new construction front garden bed help

willow76January 28, 2014

We recently finished construction and are looking to get some suggestions for our front yard garden beds. This is my first time posting so I hope the photo comes through. I will also post dimensions of the beds. The house faces north on one acre, favorite hobby is gardening, we trenched the downspouts under front walk this year, we had some help with designing our hardscapes and would like a "tidy" look in front including orn. trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs. I guess we are having a hard time because our home is not symmetrical (personally I prefer asymmetry) and where to "emphasize" in the beds. We appreciate any suggestions. This spring we will finish installing beds and mulching and start installing trees so we still have time seeing we probably wont install any shrubs etc. till next year.

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Some my suggests:

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 6:18PM
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Thanks yin49 for the suggestion. I am posting a template of the existing concrete walk and beds that we did this year. We would not be able to adjust the walkway seeing we just had it poured this fall. So any suggestions would have to fall within those bed spaces. We also dont plan on planting outside in front of beds other than trees. Our backyard is where we will be spending most of our time. Its hard to tell what type of plants those are in your plan. Well today was -40 degrees so its nice to start thinking about spring!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2014 at 9:41PM
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Some suggestions are: that you could stretch out the sides and forward of the bed to get it in scale with the house ... and make big enough for the trees it would need to hold. It needs trees at each end of the house (but not too close to it) in order to give the house a protected, nestled-in (but not smothered!) feel. I'm not showing them, but street trees with high canopies -- that you view below to see the house -- would be useful for completing the front picture. The shrubs I'm showing are not over 3' ht. There's no reason to cover much of the stone work. The rest is lower height groundcovers/perennials that give a cushioned and upholstered feel. The plants aren't anything specific. You'd find what grows there that creates a similar form and size and appeals to your senses. Ready for tweaking and modifications based on your real life needs.

Next walk you make, make it less loopy.

I don't think symmetry, here, is necessary or an advantage. But BALANCE is.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Wed, Jan 29, 14 at 1:47

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 1:40AM
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Thanks yardvaark, this definetly helps with the overall shapes and balance you pointed out. We will think about stretching out the bed a little seeing we are installing that one to the right this spring. It does wrap all the way down the side of the house. I guess I am still seeking advice for specific foundation plants as options if anyone has any, thanks again.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 10:27AM
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"We will think about stretching out the bed a little ..."

It does not sound like you are yet convinced. You might open the photo (or start a new one) in MS Paint (or similar) and play around with it a bit ... or print & cut out plant shapes and move them around. I think your house would look naked and unprotected without some small flowering trees at right and left sides, and the bedline is subordinate to them. They should not sit right at the edge of the bed, but should be comfortably placed within it.

As far as specific plants, maybe someone from your area will come up with suggestions. To me, it's a matter of seeing what heights and spreads you need and finding what complies with those ... and making sure that the chosen plants (and how they're managed over the years) correlates with one's willingness to care for them. There are many ways to skin a cat. Some people might need a shrub that maxes out at 3' height ... but someone else who "loves to garden" might keep a taller shrub at 3' height by coppicing it annually. If you were to seek plants that work with the scheme I presented, it looks like you would be looking for material that is 3' ht., 18" ht., and 6"-12" groundcover plus 20' ht. flowering trees. The sizes aren't set in stone, so there is flexibility to massage the look to get what you're after. Remember, I'm just offering a scheme, but the details need to be worked out in plan form ... not on the fly. Plants that might be useful to you could be things like pygmy barberry, certain boxwoods, caryopteris, Rhus Gro-Low, Ajuga reptans, Russian sage, Red bud, Jap. Maple, Crab trees (including weeping). I'm sure there are more. Make sure the plants grows in your climate.You could also take the picture to a local nursery and see what they think would fill the bill.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 6:46PM
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I appreciate your plan and actually today have begun downloading pictures of plants and putting them on our house pic to get overall look. I havent thought about using the same plant on both sides of doorway to create symmetry and I like it. Also nice to see the repetition of the purple flowers on your plan as I was thinking of using coral bells and will repeat them like shown. I have been thinking about this plan since we bought our lot now for years and have been without a yard for 3 years due to construction and the move. Even once the plan is done, it will never be "done". Up front I promised my husband to plant and leave it alone and the rest of the property will be filled one day and I can dig dig dig. (Im a plant collector and work at a nursery). Just looking for new perspectives. Ive always loved the look of homes that are behind tall red pines (native here in northern part of state). Reminds me of an establised older property and since this is our "last" home and we have the time for them to grow, I was thinking of planting about 5 in the right front corner of lot (our house is set back about 70 feet from road. This is the hesistation I have to planting a large tree to the right. What do you think about this idea, havent been able to get someones opinion of creating this look however I have seen plenty of homes built behind these trees and they left them like the attached pic.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 7:21PM
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A pine grove lot would be out of character for your style house. That type of lot looks great for rustic log cabin type of house, not a modern new construction lot... Not only that, but you wouldn't see that type of mature landscape for at least 40+ years...

