This is my ranch-style house

puffie(6)February 19, 2010

Hi designers! This is a picture of the front of my ranch-style house. I have added some beds next to the driveway, but it needs more. Also, the cement walkway up the middle of the yard is being demo-ed (the front door is actually next to the driveway, so that cement walkway has no purpose). I'd love any advice you're willing to give!

Let me know what you think I should do with this yard!

Thank you!

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Hey Friend just saw pics of your yard. You got nice home at nice place :)
But to be honest you can do much more to your yard. Just grass and bushes are no justice to such a place.
First of all pay some attention to your lawn grass. It seems a bit disturbed.
Plus you may add flower beds to your front yard to enhance the beauty of pathway.
There are many more. You will just have to spare some time.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 11:20AM
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It's a little hard to respond to such a nonspecifc request :-) What do YOU want to do with this yard?

I might suggest you find a copy of The Front Yard Idea Book from Taunton Publishing (the same folks that produce Fine Gardening magazine). Lots of good suggestions/ideas and illustrative photos for inspiration. There are many, many ways to go with a front just depends on the look you want and the degree of effort and maintenance you are willing to undertake.

Here is a link that might be useful: Front Yard Idea Book

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 12:35PM
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Well, we are interested in selling within the next few years (but not right away). I'd like to "do something" to the front yard that will help increase the curb appeal, yet be low-maintenance for the next owner. It doesn't need to suit my personality so much as just look pretty and compliment the house. Since the house is kind of flat (it's a ranch) I just wasn't sure where to go with it.

I like the book suggestion! I'll see if my local library carries it. Thanks!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 2:39PM
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You want free design so that you can flip the house? I'll pass.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 2:50PM
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Well, I'd interpret it as a curb appeal question aiming to achieve a result that's non-offensive to the masses, not particularly unique or trendsetting design, with no specific homeowner must-haves or interests, and low maintenance. Not so unusual.

Agree with read up and drive around--that will get you started. In addition to front yard designs, there are lots of things you can google (including prior threads) or find in library/bookstore about curb appeal, some of which will explain some principles about where to place items, what should be tall or not.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 5:14PM
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You know what, "property with landscaping potential" reads as well as "yard tarted up for quick sale'.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 5:33PM
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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

(Not all who are hoping for a move in the next 5 years or so are just house-flipping speculators.... And not all people who want their yard to look better are avid gardeners.)

Part of this depends on how much work and time, and expense, you are willing to put into this. What you seem to have been doing around the driveway and mailbox is a good start.

When the house is a flat rectangle, you don't want to mirror the shape of the house. You want to soften it's lines, instead. Makes the whole place homier and more inviting, less harsh and structured.

I would get rid of most, if not all, of the bushes. And any you decide to keep, let them grow more naturally. The area looks a little like a picture of a bunch of kids of different ages and sizes, all with identical crewcuts (grins).

Get some curves and varying depths into the shape of the front bed, and some plant variety. Other non-evergreen shrubs and assorted perennials are probably best for your purposes. Easiest way to lay out pleasant irregular curves is to use a garden hose as the edge. Play with the curves until they look the way you want.

When the unnecessary concrete walk comes out, increase the bed around the mailbox and toward the driveway, again in an irregular curve.

If you only work those two area, it will make a huge difference to the appearance of the yard.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 5:34PM
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Ouch! Some angry people in this forum! Laag, I understand why you're bitter--I live in Mass too. :P Too many cold winters!

We're not flipping. We've lived here 3 years while I finished my graduate degree, and within the next few years (after my husband finishes his) we're going to move closer to my family in Atlanta (warmer!) before we have kids.

I like to garden and I've been active on the seed-swapping side of this website the last 2 years. But just because I start seeds in my basement doesn't mean I know where all the flowers should go! I end up planting everything in a straight row :P

Linda, your bushes description is hilarious! They totally do look like that! I'd been thinking about taking some out, but I was afraid to make such a big decision (replacing them would be hard because they're already mature). Should I take out the ones around the picture window? What do you think of the large bush on the right corner? It's a white Pieris: pretty, but huge.

I checked out a pile of books from the library, and sketched kind of a plan for the beds. What do you guys think? Gray is what there is already, orange is what I'm thinking of doing in the spring, green are existing plants that I like.

There is a ton of space next to the driveway that would need to be filled with plants though... Would that look too messy?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 12:18PM
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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

Thanks for the sketch. When I first looked at the pictures, I thought they were all your-basic-pruned-evergreens. (My old computer system has had a wild time with that photosite. I get a quick view before the image disappears. Refresh, and get another chance for a quick peek. A little better today. Getting a new computer next week. Hurrah!)

