Looking for suggestions 1800s Home

downeastwavesFebruary 28, 2013

Hi Folks,

I'm hoping for several suggestion on what we could do to the front yard of our old home. It sits close to the street. We use the part right on the street to watch the 4th of July parade. It is the NORTH side of the home and I've picked some shots to show what it looks like from different views. The snow cover is a concern.

It gets like this once in a while

Here is looking up the street which is west

We use the yard to watch the BIG 4th of July parade

Here's looking east with the nice view of the bay

We'd like to make better use of the space and give it a lot more curb appeal. Any suggestions? This is the north side of the house. It does get some sun early am and late pm part of the year. We really want to keep the weigela! First time posting in this forum, hope someone will offer suggestions!

This post was edited by leasa on Thu, Feb 28, 13 at 13:02

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Brad Edwards

I would go with a lot of color in perennials. Do they salt the road heavily? That could be damaging to landscaping.

I would hide the foundation with something like evergreen olive green juniper to match the roof coupled with small dwarf holly. I don't see room for any large trees, but think if you had room an autumn gold ginkgo would replicate the yellow from the house.

I would create a bed from the cellar to what appears to be the red crape myrtle and put low growing evergreen shrubs behind it.

The street dead grass is the first thing that strikes me. I would dig down a foot and remove all that and replace with good soil and try and get the grass growing.

Another cool thing would be to pull that white fence from along the side, put it about 6 feet deep from the road across the front, and do a small 2 foot bed in front of it with a small mowing patch. I would do a waist high gate on the left side from the street to the back patio and a simple oyster shell or pea gravel pathway. You could then put in a couple of white simple benches with just 4x4 posts and two 2x4's without backing. This would be a spot for guests to sit while watching the parade.

I didn't see a mailbox, was wondering if it was house delivery?

It appears to be a historic home, if so you need to check on a lot first.

I also wanted to say you mention snow, think about that in the planting. Where you live must be cold, focus a couple of 15-20 foot evergreen trees as a windbreak to the north if possible, then fill the gaps with 8-10 feet like arborvitae, then possibly something in front like the dwarf holly or boxwood, then center a focal around a weeping Japanese maple or something will intense fall color that doesn't get overly large.

Just some ideas off the top of my head.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 1:11PM
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Brad Edwards

Oh and with the cold nothing looks better to me than evergreens, they get you through the winter. Its also easy to put a focal spring and fall color specimen tree in front of them for seasonal color

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 1:13PM
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Oceandweller, they do not salt the road too heavy that is a salt water bay and we do get a fair amount of fog.
we do have a mailbox next to the entry, here is a different view.

The space south of the bulkhead behind the weigela needs to be done also, figured we'd do the front first. I think that space would be good done like a patio. It is an old house but we are not on any historic register or in the downtown historic district.
We've searched for some historic photos or drawings but none can be located. Many of the houses east of us have picket fences in the front.
I appreciate all your suggestions.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 2:39PM
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Brad Edwards

Thanks, much better photo, now I can see whats going on. I am not sure a picket fence would work with the house, the curve, and the weigala. I think the driveway could be more defined, and you could use repetition planting to draw the eye east to west.

Your house is really square, really colorful, and tall.

I would echo that in the landscape by having the foundation planting straight going to each tree and then have a small circle bed around each tree. That would make mowing easier.

I don't know much about architecture, but it appears to be somewhat german. Maybe somebody from up north can chime in and help you out more. I'd also be on the look out for bricks that are old that match your chimney stacks, they would look great for small projects in the landscaping.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 3:09PM
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'Tis French! A mansard roof line.

We have made two brick patio areas out of the brick and still have a pretty good pile in the basement and the attic. Anything to make mowing easy my hubby will appreciate. He was not too happy with the garden by the front door until he got used to it being there.
Here is a pix the day I made this little bed from left over foundation rocks and plants I dug out back.

you can get a peek of the bricks. It is about 4 feet by 4 feet. It is under the mail box by the door to the kitchen in corner near barn.

