loving perennials as well or interplant with some annuals every year for a varied look from year to year. If you take a picture to a medium to large garden center or nursery in the area and talk to a design person, most will give you a rough sketch of recommnendations for free, hoping you will buy your plants there. If you do that, measure the area and include the spacing between windows and the height of the windows from the ground. Also, the distance between windows and the location of any utilities or meters etc. If you can make a drawing to scale on graph paper that would be great. Take pictures of the area and the surrounding areas of the house. Remember when you purchase plants for placement in an area, know what the mature size of the plants will be. Don't allow someone to sell you plants that will mature at 3-4 feet and suggest you plant them 2 feet apart when they are small. You will be ripping some out in 5 years or sooner. With careful planning, you have the potential to make a very attractive and inviting entrance-way garden. Wish I lived closer. I might help with the project. Since I've retired, I've been thinking of taking on various gardening chores or small projects, mostly for fun, but also to earn a little spending money since my wife gives me very little (smile).

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 7:59AM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

After reviewing the picture again (I wish we could see more of the top and bottom extended view), a Chinese Dogwood (Kousa varieties) might work down to the right off the corner of the house with plantings under or near it. One thing (warning) I forgot to mention in addition to spacing plants according to their eventual, mature size (you can always plant annuals to fill in major gaps until the shrubs mature), is to plant trees and shrubs far enough away from the foundation or corners, so that they are not hitting the house in 5 years or when mature. Also, if you have any roof overhangs that would prevent rain from hitting the plants, make sure that at least half of the root ball is in front of the drip line formed by the overhang. Another approach to take in deciding what plants might look/do well in that location, is to check other houses in the neighborhood that have attractive landscapes for ideas. Not that you want to duplicate another landscape, but look for plants that are doing well which are planted with the same western exposure. Either walk or ride and even take some pictures of designs or plants that appeal to you and take them to the garden center as well.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 8:14AM
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corgilvr(z6 PA)

We need more pictures! They are coming up pretty dark on my screen and I'd love to see a view of the entry door as well. Do you want year round green or will a blend of deciduous and evergreen work for you? No yews is good yews in my book.

I can see two climbing choices on either side of the window with the sunburst over it to enhance that shape. Climbing roses could be interplanted with clematis for a real show. If you eliminate the foundation plantings under the windows you could have window boxes with low shrubs beneath those. There are lots of pretty dwarf conifers which could add interest. I like John's idea of a kousa or dogwood on the right corner of the house view we have to soften that edge. You could also use a Dragon Lady or other columnar holly in that space for an evergreen alternative.

Do you have a nice nursery near you? Take pictures with the dimensions of your beds/planting areas and the amount of sun they get each day with you and ask for help in selecting plants for these areas.

Now what about that walk and steps?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 9:22AM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

OK Corgilvr, if we lived closer to each other (smile) we could start our own consulting business. We need a name!
Now, if we could find someone to take our ideas and do the hard work of planting. Again, I've thought of starting a little fun business (if that is even possible to conbine work with fun) with the slogan - "No Job Too Small - Some Jobs Too Big". I just had some tanbark delivered from a place here in Shermans Dale who provides landscaping services as well. The driver said, after seeing my walkway installation in progress, "I can get you plenty of jobs installing walls and pavers." Like I said, "Some Jobs Too Big!" Oh my aching back!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 12:41PM
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Woo hoo! I would hire you guys in a second.

You want pictures? I got pictures. The front door (which you can't see in these) is red.

The area does get afternoon sun but it's mostly dappled as we have 4 HUGE trees in the front yard that do shade the area - so I'd say it's a part sun/part shade area.

I've been talked into maybe saving the biggest boxwoods because they're so healthy and mature. Maybe I should re-shape them and get them to be somewhat closer in size and maybe I wouldn't hate them so much....

Left side of house:

Right side of house:

View of the bed going down the steps:

View of the bed from the corner:

Arial view of the bed (this was 3 separate shots that I merged together):

Oh, by the way, that pom pom tree in the front there? HATE IT more than I do the boxwoods. I want to get rid of that and put something else that will give me that nice tall line going up the columns of the house but those pom-pom trees are ridiculous.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 2:13PM
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corgilvr(z6 PA)

Your home looks worthy of hiring someone to come up with a plan that you can manage. Like John, I wish I lived closer. Make friends with a gardener! You have a beautiful home deserving of plants you will love.

I think I would contrast the classical architecture with a more cottage garden scheme. I'd use lots of fragrance near the door and include viburnum and lilacs for scent. If you don't love the pom pom, yew, and stuffy boxwood look, I think you would like a less stuctured look.

