What trees/shrubs best for large corner lot?

biochem101February 24, 2011

We have a fairly large corner lot, slightly sloping, that currently has no landscaping. There were overgrown evergreens against the house, 2 white birch that came down in storms, and a couple giant yews near the Stop sign, that were all removed. We know nothing about gardening and are at a loss as to what to put in. We live in Zone 6b, about 330' above sea level, and the house faces North (no sun along the front to about 5' out). Also, dog walkers let them pee along the front edge, especially on any flowers set out near the street corner.

What kind of trees/shrubs would you put in front of the house? Would you put anything out on the corner (near street signs)?

Any advice is welcome! :) Thanks!

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Plant azalea in shader area.maybe you add evergreen rock,juniper...

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 8:54PM
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Well, that's a very colorful picture, but what are all those shrubs?

I really mean that I don't know a thing a about gardening.

There is no way I'd find the free time to plant all those anyway.

Does anyone have any specific suggestions for what kind of shrubs do well in zone 6 PA? Something easy to care for? Some sort of smaller arrangement of plantings?

Or a few ornamental trees?

What do you think of crab apples?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:28PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Nice house - lots of asphalt and blank space though :-) It would probably be worth your while to sit down with a local designer an work out a plan rather than just get ideas from places like here.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:30PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Ignore Ideasshare, our local crazy person. Others will advise within reason, no doubt!


    Bookmark   February 24, 2011 at 9:34PM
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woodyoak: thanks! The problem is money. My husband is losing his job in a few months and the only one he's found, which he might be taking, is a big pay cut. We spent a lot renovating the inside and other things like a new roof.

I seem to buy plants that end up dying. We put a line of dogwoods along the drive (inside the island) and most died. My husband is willing to buy some trees and shrubs and plant them, but he wants to know what I want and where to put it. I have no idea.

Someone suggested a Redbud on the Tree Forum, and after looking it up online, I think that's a good one.

I'll wait a bit and see if anyone has any other suggestions. :)

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 10:02AM
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The best way to find out works best for your local conditions is to look locally. Visit some public gardens in your area and stop by the local garden centers and retail nurseries (NOT the box stores). Take the same photos of your front yard along with you. Nursery people are usually pretty free with advice and can make some reasonable suggestions.

If funds are a concern (and when is money NOT a concern??), keep in mind that plants of much size do not come cheap. This is where an overall design plan might be beneficial - buying the odd plant/tree now and again when cash is available can result in a very spotty, haphazard garden unless you have some comprehensive idea of how it's going to look when finished and all pulled together. Sometimes the dollar investment must be made where it is not necessarily immediately visible to get the best end result.

If you really know nothing about plants and gardening, take some time to learn - this will save a lot of time and expense wasted in trial and error. Nurseries often offer free classes and seminars on various gardening subjects, especially as spring rolls around. Lots of helpful books available as well. Visit your local regional gardening forum here on GW and ask questions. Also, plants can be had less expensively. Local plant sales are usually a good source, often put on by the local Master Gardeners association, garden clubs or even public gardens. And if you have a plan in hand with plant choices firmly in mind, shopping at the box stores for fresh plants and for only those that match your plan can save a lot of cash.

The bottom line is just asking for the "best" plant suggestions is unlikely to get you very good results without having some context in which to use the plants to achieve an attractive and well-considered garden. And FWIW, while a redbud can be a lovely small tree, it may not be the best choice for a beginner gardener as it is not by any means a trouble-free choice and also tends to be a relatively short-lived one.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 10:50AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Take a look at the garden guides at your public library. Read up on how to plant trees and shrubs (for instance, trees will fail to thrive if planted too low; under- and over-watering are both hazards).

Consider pachysandra to fill in the foundation beds; it's an evergreen groundcover that's fine in shade. You can often get cuttings from a friend or neighbor, and in a year or two, you'll have a lush bed of it.

You have a handsome house that really doesn't need much.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 11:41AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I agree with all gardengal said. And redbuds are nice trees - but iffy in my experience. You're in a warmer zone and that might help a bit, because one of the problems around here with young redbuds is that they can die back to the ground in hard winters in their first few years. That is especially true if they are in an exposed location (and your location looks pretty exposed...) The first redbud we ever planted died back to the ground about 4 years in a row. It would come back from the roots and eventually (after we sold that house!) became a nice tree. We planted two white ones here that have done well because they're in a more sheltered location. So, I'd be wary of planting them in that open site if you want them to be important trees in the landscape. You'd be better off sticking to something rock-hardy for your area. As gg said, talk to good local nurseries.

