Need Inspiration - 1920's Tudor

robyn_tx(8 Dallas)February 10, 2013

Would appreciate thoughts on bed design/style/theme for my 1920's Tudor.

I am getting ready to increase the size of the front bed by 8-10' to take up about 1/4 of the front lawn on both sides of the center walkway (sod reduction program here in Droughts-ville!). More sod planned to be removed in future years along center curved walkway, but this is what I can take on now. There are two oaks in the parkway that are beginning to provide some shade for the portion of the lawn closest to the sidewalk. But the bed is full sun in Texas heat. Goal, beyond sod reduction, is to mask the unattractive porch front face, without obstructing any view (from the archway), since I sit out there every single day and enjoy my neighbors, my flowers, my wine!

I prefer an informal/cottage landscape style ... perennials, flowering shrubs, nothing pruned, free flowing, bordering a bit on plant zoo ... but the more I look at the picture of my house, trying to be an impartial observer, I think the house deserves a more formal approach. The strong architectural lines seem to beg for something that's not in my mind's eye.

There's stuff planted already - and would be happy to share what is there, but none of it is sacred and all of it can be moved or shovel pruned. Couple other comments are (a) this is a leased property, so I don't plan to invest in major hardscape; and (b) the windows to the left are original stained glass, beautiful and don't want to cover them.

I need help with a vision. I'd sure be grateful for folks' thoughts about the overall thematic approach. If there are other threads here that I missed with photo ideas for this house style, appreciate your pointing me that way!


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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Can you grow any sort of jasmine? Jasminum polyanthum or Trachelospermum jasminoides? They could be an easy answer to your request. Or, if something tougher is needed, perhaps Rhaphiolepis indica? There are several forms, pink, white, and dwarf. Or a combination. Cute house! I'd like to drop by with a bottle of sauvignon blanc on a hot afternoon. :-)

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 11:16PM
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robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

Catkim - most jasmine not reliably winter hardy here ... really better in an 8b or 9. We have snow several times a year plus ice, and though I love star jasmine, I wouldn't plant it as anything other than a annual, hoping that it might be a perennial on lucky years. Indian Hawthorn on my short list of low-growing shrubs that would look nice.

Any thoughts on cottage vs. more formal look?

Sauvignon Blanc chilled, waiting to share with a new friend. :)

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 12:59AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Cottage gardens are for those who love to spend time deadheading, digging, moving, planting, staking, etc. Formal topiary and hedges are an easier choice for those who prefer to have someone else mow-blow-and go. Either would look good.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 11:36AM
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"Any thoughts on cottage vs. more formal look?" What about something in between ... dressy casual? Not as rigid or fussy as what people call "formal" and not as "busy" and voluminous as "cottage." Lower maintenance than either.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2013 at 9:59PM
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robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

Dressy casual? A thread here from 2004 called it "formal whimsy." The thought is delightful ... if I could just "see" it in my mind ...

Spent another couple hours today wandering around nurseries and the internet for inspiration. Even drove 15 blocks of my neighborhood, and saw a bunch of sheared hedges, too many boxwood to count, poodle/bowling ball/topiary stuff, endless expanses of sod ... all which made me want to pull over and take a nap.

Thanks for y'all's thoughts! Something will come to me. It needs to soon, or I'll have to wait until fall to have another opportunity to plant.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 12:50AM
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Don't know the thread of which you speak, but I would guess "formal whimsy" is not the same thing as "dressy casual." Don't get me wrong about whimsy. I'm for quite a bit of it, but a lot of whimsy that I've seen is on the junky side and I don't think it's appropriate for for a nice front yard landscape. unless someone who knows how to do it and they take it to a high level so it's a complete, satisfying picture. Then, that might be fine.

