I could really use your thoughts.

megsyMarch 17, 2010

This forum scares me a little. You guys are so knowledgeable and I'm just a home-grown gardener.

I'm from Lafayette, Louisiana but we just moved to a Houston suburb last May. I've been struggling with what most transplants to this area probably struggle with: curb appeal on a house that looks just like my neighbor's.

Here's what we started with:

And where we are now with the trees trimmed, wax myrtle, sago palm and boxwoods removed:

We're painting as soon as we get approval from the HOA (ugh) and the scheme should hopefully go something like this:

And here's a rough draft I've planned out in some landscaping software. The images are stock to the program so it's a really rough draft:

I'm not sold on the agapanthus because they don't bloom for long enough. I'm thinking perhaps hydrangeas where they are but it will leave us with a completely bare bed on the right come fall and I'd like to have something that stays green year round.

I'm open to any thoughts and suggestions, though I have to say that this isn't our forever home so we're not looking to invest an enormous amount of money into this. Just a little curb appeal and a way to make this home-in-a-box feel more like home.

If I could wave my magic wand, we'd curve the sidewalk and extend the beds but the truth is that the beds work right now. They have good soil and they're deep enough for a layered look.

If you've read all this, you're a saint.

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I'm just a homeowner but trimming that green vine up the house would be a nightmare, You would have to have a very tall ladder & there is a step there at the bottom. No way would I even trim it once. To grow that tall it must have some pretty strong roots so might do damage on ground,too. Rest is pretty tho!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 1:48AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I'm glad you decided to post here, Megsy. I hope someone can help with the question that prompted me to suggest that you do so, because I cannot formulate a reasoned opinion about those holly bushes that currently function as (forgive me!) the house's moustache. In fact, I can't quite formulate a rationale for this house to have foundation planting at all, and I do hope someone else can do either that, or suggest an alternative.

For me, the house is just too tall and the yard too short for the foundation planting to work in any positive way. It evokes that dreaded "this house fell from outer space and landed on this shrubbery" feel. Plus the shrubbery is too tall for the windows but I can't convince myself it would look any better trimmed shorter.

I was wondering whether a hedge like this but perpendicular to the house, along the property line perhaps, would be a better anchor for decorative plantings that could also extend along the public sidewalk.

I've linked below to your thread on the home dec forum. It contains a lot of discussion about window boxes and paint colours, but also some more pictures of the property that gave me a better feel than the few posted here.


Here is a link that might be useful: Thread on Home Dec

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 12:17PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Hello, St. Cyr here. ; ) Although your last photos are taken peering between the trees, I see those trees are still there. Back up to photo #1 -- no amount of colorful frippery will help the curb appeal when the main features of the house are obscured behind those trees. I'd have left the sago (the distinct shape and form add interest) and removed the tree near the driveway. Was the sago infested with scale? Sunnyca is correct about the vine, a real nightmare and potentially house-damaging scenario.

My taste is different from yours, so this is a subjective observation, but I think your house would look better with more forceful, complex colors in the plantings. It may just be the photo combined with the software, but the soft pinkish-yellowish things and weak greens don't do much for the house. Maybe the yellow needs a little more bite to it? Can you grow lavenders or salvia leucantha?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 12:39PM
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Some quick thoughts. Forget the vine. All of them, creeping fig, ivy, Smilax present control and training problems.

You might consider contacting a metal artisan who makes gates, fences to design a simple metal sculpture to be placed in the space above the front door. If your HOA will allow such piece it would help to 'break' the house height viewed from the street.

This house needs evergreen plantings, both green and variegated. Consider planting all the flower colors of Encore azaleas which bloom from spring to late fall mixed with variegated Daphne Carol Mackie (or other variegated shrubs) plus hydrangea varieties which can be cut back to the ground every fall for additional color and texture during the growing season.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 2:56PM
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I think the style of the house is probably Victorian with a bit of Neoclassic thrown in.

Apart from the pink bricks it is the stretched look that makes the house awkward and these are the things you should attend to before moving on to the more exciting part. Toning down the paintwork is the easiest way to deal with the brick problem and brown is my suggestion, just be careful not to go too far and cause a jarring effect due to too much contrast. If you can, paint the motif above the windows the same colour

The vine is going to be a pain in the ass so forget that but something hanging in the space above the door might help. It is a pity you can't knock out the odd window and put in another two feet higher and with a Palladian top, that would solve that problem a window box would help if it is big enough but shutters would not work. I don't see the need for foundation planting especially as it forces you to line up your suggested planting like ducks at a firing range. Take them out and rearrange that front area with a bit more movement (variety of height shape and texture).

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 4:51PM
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This I just thought of or maybe I am channeling kim but yellow in the window boxes is wrong and a vibrant red would look much better.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 6:46PM
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The two trees out front essentially make the house insignificant leaving the driveway and garage to dominate your landscape.

