Hello and thank you!

franksmom_2010February 16, 2010

Hello! I just wanted to stop in and thank all of you who post here regularly. IÂm a new homeowner, and found the GW forums while on my quest to improve our landscaping. I have been reading through old threads for the past few weeks, and find myself extremely grateful for all of the wisdom and knowledge shared here.

WeÂve been in the house a few months, and spent the summer and fall doing mostly cleanup and removal. The property had been vacant for a while, so everything was either overgrown or dead, and full of weeds. We also have that horrible black clay soil, so IÂve been cultivating and improving the soil. I was all ready to start digging and planting in the spring, but realize now that we need to get gutters to address some drainage problems, and will need to probably regrade parts of the lawn.

We have lots of big plans for the property, but weÂve been unable to really articulate how all of that can be done to best improve both our enjoyment of it, and the aesthetics of the property. For example, the beds in the front have bugged me since day one, but I could never really say why. They were planted with some dwarf Yaupon hollies and Indian Hawthorne. Both plants are suitable for this area, and the size is appropriate for the size of the bed, but after looking at those shrubs for the gozillionth time, I finally realized that the combo makes sort of an evergreen meatball effect. TheyÂre not bad shrubs, but they could be so much better with some contrasting shapes, textures, and colors next to them. It took a lot of time and thought to finally see the overall effect, and realize what I didnÂt like about it. So it is with the rest of the place.

Anyway, after reading many, many pages about landscape design, I have decided not to jump into the spring planting frenzy. IÂm going to see about those gutters, and continue to improve our soil first. I am going to play around with some annuals, though. We really do need some color and texture -tan house with meatball shrubsÂugh boring, anyone? Besides, we still have plenty of other repairs and improvements to make to the rest of the place. In the meantime, weÂre going to really focus on what our needs are for the landscaping, and how best to go about that. IÂm going to keep reading this forum, and do a lot more reading and studying before we get much beyond that.

So, thanks to laag, saypoint, karenl, wellspring, duluth, nandina, and all of the other regulars who contribute so much! I feel just by reading your posts, I have gained a ton of insight, and most definitely saved a LOT of money and aggravation. IÂm sure IÂll be back with lots of questions (clean slate? ha!), and I promise not to storm off in a huff if I donÂt like the answers. Oh, and I promise not to EVER use red mulch or plant tree circles, but IÂm keeping my gnome. ;)

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LOL! Don't storm off! Have fun!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 12:50AM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

Welcome to this forum, franksmom, and enjoy! But it would be helpful to your many GW helpers if you'd fill out your "Mypage" information so we know what gardening zone you live in, what garden thoughts you might be having, the approx. region you live in -- only thing we don't need to know is your birthdate!


    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 9:04AM
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Use the clippings option on the forum to put these precious pearls of wisdom into your own on-line notebook. You can't buy a book with stuff like this in it, so go for it. It's all a bit interesting to the see this business from a different point of view.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 11:56AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Your gnome sounds as if he will likely eventually have a wonderful space. I think your restraint is admirable. I have learned all of what I know from the mistakes I've made so I'm glad they're benefitting someone! I went out and bought plants first (came to landscaping via plantaholicism). Your approach is so much wiser. The plants will always be available - the ability to arrange and re-arrange the space without having to move 67 plants will not.

Looking back to when I first started gardening up our place and what has happened in the interim, I think the one thing worth doing early would be dealing with the treescape. Unless it is right where your grading work will be done, and unless you really don't know yet where you will be sitting/working/walking, you may already be able to forecast your shade needs and buy your trees small (thus cheap) and enjoy their early years. Similarly, if there are big trees that you can foresee being a problem within say 5 or 10 years, it is worth removing them before you start. Or at the very least, plan and build your garden as if they are already gone so that when they are, you don't have to start over.

Looking forward to some vicarious gardening... easier on the back!

PS I think the clippings saved here disappear when the threads fall off the bottom, so anything I really want to keep I save to my own computer.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 2:47PM
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Hi everyone!

Carol-I've tried to go back and edit my member page, but GW keeps kicking me back to the sign in page. I'm in zone 8 TX.

Rhodium-I'm way ahead of you! I started cutting and pasting onto a Word document weeks ago. If anyone ever wants to write a design book, I've already got the first 10 pages or so started!