As far as trees/shrub recommendations. I would highly recommend Betula papyrifera 'Varen' (Prairie Dream Paper Birch) for those trees Yardvark sketched above. Even though we are only 1 zone apart, you most likley cannot grow JP maples and a very limited number of broadleaf evergreens unless you have a protected micro climate. Other than my first two suggestions I will focus on what I know best, Conifers:

Kalmia latifolia 'Elf'
Kalmia latifolia 'Minuet'

Picea pungens 'Glauca Globosa'
Picea pungens 'St. Mary's Broom'
Juniperus horizontalis 'Mother Lode'
juniperus horizontalis 'blue chip'
Picea engelmannii 'Compacta'
Tsuga diversifolia âÂÂLoowitâ (better than Canadian Hemlock which are prone to woolly adelgid)
Any Mugo pine would work
Pinus contorta ' Chief Joseph ' - Showstopper

Those are just a few ideas that look like they could fit the sketch above... I know Conifers very well, so if you have specific sun, size, shape, color requirements I can probably come up with some unique ideas

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:34PM
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Pines?? If they're already in existence they're too expensive to take out so people leave and deal with them ... the ubiquitous pine island. I don't think they're horrible, but wouldn't seek them out when there are so many better looking trees if one wants something large and is starting with a clean slate. Pines are also messy ... needles ruining the lawn non-stop. They'd be a "last resort" solution for me. Certain pines can look majestic when older, but as SC77 mentions, that's a long wait ... with still, the mess.

I didn't show any street/shade trees but, as I mentioned, I think you need them. The trees I'm showing in the other picture are smaller -- 20' to 30' -- flowering type trees. Large trees would be farther away from the house, nearer to the street, grouped in an island or individually in the lawn, depending on how many, what they are and how you use them. Grouped, they could provide a woodsy appearance. With your house, I'd go for a statelier, more formally organized look ... since that's how the architecture is. It is not casual and organic. In this picture, I'm not trying by any means to convey accuracy (I don't know how your lot and drive lies.) I'm trying only to convey a general concept.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 12:27AM
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Thanks for your opinions regarding the pines. I guess I would like to get back to my original bed area in front of house (my fault for taking it another direction)

I have decided to put a magnolia in the left "triangle" bed in front of the big rock.

We are going to leave the bed dimensions as they are (put in lawn irrigation system in fall) moving beds would require sprinker heads to be moved. I never liked the tree on the right side of house so going to move on there.
There is a wind break/ and for some privacy on lot line of austrian pines (love em) we will be installing this spring on the right side of home (50' off side of house) including other trees and shrubs all the way back. I also am putting a fall fiesta or oct. glory maple way way in the back by current wood line.

SC77, looked up that birch have not heard of it here. At last house had 2 different types of river birch and then bought 3 white himalayan birches. The japanese beetles are very bad here for about a month. They killed the himalayan birches and were in the tops of the river ones but didnt really make a dent. I dont use too many chemicals and shy away from imidaclopred (sp?) to treat them and have decided at this house to try to stay away from japanese beetle favorites. Do you happen to know if they love that white birch. I havent seen that birch at garden centers here so also would be hard to track down, but will keep my eyes out for it.

So back to the front bed SC77 interested in what conifers you would recommend as the "yellow" shrubs flanking the enterance demonstrated in Yardvaarks plan above? Not into overly sculpted ones. I have decided on some green velvet boxwoods (not a hedge) with space inbetween and coral bells and little lime hydrangea on right side and magnolia on left. I have always had a hard time incorporating smaller evergreens into landscape. Last house we had golden globe arb which for me is as sculptural as I like to get, but I liked that one. How could you see it used on this plan. Thanks for everyones help.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 11:34AM
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You won't find that cultivar of River birch at any local nursery, that is one you would have to order online...or if you have a good relationship with a nursery they could special order from a wholesaler. The reason I mentioned that cultivar, is because Birch in general end up looking ratty, but this cultivar has show great promise as it can handle more adaptable and stress-tolerant than the species. It is less susceptible to birch borer attack as well.

As for the yellow conifers:
Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Lemon Twist'
Abies nordmanniana 'Golden Spreader'
Picea orientalis 'Tom Thumb'
Picea abies 'Gold Drift' (can be staked to any height needed, then weeps down)
Picea orientalis 'Iseli Seedling'

I would highly recommend you look at Conifer Kingdom for ideas. They just updated their site and it now breaks down conifers by color, size, ect... I have linked to the "Yellow" conifer section