Don't save anything you hate. If you are coming up with a new plan, get rid of anything you don't love.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 4:31PM
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wolfe15136(z6 PA)

That pompom thing looks like a euonymus to me. Does it turn vivid magenta in the fall?

Anyway, I see your problem. I think a japanese maple in the place of the euonymus, and perhaps a blue rug juniper in place of the mugo pine. Add some of the tufted grasses for texture. As for the boxwoods (stinky things), I would love to see some azaleas and viburnums mixed in with the evergreens.

You might want to visit an eccentric nursery called Buck Drake's near Venetia (not far from Donaldson's Crossroads. That place will give you ideas!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 4:51PM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

The shrub next to the white pillars on the right - could it be a hinoki cypress (evergreen)? Might be a nice specimen. Is that the "pom-pom" you don't like? It appears there are 2 of them - one on each side of the walk by the pillars.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 7:41PM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

JennG: Corgilvr and I and others could have lots of fun spending your money. After seeing all the pictures, I agree that landscape needs overhauled. It happens too often that cute little plants that start out in 2 gallon containers, over time turn into monster plants. Two thoughts (and most likely not the final ones) after seeing the other pics, is that I think a Kousa Dogwood that we mentioned before would look good off of the corner on the left side of the house. Also, if the picture is accurate or my perspective is correct, I would increase the size of the bed on the left side of the house by making the starting point at the beginning of the outside corner of the walk. You could experiment with a new shape for the bed on the left side by using a garden hose to make it serpentine or curved somehow. Use gentle curves (like a french curve) to make mowing easier. I will look again but I am thinking you might have to "kick out" or bring out the left corner some to accomodate something like a Kousa Dogwood, if you would ever go that route. Do you have an extra room and are you or your hubby good cooks? I do diapers too! Have had lots of practice lately with 4 grandkids - 6, 4, 3, 2 (son's and daughter's kids). Just kidding, but the potential is so great and it is exciting just to share ideas with you.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 8:02PM
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Hee...John...My husband and I both cook. I make a mean lemon pound cake and he's famous for his grilled pork tenderloin. We have two guest rooms and three small children (5, 3 and 1) so bring it on :)

I'm off to look up a Kousa Dogwood.

Near as I can tell, those pom pom trees are also called Poodle Trees and started life off (10+ years ago when this landscaping was originally done) looking like this (see the two behind the spiral one?)

I, frankly, find it a bit unnatural. When I had a landscaper in here last fall to start the process of cleaning up the overgrown mess that was the mailbox bed and the driveway bed and the back yard, she graciously tried to shear it back into some sort of more natural pyramid shape but the trees are too far gone for that to work..sigh.

I don't think that I have any euonymous in there...

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 8:56PM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

Ahhh...trying to make out the detail of the pom-poms and the euonymous. I think the pom-poms might be a juniper of some kind. They typically make pom-poms out of junipers (bluish-green or bluish-silver?) and other plants as well. The euonymous someone identified before seems to be a winged euonymous or euonymous alata "compactus" commonly known as a burning bush because of the bright red color it takes on in the fall.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 9:13PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Can I help too???

I think you need a chainsaw.... the junipers look like they need more sun, I would get rid of them, the burning bushes look haphazard and overgrown... if you wanted to, you could easily transplant them to another spot in the yard where their height would be an asset. Overall I would remove most everything but the yews (gulp) -which sounds like the exact plant you were trying to get rid of in the first place- I might even keep the poodles (gulp again) let them grow unpruned for a year or two.... (and this is coming from a confirmed poodle-bush hater)

You have a nice foundation, I don't see any reason to cover it up! The larger yews give an established look to the planting, group in a few easy care perennials (hostas? maybe ferns? - plant them in groups to unify the look)... freshen up the mulch and voila!
-also I like the kousa dogwood idea and maybe a low green jap. maple. Just remember the dogwood may drop a few fruits on the walk late summer, not a big problem though.

ps- the pictures are great!.... but can we talk about the walkway?

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 10:32PM
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Corglvr and Kato_B...the walkway...ahhhh the walkway. What's the matter? You don't like temporary concrete pavers that have weeds growing up in the middle and wobble precariously when you walk on them? What's not to love about that?

I'm listening...ideas? Thoughts?

