Flowerbed Design

andrewxltMarch 21, 2012

I am new to the forums but have read them for a while. I am having design issues with a front flowerbed of my house. It currently has two rose bushes and a sickly looking crepe myrtle in it. Also the landscape edging is terrible. Any ideas as to what I could do to get it better? I live on the Gulf Coast of Alabama.


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ya got yourself a cute little helper.. you could ask him. :)

I'm not from your area, so can't really offer any suggestions for plantings, but I do want to encourage you to re do that edging business.

I think a shot of the whole front of the house and lawn would help us see that bed in context, to make better suggestions for size and shape of it as well as edging materials.

What kind of grass do you have growing in the lawn?
What direction does the front of your house face?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 3:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the response, yeah he is a great helper, loves to tear things apart :)

The edging is the worst part, any suggestions of a good type of edging, I live on a slope and the edging shifts a lot. I will provide more pictures later today. My house faces east and the lawn is centipede, which is currently struggling but i am working on getting it back.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 4:05PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Suggestions of edging material would depend on what we see in those photos you're going to put up. :)

I'm not familiar with centipede grass. I'll have to go read up on it.

check out the link for a great thread on grass and getting it looking good.. Its in the Texas Forum but the info should still apply to you.

We quit the lawn service in our back yard and are doing the program outlined in this thread instead. So far its looking great!

Here is a link that might be useful: Top Dressing the lawn

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 4:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

A brick edge would match your house.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 4:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would suggest maybe going edgeless but it looks like you have some land issues where the pile of twigs are. If the ground keeps getting washed away you're going to have constant maintenance there until you address it.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 4:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

These are some more pictures, I am open to any suggestions, pictures whatever. I really have no idea what to do and thats why I need help. Thank you in advance.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 7:27PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Only change some the bed are not enough.curb appeal need a nice allover frame.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 8:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Here's examples of edging that require no material. Below them, a brick mowing strip. Bricks are set, more or less, flush with the grade.

But edging will only help so much. There's several things going on here that could be improved. The crape myrtle will look better if you don't round it when lopping off the top. Cut straight across. In my picture I'm mainly trying to illustrate a way to arrange plant mass. I don't think I moved the crape far enough left. I think I would consider some nice shutters for the main window. (There's just a touch too much blank space on wall.)

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 8:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for all the ideas, question for you yardvaark, the picture you created showing the myrtle to the far left, my wife loves that idea, can you tell me what ground cover that is and what is under the myrtle. She really likes the simplicity of the layout compared to the mess we have now :)

Also any thoughts on the other side of the house for those beds?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 9:20PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
natal(Louisiana 8b)

If you're thinking about moving the tree buy a new one instead. That tree has been butchered. Proponents of that type of "pruning" will tell you that it gives more blooms, which it does. It also weakens the tree and makes it more susceptible to disease.

Here is a link that might be useful: Stop Crape Murder

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 10:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The plant below the crape could be any shrub or groundcover in the 2' - 3' ht. range: Dwarf Indian Hawthorn or Dwarf Nandina would be a couple of examples. Or a bed of evergreen ferns. The groundcover is anything in the 6" - 12" ht. range: Ajuga or Dwarf Mondo Grass would be examples, but I'm sure there are plenty more. Check with local suppliers to see what's available for these types of plants in your area. 30 or 40 Caladiums bulbs at 4" spacing would be an easy care choice for the annual color.

I would relocate the crape asap (before it leafs out) to a better position. Each year increase the height at which it's lopped until you reach 9' or 10'. There's no point in having the foliage mass in your face instead of above your head... or in your house's face.

