Newbie desperately seeking help for front yard

chrisash(8)March 16, 2012

Hi Everyone,

Purchased this home last year and current project is front yard. Front of home faces north and is primarily a shaded area. I checked the shade line at 8am, 1pm, and 4pm. There never is truly a huge amount of sunlight hitting anywhere on the north and east side of the home. Soil drains well based on the dig hole, fill with water, wait test. Currently planted in front are dwarf indian hawthorns and some other shrubs (mostly dead) that no one can identify. On each side of garage door is a sky pencil holly. My initial ideas:

(1) hostas plus astilbe in the flowerbed by the entrance, (2) in front keep the hawthornes and add hydrangeas,

(3) west wall, knockout roses,

(4) east (left fence) no ideas. Neighbor planted knockout roses but I don't think adequate sun exposures occurs.

Yes, the yard is also horrible. It was primarily weeds. I am working on it too. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. From House for GardenWeb Forum From House for GardenWeb Forum

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Other than that tree peeking over the house from the back yard, it seems that that there are no street trees, shrubby trees around the house or flowering trees anywhere in the yard. The lack of trees contributes to an "army base" look for the neighborhood.

Is the shrub arrangement alternating varieties?

You could post two more pics: one taken in line w/ L side of house (from the street) and another that shows the entrance porch and planting bed from closer up.

And what kind of look are you aiming for ...cottage garden?... basic, simple landscaping?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 4:57PM
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Sarcococca,Illicium,ferns, too in shade.Somewhere could get more sunlight far from windows.Alocasia,Wild ginger,squill,J-maple...can plant.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 5:07PM
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As there are no trees in the front of the house what creates the shade?

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 6:42PM
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Thanks everyone for your responses. Yardvaark, I have provided the requested pictures. There are no trees on the property. The backyard looks like the front minus the shrubs. Yes, the shrubs are alternating varieties. The shade comes from the house (front faces north). I love cottage gardens but I not sure I have the appropriate skill level. I have been reading books, ripping pages out of magazines, etc. No one uses as a model the plain architecturally boring ranch. The standard in my and surrounding neighborhood seems to be a line of shrubs (many of which are blocking windows or cut in one big square block) and a couple of Bradford pears. Designoline thanks for the plants and idea. Question, however, would it not not look strange if there were no foundation plants/shrubs? From House for GardenWeb Forum From House for GardenWeb Forum

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 8:11PM
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Not look strange.Only some gardens need foundation plants/shrubs.If it were your prefer,you plant Pachysandras,Ferns,Hostas...Or,maybe plant mature Mockorange--the roots can plant under the windows in shade,the leafs out the shade,to get some sunlight.
Your windows need some change too.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2012 at 9:45PM
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Alternating shrubs is not a good look. I'd change that no matter what. Since half are dead, it should be an easy decision. I'd also get rid of the 'Sky Pencils' at the garage as vertically dividing the already narrow brick walls behind them is not going to be an advantage.

I'm not suggesting you copy the bad ideas that are in your neighborhood. Or go in a wildly different direction than the flavor on the street. That'd be up to you. I only asked about the style to know if I'm able to help. If you're interested in basic landscaping, I could make suggestions starting with places for plant masses... what general forms could go where. Your "foundation" has nothing ugly to cover up. The only plants I'd put against it are where there is space void of architectural interest... which would only be a little under the windows and a little at the garage side wall.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 1:18AM
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Obviously, you're not getting a great deal of precipitation. Practically everything you've mentioned will need frequent supplemental watering. Probably just a matter of time before those sky pencil hollies croak. If you don't want to get into a major reconfiguration of your yard, you would do well to reflect on the virtues of "tried and true," with respect to both design and plant selection. Your options are limited--not enough sun for blooming shrubs, and too much for aspidistra. There is a place, in the scheme of things, for boxwood, dwarf yaupon, nandina and perennials such as pavonia.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 7:30AM
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Even though we haven't heard a definitive statement about the design direction you want to go, here's a stab at a layout for some basic landscaping... applying my "formula" as I have fun practicing. I'm ignoring some opportunities in favor of others. I'll let other forum members address things they think are of greater concern. It's a scheme. Nothing is immune from being tweaked or manipulated by real life concerns. Also, I don't show every plant detail that there could be; there are places where adding further details would be an enhancement to the scheme. And if I were doing this on a plan, I'm sure I would add more. There are discrepancies from one picture to the other because it's hard to draw with great precision at very small scale. Even though some plants jump out at me as likely contenders, the picture is not indicating what any specific plant is... just general form. For example, the plant under the tree with the blue flowers might be end up being Hosta. So don't take the drawing literally for every detail. It's meant to suggest a general direction and plan of attack. Also, because your original picture doesn't show what's at far left and right, I just guess and make it up and it's subject to being wrong. But it still suggests a general approach that might work with a little adapting. I'm all for a couple of street trees, but here again, I wouldn't take the placement literally. I'm mostly trying to keep them out of the way of other things in the drawing.