That garden grew pretty good.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 4:17PM
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The house is charming and the paint job you've done on it really makes some of the special details pop. I especially like that you've painted the foundation to go with the scheme and think viewing the "before and after" shows what a lovely and dramatic difference it makes. Actually, there's nothing on the house that I'd like to see covered with plantings. I like everything. There are no blank spaces begging for "help." But like any structure, it needs some larger plantings at a distance to give it that framed/connected-to-earth look. Using one of your photos, I'll offer these suggestion:

A) The conifer at the left, while right now doesn't look that bad, I can easily see that as it grows it's going to dominate the space. In order to keep access to the entrance, you'll be forced to limb up the tree. I don't think that in itself is a horror (as some others surely will,) but eventually, the tree will overwhelm the house and seem out of place. Seems like you'd be so much better off to replace it promptly with a smaller flowering tree... something along the lines/size of a redbud or Magnolia soulangeana. It would present a better picture now and for decades longer than the existing tree could hope to do.

B) The house has much charm, but the lattice at the steps looks cheap and entirely from a wrong era. I'd replace it with just plain boards painted with the foundation/trim color.

C) Given that the Weigela has already halfway turned itself into a tree form, I'd finish the job and make it look much more tidy. Also, I doubt that there is anything behind it that needs hiding, so why hide it? A multi-trunk tree form would give a more open look and "invite" viewers to see what's beyond. (I would not THIN trunks, but remove any that fall outside of the desirable cone-shaped profile.) A different picture (I'm not showing here) suggests that the Weigela would enjoy being placed in a half or quarter-circle shaped bed (depending on how you tie it to the yard) of low/medium ht. groundcover/perennial, for ease of maintenance as well as appearance.

D) A marked blemish on the entire scene is the poor quality grass adjacent to the road. Oceandweller made suggestions about it, too, and I agree with him (?) completely. It the turf was in tip top shape, the house would look even much more special and expensive than it already does. If grass is not feasible adjacent to the roadway, then I'd consider a brick walk that abuts the pavement, but serves primarily as a "frame" for the yard, just to dress up the view. Unless there's a real need for a walk there, I'd opt for the grass repair first.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 11:09PM
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Yardvaark, thanks for the suggestions. I think the stair improvement could be done easily by us and this would decide the color of the deck! The risers were quickly done for insurance.
The non-grassy area was dug up for water main replacement a few years ago and what is growing back get covered with some hay or straw in the spring two years in a row. They tarred the edge and that is were we are with it right now the above pix from last summer. The "grass" in the whole front area is more moss than grass. We were thinking about bringing the picket fence just to the house and making a gate at the walkway. this would be behind the cedar.
I like your tree formation of the weigela. The snow plow broke off a big branch last year and I planted it in the back yard. It survived the summer, hopefully the winter also, so we may be able to transplant it in a could years. It is about 5 feet now.
The befores are realy after stage two of the project. I have attached a link to the real befores if anyone is curious. It was really just about gone before we got it. I had 33 pages of the progress when the web hoster decided to change out its software and hardware. I've only redone a few of the rooms but it will give you an idea of the progress. The pages can not be viewed in Firefox...no clue why--just old computer and software....

Here is a link that might be useful: Old Fixer

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 9:03AM
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molie(z6 CT)

Leasa, I checked out your slide show, "Old Fixer". You have a fascinating home in upperstate Maine --- did I say that correctly or is it "down Maine"? --- and wonderful plans for how to make this historical home "yours." For sure, there will be great views from your (future) upstairs studio window down to the bay. I think I'd spend most of my time looking out at the water.

My architectural history background is minimal, but the fact that it's Second Period Empire with Mansard roof suggests a few things to me. I think the white picket fence should be removed. It doesn't match that style of house. If you want fencing along the street, as I see that many of your neighbors have, then perhaps dark wrought iron would be more in keeping with the house style.

I agree with Yardvaark that covering up the facade with lots of plants would take away from the overall look of your home. The colors you've used have created a strong architectural presence. I second his suggestion to elongate the look of the Weiglea on the right so that becomes a specimen plant with emphasis instead of just sprawling.
I also agree that a specimen tree planted on the left would help balance the landscape. You might want to consider something like Acer griseum, which is a fairly small maple and has bark complimentary to the color of your home. Check out the Public Service Department's Tree Planting Program in Portland, Maine. They suggest trees (for both lawn and street) that should work well in your zone.