I don't think the word "formal" is actually that good at describing a style. It's more like an adjective for a style. But usually when the word is used, it evokes a picture of a rigidly organized and highly detailed garden such as one might see with many turn-of-the-last-century, moneyed homes. I think there are good reasons for this style to have fallen out of fashion, not the least of which is its cost of upkeep. People don't have servants like they used to. On the other hand, "dressy casual" would rely, not on complex shapes and structures, but on simple, graphically stronger shapes, and on plants that don't need so much in the way of trimming so that shearing can be avoided much of the time. For example, if one needed a shrub no taller than 3' ht. in order for it not to "eat" a window as it grows, then one should pick a plant that can't possible exceed that height. Typically, people are impatient. It is commonplace that they use trees that grow to 20' height in places where they need 3' shrubs. To maintain them, they shear regularly. Sometimes, a dwarf enough plant is not available or there is cause to use something (for other reasons) that exceeds the space limitation. Then pollarding is often a better choice to employ for size control ... if one wishes a "casual" finish to the shrub instead of the clipped, smooth finish. Pollarding is a once-per-year (or sometimes two, at most) maintenance chore.

So that your front yard is better understood, you might add another photo that is taken from a more central viewpoint and from back a little farther so that space at the right and left side is shown.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2013 at 8:22AM
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robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

Thanks for your message. I agree that people often try to "make" something the size they want instead of selecting the right plant to begin with. I don't think I'm one of those people, thankfully.

The porch face is 32" tall, so I may just end up going with a hedge-style planting (gulp!) to achieve my goal of dense coverage, and then have some fun in front of it. Considering too giving the compact abelia another year to see how they look as 3rd year shrubs - these are juveniles and had a hard first summer. On the far right is a Salvia leucantha, which I enjoy but it's not too visible for 1/3 of the year. Might even try some of the columnar buxus to give some height around the corners ... that way I'll not be such a rebel neighbor by eschewing boxwood in my yard. Grin.

Front facing photo attached. Don't have one from further back. It was bulk trash pick up week, so I have little junk pile there too.

This post was edited by robyn_tx on Thu, Feb 14, 13 at 0:19

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 10:59PM
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robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

oh my try picture again?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 12:18AM
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Lovely home.

What's missing here IMO is a seperation of the public space of the street and the private space of the home. I would work on improving the lawn and covering that part that rolls down to the street, which detracts from the impact of the lawn as a distinct element of the landscape.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 10:36AM
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Robyn, you'll need to imagine this better than I've drawn it, but here's the basic things I'd work on. LOW (4" - 8" max. ht.) groundcover at the slope and maybe--optionally--the parkway strip. A low, but wide (advancing 5' - 6' toward the street) uniform shrub/groundcover mass at front of the patio platform so it doesn't look as high up from the surrounding grade. (Nothing over 18" tall and nothing thorny.) Perennial or annual color flanking the entrance steps. Cannot see or speak to L. side of foundation. Cannot see if there's a walk crossing the front yard near porch.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 11:17AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

Great looking piece of architecture that deserves something more special than shoving a few shrubs up against the foundation of the house, a swath of water sucking lawn and a unimaginative front border.

You don't have to change the long straight walkway but you can spice it up with some planting beds that jog in and out along the fall line.

The usage of ornamental grasses, low water use perennials, succulents , and natives can really make this this a real show stopper of a garden.

check out some garden designers who have posted some great inspirational images on Houzz or other online sites that host great garden design ( Leaf, Sunset, Garden Design, Fine Gardening )

the image below is from Sunset .

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 6:43PM
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If you like informal/cottage it is not hard to do with mixed shrubs like abelia (try the new varieties), hydrangea (some like sun), shrub roses (Antique Rose Emporium is in texas - google them), lantana, butterfly bushes, herbs. All are easy care and give the informal feel but not all the dividing of perennials and deadheading and such. You can make it more formal with symmetry and not using too many different plants (plant zoo). Love your house and love the pic above.
Laurie in Mississippi

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 12:23AM
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robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

Thank you all for your thoughts. A couple of you suggested something I've long considered - groundcover at the slope and in the parkway. The parkway is a definite - I call these "hell strips" for the waste of water they are trying to keep sod alive there.

Pls8 helped a lot by suggesting separation between the public and private space, which helps me frame the questions in my mind.

Laurie - I lived in San Antonio for 35 years, so am well familiar with ARE! Miss it a lot. I have abelias already and have definitely considered dwarf buddleia.

Yaardvark and Deziner - thanks for your images. They're helpful! And I do make heavy use of low water perennials, mostly natives. Summers here are brutal (100F+ days, 90F+ midnights, day after day ...)

