Landscape Design input wanted!

nycynthias(Z6 NY)March 25, 2009

Hi all! We're in the middle of a massive landscaping project and our contractor (who's doing all the hardscaping, pool, fencing, etc.) sent me a few computer renderings of the possible finished product. We are in Zone 6, Westchester County NY. Since I will be doing all the planting and maintenance myself, I would like to do a sanity check before investing a huge amount of time and $$$ into the wrong plants! Figured I'd ask the experts here to avoid mistakes.

First up: this exposure faces south/southwest and gets plenty of sun.

Here's what I'm thinking of using. *Suggestions welcome* and your experiences with these plants, good or bad, would be really helpful!

Tree: pink flowering dogwood (not Kousa because of the mess).

Light green shrubs: Little Princess Spirea

Darker green shrubs: Compact Inkberry

Daffs for the spring/possibly daylilies in that spot for summer?

In front of that, either catmint or salvia, since we have tons of deer and they'll leave them alone.

Groundcover: vinca minor. I'll need edging to keep it in bounds, yes? How far apart should I plant them in order to get nice full coverage quickly?

Second area I'd like some help with--this exposure is basically due south and gets full sun, though the wall with the chimney is actually facing east and therefore gets shade in the afternoon.

Again the tree would be a pink flowering dogwood.

The blue things I awkwardly Photoshopped would be either Endless Summer hydrangeas or Nikko Blue hydrangeas. Opinions on these? Is one better than the other in our area?

In front of the fence, he sketched in light pink flowering shrubs, but I'm leaning more toward a hedge of Double Knockout Roses. Since our house is red (but not as orange as the image makes it look) which color would work best here, the original red, or the pink?

At the corner of the house would be a Butterfly Bush/Buddleia--Nanho Purple? I have had great luck with one on the other side of the house so am thinking of just transplanting that one there.

To the far left of the image are more clumsily Photoshopped blue hydrangeas as this area is fairly shady after midday due to rooflines. I'd use catmint or salvia in front of the hedge and then vinca minor again.

As far as deer, planting unpalatable items in front of them has worked well for us, which is why catmint figures heavily in this plan for protecting both the hydrangeas and the roses. It's worked just as well as deer repellant for our herds.

Thoughts? If you hate the idea of the Dbl KO rose hedge, can you tell me why exactly and offer some alternatives? Thank you in advance!!

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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

I generally like the layered look you have going, although in the second pic I'd want a little more structure to the planting, although I can't say exactly what is missing. Maybe more textural contrast?

I don't want to annoy you, but I like the house colors and I like the garden colors, but not together. Mostly it's the dark pink tree with the red house, but it could be the over-saturated photoshop fantasy doing that. Makes me wish the house were grey or blue or green or brown or yellow. But if the house is already red, maybe select a white flowering tree? Or one with burgundy foliage?

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 6:10PM
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I agree with Catkim. I love what is going on but the tree and house color clash. All of the plantings are gorgeous!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 7:11PM
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In real life, the colors will probably clash less - but I'd still be cautious about red KO roses, since they have a long blooming season. I've seen lots of red-flowering Paul's Scarlet hawthorns in front of red houses in Sweden - they look OK, especially when there are white-flowering things nearby.
I'd like to break up the row of roses with something dark green, and maybe a Hakuro Nishiki willow.
The sketch has all the plants flowering simultaneously - try doing sketches for different seasons, and you may even find yourself wanting more color.
The plants you have are fairly low-maintenance. Vinca spreads by above-ground stolons, not by roots, so edging won't be of help there. As an alternative for sunny spots, I'd consider Cerastium (silvery foliage, white flowers) or creeping Sedum.
Q: Is your soil acid enough for the hydrangeas to flower bright blue?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 6:33AM
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nycynthias(Z6 NY)

Thanks everyone! I have babies to tend to right now so will have to come back and reply in detail once they're happy--but I appreciate the input so far! Please keep it comin :)
BTW the house is already red.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 7:47AM
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nycynthias(Z6 NY)

OK, the babies were pretty cooperative so I'm back. I have 9-month-old twins, which is one reason the majority of our intended plantings are low maintenance!

So--it sounds like you guys tend to think the intense pink dogwood and red house really really clash. I had wondered about that too, but in real life the house is a darker red/not as orange as in the photo, and I doubt the dogwood would be such a bright fuchsia, so I left it in the rendering. I'm wondering if a white flowering tree might be too bland? I want the flowers to stand out because we have some really long winters around here and big splashes of color are really welcome in the spring!

