Need serious landscaping advice...blank slate...

lindsrocFebruary 6, 2012


This is my 1st time posting here although I have been reading the site for a while trying to get landscape ideas and advice. Let me just preface this by saying I have NO gardening skills. Please keep that in mind. :)

We recently purchased our home and there is ZERO landscaping, not even a blade of grass. We live in Massachusetts and are looking for some ideas on how to design our front yard and back yard. Our major goal with the front is to provide some privacy on the front left corner of our house, as we are on the corner of a main road. We also really need some curb appeal as you will see in the pics. I was thinking of planting some Green Giants on the front left corner from the fence to the stop sign and over to the tree. Will they grow together to form a sort of hedge? We would like something roughly 6-10 feet tall and pretty solid for privacy. Other than that we are thinking of doing some bushes along the walkway in front of the house and the window to the left of the entrance, and maybe a small tree in the front right corner. We have someone coming in to tear out the retaining wall, slope and grade the soil and put down sod. Besides that we dont know what to plant. In the backyard, we really want something that we can plant along the fence on the side yard that will grow taller than the fence. As you can see the neighbors across the street and behind us are both on hills so we need something to provide some privacy. I was thinking Leyland Cypress? A row along the fence? Besides that, again...clueless. We are not going to sod the back...but will be putting down grass seed. We will also need to fix the retaining wall back there and finish the patio. Any and all suggestions/ideas are welcome. Thank you so much... now I am going to try posting some pics...

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    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 3:24PM
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tibs(5/6 OH)

You have a lovely stone wall. You have a fenced in yard. You have some full size trees. You have the "bones". Wait and see what comes up in the spring. You may have some perenials in that yard, though it looks like the whole yard was scalped. Why? Green Giant Thuga will get taller than 8 - 10'. Check with your community's zoning, you might be limited on how close you can plant to the road and how high for driver's visability.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 5:02PM
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First you need some feeling of gardening,I made some pics,may be some help.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 5:22PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

I know nothing about your climate, but it looks to me like the minute those trees leaf out, you will have quite a lot of privacy. How many months of the year are the trees bare?

When you refer to removing a retaining wall, are you talking about the stones in photo #3?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 6:23PM
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Yes, the yard was scalped. We bought the house from a contractor, it was a complete reno. They needed to put down new pipes etc in the back so it was completely ripped out. The front and backyard had about 15 trees removed total. Both were nothing but weeds and vines.
Yes, the retaining wall I am referring to is the stone wall in front of the house by the street, and the stone wall in the back in pic #3. Past that huge tree- it is actually 3 levels of retaining wall.
We are in northeast Mass., zone 7 from what I have seen on the maps. Our main concern for privacy would be front left corner and all along the fence line that is on the side of the house. Other than that we really need to add some curb appeal with nice colors etc.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 6:35PM
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Oh my, all those lovely rocks... Surely not gone?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 6:37PM
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Hydrangea729(6A Ohio)

A gray and white Massachusetts house needs some blue hydrangeas (which would love your shade trees) and pink, red, white roses for sunny pockets! You should have no trouble growing those where you live, and should be able to find them easily at the nursery, come spring.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 8:07PM
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I was thinking of something like this, but not sure what any of the plants might be. My main concern right now is the privacy issue.
Any thoughts?

Here is a link that might be useful: Ideas for front

    Bookmark   February 6, 2012 at 10:57PM
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I think this pic have some privacy.after winter you have more.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 5:47AM
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Digitalis offers tremendous privacy. Especially in winter. You can hide a whole house behind its bloom.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 10:59AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

Tibs has the most poignant advice : Green Giant Thuga will get taller than 8 - 10'. Check with your community's zoning, you might be limited on how close you can plant to the road and how high for driver's visability.
Even if it is within code to plant that high on a busy street corner I would advice not to. It is very dangerous for your community.
Drivers need to be able to see around the corner.

I don't understand the rational for removing the short stone retaining wall.
It provides you with a low barrier set off the street which is great in regards to winter plowing / snow removal , provides an off street walking or car pull off area and allows the upper grade some flatness.