Will keep y'all posted where I end up... and will post some pics of the side gardens when they are move alive. This weekend, it's been all vege garden readiness.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 7:13PM
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I'm a bit surprised at the term "water sucking lawn" being used for the DWF area. Here in Arkansas we get an average of about 45 inches and Dallas gets somewhere around 38 inches; less for sure but still not a dry climate for most years.

It is true that many in my area have sprinkler systems and spend a fortune on water. It's a big waste. Attention to soil and grading can almost eliminate the need for additional water. I have to water my lawn an average of twice per year (no sprinklers) and with water at $2 per 1000, it's not a large cost. For me, lawn is the low cost, low maintenance part of my landscape.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:32AM
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PKponder TX(7b)

We've been in drought (albeit mild here in DFW) since 2009. Annual rainfall totals are far below 38 inches.
2010 ...31.70 "
2011 .. 25.88
2012 ...31.26

I wish I only had to water twice a year :-)

In the most intense heat of summer, we only get rain when a tropical storm or hurricane manages to get this far north. We typically get a stretch of consecutive 100 degree plus days that lasts for 45-60 days. Really hard on the water budget. Most of my neighbors lost their lawns in 2011 due to water restrictions/extreme heat (70 consecutive days of 100+).

Just so you see where we are coming from regarding lawns and water use.

This post was edited by pkponder on Mon, Feb 18, 13 at 22:05

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 9:19PM
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robyn_tx(8 Dallas)

Agree completely with pkponder. We get nice rains in the spring through May ... then the heat hits and not much falls predictably from the sky until September. We also have very hot "lows," meaning it's common for it to be 90+F at midnight in July and August, so nothing gets an evening break from the heat. To make matters worse the predominant turf grass here is SA, which doesn't go dormant when it's drought stressed. It just dies. My soil is pretty healthy and I can get by watering every 10-14 days (my neighbors water 3X/week), but any longer than that and there will be dead patches by early August.

So, yes, a turf reduction program is the responsible thing to do in climates like what we have here. I wish I had your lawn situation! :)

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 9:46PM
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@robyn_tx, i agree with you that plants requiring less water than lawn grasses are the direction of the future (as well as the present.) Last year, I began exploring Arachis glabrata and pintoi, generally sold as 'Ecoturf', as possible candidates for alternatives to grass lawns. (Here, I have found both varieties under that name, showing that there is carelessness in labeling.) The results of my personal observations are not in yet, but the plants are, so far, showing great promise. Supposedly, once established they will not require irrigation. Since they are used already in hellstrips and medians without irrigation, it stands to reason this is true. However, the homeowner might wish to give them occasional water in order prevent a mid-summer blah appearance. Another feature of the plants is that they can tolerate some foot traffic. A big plus, IMO, is that they bloom, being smothered in yellow flowers for 2 or 3 weeks in the Spring. After that, the bloom persists, but it's light. Supposedly, they grow in all the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico. But Texas is so big, I'm sure it does not mean everywhere there. The foliage will burn from a freeze, but quickly recovers as soon as the weather warms. Seems worth looking into for those where heat and drought is an issue.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 9:30AM
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Ok, I'll reveal a few of my secrets to growing a lawn down south. First a bit about my climate. The high temp last year was 111. The critical months are June, July, and August with usually about 60-70 days of temps 95 and above. A year of 30 days with over 100 is not that uncommon. Rainfall for the 3 months can be 5 inches in a dry year, 8 inches normal, and 11 inches in a wet year. I need 12 to 15 inches to be successful with my lawn.

My neighbors struggle to keep their lawns looking good. Those with sprinkler systems often water 3 times a week. They are growing on top soil, some of it 8" deep, that has become compacted. Often the grade slope is 4% or greater. Some try to aerate but the benefit is short lived. Most of our summer rains come in a cloudburst where a 1 inch rain falls in as little as 15 minutes. With those conditions of soil and grade, the land sheds water like a raincoat and three quarters are lost to run off. If we get a normal 8 inches for the summer, they may only benefit by having as little as 2 inches absorbed by the soil. They need 10 inches additional to get to the 12 inches needed. But they will have to water a lot more than that 10 inches. It gets a bit complicated.