Good point about everything blooming at once in the rendering--I think he intended the pink shrubs to be spirea, which would bloom in the spring along with the vinca and dogwood. Changing the shrubs on the second photo to KO roses (probably pink because I do think the red of the KOs is going to clash with the house) would mean that we'd have the dogwood/other tree as a focal point in the early spring and then it would take a back seat to the roses in June. That is actually what I wanted to accomplish.

As for textural interest, I see what you're saying. I might add some iris here and there, for a vertical accent and additional color-bridging. I can also see adding a fountain grass or two, far enough away from the tree so the heights don't clash (there's another 60' or so of fence that you can't see in the rendering). Knowing me, as time allows I will also probably add some daylilies in front and then just keep adding and adding to eventually end up with a pretty deep perennial border.

Timbu, where would you place the Hakuro Nishiki willow?

One reason we went for vinca as the groundcover is that it's evergreen--I don't think there are all that many other options for evergreen ground covers in sun, right? I'm not a huge fan of pachysandra. I like the look of cerastium but how does it spread? Can I keep it in bounds with edging at all? I don't want to spend a lot of money putting in a brand new lawn (we currently have none b/c of all the construction) only to have it overtaken by snow in the summer ;)

I wanted to mention, BTW--these are only two fairly small pieces of the overall garden plan. These two areas are meant to be a little restrained since they're in the front and will ultimately get the least amount of energy expended on them in the long run. We have a huge backyard filled with planting spaces of all varieties, from full sun to full shade, and there's not a darn thing in it right now other than a very large hole (the soon to be pool) and a lot of mature trees several hundred feet from the house. Once the pool is complete, fencing is in, etc., we'll be spending all of our time in the warm months in the back yard. That's where I plan to go nuts with mixed borders, grasses, tulips, iris, lilies, the works!

About deer: nearly all the hydrangeas in this plan are behind a fence guarded by two large deer-hating dogs. The fence will be 4' picket in two small areas as you can see, but the rest of the yard (several acres) will be fenced with 8' deer fencing on cedar posts. I'm hopeful that will at least discourage them, if not totally deter them. We're still leaving them about 2 acres of open space to travel through . Since we live right next door to 150 undeveloped acres, wildlife traffic is just something we know will occur. The coyotes help, though.

Last thing for now--our soil is on the acid side, enough to get blue blooms out of hydrangeas so far. I assume that I will probably have to test and amend every year to keep them happy, but that's a tiny price to pay!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 8:30AM
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I have a very isolated observation that might need some input from others as to whether it would be a problem--the vinca is a spreading groundcover and will not stay nicely in front of your plantings, but will spread among them. That works well for underplanting trees and large shrubs, along with spring bulbs popping through, but it can compete with perennials and smaller things.

So do you want it to perform as a groundcover throughout the beds, or do you instead want a low evergreen edging plant of some kind?

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 2:34PM
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nycynthias(Z6 NY)

Oh good point, Frankie. Hmm. I really wanted a low evergreen edging plant. Would liriope work, I wonder? Not 100% sure it's evergreen here in Z6 but it may be.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 7:32PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Evergreen is a bit of an inaccurate word - it suggests a stagnant plant, but in fact you always only have the new year's foliage along with all the dead stuff of former years. So to provide a constant appearance, you are actually having to manage a constant process of renewal happening along stems and branches. It's actually not all that easy if you don't want the plant to expand its territory. And vinca DOES NOT meekly stay within its assigned boundaries. It will be all you have in those beds before long.

I don't know your zone but frankly I would look for a herbaceous perennial that has a long foliage season because it is essentially self-renewing on the spot, if that makes sense. For me, that might be hellebores that would be flowering now and have emerging foliage now, lasting as long into the winter as I care to leave it. There may be ferns that do the same thing, and if the soil is moist there are some that are sun tolerant, small grasses...maybe Alchemilla mollis? (It does self-seed if not deadheaded). Look around at what is emerging earliest in your area. Hostas would look nice, but tend to emerge later.

As for house clash with flower colour, certain pinks and reds go well together and even if they don't it's not a crime to clash for the few weeks the tree blooms. Besides, if you want the colour to be visible to you INSIDE the house, then it doesn't matter if it goes. My best early blooming tree is Hamamelis Diane, which has grow into a tree and is pretty easy on the eyes the rest of the year except for its rootstock suckers. It looks great from my kitchen against the neighbour's grey house, and it doesn't matter a lick to me how it looks from the outside against my orange house!