If you don't want lawn along the north side of the house or you feel that it's impossible to grow, why not encourage the moss that's already there? You could create a moss-lined brick walkway using all the leftover bricks you have. This walk would "connect" the front entrance of your house on the left to the driveway entrance on the right. This narrow north-sided garden could include more ferns, spring bulbs, columbines or other perennials you like. There are many hardy, low evergreens or groundcovers that could be grown along the street side of this walkway or even underneath a fence, should you decide to put one in.


Here is a link that might be useful: Tree planting in Portland, Maine

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 6:56PM
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Molie, Thanks for taking o tour of our adventure downeast, as we call it.
I do love the view from my studio, even if it is the smallest of the bedrooms it does have a great view. The power company trimmed the big maple down the street a big square around the wires so it make for a better summer view! I do love the early morning (real early here) sun for painting on sea glass.
The neighbor up the street with the big green columns has a neat metal fence, I will have to see what that would run for $$ for a reproduction.
Thanks for the link I will check it out.
I did joke with Mike we should figure out how to get rid of the grass and just let the moss take over. Maybe some low ferns would be fun. They would love it there. Trouble is I need to find a LOW one. The ones in the little bed were well over my head. Same with fiddle heads if I put them in they will get too tall. I do love the Nora Barlows. Not sure the bricks we have would be strong enough for near the road the back deck are bricks broke up pretty bad over the past couple of winters. Thanks for all the suggestions. Can't wait to tackle the front! We got 6 more inches of snow so will be a while yet...

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 8:40PM
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molie(z6 CT)

In looking at ferns that would be smaller and also work well in your area of Maine, I found a fairly low one called Phegopteris connectilis.

After reading about its growth habit, I realized that I actually have this fern! I recognized it because the two lowest "leaves", called pinnea, on the stem face downward instead of upward like the other pinnea. It's a fern I picked up years ago at a garden center's inside greenhouse. It had no tag and, thinking it was an indoor plant, I planted it outside in a sheltered spot along the north side of our house. Unlike other ferns I've owned, this one stays in a neat, graceful clump.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 3:46PM
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I like that idea Molie! I was talking to my Mom, she suggested some hostas. That got me thinking about early 1800s hostas. Maybe that would be a good choice there also.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 7:02PM
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Hi, I had to write because we spell our names the same. I love the house, it makes me think Empire style.
I love the large red shrub. The first thing I thought of when I say your property is how perfect it would be for old fashion shrubs, lilac, snowball bush vibernum, forsythia. But, I assume you are in either near the northwest or northeast coast and I don't know what your soil is like.
I think the side of your house facing the road would be well served by making some large mulched beds from the house foundation out to the road. (Keep some lawn by the road if you have to please a partner.) I would then add those sorts of old fashion shrubs, looking into some of the smaller versions now availible.
I do like the evergreen vertical accent you have, but you should think about it's final size. I've had to take down house engulfing evergreens - not fun.There are lots of narrow vertical evergreens availioble now that may fit the spot better. Again, not anything like my growing conditions so I can't make specific recomendations.
I love the little bed of perenials you made. Enlarge that bed and make more!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2013 at 2:47PM
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Hi Leasa, Thanks for the comments! Nice to meet you! I have a couple Leasa friends on facebook if you want to friend me, downeastwaves @ yahoo . com We do live in Eastport, Maine the eastern most CITY in the USA. Hubby got out the chain saw yesterday and trimmed up the weigelia, hope it ends up looking as nice as Yardvaark's rendition! The house got its mansard top in the late 1800s. It was built in the early 1800. I LOVE the height of the upstairs, nice tall ceilings. We do need to leave enough lawn for the 4th of July parade. Family always visits and this year we are expecting even more. Last year we had 17 overnighters.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 8:39AM
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"Hubby got out the chain saw yesterday and trimmed up the weigelia, hope it ends up looking as nice as Yardvaark's rendition!" You should get a big clue by how it looks right now! :-)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2013 at 8:52AM
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