Karin-we're already addressing some trees! We have a Hackberry that's planted under the wires of a utility pole, and are already discussing it's demise. It's not touching anything yet, but it's also filled with mistletoe, so it's got to go! The prior owners had planted Crape Myrtles in the foundation beds (!!) so we've already moved those.

I guess I shouldn't give the impression that we haven't done any landscaping at all yet...about those Crapes...we have a large berm next to the driveway, and it was planted with boxwoods. The neighbor told us that the prior owners had those shrubs planted on the side of the house, and in the middle of summer (!!!) dug them up and planted them on the berm. Needless to say, the boxwoods died. We need the berm for drainage, so we took out the shrubs, tilled the whole thing up, added a lot of compost, etc., regraded it, and planted the Crapes along the top of the berm. I've planted some Knockout roses in between, and had started to fill in with some perennials. It's going to take a LOT of plants to make it not look like a hot mess, but I'm going to hold off and see how the Crapes and roses do. The berm has to stay one way or another, but what goes on it is still being negatiated.

I was reading a post by Laag way back, and he said something about getting the bones of the thing planted (with unity, structure, etc.) and then funk it up in between. I was thinking about what the basic structure of those berm plantings will be, and I think I need to fill in with a few more roses, and add some small evergreen plants to keep it from being a pile of dirt with sticks in the winter.

The beds around the house are going to stay as-is until the gutters are in. Even after ammending the soil and adding mulch, two of the beds turn into a bathtub after a heavy rain. There's no sense in killing plants by putting them there, and it would be a shame to put in anything, only to have it trampled by the gutter install.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 7:59PM
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Also for the berm some grasses will also give good interest during the winter months. Even the shrubs and trees are quite beautiful during this time. One thing that I saw on your original post that caught my eye is the fact that you are addressing the gutters. Consider this, rain gardening. The water from the downspots can be directed to the lawn or any type of garden structure. The idea is to disperse rain water into the yard or planting bed and keep it from going into storm drainage ponds etc... This could be done while you are going to do this job anyway. This also conserves water to just the area you want it and will reduce watering of planting bed. These beds can be as formal or informal as you would like. They do not have to be large to do the job and in some cases your city utilities, if you are in the city; will be reduced. We currently have a program where we will have our water bill reduced by using this system. Very eco friendly. Should help the property taxes as well. Just wanted you to know this is an option. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 12:30AM
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Wow! I had never considered TROPICAL!SHELL!LANDSCAPING!!
Gotta love those spammers.

Stormz, we were actually talking about getting a cistern, but that may end up being a little cost prohibitive. At the least, we would do rain barrels, but our neighbor just had her gutters directed into an irrigation system for her beds, so that's something to consider.

We don't live in the city, and we have co-op water, which is ridiculously cheap. Usually our monthly bill is less than $20, but as we add plants, a vegetable garden, chickens, etc., that will change, so any way that we can recycle the rain water seems like a good idea.

I agree about the grasses. There is some liriope already planted in the foundation beds, and some of it needs thinning out, and some just needs to be removed, so when it ever dries out here, I'm going to transplant it onto the berm. I'm also going to try a santolina. I'd love to have more gray/blue toned foliage, but I may not have the drainage that santolina needs.

Oh, and I caved in and bought just a few little annuals to put just in one little corner of the flower beds. After all of that work in the summer, I dig in my spade, and it's wet sticky clay! Still! I thought I had done an ok job of cultivating and ammending, but turns out it still needs work. Maybe I'll get lucky and the privet will drown?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 10:27AM
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And about that berm...like I said, we need the berm for drainage. Part of the property had some slight terracing done many years ago, and the neighbors have all said that it helped a lot to redirect the water. The property has just a gently rolling surface now.

You can see the berm from several places within the house, and a small patio looks out directly to it, so we wanted to plant something attractive there. We also wanted some screening from it, because the view from that patio looks out onto the neighbors not very attractive barn and backyard. My fear is that if we really plant it up, then all of the focus from the front yard will be on the berm, not the house. I may have to post some pics for you guys to see what I mean, but I'm torn between wanting lots of pretty plants and flowers, and not wanting it to scream "look at me!" Does that make sense?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2010 at 10:55AM
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