After your sketch info, I'm changing my advice just a little. I itch to get my hands on the three bushes you really like, and also a number of the others, and give them a good thinning-prune so they will grow out in their more natural shapes rather than so dense and round. That would help greatly. You may even find you want to keep a some of the others. They would also feel much less huge and heavy that way.

Although it would be good to get a pro out to do this, I suspect the budget won't allow it, and some of the 'pros' I would not trust near a shrub with a pruner. You can do much of this. Good resources online, and several of the best show up in searches for both 'pruning' and 'shrubs'. Not rocket science. Just try to get a feel for pruning for thinning and shaping.

You may want to thin out the shrubs before you decide which ones to trash. And which ones you end up keeping will be the bones for the next step.

Sketch looks pretty good. I might get the curve near the maple in closer to the hydrangea. Less planting area to deal with. And I would loosen up the near-straight line along the front. Pulling closer to the hydrangea lets you swoop out a little around the azalea and a bit more around the pieris.

Late winter/early spring is a not at all bad time for pruning out. You may lose some flowering on a couple for this year, but I suspect the result will be way worth it.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 4:07PM
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Sorry about that Puffie, but your OP is worded like a lot of the flippers that used to frequent here. I looked you up, you are legit.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 7:28PM
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Linda, thanks for all the advice! I redrew my sketch to take your suggestions into account--one thing I really like about the new version (pulling the curve in toward the hydrangea) is that it makes room for a larger half-circle shaped bed right in front of the picture window, which I think would look really pretty from inside!

I think I'll give the thinning-prune a try on some of the shrubs in the back yard before I tackle the ones in the front. I can see myself making a big mess! We do have a little money put away for the yard, so a professional may be the way we're going. We'll see how the ones in the back turn out...

Thanks a ton for the suggestions! In a month or so when the ground unfreezes, I'll post some more pictures of my progress! :)

    Bookmark   February 21, 2010 at 7:40PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I think you should design a shape for your lawn rather than a shape for your beds. The lawn will need to be mowed, while the aesthetics of the bed shape will not really be noticed as you will never see the lot from the angle you've drawn (I don't think!). That said, the changed curve suggested by Linda might still be better.

I would want to take out a lot of the existing shrubbery - and I do mean remove a lot of whole plants. It looks like the forest surrounding sleeping beauty's palace, suggesting it is about to consume the house. I'd be all for keeping and thinning a few bushes too, but I'd inventory what you have carefully and select the best plants that are also the smallest, if that's possible. Here's the thing about saving the big ones: with already big root systems, they can deliver a lot of annual growth even after you cut back (you'll get less rebound growth if you prune in fall, incidentally, but I'd be hard pressed to hold the loppers until then).

If you have time to stagger the process of removal and new planting a bit, you can retain a few of the biggies (thinned/trimmed) until some of your new stuff grows in a bit. Because the highest maintenance time is often when plants are new and small and there is too much room for weed growth. Once weeds can't get so much sun anymore, they aren't such a threat. So for now at least, keeping the big pieris should be fine.

I gather this is a shady side of the house? So in between the shrubs, hostas should be good; anything that covers the ground. Hellebores are actually really good for that too, so are ferns. If you're a "flower" gardener you might not get that much to bloom close to the house if it's a north exposure.

Another thing about using "flowers you grow from seed" is that ... the honest truth about using perennials in front yard landscaping if you don't have a lot of snow is that they look like heck in the offseason, and rarely all look good at the same time. If you are really looking for a look that will sell itself in the near future, just well-spaced new shrubbery, especially evergreen, is your best friend.

In sunny areas, cotoneaster can be a very cool low maintenance plant once it grows in. So can juniper, and that gives an evergreen presence (unless covered by snow of course).


    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 9:44PM
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KarinL, Thank you for your suggestions!

The street-facing side of the house gets blazing full sun from sunrise to about 2pm, then the house creates full shade near the foundation. The azalea in the front loves this arrangement of sun and shade, but full-sun plants don't like it as much. Hostas would probably do well!

I think your idea about staggering the plant removal is brilliant. I was concerned about ripping out a ton of plants, but if I do it over the next few years it won't be nearly as scary!

You also make a very good point about perennials. I have definitely found that out the hard way around the mailbox. I think I'm going to move a lot of those plants somewhere else. This year I'm starting some annuals (impatients and pansies) and perennials that bloom summer to frost (dwarf Galliardia and Shasta Daisy) --hopefully they will help keep the front looking nicer longer.

Thank you again!! I really appreciate the feedback!!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 1:33PM
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Ok, I'm updating this very old thread with new pictures! We did a ton of stuff to the house. What do you guys think??

My favorite thing is the brick walkway and porch at the front door. It totally changes the approach to the house!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 10:07PM
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I think everything looks great!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 2:38PM
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