I'm trying not to barricade or obscure the entrance. While I normally try not to place plants in front of windows, I think the distance between the windows on the porch and the multi-trunk tree in front is great enough to allow it. I think the area needs the small tree to give a sense of shelter (almost as if it was a domed awning) and to address the large blank space on the garage wall. The "ceiling" would need to be kept high to permit as much light as possible and then only plants tolerating or liking shade could grow as soon as conditions were stabile.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 1:00PM
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    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 3:16PM
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Oh my gosh!!!! Yardvaark, thank you so much. This is exactly what I needed, somewhere to at least start. I can rearrange a room so easily but for the life of me couldn't visualize the yard. This design fits the neighborhood and is not the boring boxwood only. The gardens will be projects for my eight year old daughter and I. She loves your concept. We already had the house dimensions on grid paper, now we will add bed dimensions and read about more plants. Will post plant selections etc when finished. Again, thank you and all others who offered advice to a newbie.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 3:31PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

It would be helpful to have a little more info on your location and climate where you are, as zone 8 conditions vary so widely across the country. It would also be useful to know whether you have an existing irrigation system or need to hand water, and whether selecting plants for drought tolerance is important or not. As an example, the hostas, astilbes and hydrangeas all prefer regular summer water, much more so than the Indian Hawthorns you have there now.

If I were to guess on your location, it looks like you could be in Texas. As to more interesting flowering evergreen shrubs for the front, zone 8 climates have quite a few to select from. I'd also suggest that those Pencil Cypress at the garage are going to get too big for that spot as they mature, maybe you could move them to the back garden. In case you weren't aware, Bradford Pears are often considered a sort of weed tree for gardens, as they too often split limbs as they get larger, they are much better choices for shade trees with seasonal interest. That square planter off the entry walk probably does offer an opportunity for a small flowering or accent tree or large shrub, but I'd be hesitant to locate something like a Crapemyrtle in that spot unless you're prepared to regularly thin and prune it.

Anyways, knowing your location, need for irrigation or not, would help give you more targeted advice. Quite a few things will readily grow along a north facing wall without direct sun, especially if not further shaded out by trees.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 5:10PM
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My actual zone is 8a. I live in northwest MS. My lawn looks horrible because it has been treated (not my idea). It was simply clover, crabgrass, and something called wire grass. Hopefully when the guys finish it will be green and pretty. Yes, I had read that Bradford pears were not desirable. I will be hand watering but that is okay. I welcome all plant suggestions. This has truly been and still is a learning experience for my daughter and I. Thanks.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 6:36PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I think it is good that Yardvaark was able to give you a sketch that helps you visualize some things, although each of us would probably have drawn something slightly different (well, except for me since I can't draw :-)).

I like that Yardvaark has drawn deeper foundation beds - that is one solution to the fact that foundation beds are often dry and deadly places for plants to try to grow. Especially north facing, you can get more light further away from the house too, and planting that way allows you to keep the house wall clear of foliage, probably better for both plants and house. Personally, I would not put a foundation planting at your house, but think it could work with the right plants - per Whitecap, above, and also ferns/hostas/hellebores and many others. Rhodos, if they grow in your area.

The one thing I think I would alter in Yardvaark's design is the multitrunk tree at the door. Because it's north-facing, this would darken the doorway and that window too much for my taste, and I think I would keep plantings there low - possibly very low. Not sure if you have a need for privacy on the porch vis a vis across the street, let's say, but if not, I would almost stay with perennials. Might be a nice place for Sarcococca, you might catch the fragrance and it's evergreen, and its wandering habits would be confined.

I do agree with the bed coming away from the house on the left, and with the addition of trees out front. As an aside, there is one thing that better nestles a house into a site than anything else, and that, funnily enough, is trees in the back. Since that's south facing, perhaps you'll want some there, and help improve the front view at the same time!

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 17, 2012 at 8:43PM
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