Design suggestions for renovating older front yard?

alygal(PacNW z7)February 13, 2011

We live in a 1951 cottage ranch style home. I believe the lawn is probably original to the house given the lumps and dips. Being busy with kids there's been some "deferred maintenance" to our front yard but with the youngest at age 19 it's now time to renovate. We do have some ideas but we love to see what ideas people here come up with. So often you all come up with a totally fresh perspective.

The front yard area faces west and there is sun from about 9 am to 3:30ish coming from the south (left side). There are some Douglas Fir trees across the street which cast an open shade in late afternoon.

Ideas: reduce size and scope of the lawn, creating more of a "green lake" surrounded by borders in which we would plant some natives and small shrubs/perennials that do well in my area. We are also incorporating plants for birds. No particular color scheme in mind...but we are fond of the Asian/Pacific NW look

I did get a bid to have the work done professionally but I can't afford it, so I plan to do as much as I can myself with husband helping. We've already taken the laurel hedge down by half and chipped the waste to use in garden paths by the chicken house area

Have added photos here.

This is from front porch facing out towards our small MIL cottage.

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A edible garden,adding evergreen plant,rock maybe nice.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 8:24AM
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Boy, the possibilities are huge!! I think your immediate need is someone to help you with the layout and spatial reconfiguration......plant selection in our area is virtually endless and a better nursery or garden center would likely be just as efficient as us making suggestions from long distance, especially give the fact that we cannot easily determine soil conditions or other site restrictions/characteristics.

When you say you got a bid to have the work done professionally, did you mean design work or the entire relandscaping project? It may be very cost effective for you to get some assistance with just the layout/design/plant selection aspect of the project and do all the manual work yourself. Labor and materials tend to the largest dollar component of a landscaping project with professional design help typically comprising a pretty small portion of the total cost. It may well be worth the investment of a few hundred bucks to get a plan and plant schedule you can implement yourself. The PNW also has a lot of professional garden designers who tend to offer this type of service - specific design assistance for DIY'ers.

Often you can locate these folks though your local garden center. Or if you want to post back and reveal a bit more specifically where exactly in the PNW you are located, I can probably hook you up with some names :-)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 11:01AM
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alygal(PacNW z7)

Thanks for replies - ideashare I LOVE the idea of the stones along the driveway!

gardengal48: I am in Vancouver WA and I did pay a Portland designer to do a 2-hr walk through with me. I found her through Garden Fever in Portland. She gave me ideas, some of which I've acted on already, mostly what to move and get rid of. I have torn out and moved a few things on her suggestion. There was no plan drawn up but the idea of creating green lakes out of those rectangle lawns came from from that meeting.

I then had a local landscaper/contractor (very reputable) come by to give me bids for sod removal/working in new compost/installing new sod and adding some paving. The bids for broken down projects came in more than I can afford so I thought some of it I could do in stages as money allows. I do this on a cash basis and try to put aside $300 a month for house/garden projects. I have $1000.saved.

I should mention that we are on an older 1/2-acre property; front half is flat lawn, back half is quite a slope with some trees (east exposure). I am tackling the front area as it needs curb appeal and we use it more.

My plan to reduce lawn is to mark off and dig up up the unwanted lawn and save it for composting in our back area. I don't know if I can afford to re-sod this year so perhaps I'll try to improve the existing sod and if that doesn't work I'll budget for new sod next fall.

Top photo: I have already excavated and created a bed against that white fence and made the bed curve towards the front. I've put some Mahonia and a few other plants there and mulched with hazelenut shells (fun stuff!). I need to get that old tree stump ground in order to bring the bed completely around to the front.

Since my husband and I work F/T during the week it only leaves weekends to do what we can ourselves. We are in our 50's and doing weekend landscaping goes a bit slow, plus who wants to work all week long and then do heavy landscaping work on your weekend. I have contacted our local horticultural pgm at the jr. college to see if I can get student help for which I would pay.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 3:43PM
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KISS keep it simple stupid.This week you are in your 50's and next week...?

