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Help me pick a new landscape design for the front of my house

Posted by michaelqreilly 6 (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 8, 11 at 19:49

First post here by a long-time reader. Any and all suggestions are welcome since my approach to designing a garden consists of sticking a bunch of stuff in the ground and seeing how things work out.

Here are some pictures of my front garden as currently constituted.

[img]http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_hEWKg7CE0X4/S997k4Ust7I/AAAAAAAAACs/xteW3pyFvf0/s1600/CIMG2295.JPG[/img]

[img]http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_hEWKg7CE0X4/TDOzLhfv_4I/AAAAAAAAAEk/PrtPjfjkumQ/s1600/CIMG2461.JPG[/img]

Given that my house is sort of cottage style, I thought that the hydrangeas in front would give it a nice country look. The problem, as it turns out, is that the front of my house faces directly west and the afternoon sun is simply too powerful much for the hydrangeas. The flowers get damaged and by 5:00 the whole plant is wilting.

Enter the ridiculous snow that we've gotten this winter. It has done a fair amount of damage to the hydrangeas and they will probably take a few years to fully recover. I've wanted to change things for a while in front, and now with the damage to the hydrangeas, this spring is the perfect time to do it.

I'm going to move the hydrangeas to more hospitable places around my house and come up with a whole new plan for the front. The only thing that I'd like to keep is the Rose of Sharon which is at the far left side. I am training that into a small tree shape and would like that to stay. But other than that, I want to completely change things up.

Ideally, I'd like a relatively low maintenance set up, so no bulbs that require a lot of dividing and not too many annuals. Other than that, any and all suggestions are welcome. I appreciate the feedback!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Help me pick a new landscape design for the front of my house

Hmm...I'm not sure why the html didn't work. Anyone know how to embed images in this forum?


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RE: Help me pick a new landscape design for the front of my house

Ok, this should do it.

CIMG2461

CIMG2295

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RE: Help me pick a new landscape design for the front of my house

Welcome, Michael - nice to "hear" your voice. Thanks for posting photos. There is a thread from a few days ago with some plants that do well in SSW conditions that may give you some ideas, but since you are warmer than VT, there will be a wider range of plants that you can grow - maybe some of the other folks in zone 6 can make some recommendations.

A few questions in no particular order:
- Do you like having a limited number of types of plants as you currently have or do you want a wider variety?
- How is this overall front area used? Just curb appeal or as a walkway around the house or a place to put snow or . . .
- Do you want to keep the current relatively narrow bed width or would you consider eliminating the lawn and using the whole front area as a garden bed?
- Since your photos are sort of close ups of the bed: Is the building one story, and is this the whole front of your house? (I can't tell if the white siding with the rhodies in front at the right of photo 2 is part of your house or the next door neighbor.) If you have a somewhat wider and taller shot it would help give a feel for how this fits into the overall landscape, other plants, building scale, etc.
- How wide is your roof overhang or how far out is your drip line?
- What is the soil like generally - sandy, normal loam, clay?

Thanks.
Barb

Here is a link that might be useful: Squire John's thread


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RE: Help me pick a new landscape design for the front of my house

R-O-S-E-S!

They love sun and will absolutely love that area. The blooms come in just about any color so it would be easy to pick a color to match your house. The roses with the least amount of maintenance and best disease resistance would be a Rugosa or one of the Knockout series. There are others that are disease resistant but require watering and fertilizing every now and then. If you plant a rose, just take a lot of care preparing the site by adding some compost to make the soil nice and rich.

Some other things that come to mind are a Butterfly Bush. Again, lots of colors to choose from. Conifers love full sun and most tolerate drought well and would love that area. You can get them in various shades of green, yellow, or blue and in a variety of textures so something should fit the bill.


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RE: Help me pick a new landscape design for the front of my house

Barb,

Thanks for the reply. In answer to your questions:

- Do you like having a limited number of types of plants as you currently have or do you want a wider variety?

I think that I would like more variety. Both to give the garden more depth and to increase its interest year round.


- How is this overall front area used? Just curb appeal or as a walkway around the house or a place to put snow or . . .

This is just for curb appeal. I will post a wider angle picture later, but I live in a town house. Our buildings are grouped in twos. You can see the neighbor's building in one of the pictures. About a 2 feet in front of the garden is a walkway around back and in front of that is a plain lawn.


- Do you want to keep the current relatively narrow bed width or would you consider eliminating the lawn and using the whole front area as a garden bed?

I would consider going all the way out to the concrete walkway.


- Since your photos are sort of close ups of the bed: Is the building one story, and is this the whole front of your house? (I can't tell if the white siding with the rhodies in front at the right of photo 2 is part of your house or the next door neighbor.) If you have a somewhat wider and taller shot it would help give a feel for how this fits into the overall landscape, other plants, building scale, etc.

It is a two story building. Again, I will post a wider shot pic later.


- How wide is your roof overhang or how far out is your drip line?

No roof overhand currently. The building is somewhat old and isn't up to code. ;~)

- What is the soil like generally - sandy, normal loam, clay?

