Advice for border plants/flowers for a first-time gardener? Pics

hossman24February 26, 2011

Hi! I'm very new to gardening and had a question to see if anyone had any advice. I live in Northeast TN. It appears as if I'm right between zone 6 and 7...but I live in the mountains...about 3500 feet above sea level.

I recently bought my grandmother's old home and would like to start some planting. She was a fantastic gardener...she raised the most spectacular vegetable garden, but also had beautiful flowers all around the house. I'd like to spruce some things up here, also.

I'd love to start by putting something along the front walk of the house. It stays in full sun all day long. It may look as if that's a drainage ditch to the sides of the walk, but my dad just dug them out a year ago or so. Surprisingly, there's rarely standing water if it rains.

Additionally, I'd like to plant something in front of the porch.

Problem is...I have no idea what to plant! I think I'd like something that blooms, but I wouldn't be opposed to a fairly easy to contain evergreen. But again...I'm new to's my first time ever planting, and I'm completely open to suggestion.

Any help would be very much appreciated!

Loving these forums!

:) pay no mind to the condition of the home...I have a LOT of work to do this spring! :)

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If you want something that flowers, maybe you could consider daylillies. If you want something really easy, you could consider liriopes.

Personally I would do a mixture of daylillies and some small, evergreen shrubs. It really all depends on taste. I would go to a local nursery and tell them the width constraints of the garden, the location of the garden (i.e. sun exposure), and look at some of the options that they will present to you given those characteristics.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 8:03AM
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thank you! I'm not sure where a nursery is around here, but I'm going to start looking for one.

Daylillies are beautiful...will look into that too.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 10:26AM
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hi hossman, from the pictures, it seems the beds are quite narrow. I predict that you will want/need much much wider beds, like 3 or 4 feet, as you get into gardening and especially if you like the cottage style. So I would recommend, if you can reign your enthusiam in just for this year, and since you have work on the house too, that you plant some annuals (there are a multitude of choices), until you live there and observe the views, the changes of the seasons, talk to other gardeners, note what you like about others' gardens, learn from these forums etc. Otherwise you will likely be re-doing something you plant that's more permanent.
Some annuals for full sun would be snapdragons, poppies, petunias, and later pentas, cosmos, zinnias, marigolds, also bulbs are very easy (there are more flowers than this, check with garden centers). You could actually put some lettuce this spring, peppers, cherry tomatoes, and / or you can mix all this up a bit, sort of in a repetitive fashion. Well, I hope this makes sense to you. There is a place in Arlington TN (dont' know exactly where that is) but it sounds amazing, and it is Gardens oy vey, a nursery inside a garden it's called, and the website is
Happy gardening, Laurie

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 7:09PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

What a charming place! My hometown is Kingsport and your pictures bring back a flood of memories.

Louisianagal gives you some great advice. If you want to grow plants well, your beds will definitely need to be enlarged. Your home would absolutely lend itself to a cottage garden, which is likely what your grandmother had. There's a good cottage garden forum here.

The best advice I can give you is to plant nothing until you have a well thought out plan. Go to the library and check out every book on gardening you can read. Call your county extension agent and ask him for any materials he/she may have about designing a new landscape. If you have time to become a Master Gardener, you will get some excellent garden teaching for free. Some good garden centers have design staff. Years ago, there was a garden center in New Orleans that would design free if you purchased all your plants from them. Or, you may have a friend who is an avid gardener who'd be willing to help you come up with a plan. I do lots of design work for church members just because I love doing it and it's a way to make new friends. Also, check out the websites for Horticulture and Fine Gardening Magazine. They have a wealth of information. Fine Gardening has a great website for Vegetable gardening too. Finally, by all means buy yourself a copy of The Southern Living Gardening Book. It's probably the best reference book you could ever find.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 10:27AM
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dottie_in_charlotte(z7-8 NC)

That lawn grass, you have to identify what type it is. If it's a running bermuda you'll be fighting to keep it out of any border and sidewalk edge. That trench alongside the cement walk is a natural for gravel fill which will give people a place to step into when passing on a sidewalk which appears to be one-person wide and with elevation changes.

Begin your sidewalk border with a metal edge strip to keep the gravel in the trench and separated from what will become your planting strips.
You can put small planters in the gravel area to hold pretty annuals, I've seen that done at historical homes.

Beginning about 6 feet from the porch, begin a curve from the gravel strip to shape your front beds which will allow a pretty welcoming area plus make mowing much easier around the curve instead of a corner.
Use a garden hose to decide the shape and just spray paint to mark where you want to dig on both sides of the walk.

If that's a wood board across the base of your porch you may want to replace it now with something treated. Taking it off will give you the ability to view the condition of the porch piers (supports) and while it's off, consider having a pest control company come do a treatment while they can get access to under the porch.

Once you get plantings in you won't want to be tearing them out to check and repair that fascia board that hides the underneath of the porch.
At least not for several years. Good luck and have fun.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 10:51AM
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Wow...this stuff is fantastic!! Great advice. I have no issue with annuals, and that's what the folks at a local retail garden shop suggested.

I'm also completly open to widening the beds...from the few things I've read, everyone's totally right about widening.

I've got lots of work to do, and I'm really excited about it. Started cabbage seed this past weekend (for a veggie garden) and will be buying bulbs throughout the week.

Thank you everyone!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 10:00PM
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Hi you had some good advice from the other responders. I would definitely put only evergreen plants around your house. Day lilies look raggedy in the winter and early spring. Also barberry goes dormant. Lorapetulom goes dormant in winter. I would use only dwarf evergreen plants in front of your porch. Cleyora is a pretty evergreen plant, but I would only put it where I need some height. The dwarf nandinas would add color. Look for the dwarf hollies that stay short, put them minimum 4 foot apart. That seems too far apart, but I promise you they will grow together. Also come out from your porch and plant at least 3/4 foot from porch. Stay away from the huge hollies, especially Compacta (ugh) and Bufordi (sp).
I would maybe widen the bed next to paths and put short mounding perennials there, maybe mixed with a few of the colored grasses. Sarah

burfity (sp)

    Bookmark   March 13, 2011 at 1:17PM
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