In other words: we are the masters of our universe so make the space around your house like the way you live, if you make a garden according to some ideal you may be sweating it later.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 6:11PM
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alygal(PacNW z7)

Inkognito, those are very wise words indeed.

Sometimes my eyes are bigger than my stomach when it comes to plants and I'm like a kid in a candy store when it comes to visiting my favorite nurseries.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2011 at 11:23PM
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1 - make your entry more prominent with a wider walkway and a paved entry patio area (no mowing!) and paving the side of the driveway for easier entry and exit from cars.

2 - add some perennials, evergreens and annuals at the edges of the walk and entry patio.

3 - Widen the plantings closes to the house to anchor it better. "Foundation plantings" shouldn't be lined up against the wall like they are in a police lineup. Extend them out about 1/3 to 1/2 the wall height.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2011 at 4:30PM
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bernd ny zone5

I have also a half acre lot, never resodded it. You can fill low spots with top soil and seed those. You can reseed everything. This worked for me. I also changed the landscape by having lawn areas rounded. I leave at least 2 ft space between plantings and the house - you want to be able to walk there. All my beds have definite outlines, I use thick rubber borders, no grass can grow into my plantings, I want to weed as little as possible.

Then I would start reading to find the best bushes, trees, conifers, perennials for my gardening zone. (I like hostas and dwarf conifers). Please note that max sizes of bushes and trees on plant labels are usually the 10 year sizes, all conifers continue to grow at their annual rate.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 6:33PM
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I'm partial to rockscapes or stonescapes as those katy landscapers would call it. You may want to do that or how about a fountain? Just a couple of suggestions. =)

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 2:32AM
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alygal(PacNW z7)

Definitely going for an Asian design. Found a student at the local college horticultural program who is going to help us. He was over today checking out our irrigation system. Boy, glad he suggested we look at it because we found that we need to replace the 15-yr old rotor heads.

For hardscaping we will be tearing out the narrow pathway to the porch and make it wider. Also love the idea of having some kind of stone cutout adjacent to the more wet feet/soaked shoes stepping out from cars.

Will be going with Hostas (Naylor's), dwarf conifers. Pieris, Hydrangea 'Limelight', Sword Ferns, amongst other plants. Will post photos of soon as we get non-rain days.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 12:38AM
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alygal(PacNW z7)

OK, still a work in progress but this is what we had done last week. Here are a few photos.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 2:52AM
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alygal(PacNW z7)

And another, north lawn with border for hostas, rhodies, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 3:01AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

First of all, thanks for sharing this post. Your ideas on how to get and use landscape design help are very enlightening and I think could help a lot of folks on the forum. Most of us can't afford a landscaper to do all the work, but finding ways to collaborate is sometimes difficult. Some landscapers want to do everything from start to finish because that's the way their business is set up. But there are alternatives and we have discussed them on this forum before.

The only other thing I might add to this discussion is what's the road like? The reason I ask this is my best friend lives on a busy road, and she put a berm in front of her house out by the road, and planted it with trees and shrubs. Then she has a fence along the driveway with a gate leading into the front garden. She has a patio out there and when you sit out there you'd swear you were in the most out-of-the-way secluded spot, even though it is right along a major commuting route. The berm worked wonders to screen out noise, and the landscaping makes it all feel very intimate. Of course I could be way off base, maybe this is not an issue for you.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 8:02AM
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alygal(PacNW z7)

I am fortunate that I live near the end of a narrow lane. We are not far from a main road but ours is one of the small county roads that dead-ends. We don't get much traffic.

We decided to save up and use the services of a landscaper to do the heavier work, work which we do not have tools for. The planting we can do ourselves. We still have more work to do but I am particularly pleased with the large pavers through the middle of the front lawn. I think of them as stepping stones through a green lake.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 11:02AM
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