The soild is very sandy. As sandy as I've ever seen in New Engand. It is probably because I'm only about a mile away from the CT River and am in a fairly low lying area.


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re: front design

Tree Oracle

I'm not a huge fan of regular roses. I find them to be a bit too fickle for my tastes. I have, however been intrigued with climbing roses. Maybe I could do something with a trellis?

I am also not hugely keen on roses for this spot because although it gets very intense sun in the afternoon, it is in a very deep shade in the morning. I fear that this could lead to a lot of disease issues with roses.


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RE: Help me pick a new landscape design for the front of my house

While it still has some filling in to do, the west-facing full sun area behind my garage went from this:

to this:

from May to September last year despite the awful drought we had. With one or two exceptions, everything was winter sown (grown from seed) last year.

To give you some ideas for your full sun area, here's a list of what's planted either side of the walkway:
Alchemilla mollis/lady’s mantle
Stokesia laevis/Stoke's aster
Echinacea purpurea/purple coneflower
Rudbeckia hirta/gloriosa daisy ‘Irish Eyes’
Gaura lindheimeri/wandflower ‘The Bride’
Perovskia atriplicifolia/Russian sage
Lupine
Tanacetum pyrethrum/Painted daisy
Lychnis coronaria/Rose campion
Agastache rupestris/sunset hyssop
Platycodon grandiflora/balloon flower (double white)
Gaillardia/blanket flower (burgundy)
Hollyhock (dwarf double pink)
Caryopteris/blue mist shrub
Shasta daisy
Siberian iris
Verbascum ‘Milkshake
Columbine
Baptisia australis/false indigo
Kniphofia/red hot poker
Agastache foeniculum/lavender hyssop ‘Golden Jubilee’
Rudbeckia hirta/gloriosa daisy ‘Autumn Colors’
Buddleia/butterfly bush
Adenophora pereskiifolia/ladybells
Delphinium
Campanula/bellflower
Pennisetum alopecuroides/dwarf fountain grass
Peony (X2)
Phlox paniculata/tall garden phlox ‘Aida,’ ‘Franz Schubert’
White evening primrose
Monarda/bee balm
Tanacetum parthenium/Feverfew
Polychroma spurge euphorbia/cushion spurge
Lobelia cardinalis/cardinal flower

Nothing has ever been done to the soil in this area. The only things growing here before last year's makover were weeds, poison ivy and crabgrass. It's mostly sand & rocks with a little actual soil here and there. As you can see on the left in the second picture, I nursed a few things along with plant nannies filled with a concoction of my own I call SEWP (seaweed extract & worm p**p). I should have some idea of what survived the winter in another few weeks altho' when the snow finally melted I was surprised to find some healthy green foliage on a few things--gaillardia, campanula and painted daisy.


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RE: Apologize for the symbols

Sorry...I forgot to change the quote marks and other punctuation so those distracting symbols wouldn't appear. Let me know if you need them translated.


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RE: Help me pick a new landscape design for the front of my house

Some more pictures to help you get a better idea of my situation.

048

CIMG2296

CIMG2245

This is the only picture I have right now that shows the place from the front. You obviously can't see what it looks like in summer, but at least you can see the whole house.

DSCF0112


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RE: Help me pick a new landscape design for the front of my house

Thanks for the additional photos, Michael. I am assuming that you haven't a huge amount of gardening experience, so I'll apologize in advance if I am telling you things that you already know. My personal preference overall would be to plant the entire area out to the concrete walkway and widen the bed around the corner wider as well, for at least part of the distance down the side. That might a good place for the hydrangeas. I would also use shrubs along with perennials (and a few annuals if you want extra color or to fill in until the perennials and shrubs get bigger) to get some variety similar to what you have now.

About your current beds: I notice black plastic(?) or landscape fabric in your bed under the mulch unless you have pulled it out since the photos were taken. As someone who made that mistake earlier in my gardening years and also inherited it from the previous resident of my current house, I don't think that you want to continue that as it will interfere with how the soil "lives." It will restrict water and oxygen exchange and cause all kinds of problems down the road when it starts to decompose and when the plants start growing roots into it. If you want more info or opinions, go to the one of the following forums and put "landscape fabric" into the search at the bottom of the thread listings: landscape design, perennials, and perhaps shrubs. Your bark or wood chip mulch is great, since it will help keep moisture levels even and suppress weeds. If you want something under it to further help prevent weed growth, corrugated cardboard or multiple layers of newspaper work well to suppress weeds without the problems caused by landscape fabric. I generally put down cardboard or newspaper and then at least 3 inches of mulch on top of that in all my shrub and perennial beds.

What you can plant will depend on how much organic matter you are able and willing to put into your sandy soil. Gardenweed has given you a fine list of plants that in general do well in drier situations, though a few (lLobelia cardinalis/cardinal flower, Delphinium, peonies, Campanula/bellflower and Siberian iris) will do better in somewhat richer, less dry soil. If you have access to lots of organic matter through a town composting program, a nearby farm with composted manure, lots of old leaves, or some similar source, or if you have the money to buy a large quantity of compost, then dig in more than you think is needed into the first several inches up to a foot of the bed and you will have a wider range of plants to choose from.