The other thing you haven't mentioned is how much sunlight the area gets. Conifers for the most part like quite a bit of sun, so the fact this is the North side of the property might also limit what you can selected. Too much shade and the yellow conifers listed above will be a lime green at best. However, there are just about conifers for all situations, so if there are areas with heavy shade, you could go with Yew, Hemlock (preferably Japanese, due to all the problems with Canadian now), and maybe a few others as well.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 12:33PM
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thanks for the suggestions, going to check them out. One thing, they don't have to be yellow, I just mentioned yellow to indicate the location of where these are located on Yardvaarks plan above and would be installed in our yard. I know some of these ornamental evergreens almost seem like they should be planted as a specimin or used sparingly. Where I am thinking about using these small evergreens would be the 2 "yellow" shrubs on his plan flanking the front enterance. I just want to be clear that 2 of these could be used. Overall I appreciate all the recommendations and help and if anyone wants to draw in suggestion for exact placement on my diagram, feel free. In the front yard I am really trying to achieve a pro. look and realize that balance, repetition, color, symetry/ asymetry, harmony, texture, whatever is key in achieving this look. Also besides the coral bells, little lime hydrangea, boxwood does anyone have a suggestion for one more plant that I could repeat to fill in the remainder of those beds. I know that its pretty neutral so a lot would work, but I love getting all sorts of combos that I didnt think of.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 5:00PM
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As a collector myself, the last thing I would want to do is use ornamental or unique trees sparingly...Most house flank their fountains with the same boring trees. Around here almost 90% of the houses have Yew, Boxwood, Arbs, Rhododendron, and Dwarf Norway spruce...If you go into the really wealthy neighborhoods or the random collectors house, they are using very unique and eye catching plants and not necessarily as specimen plants..

I'm not saying you need to go this route, but I just think selecting unique plants makes a house stand out from the crowd... Take a look at Dan's Garden from the Conifer section of these forums... It's a stunning use of conifers. Also Irena's Garden.

These gardens might be too heavy on conifers for you, but I just wanted to provide examples of how these unique specimens can be used in small spaces, fountain plantings, or a specimens, with great results. Doesn't really matter what you choose to use, as long as the combination of colors, textures, and shapes is correct, it will look great

    Bookmark   January 30, 2014 at 6:22PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Pardon my ignorance, but your home doesn't look like a cookie cutter tract home. It looks like it was built custom, on a large lot. It reminds me of many homes I've seen in Texas.

My home is Spanish style, custom and beautiful. It has it's share of Bougainvillaeas and Palms, but it also has two pine aka conifer groves. Palms bore me, and the Bougainvillaeas , although beautiful in bloom have wicked 1" thorns. These are what you would expect for a Spanish style home, and we have them.

But we have Pine groves! I LOVE them for two reasons.

1. They place us in the mountains, like we are on vacation.
2. They provide cones, which I dip in wax and use as fire starters, since we are so far into the sticks, there will never be a gas line, and propane is prohibited for indoor use.

Hard to advise anyone in a different zone, but as long as your landscape has good bones (concrete planters...hard scape), a visit to your neighbors and local nurseries will provide the best plants for your front yard. You work for a nursery so that is a no brainer.

I agree with yardvaark that balance is key, and you have the land to provide that.

We are all different, but is your front yard there to please the local architects, or neighbors, or you?

We are not ruled by a HOA, for the first time ever, so we are happy to go American, and exercise our freedom! I love freedom within bones! Bones need to be there!


    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 2:00PM
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Thanks desert dance, can't even start to think about the difference regarding our zones. It's been a cold snowy winter. Glad to hear your liking my "pine island" idea. Reminds us of our vacations in the northern part of wisconsin where we go camping. Anyways good tip to remember about who are we pleasing anyways. That's why we moved from our last neighborhood was the HOA. We got sued by the last HOA for putting up a 3 foot white picket fence after it was approved by the board. Crazy, however that was the motivation to find more land and build our dream home, now it's time to get planting those trees!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2014 at 7:12PM
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If you are in Wisconsin or other similar northern zone, you might want to check out "The Renegade Gardener" website. Very helpful and entertaining.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 10:54AM
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Awesome website, thanks so much:)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 2:57PM
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Don't know if you will see this, but just a couple suggestions to think about when planning your landscaping.
We had a new build too, and this really helped.
Don't plant anything right up to your home.
At least 3 ft away from foundation.
You will need this room for doing things on your home.
Cut back all shrubs away from the home at least once a year.
Go into your living room, look out the window, and imagine what you will see when you look out.
The view from inside of your home to the outside is also very important, especially since you will probably always see that view anyway if you spend most of your time in the back.
Watch where the water line runs into your property up to the house. Don't plant an agressive tree near it.
Oh, by the way, I LOVE pines. I have a pine woodland out back, I love it.
Also all sides of my home is pine wooded.
I never do anything with the pine straw, and its great mulch when needed.
Your home is beautiful, congrats!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 11:27PM
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Thanks for the tips about inside the house perspective, kind of embarrassed that I haven't thought about that yet. Also good tip about 3 feet away from house we do wash windows frequently and that will make it easier to access. Thanks again

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 9:00PM
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