Inviting landscaping comments and suggestions

shear_stupidity(9B)January 24, 2013

These are before and after shots of my house and yard in Central Coastal Florida. The "before" pics show the house the way it looked when we moved in just over 5 years ago, and the "after" shots were all taken this month. I hope you can see the direction I'm trying to go, but I've got a lot of areas that still need work, plants, ideas. See below:

This is the front of my house (no "before" pic because there was just "nothing" there) The house faces south-west. There are two Laurel Oaks on the left next to the driveway, one Live Oak on the right halfway between the house and the street, and two more Live Oaks on the right in the back corner of the yard.

This is a close-up of what we just planted last Spring on the right side of the door. I think it will be fine when it grows and fills in, but might pull out the small Robellinis and put in larger ones since they're such slow growers.

...And here's our "red-headed step-child." This is a close-up of the left side of the door. We planted two Selloum on the left, and the two "crinkle leaf" Crotons. The other two shrubs are dull and non-descript. This area gets full, hot sun for an hour or so per day at sunset. It's about 14' wide and 8' deep. Please suggest landscaping for this area! We have temporarily widened the walkway with cheap square pavers, and ground down a trip hazard as you can see in the picture� the whole walkway and scalloped edging will be replaced eventually.

This is a "before" shot of the back of the house. The Crotons under the Live Oaks died after a particularly bad winter here a few years ago. There used to be about 20-30 of them, only four survived.

Here is an "after" shot of the back of the house. (Sorry it's not at the same angle) We have laid a brick patio, built three brick columns, iron fencing, an in-ground pool, and landscaping has begun.

This is the "before" shot from the other direction, facing the berm.

Here is the "after" picture, taken this morning.

This is a tricksy area. The patio ends and the berm begins. We can get the riding mower through here, and it's a heavy foot traffic area. No grass or weeds grow here and it's in full shade. Any suggestions?

This is the "before" picture of the view out the side of my screened porch before installing the pool.

Here is the "after" of the same view.

The side of the house before installing a gate and a path, taken in Spring 2007.

This is the "after," taken this morning (Winter 2013). From where I'm standing all the way to the gate, I don't want to have to mow on either side of the path. On my left is the area behind the waterfall. I'd like a ground cover for the left side of the path that won't climb my pool equipment, A/C units, and trellis. (there's a MONSTER Wisteria that I've cut back that climbs all over the trellis and house, but never blooms.) Due to the direction of sunrise and sunset, the height of my house, the proximity of the neighbor's house, the two grapefruit trees on the right and the two Laurel Oaks in the background, this area stays in full to mostly shade (in a diagonal line from the junction box on the house to the closest tree on the right and cuts right between the Giant Agave and the Song of India against the fence, and it stays damp. Any suggestions for the left side ground cover? Also, any suggestions for after I remove all the grass, what to plant to have a full and lush planted area on the right?

Thanks for looking!

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Shear, you asked for it. Seems to me that what's at the front foundation now is a bit busy ... too many things for that limited space ... a bit more like plant collecting instead of landscaping. I am not an advocate of covering windows (except small amounts) with plants, thinking it detracts from the architecture. I think it's better for the landscape to adapt to what the building offers. Here's some massing ideas, subject to refinement and fitting, of course. In real life it could be less shaggy than my sketch appears.

1. Gone ... or rigidly clipped into a non-overhanging, refined shape ... topiary-ish, but not fussy.

2. 12" - 18" ht. groundcover, perennial or shrub. (Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata' as one example.)

3. Something on a trellis ... like a Mandevilla ... or anything reasonable sized.

4. A colorful shrub ... like a Hydrangea.

5. Something spilling and colorful ... annuals or perennial. (The footed Victorian urn strikes me as too fussy, yet undewhelming.)

6. A bold shrub ... like the shell ginger or selloum. Or both, with the selloum behind, farther back along the side wall.

7. A cluster of small "trees" with height.

8. Low groundcover with mulch pathway through it for side yard access. Since it doesn't show, can't tell how it would really tie to the r. side of yard.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 9:40AM
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You're really good at this! I posted a picture of the entire front yard because I realized my Oaks weren't really showing. They've been pruned up off the house, but they basically "touch" each other in my yard, keeping us in shade. Does that affect the plants you suggest? (The shade, I mean)

1. I have been trying to get my husband to get rid of that ugly shrub by the garage door for the whole 5 1/2 years we've lived here. And I've SAID to cut it way back or reshape. Now he'll listen!

3. Love the idea of something on a trellis� but that area is SOOO shady. What would grow there? And should I remove the Selloum that's in that location?

7. Not sure I can put small trees in that space due to the Live Oak in front of that area, and the Arborvitae row behind.

There are four Crepe Myrtles in front of our house at the street. They don't bloom because of the shade� and the colors don't even match! When is the best time to move them?

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 9:58AM
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I like the way the large oak is pruned up to clear the house and show off its clean, massive trunks. Would do the oaks at left side more like that. (That side of yard looks gloomier.) I see it wouldn't work to have the tree forms as I previously suggested. They're unnecessary. But bringing groundcover around the large oak would be good for adding some depth to the scene and dressing up the oak presentation.

I've had Clerodendrum thomsoniae (vine) perform well in some fairly heavy shade (more than what you have here) but it would require heavy annual pruning since it's a vigorous grower. I've also had annual moonflower do well in more shade than I thought it could tolerate. You could try it first since the investment is nil. The bright white bloom stands out fairly well in the shade, too.

Move crapes while they are dormant ... now.

Selloums get quite large--it's easily a 6'-8' ball--so I would move.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 11:09AM
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I actually already HAVE a Bleeding Heart vine in my back yard, currently sitting in a very similar environment, that I wasn't sure what to do with. I just knew I wanted it somewhere. I'll try that one for the trellis!
My husband agrees to move the shrubs on each side of the garage door, but he wants to put them on the left side of the house. Not sure I agree. (I can move the Selloum I already have from the front to the right side where you suggested.)

The picture I last posted was from a few years back. I went outside just now and took the following photos:

This is how the trees are currently pruned. The Laurels on the left are half-naked right now, but it gives an idea. Currently, there is a pile of bromeliads under the Laurels, but I didn't realize until now that they might as well be invisible for all the impact they're having from the street. Suggest design shape for this area, too?There is a large gate on the new fence on that side, but the distance from the Laurels to the gate is over 15'

Here is a closer view of that area. Please ignore the trash can and driveway reflectors. I do hair at home (hence the name Shear_Stupidity) and have had clients pull in and have their cars "fall off" the driveway on each side (there are cement pipes and openings on each side, so I can't widen the driveway. I'd love another solution for this, as well.

Not looking forward to moving those Crapes. At all. Where are the yard fairies when you need them?

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 11:50AM
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