Actually, Kato_B, if I got rid of everything but the boxwoods in the back, I might be ok. IF I could fill in the rest of the bed with things that I liked and looked good I could probably live with the boxwoods. And I'm sorry but the poodle thing - it's Got. To. Go.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2005 at 10:48PM
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corgilvr(z6 PA)

John, got the chainsaw in the truck yet?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 5:56AM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

Got the chainsaw in the truck and the chains are going this morning to be sharpened on the way up to my Dad's. A day's work to do there. But breakfast comes first. If you want me to work for you, the only thing you must do is feed me. JennG: Everything must go! You are tempting me to drive out there with my truck and take what you don't want and dig out the rest. Is there a white flowering shrub in there somewhere on the left (a rhodo or azalea?). Someone mentioned rhodo's before and I poo-pawed the idea. With the dappled shade, even with western exposure, they might work after all. The Kousa's fruit (and by the way I just read that Kousa's are Japanese and there is also a Chinese Dogwood - not sure of the difference in characteristics)shouldn't cause a problem if it is planted off the left corner of the house. I didn't realize the walk was concrete paver units. I was going to suggest that just off the porch where the walk begins that a landing be created at least as wide as the porch on even a bit wider. It's nice to have a place for folks to gather for those long goodbye's for which we in PA are famous. You would have to be careful about what color material you use for the "new" walkway - paving bricks, cobblestone pavers (EPHenry type, etc.) or new poured concrete (maybe not) because of the dark red brick on the house. If possible the walkway should be at least 3 feet wide (4 would be better). I was trying to determine last night what style/period architecture you have there. Is it American Federal, Georgian or some combination of those influences. It might be neat to research that and then find pics of similar structures and learn what the walkways looked like, what plants they used for that period, etc. I know, I know, boxwoods would be among them for sure. I don't like the big-clump, green shrub effect in the entire foundation planting. I think I would almost have to be there standing in front to determine if some plants could actually stay or gradually remove the obvious ones and then place some containers or wood stakes in places where new plants would be placed and then imagine what the new arrangement would look like with actual plants. Someone mentioned cherry laurel. That might be a good choice somewhere. Also, I like Itea (I think it is Virginia Sweetspire) "Little Henry". Hostas whould be good and azaleas - evergreen and deciduous. I bet no one in your neighborhood has a 3-tiered fountain in the front of the house (on the left side near the new landing or walkway or statuary for that matter. I have so much fun spending your money! Perhaps those items would not be in keeping with the period of the house. Well, I best be going. Breakfast is waiting 60 miles away. Have a great weekend all! Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 7:53AM
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Corgilvr and John...don't tease me like that. I've often said that I would love to find someone who has had to give up their gardens, for whatever reason, and I'd let them adopt mine. They could have free rein...I'd supply the cash and let them supply the work...

There is a white rhodedendron there on the left, yes.

Lord only knows what style this house is. As near as I can figure out, my whole development was a Ryan Homes development built back in the mid- to late-60s.

I've not even thought of a fountain - that might just work.

And you've hit the nail on the head with why the walkway still looks like it does - the brick poses some challenges in getting things that work well with it. I've been taking my time and looking through websites and paving books to collect ideas.

I'm printing out everyone's fabulous ideas and will ruminate over the weekend. Have a wonderful time at your father's.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 8:02AM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

Oh..forgot to mention that if you make a landing just off the porch that is at least as wide as the porch or wider, you could put some large container's (that go with the period of your house) on each side of the landing and fill them with all kinds of goodies (annuals for spring and summer and mums etc. for fall) or even a permanent spiral evergreens, a true dwarf boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa' or a pom-pom of some kind (slap-slap). I don't believe I wrote that.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 8:05AM
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corgilvr(z6 PA)

What a fun thread! No, no fountains in front of that stately home. Okay, here are the first two decisions you need to make: symetrical or asymetrical and evergreen or combination evergreen and deciduous?

I'd think about a native stone for the steps like Pennsylvania bluestone. Going with that theme, I'd put a mountain laurel in somewhere.

All that said, I'm still having trouble seeing the pictures on my monitor. It sounds as if you are not fond of the more contrived original landscape and might like a gentler design for your front garden. Check out the gardening magazines at the library or choose a long line at the grocery and thumb through a few there. If you really like a plan, buy the magazine and keep looking at the pictures you like and decide what is the same in all of them. I don't think your architecture needs to lock you into a style. That can lead to a plan that looks more like a professional building design rather than a home where your preferences should be featured.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 8:12AM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

What a funny enthusiastic bunch you are!
John, I thought your post ended "Live Well, Laugh Often, Love MULCH"

Jenn, Today I'm going to think up a plant list - I'll go low maint., I think with two kids and a third on the way you deserve low maintainence!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 8:18AM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

