Front Bed Garden Advice for New Gardener in Zone 6

cambition(5)February 16, 2011

Hi All,

I'm new to the forum- and to gardening! - but I've found many of your posts helpful! I'm hoping you can offer some advice specifically for me. I'm a new homeowner and will be attempting my first garden come spring (as soon as the snow melts)!

I want to garden the flower beds directly in front of my house. At first I thought I'd need a "foundation garden" but since the house is a split, there really isn't much foundation to hide, so the need for evergreens went from high to medium on my list. I live in MA, so not having all stalks in the winter would be nice. But my main objective when designing the garden was to not block the low windows to the house.

Right now I have a plan drawn up, but I'm having a lot of trouble finding the perfect fit for a shrub or flower to flank the doorway. I'd like a perennial, low maintenance, and it needs to fit in a 4" wide spot so it doesn't block the window. I've considered hydrangea, mountain laurel, an Emerald Gaiety.... but since it will be a focal point I'd like something that will look good the majority of the year.

The left side of the house is bigger than the right, and I am such a newbie at gardening that I don't know much, so I just tried to balance it out by just adding more of the same types that are on the right. I'm not dead set on the silver mound & brocade in the center- am open to putting in some flowers instead or even a blue star juniper.

So my major questions are:

1) what to plant on either side of the stairs?

2) how's the layout look over all? Too crowded? Too ambitious? Too ____? ;)

Here's a , which is drawn to scale (1 square = 1sqft). I am going to redefine the borders by putting in a brick edging, so I suppose the depth of the design could change if necessary. (In case you can't read the writing on the purple circle, it's a purple coneflower.)

and here's an (older) photo of the house. The yews (?) in front of the house have been pulled up, and the front door was replaced.

Another option is to extend the right side of the garden to plant all in that patch of grass between the pavement... I only hesitate b/c I'm not sure if it would be too much to take on in my first year.

Thanks in advance for reading and replying!! (I'm also posting this in the New England forum, in case any of the local gardeners can help.)

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Some evergreen rock,hosta,juniper,conifer...are low maintenance

    Bookmark   February 16, 2011 at 11:03AM
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How cool! Thank you so much, for taking the time and giving the suggestions! I have a lot to think about- how exciting!!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 8:13AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Sorry to leave you to deal with our crazy Chinese friend all by yourself.

I think you're quite right not to block the windows and as such to go with perennials. The problem with that is that for a good portion of the year you will have empty dirt or dead foliage, as you point out, but on the other hand perennials are interesting to watch up close because they are changing every day and maybe attracting bees. Nonetheless I'm not sure I would put the garden there, but rather outside the main sidewalk. But since the bed is there, you might as well try it, and you can always change it. Plants can be moved. If you are new to this I agree with leaving the grass where it is for now, not expanding the beds. See first what your gardening personality is.

I think you'll find your planned planting amazingly sparse at first, and will have a lot of weeding to do before it grows in. So maybe be sure to mulch when you plant, but even so, you will have to be vigilant.

Regarding your focal point shrubs, something tall and rangy like a hydrangea might make the doorway seem cramped - for that reason I'd tend to put the height near the outside corners, not near the door necessarily. Near the door I'd go with something narrow and ideally pretty up close. There is a narrow shrub I love called Ilex crenata "Mariesii" or else there is a columnar golden yew. Tall pots with clipped boxwood might also be fun, but the obviously need to be clipped.

Just some thoughts; good luck.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 11:26AM
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sharbear50(6a Bella Vista)

I agree with KarinL. You want to use some evergreens, something tall by the corners would look nice. Some low growing perennials and perhaps one tall tree type plant to one side away from the house. Do you get a lot of sun? Do you need summer shade on a window? All things to consider. Where is the western sun? Good job on the image above.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2011 at 8:18AM
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