Tree oracle suggested conifers (good for winter interest so there aren't just dead sticks there) and roses, specifically Knockouts, which are long-blooming, disease resistant, and not fussy at all from everything I've read (no personal experience.) I grow the following roses: John Davis (large bush or short climber), Lady Elsie Banks, a white double rugosa, Rosa mundi, and a no ID that is common at old farmhouses here. I don't fuss with any of them other than to knock Japanese beetles into a can of soapy water while I wander through the garden early morning before work, though many are once-bloomers that are finished before the beetles emerge. No disease problems on any of them.

Some other plants that will like or tolerate a relatively dry bed beyond Gardenweed's list include Nepeta/catmint, creeping thyme, alchillea/yarrow, calluna/heather (though not right next to the concrete foundation since it likes acidity) which is actually a short fine-textured shrub that can have colorful foliage, lavender, penstemon, Thermopsis caroliniana/carolina lupine (though not a lupine - similar to Baptisia), many of the veronica, hemerocallis/daylily. Most of these won't mind a bed with better soil also.

Some plants that need somewhat better soil include perennial geraniums, dianthus/pinks (which aren't all pink in color), crocosmia, Iberis sempervirens/candytuft, tall phlox (get a mildew resistant type), Thalictrum rochebrunianum/lavender mist meadow rue. I can see a clematis on an obelisk looking great here, maybe behind the shrub on the corner where it will get some of the extra moisture from the downspout, but not be in its path.

I also really value spring bulbs for early color and have found that if I plant them at the deepest end of the recommendation they seem to need dividing less often. I have daffodils that are probably 10 years old and haven't needed dividing yet - they still bloom prolifically. Just plant them where perennial foliage will hide the withering daff foliage. I also have reticulated iris (bought from Brent and Becky's bulbs on the web since they aren't common locally) which are budded up at the base of my foundation now and will be done blooming by mid-April before the daffs even start. I love seeing flowers in March! Both these don't mid dry summer soil at all.

A couple of non-evergreen shrubs that will be fine in average soil include weigela (several shorter varieties with colored or variegated leaves) and spirea. Your neighbor's rhododendrons seem to be doing okay, and there are some shorter varieties such as PJM 'Checkmate' that hasn't cleared 3 feet in my garden. Conifers such as junipers ( get a short variety), birdsnest spruce, or one of the short varieties of Chamaecyparis would probably do well here or even one of the miniature Colorado blue spruce/Picea pungens. To get specific suggestions of types, try the conifer forum, the rhododendron forum, or the shrub forum. I often go to nearby nurseries to see what they have, read labels, take copious notes, go home and do internet research, and then go buy based on what is available that fits my needs.

Some general things to consider in planning your bed.
-Think about a way to have your hose holder be a bit less visible; either paint it to match the siding or move it out of sight behind a shrub or around the corner. Right now its contrasting color makes it grab attention.
-Do your soil prep before you bring home plants. In general, the better your soil, the better the garden will be and the easier to care for. That extra organic matter will help hold moisture and nutrients rather than letting them trickle on through the soil. Add enough and the hydrangeas might even be happy here.
-Plant things near the downspout that won't mind a bit of extra moisture, and maybe put several rocks right in front of the concrete catcher to break the water's force before it gets to the garden.
-Think about leaf shape, size, color, and texture. There won't always be lots of perennials blooming, so foliage that offers variety and interest will keep things looking nice even when there aren't lots of flowers.
-Plant lower things below the windows unless you want them blocked. I have used annual vines (scarlet runner beans) on strings over western windows to help keep the house cooler, but generally don't like to spend time trying to keep the plants away from the windows, so plant things with lower height there.
-Most gardens look better with not just one of this and one of that - have some repetition, whether it is of foliage color, specific plant, flower color, though I have seen gardens that are an absolute riot of variety that still look lovely. Your current garden with the two hydrangeas and the several lobelia (?) have variety of height and foliage texture, but related flower color and more than one of each specific plant.
- Look for gardens you like in your neighborhood or as you walk and drive around. Look now as well as during gardening season so that you can decide about what you want your garden to look like in winter. Often gardeners will be more than happy to ID plants for you if they are outside and you can get a sense of what you like. Your local library may have books that talk about garden design or have lots of eye candy (my favorite!) to look at now. One good one (but not huge amounts of eye candy) is The Well-Designed Mixed Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust.

Have fun and let us know how it goes.


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RE: Help me pick a new landscape design for the front of my house

An update:

One of the hydrangeas is out.

DSCF0269

I've gave this some thought. I really appreciate all the feedback. I'm still up in the air on this one. I think that I might like to do something with Shasta Daisies, but obviously I am going to need something bigger for the backdrop. Rhodies were there before I put the hydrangeas in. I'd like to stay away from them. I think that ultimately I might have to wait a few more weeks and head over to the local garden center to try and figure things out.


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