I think they have welcomed the third into the world by now (you read Jenn's profile too). I think I read in a previous post that the little ones are 5, 3 and 1. Jenn is off and running (or flying) with a big SM on her shirt, obviously. And I do love mulch as well! Agree - this has been a very enjoyable sharing. Jenn will be a MG before she knows it.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 10:41PM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

Here are some websites for suppliers of wall and paver materials. Not sure you will find the right material for the walkway. I think corgilvr might have been on to something with the bluestone, but ohhh the job of building all those steps. I am fretting about building two or 3 steps in my walkway project. (walls and pavers) (walls and pavers)

    Bookmark   May 13, 2005 at 11:01PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

Ugh pavers. I lay pavers during the summer, great for the back.....

Sorry but I couldn't think of too many showy almost no maint. perennials... Hosta, heuchera, lady fern, variegated solomon seal.

Actually if you just went to one of the box stores you could get a couple different hosta varieties and keep it at that. plant about three to a grouping, that might look better than mixing them all up together in the beds. They should run about $5 a pot and the gallon size will take off by next year, I wouldn't bother with bigger sizes.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 8:18AM
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Oh my! Kato_B I almost spit my Diet Coke on the screen when I saw that I was expecting another one :) I updated my daughter is now almost 1.

More wunnerful ideas...expand the landing...that's something I'd never have thought of.

Pennsylvania bluestone - I just looked it up - verrry nice.

I have a couple of books on hold at the library that I'm going to pick up today - one of them is specifically on building walkways and steps so maybe that will give me some ideas and also some on planning a garden.

Corgilvr - I tend to like symetrical arrangements in my real life but I don't mind assymetry in landscaping - how's that for messed up. I'd rather have a mix of evergreen and deciduous (now that I know what that word means LOL).

John - SM? On my shirt? Thanks for the links. I'm just not going to tell my husband that you're fretting - I'm going to tell him that everyone said it was easy peasy and we should be able to build steps and a walkway in 2-3 weekends!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 10:52AM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

SM - Super Mom
MG - Master Gardener

    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 4:01PM
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johnfromperrycopa(zone 6 scPA)

Sign up here for the JennG Extreme Landscape Makeover in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I bet our crew could be kept real busy in her neighborhood. Here's our slogan - Pennsylvania Gardening Forum's Extreme Landscape Makeover Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You. We are dirt cheap. I think we are ready. Any other thoughts/concerns (ha).

    Bookmark   May 14, 2005 at 4:16PM
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kaumann(Z6 Penna.)

John from Perry County-
I'm a little closer to you in Berks county. Want to come and garden with me? I've got real problems - this guys home is georgeous!
My place was beautifully landsceped in the 20's and 30's but lived in since by a mountain man who let it all hang out. Machete time.
I have (had) a long row of old boxwood flanking the walk. Caused me to buy the house. It began to decline.
Expert #1 - Oh, it's fine. Just put some Miracaid on it and it will come right back (no charge)
Expert #2 = Miracid is the worst thing you could have put on this hedge. Your box has a fungus disease. Must be sprayed and trimmed. (charge $50.00 X 2 for spraying, 150.00 for 2 college boys to hack up my hedge)
Expert #3 - There is no cure for fungus. Spraying the hedge will do nothing. Took 3 leaved to look at under the microscope. Diagnosis: Your box is dying of old age. ($80.00 for the house visit)
I have gotten over the fact that the hedge is no more. Trusting myself from now on and saving some money.
Still need a replacement. Don't think it would be a good idea to use box, it's a major project. I only want to do it once.
You seem like you have a lot of really good ideas. What do you suggest?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2005 at 9:10PM
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I like different things,on both sides of steps I have 2 of those fruit trees that dont get branches,theyre about 5' tall.The one was full of red apples last year.(colenades)I got so many compliments on them.I have all different kind bushes theres so much out there.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 7:56AM
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Woah! How did this post get resurrected?

Kaumann...I hope you get some good ideas.

As for me, I pulled out a whole buncha junk I didn't like and replanted with the following (these photos are all from the end of June when I originally planted - I should add some new photos to show the progress)

Here is a link that might be useful: Jenn's Front Bed Garden

    Bookmark   July 20, 2005 at 6:23PM
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Jenn--you did a great job! It looks terrific!

I stumbled upon this thread and recognized my own slope in your first picture. I was thinking of Itea Little Henry in a mass over the entire slope. Only problem is that I've heard it is deciduous, so it might not look particularly striking in the winter....

    Bookmark   March 12, 2006 at 5:12PM
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