Temperature was given as a obstacle and soil temperature is much more important than air temperature. Summer soil temps have a gradient from hot at the surface to cooler with depth. Different soil types have different gradients. A damp top soil will have a greater depth to it's gradient than something like sand. You can almost burn your feet on a beach but an inch below the surface the temperature is much cooler. Topsoil may not get as hot at the surface but the drop in temp at 2 inches deep can be as little as 5 degrees. High temperatures in the top 2 inches can be adverse to grass roots. Those watering 3 times a week have most of that water in the top three inches of soil and it's subject to a high evaporation rate due to the soil temp. Soil evaporation added to the evaporation during and after the watering can be as much as 50% for those on a frequent watering schedule. Remember they needed 10 inches additional for the grass but they may have to water 20 inches to get it.

One might avoid some of the water loss by watering more, less frequently. But on compacted topsoil that doesn't work well either. The reason lies with oxygen levels. Just as there is a temperature gradient in soil, there is also an oxygen gradient to summer soils, saturated at the surface and diminishing to an oxygen deficiency at some depth. The gradient varies with soil structure and type. As oxygen diffuses through the surface and deeper into the soil, it is being used by the grass roots and all other aerobic life in the soil, which is revved up to a peak with the higher summer temperatures. In topsoil the oxygen deficiency can rise in the summer soil to a depth of 5 to 6 inches. Saturated soil becomes oxygen deficient very quickly, so heavy infrequent watering only exasperates the problem.

For my neighbor's topsoil lawn, the top 2 inches are too hot, and below 5 or 6 inches the soil is oxygen deficient. They're trying to grow a lawn with an active root zone of 3 to 4 inches in depth. No wonder it's a struggle and requires large amounts of water.

My yard is a lot different. Landscaping has reduced the grades to slopes from 1.5% to 2% max. With a good stand of grass, water moves across the lawn exceedingly slow. A 1.5 inch cloudburst can result in temporary water depths of an inch on the lawn but still there is little movement. The water is held over the soil until it is absorbed, with zero runoff.

The soil has been amended for permeability and a high oxygen diffusion rate. The original soil was near a potter's grade clay with an inch or so topsoil. The top soil was mostly discarded. I purchased 60 cu yd of course sand. A layer of 3" of sand was mixed with the top 4" of clay yielding a depth of 7 inches. The mix is not uniform. Most of the clay is in lumps of half inch and smaller leaving the sand portion of the mix as near pure sand. An additional 1 inch of sand was raked into the surface. Sand will not compact and this mix will never compact. The high permeability of the mix absorbs the first 1.5 inches of a storm without runoff and moves it to a depth in the soil where it is not subject to a high surface evaporation rate. Clay absorbs water very slowly but in the first 24 hours after a rain the clay takes up a portion of the water pulling air through the voids in the sand part of the mix protecting against an oxygen deficiency.

Over the winter and wet spring the underlying clay becomes very wet, storing a lot of water. Most all that underlying clay is oxygen deficient except for a thin top in contact with the sand/clay mix. Grass roots are able to penetrate the clay surface and to some extent tap the stored water equal to about a quarter inch per week.

So for the summer I need 12 to 15 inches of water. On a normal year I get 8 inches in summer rain. I get the equivalent of 3 inches from the underlying clay and add 3 inches by watering in two 1.5 inch applications. The high sand content at the surface reduces the temperature gradient and I have an active root zone of about 7 inches, almost twice what my topsoil neighbors have.

The same permeability benefits can be developed starting with topsoil, but in addition to sand, a significant quantity of vermiculite is usually needed. It sounds expensive, but compared to the cost of installation of a sprinkler system and maintenance, along with the never ending cost of large quantities of water, it's the cheaper way to go. You could get to love your lawn.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 9:52AM
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ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)

I also live in Dallas and think I know the neighborhood where you are! We, too live in an old home. My thoughts, include roses. IF you like to garden, what about enclosing the front into a courtyard like an earlier suggestion, dividing at the slope, and doing roses and perennials. there are so many that do well and would suite your home nicely. don't know if you want 'play space' up front or not, but if not, that is what I would do. herbs, too. a pathway? It would be pretty. Orient it toward you, COULD do a boxwood frame, I haven't on mine, but drive around Lakewood and you will see some great examples of what I mean. Good luck, cute home!!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 8:17AM
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