    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 9:31PM
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I would suggest a tri-color beech tree instead of the dogwoods.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 9:05AM
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I love your house and the landscape composition. I wanted pink dogwoods but settled for pink crepe myrtles because of the sun exposure. If you can have them, that's what I would go with; I don't think the pink and the red clash at all. The actual color is softer than what is in your image. Are you going to add any blue spruce to the plan? I see alot of Spring/Summer plants but you need to consider the fall/winter months as well. That's where some of the grasses, conifers could add some punch to the landscape.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 12:39PM
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nycynthias(Z6 NY)

enailes, good call--we actually planted 27 spruces last fall throughout the property, including about 10 blue spruce and the rest norways. That cost a mint since we bought 8-footers and had them professionally planted, but we really needed them after removing generations worth of overgrown and neglected trees. We do have plans for more evergreens, including a dwarf (Globosa?) blue spruce in front of a stone wall, etc. They're just not shown in these images, but that's just because we have a lot of ground to cover!
We haven't really planned for much evergreen foliage in the second photo because that side of the house isn't really visible unless you're actually using the outdoor spaces. The first photo has a huge Norway on the far left and then several more between the house and barn (out of frame). Also in the first photo, the largest foundation plants are evergreens.
I am a big fan of grasses, though, and may very well add in some tall ornamental grasses in the second view, just for added winter interest.

karinl, I see your point about the term evergreen. I have pretty much decided against the vinca for all the reasons everyone has pointed out; now I'm giving this some more thought. I definitely don't want hostas, that much I know...alchemilla is a good thought though I was hoping for something slightly flatter to the ground for that layer (and I don't want yellow). Not crazy about ferns either, just in general, though of course I do have a full shade bed that is stocked with some ferns. Hmmm. This is a tough one.

You sort of said what I was thinking about the dogwoods--the color is inaccurate in the photo, for one thing. And really I don't care if it clashes with the house, since we'll be looking at it from indoors! This particular area is far from the driveway, entry, etc. so guests won't see it either, and we're set several hundred feet back from the road with mature 80'+ evergreens and similarly mature deciduous trees blocking the view of the house from the road.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 1:27PM
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Have you considered the non-flowering lambs-ear to replace the vinca as a ground cover. The texture and color (blue/green) provide nice contrasts and is often used for edging beds.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 2:02PM
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nycynthias(Z6 NY)

You know, I hadn't thought of that. I am wondering if it might be a little too light colored, but when I have some time I might do a quick mockup to check it out.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 4:06PM
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nycynthias(Z6 NY)

I found time :-p
I mocked up lambs ears as well as adding some pink daylilies for extra color and some bee balm near the gate. What do you think? It's definitely a bit of a softer look, more pastelly.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 4:33PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

How about Bergenia? I just bought a nice white-flowering one today, and of course you can get the red-foliaged ones.

Otherwise I'd agree that Stachys would work if you like the colour scheme. Have you considered any sedums, if they are hardy for you?


    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 9:25PM
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nycynthias(Z6 NY)

Well back to the drawing board on the ground cover/edging issue--I showed this picture to my husband and he (who knows next to nothing about plants) immediately said "are those lambs ears? I hate them." LOL! He's like an art critic: doesn't know much, but he knows what he likes.

karinl, I hadn't thought of sedums there, mainly because the deer decimate them in my front gardens. I think I'm going to move all the sedums I have to the fenced-in area once the fence goes up.

Hey--what about artemisia frigida or lactiflora (both low growing)? Anyone ever used tried these for bed edging?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 2:54PM
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I would not choose inknberry, they become very leggy after snow, and growth. Also vinca does not need border edge. Just trim it

    Bookmark   September 17, 2011 at 11:59AM
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I think your design ideas look fantastic! The colors don't clash at all. There's a HUGE difference between how colors look on a monitor vs. real life. Go with the pink Dogwood! It'll look great. Your comps are presented very professionally as well. Take Care!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2011 at 4:10PM
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flora2b(z6a bc)

Do you have any after pics of your landscape. I would have suggested heather or calluna as a front border plant....lots of evergreen types and the deer here aren't interested in them. I have had to move all my roses to a fenced area so hope your catmint idea worked if that's what you chose to do.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 11:45AM
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