Celebrate your house. It is vertical in the middle, but the design of the extension to the left and garage to the right does not make it awkward at all in my opinion. The white wall of your neighbor's house is a tougher thing to mitigate. The more that you can bring the attention to the middle part of the house, the less that neighbor's house wall will be a factor.

I'd like to remove both trees and put a/some columnar tree(s) nearest to the left property line close to your house. A quarter circle bed swinging out from the left side of the walk to the property line in response to a deep and massy planting to make the space in front of the door the center of the composition.

I make the analogy of how people look into a landscape as being like a breeze. If there is something in the way it goes to the path of least resistance. If you put some (not necessarily total) resistance it changes direction. Also, be careful not to split the breeze (focus) which is easy to do when you weight things to heavy in the middle. This house is easy to deal with if the front door (not the top of the entry) is where you direct the attention.

Aside: these garage doors should match your front door, a pergola across the front of the garage sticking out three or four feet and extending 4-6' past the end of the house might help quite a bit. Windows across the very top of your garage doors might help as well.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 7:25AM
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Thank you all so much for your responses! You guys are great.

A few things before I respond individually. Our HOA has ridiculous rules about landscaping. Every house must have two trees out front: a pine and an oak. So unfortunately, removing them is not an option. Trimming them helped a ton and you can now at least see the house.

Sunnyca, I know what you mean about creeping fig. I just love it so much. *sob* And the houses around here that have it are freaking adorable. I know how much work they are (as does DH) and I even tried to talk him out of it yesterday because I know it can be damaging to the mortar.

KarinL, I know exactly what you're talking about re: outer space. It's something I hate about this house too. Worse yet, it's closer to the street than my neighbors so it looks even more awkward.

(In case any of you are wondering why we bought such a house; we moved here for DH's job and chose this suburb for (a) the school [we have four kids] and (b) the commute. This house was probably the 70th we looked at and the layout inside is perfect for us which was more important to me than the exterior.)

Catkim, the Sago was removed because we simply don't like them. I know that's somewhat of a sin in the landscaping world! The windowbox with the yellow flowers was one I googled. I'm not going to be using yellow in the box. Possibly geraniums with maybe varigated vinca vine. We can definitely grow lavendar and salvia here.

Nandina, that's an exceptional idea. I'm pretty sure they'd allow it. Another poster suggested that when we replace the lantern to have it hang lower to that space between the door and the window. Thoughts?

Inkognito, we're definitely painting the motifs above the windows. They're so "hey look at me!!" the color that they are. We actually might mix some water with paint and use it as a stain.

laag, we were hoping to build a pergola/arbor/trellis (whatever they're called) in front of the garage with something like clematis or mandevilla growing from either side. My only concern about whether I want to pretend the garage isn't there or just celebrate it, kwim? Not "celebrate it" but just incorporate it since it's obviously there and there to stay. Also, I'm pretty sure once we paint, it's going to inpsire my neighbor to do the same. Her landscaping is fantastic and her taste inside her home is nice.

You've all given us plenty to think about and I'm anxious for DH to read this thread.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2010 at 9:55AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Very interesting about the trees. I wonder if HOAs ever hire landscape designers before they make their rules??? Especially given the issue that if all the trees are planted at the same time, they will all mature and eventually die/be taken down at the same time, generating a moonscape. Someday I'm going to have to take the time to learn about HOAs and why they make such bizarre decisions, since we don't seem to have them in Canada. (Not that we don't also get bizarre decisions, but by different means!).

Maybe you can play with an early tree replacement schedule, put in new ones where they would be better placed and take these ones down once those grow to a decent size. Pruning away more from the centre than from the outside of the canopy will perhaps help if you don't do that.

On the more immediate level, it does sound as though moving the mass of evergreenery away from the house and more specifically away from the door might be doable. There was another thread around here about a house with a "welcome to my garage" look that generated an interesting (though lengthy) discussion that might interest you regarding making space around the front door.

Side note to Inkognito: all very nicely put!


Here is a link that might be useful: Welcome to my garage thread

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 11:30AM
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I like the idea of lower-growing broadleaved evergreens and some others for contrast, and you have lots of choices in Houston.

If you really like a lot of color and want that in your front yard, I think the best way to do that in Houston is to keep some areas for annuals. I don't recall your sun or shade conditions but 'tis no matter, you can choose from a huge array, impatiens & caladiums for shade, lots of choices, but in Houston the annuals will look good for ? 8 months or so and can't be beat by shrubs and perennials, at least not as well in a small space and with less planning and luck re: bloom times. It can be more tricky than sometimes acknowledged to keep re-planting annuals amongst shrubs, but if you plan for it it can be done. Downside is, if you don't make time to go to the garden store in the spring (or grow your own transplants), you don't got nuttin' except your shrub backbone.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2010 at 5:27PM
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