Landscaping ideas?

jane__ny(9-10)January 24, 2013

My husband and I retired to Florida from NY. We bought this house and moved in 4 months ago. It needed a lot of work inside. We did what we could within reason but will have to either live with it or hope we win the lottery!

We are not familiar with Florida plants at all. Being a gardener all my life, I'm totally at a loss here. I don't know the name of anything or its culture. I do not have the money to hire anyone except for a handy-man who can plant bushes, etc.

My biggest problem is design. I don't know where to begin with the front of the house. We painted the exterior grey/white. The house has a weird little path to the entry. There is this small gravel pit next to it which has a small pipe. I have no idea what it is or if it could be taken out. I'm thinking a pot with a tall grass or plant would hide it.

Anyway, here are some shots of the front. I hate the door but can't afford to replace it. I have not planted anything so everything you see was there. We'd like some privacy from the street and some large beds which could be mulched. I'd like to get rid of as much grass as possible. There is no sprinkler system (its broken).

Would appreciate any design ideas. We will do the work ourselves.

This is the house from the street. It was taken before we painted. It is now grey

This shot is taken from the side yard so you can see how the grass runs to the street. There are a bunch of palm trees with some mulch underneath. Maybe I could expand thoses and add more bushes?

I don't know what is planted along the front windows. I'm thinking that area could be expanded? I don't like the wiggly bed thats there. Maybe it could be expanded to the driveway?

Thank you so much,

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Stay away from nurseries for a while ... plan your whole garden before you buy plants.

1 - Get a guide on gardening in your area. I don't know what Florida's equivalent of the Sunset Western Gardens book is, but look for it. You and I are in the same zone, technically, but Phoenix is not Florida.

Check your local library for books on Florida gardening and plant selection.

2 - Go to your water department website and ask for plant lists for xeriscaping and low water use.

3 - Take a tour of the public buildings and parks, and older neighborhoods, taking pictures of what is thriving. Identify plants you would like to have, and find out their needs. Skip the needy ones and use the hardy ones.

The existing landscaping is typical: a couple of palms in mulch islands, over-pruned evergreens, and a moustache of stuff too close to the house.

I would enlarge the entry walk so it is as wide as the space between the pillars - use brick or other pavers. Make a small seating area out front so you can enjoy your gardens. Surround it with some varied plants - tall big-leaved ones for privacy, short flowering ones to fill in and smell good.

That pipe may be doing something important, like venting radon from the slab. Find out what it does before you mess with it.

Definitely take the "landscaping" all the way to the street ... perennials and evergreen flowering things are far less care then lawns. Think "lush tropical shrubbery" and do it with low-care plants. Consider the view from inside your house - make sure you can see things growing and flowering.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 5:59AM
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What is the white painted wood structure located between the two sets of windows at right half of front wall? What is the tree in front of it?

For starters, I would enlarge the palm island and smooth it's contours (getting rid of the "wasp waste.") Work out all the bed lines around the house. With the goal of getting rid of grass, you may want to connect the palm island to the foundation bed. You may want to keep some grass nearer to the street and drive. You'll want to create a scale plan and work out changes before you attempt them in real life. I'd widen front walk, too, but wouldn't create a "seating area" unless you'd actually use it. Trace the pipe inside the garage. It may be draining AC condensation. I would get rid of white gravel, too.

I'm in the same zone (near Lakeland) and there are tons of great plants that grow here. The eastern equivalent to "Sunset" is the "Southern Living Garden Book." (By the same publishers.) Has lots of information about plants. Perennial peanut (commonly sold as 'Ecoturf' is a good, mowable lawn substitute. Depending on where you are, it may brown out for a month during the coldest part of winter. But it's pretty, tough and low maintenance.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 7:25AM
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Hi, Jane! And welcome to Florida AND Gardenweb! I'm in Titusville, originally from Michigan... so I know your pain. I was so GOOD at this stuff up there! Moving here was a gardening culture-shock. I spent a fortune on all the wrong stuff, and hours and hours moving things because their Florida needs didn't match their tags.
For starters, what direction does your house face? If it's facing South, it's not only gonna be sunny, it's gonna be HOT! (For the plants, and on and in the house!) If that's the case, I'd be looking for plants/trees/etc that not only look nice, but cut your electric bill!
I'm super-jealous of your Canary Island Date Palm! I just planted a little runt of one this past Spring... they're so beautiful when growing well and in the right spot.
I personally wouldn't connect the palm island to the house bed. That would be a LOT of area to landscape. Just personal preference, I don't like it when the house is drowning and hidden behind a mass of plants. I would enlarge both beds a bit, then put a paver/brick path between them that wraps around the side of the house. (For turning on the hose, etc.)
The pipe coming up out of the ground is either A/C drainage, or the cleanout in case the plumbing in the house gets backed up. I've seen both. Either way, it has to stay, so for that area (and the other side of the garage door) I'd consider tall, thin planters with topiaries or some such.
I agree with driving around and taking pictures and notes of the things you like. GardenWeb's "Name That Plant" forum can help you identify names and care information.
As for the front door, I'd paint that thing red so fast your head would spin!
I know you say you don't like the wiggly bed, but if it were planted full and lush, that curved shape would be very appealing. You might soften the curves a bit, but I'd keep them. I could see some Selloum Philondendron in that largest curve coming away from the house, some Crotons (as long as your house doesn't face North... the North wind can be a bear) *Crotons would also accent a red door! ;) * Crinum Lilies would be striking under your palms. As for shrubs, I've just never been a fan of them myself. I'd use Hibiscus, choosing a flower color that would accent whatever else I chose.

~Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 8:38AM
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By the way, I read your MyPage. I wish I had any kind of luck with orchids. I can't keep one alive for anything!

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 8:44AM
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Thanks everyone! I'm so depressed over this whole mess, I don't know where to begin.

I drive around looking at houses and take pictures of some ideas but everything is so different than NY. I spent a lifetime building and designing my landscaping in my NY home and loved the beauty it became over the years.

Now I feel that I am living in a parking lot! The house faces SW. Hot! It feels overwhelming and I just can't find a way to begin. I need a design, an outline and I can't seem to make sense of the property.

Yardvark, I have no idea what that white thing is. It was there and there was a weedy vine under it. It looked dead but now I see some green. I left the thingy and told the painters to paint it. I was afraid to fool with anything less it was something useful. It is wood and cemented in the ground.

This house had a lot of Asian-type 'things.' Elephant statues and some Asian fruit trees/bushes. You wouldn't believe the inside of the house. Luckily, we got rid of most of the wall paper and flooring.

So I assumed the white thingy had some sort of meaning. I'll have to deal with that. Same sort of thing in the backyard.

Could someone show me what you mean about the walkway? Should I bring it further down the driveway? I wish I could afford to make a circular driveway to deal with all the lawn, but that's just a dream.

Shearstupidy, you are too funny. I take pictures but can't find anyone to identify them. I did take some to a nursery and they were helpful.

I so appreciate the ideas...

White thing-

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 1:32PM
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I would transplant whatever vine that is to the back or side of the house and cut the wood support off at the ground (leave the cement there, it's simplest.

In the pictures below, I don't have any "Paint" type programs, so I had to work with ovals and rectangles.

A. Widen the walkway so that it's at least to the inside of the pillars. My lines are straight, but I you can make whatever shape you like, being careful not to disturb that pipe.

B. Here I would put the matching topiaries or matching potted "somethings."

C. This would look and smell wonderful if you trained Jasmine around this column.

I had to do widen the walkway at my house, too, and for now I went with cheap 12" cement squares. I'll change it when I can afford to have the whole walkway AND driveway re-poured or pavered.

D. This is where I would put "shrubs." I would choose solid green or variegated Schefflera.

E. Selloum Philodendron.

F. Crotons.

G. Giant White Bird of Paradise.

H. Variegated or solid green Liriope. (Whichever is opposite of the Schefflera).

I. Ixora.

J. Crinum Lillies. Either the red or the green.

So, for what it's worth, that's what I would do. Keep it simple.

The good thing about Florida gardening is that most things grow quickly, so it won't take long to have an established look for your front yard.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 3:05PM
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Sorry... I duplicate posted.

This post was edited by shear_stupidity on Fri, Jan 25, 13 at 9:23

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 3:06PM
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Wow, thank you 'shear.' Your walkway is similar to mine. Should I change the shape of the borders? I'm thinking they should be wider to fill in more of the lawn.

I took a pic of a neighbors bush and brought it to the nursery. Found out it was a Bird of Paradise, so you were right on. I found the shape attractive.

I'll take your list of plants with me to the nursery and see if they have the plants.