And do consider investing the money and/or the time to develop a plan before diving in. Your's is the perfect situation (pretty much a blank slate; not an experienced gardener) when a plan will save you money in the long run and is more likely to result in a landscape that will add value to your beautiful home.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 11:55AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I would suggest that this forum could maybe suggest a couple of general principles from which you could develop your own plan, but it's true that you need to be willing to get yourself up a learning curve about both gardening and landscaping to make this work. To tell the truth though, if you don't do the learning curve pretty much all the plants you buy and even professional advice will be a bit if a waste of money, because plants need to be maintained to be of any aesthetic use. The safest thing to do if you don't want to get too involved is just to have all grass!!

I think, first, I would put nothing that the dog walkers can destroy by the street. A lot of novices are inclined to cling to the perimeter of the lawn when planting, and that is usually a mistake - by the driveway, plants interfere with getting in and out, and by the street, plants are subject to dog abuse and road salt. Grass is the best plant for those areas. You don't have to have beds anywhere, not even at the house, but if you want some, then I would suggest nice deep beds at the house and maybe another bed within the lawn somewhere. If you outline the bed with a row of flat bricks, it will be easy to mow around, although the edge will always require some maintenance.

A key question is always "what do you want to accomplish?" If it is just to fill those beds, ask yourself whether you really want those beds. It is no crime to just seed them over with grass.

Some sample objectives might be to block or enhance sightlines, to make the house look connected to the lot, to have flowers to watch and nurture, or just to fit in with the neighbours.

Let us know how some of our comments strike you, and we may have more advice. I'd definitely start with a visit to the library for some general gardening and basic landscaping books.

Just to clarify, in my mind gardening is the process of caring for the living things that plants are, while landscaping is the whole process of creating the external environment in which the plants will grow - but which may or may not actually include plants! Some landscapes are just gravel and boulders, for instance, or fishponds...


    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 12:49PM
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I would also take walks around your neighborhood. See what others are growing that grows well and looks good. You can also start to see what works with the neighborhood and housing styles in the area and see what doesn't so when you start to develop your plan, you'll have some direction. Also, if you see someone working in their yard, strike up a conversation - they may have free plants.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 12:53PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

biochem101, Out on the corner (near street signs) I would do a large rock and plant the pachysandra around the rock to soften the area.

I am talking a large rock. Maybe even do some more rocks around the property line. Since you are having trouble with people walking their dogs it would send the signal of boundary and it would not be easy for the dogs to step on to use as a bathroom.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 1:11PM
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The house came with a lot of things that were dying, scraggly, overgorwn, cramped together. But there were trees and bushes all over. We have had to remove them all as each became too unsightly, diseased, or fell.

It just looks kind of empty now where there used to be shrubs and trees. The originals were white birch, lots of blue spruces and yews. I'd like some alternatives ideas.

Some neighbors have nothing but grass, probably they don't have time to garden. Others have complicated gardens maintained by a fleet of hired help. One rarely sees anyone outside to ask 'What kind of plant is that?" I can't maintain a complicated garden myself, until I retire.

marquest - I thought of the rocks! Right now I'm thinking low growing spreading conifers in that area.

Our back is full of pachysandra and I have transplanted a lot of it to the front but you can't even see it! Unless my husband tore it all out? Or maybe it's gone in winter?

If Redbud is too fragile, does anyone know some largish shrubs that are hardy in zone 6? We have been putting snowball bushes around the island and they seem to be working, but I don't want nothing but snowballs. On the left side and in back we have rhodedendron, but I don't want those out front too.

The little japanese maple down near the mailbox gets eaten by deer all the time. It's become a very odd shape and hardly grows at all.

Ideally I'd like to plant some trees and shrubs that would grow up to look nice, and not end up strangling each other. Or getting pruned by deer. Or peed to death by passing dogs.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 9:56PM
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One thing to consider when landscaping is the intersection.
Try not to obscure the view for drivers. Try to stay from any "busy" configuration. While evergreen trees and shrubs like ideasshare presented are available for consideration, avoid those at the corner or you may have more accidents and car honking than you prefer.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 9:02AM
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