I think that a walk around the Arnold Arboretum will give you some ideas about how to pull together a vignette/ composition of shrubs as well as inform you ( most all the plants are labeled ) of the various plant names.
- - If the Arnold Arboretum is not within close distance then try one of the local well maintained museum properties like DeCordova in Lincoln or the old Case Estates in Weston. Another option is Allen Haskells old nursery or Weston nursery - -

Otherwise a consultation with a landscape designer would greatly benefit you and would most likely save you $$$ in the long run and you will receive a good base plan to work off of .

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 12:41PM
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Thank you all for the advice, honestly i hadnt thought about zoning when my husband and i talked about putting the evergreens on the corner. Do you think a small tree like a dogwood would be ok there? At least it would provide a nicer view from the window than the road.
Also, the landscaper that came out had advised us it would be much more cost effective to pull our the stone wall and slope the yard. I kind of like the wall personally.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 12:55PM
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The only reason I can imagine taking out the stone wall would be cheaper is that it may then be easier for the landscaper if there is no wall and the machinery can have free access to the site (hence the sloping) but I think the wall should stay. It adds character and like d-d states, a host of opportunities. The landscaper sounds a little bit like every tool's a hammer kind of guy.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 1:35PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

This is probably asking too much, but I wonder if you could post a photo of your view of the street from the window.

The photos you've posted don't indicate a lot of visibility into the house from the street. My sense is it's not so much actual privacy that is required, as a feeling of separation from the street. Am I off track? Maybe a mixed border of low-growing bushes above the stone wall would do?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 1:51PM
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Hi catkim... I will get a post of our view of the street. I think you are on track.... Our yard is just so desolate I feel like we are on display. I just want a feeli of privacy or having our own little space.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 2:05PM
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This is from our living room window...

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 3:16PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

That picture sure shows why you feel exposed! I agree with catkim's sugesstion - keep the wall and put a mixed shrub and perennial borter on the top op it. If you end it at the tree and swing it around the tree towards the house a bit and don't plant too tall things, that should keep the sight lines clear for drivers. Our 'moat bed' runnng along the top of the ditch gives a nice feeling of separation from the street without it becoming a huge physical barrier. We're not on a corner and don't have the looking-out-from-the-house issue but the bed, while small/narrow, improves the feeling of privacy by a surprising amount. I think you'd find the same thing - the bed will stop your eyes on your property, making the space feel more intimate, rather than letting your eyes range into the distance as they seek for something that encloses the space.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2012 at 3:58PM
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Does anyone know of a small flowering tree that would be around 8-10 feet that I could plant in the middle of the yard, but closer to front right corner? It would have to survive in the shadow of whatever that other tree is- although eventually we may have to remove that tree. Any help and further ideas would be great. In the New England forum someone had suggested creating a berm in the front left corner- so anything to followup on that would be great! I think I may even start a new post for that. Thank you

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 8:42AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

Your view looks so familiar to me, having spend a lot of time on the Cape and in New England in general.
A couple of tree suggestions along with a suggestion to visit Weston Nursery or Mahoney's nursery where you will find expert horticultural help and great plants specific for your area.

Some tree suggestion for you to further research - many can get tall so check for individual speices size :
Cornus - Dogwood - so many varieties. I am partial to the variegated one.
Prunus and Malus
Syringia and Rhododendrons - though considered more of a shrub some can grow to great heights and widths.

Also don't forget to check out the plant sales at the Arnold Arboretum if you live near by.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2012 at 12:24PM
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Brad Edwards

The house has clean lines, I would stay with that instead of curves.

I would do a flower bed just behind that first stone wall, would create a path in the middle of it to the front door, relocate the mailbox there, possibly add a farm house type fence behind the flower bed, would wrap evergreen shrubs around the house like boxwood or holly. I would also plant a small bed with a japanese maple, apple tree or two "outside of the center tree/decent sun" and call it a day.

In the back you almost have a raised bed for a vegtable garden in the back if thats your thing. Normally I only recommend one type of grass, but with your shade you might want to consider a more shade tolerant variety.

#1 thing I would recommend, is adding a compost area for all of those leaves and finding a way to mow them/shred them vs rake and bag. That way you could mulch your own beds.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 9:50AM
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