I really appreciate your ideas.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 9:59PM
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Personally, I like the bed in front of the house just how it is. The plants will fill in and it will be very pretty. If you really want less lawn, maybe you could widen the skinniest areas and plant double or triple rows of the Crotons and Scheffleras, or mimic the whole shape but make it a foot or two deeper.
The palm island would need widening for sure... especially if you go with the Crinums and a mini-mass of Ixora. The area around the Canary Island Date is probably plenty big enough and can always be extended as you make adjustments.
All of the plants on the list I gave you are VERY easy to find. Nurseries, big-box stores, and even WalMart has them. (But anything I've bought from WalMart doesn't do as well as plants from elsewhere)
One thing I didn't address before is that carriage light with the mound of "blah" under it. I can't tell if it's crescent-shaped or round, but either way, it needs something added to it, don't you think? If you're into annuals, maybe that could be an area you can change every year by adding a ring of your favorites around it?
I still say paint the door red! If you're eventually changing it anyways, what have you got to lose? You can always paint it white again if you hate it... but you won't. Something about a gray and white house with a red door, very sharp. (Get a leftover roll of red Christmas wrapping paper, tape it over the doors, then go look from the street... will give you a visual. Expecially with the Crotons and possible red choice of Crinums.
Regardless whether you like the red door idea, experiment with other colors. I really think the door shouldn't just be white in your case. My door is recessed, too... and just "disappeared" into the front of the house when it was painted the same color as the house.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 9:42AM
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The walk, widened.

I'd be looking for a way to replace the blocky column with one more refined and add a trim frame around the door opening. The lack of trim looks starkly out of character relative to the bold trim around other openings.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 10:45AM
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Like that Yardvaark! Thank you - The problem is the column is made of cement. Maybe some sort of wood trim could be attached to it. I like what you did with the door trim. Not sure about a red door. Might be too dominating...maybe thats good. Okay, widen the walk way. I'd have to see if it could be dug up and cement poured. I think it should start further down. The way it looks now is like a little U.

Sheer, I really don't like Crotons. I see them everywhere and I just don't like them. I took a look at that white thingy and it is very heavy and thick. It has old wire hanging from it so it must have had some sort of heavy vine growing on it.

The bushes around the lamp post are those low growing Junipers. I took a look at those little bushes growing under the Palms and asked a neighbor if she knew what they were. She had no idea. I'm so afraid to pull anything out because I don't know what they are. However, I'm tempted to rip everything out. I don't even like the look of that Pinapple Palm tree. It just sits there like a giant Pineapple!

Thanks you both for giving me some great ideas.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 11:21PM
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If you decide to get rid of your Canary Island Date ("Pineapple"... lol) Palm, sell it. They're worth a chunk of change at that size! But I encourage you to look up pictures of how it should be pruned and what it will look like mature before deciding.

Why not take close-ups of the things you need to identify and post them in the Name That Plant forum?

Here's the link:

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Web: Name That Plant

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 7:16AM
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"The problem is the column is made of cement." Concrete block more than likely. As construction difficulties go, I would not consider swapping the block for a real column a terribly complicated operation ... even do-able by a homeowner with moderate construction skills, if one was so inclined. Since part of the appearance problem is the column's bulk and blockiness, encasing it in wood trim is not going to resolve it.

I think the canary palm looks quite nice. Once its height gets above the house, it will fit better with the overall picture. In contrast, the two queen palms look like rags on stalks. The canary is definitely the keeper of the lot.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 10:14AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Whoa! I haven't really read this thread because I know nothing about your climate or the plants that grow there - but - are you talking about getting rid of that great looking palm that looks like an urn at the base?! That's a fabulous thing that jumps out at me as the most interesting thing in the pictures! Don't lose that.....

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 10:47AM
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See? THAT'S what I'm saying. It's gorgeous... and going to get more gorgeous!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 11:03AM
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Okay, got it, the Pineapple tree stays, I need to find a way to blend it into the landscape-so it's not sticking out like a sore thumb. Nothing ties together here.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2013 at 12:13PM
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We live outside Gainesville, FL and I've just finished the landscaping around front of house and replanted Coleus around Oaks. See my yard search google "rate my space dwright". I wanted something tropical and serene; like a vacation getaway in my own front yard. We are on 5 acres so no close neighbors (and the neighbors are family), so it's nice and secluded.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 10:44AM
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It seems like this thread did not come to a conclusion but was abandoned. Is that the case?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2013 at 11:15AM
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This post was edited by thejardiner on Thu, Aug 1, 13 at 17:46

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 6:30PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

oops, wrong post

This post was edited by pkponder on Tue, Jul 30, 13 at 7:14

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 8:40PM
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I cant add anything to the advice already given here because I live in the UK and also dont know Floriday horticulture but can I just say that it makes me proud to be part of such a gelpful community, the diagrams, breakdowns etc are exactly what forums should be about - people helping other people!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2013 at 5:44AM
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