On my list of "do's and don'ts"... placing plant material so that it obliterates attractive architectural features is a "don't." It would be good, at minimum, to remove the trees and shrubs from in front of the windows. Your yard needs a makeover as there's little of merit of either plants or landscape beds. If a person has a passion for horticulture & design and the ability to conceive quality images in their mind that can be turned into real world landscapes and is willing to put in the time and effort it takes to commit the information to a plan, I'd say go for it. But if not, the easy way out is to hire a landscape designer. As long as you select a designer who works in the style that interests you, you'll easily save $ in the long run... probably the short run, too. If you need assistance, send me a private email. (Just click on my name.) To do it yourself, you'll start by creating a base plan, to scale, which shows the existing features of your property.... the house, drive, walks, major plantings, etc. Then work out the bed layout and plantings. Doing it yourself and getting help on the forum is certainly possible, but it will be up to you to decipher the advice you get. There are many pros and plant-knowledgeable people here, but the styles they (myself included) like and work in--and consequently the advice they give--lean in wildly varied directions. A landscape designed by a committee will be as good as soup made by 6 different chefs.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 11:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That's odd, because the more I cut mine back, the more determined they seem to reach up to where I don't want them. I've got one, a good 30 years old, that thinks it's an Oregon Coast Redwood. As a stand-alone specimen, it would make a more attractive tree (a good 30 ft. tall) if left unpruned. That, however, is not the reason for its existence. Its sole purpose is to substitute a nice display of bloom and foliage for the view of the property on the other side of the fence. That requires severe pruning, starting at about 6 ft. It's all about keeping the leaves and blooms subordinate to the overall landscape design. Andre's tree will look none the worse for pruning, as soon as it leafs out.

I haven't perused that link, but I'm familiar with the argument. We're told that, if your crape myrtle has become too tall, serves you right for having not selected a shorter maturing variety to begin with. I derive little comfort from such "advice." Another thing: the taller varieties of crape myrtles will give you much larger and attractive trunks, and will grow much faster than their shorter counterparts. Mine have, anyway.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 11:43AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

While I'll agree on the basic fact that Crape Myrtles are frequently "maimed and murdered" (disfigured) I disagree on the vast majority of claims, theories and advice in Greg Grant's article referenced above. There is good reason to pollard crapes (and many other plants) and a way to do it that increases, not diminishes the plant's overall attractiveness.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 11:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Its amazing how similar your house/front yard is to mine!

Here is how that issue was solved for us by previous owners, perhaps you can get some ideas from this:

here's a close up taken this morning:

More ideas:

I only wish the bed that runs to the rt in front of the garage was deeper.(you can see a portion of it in the first picture) There's only room for those meatball shrubs in that bed. I'd prefer to have some pretty flowers all along there in front of the meatball shrubs.
One day I may get around to killing off the grass and expanding that bed.

I'm also not in love with the plantings in the beds in front, but hubby is. Rather than battle over it, I've left it how he likes it and focused all my attention and labor on the back yard.

Now that we've lived here a while, our eventual plan ((time/money allowing)) is to enclose that area up front inside the retaining wall into a semi private courtyard with a gate. We both want a fountain, and small seating area for sipping coffee or drinking wine with the lab at our feet as we watch the world go by. Our home is at the head of the T of 2 main streets in the subdivision, so we see lots of coming and going from our front beds.

Of course the courtyard project comes after the kitchen/den remodel and the back patio/roof enlargement projects are done and paid for! And of course theres the parking pad for the trailer that needs to be done too.

Its going to be a while. /sigh

But I'm saving photos of every landscape project and courtyard I like so I'm way ahead of the game when it comes time to design it.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 12:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
natal(Louisiana 8b)

there is good reason to pollard crapes (and many other plants) and a way to do it that increases, not diminishes the plant's overall attractiveness.

There's nothing attractive about a butchered tree. Sure you get a large mass of blooms, but at what price? A properly maintained crape myrtle is a beautiful tree year round ... not just when in bloom.

Here is a link that might be useful: an ugly, foolish practice

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 12:41PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for all the advice. Unfortunately we cant afford to hire anyone to do it even though i understand in the long run I will probably save money. I think we will just have to tackle each area a little bit at the time after I sit down and plan out what to do. I think the hardest issue to deal with is the slope of the front yard and the long rectangular bed, I really have no ideas with that, guess I will search around for ideas.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 9:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I think the hardest issue to deal with is the slope of the front yard and the long rectangular bed..." I'd be thinking about converting much of the long sloping lawn to shade and groundcover... over time. The view of the house (from a distance) is begging for trees and shade at the street. Depending on the distance from street to house, you might even be able to do a double row of trees. Trees would help frame the view of the house and give the neighborhood an appearance of being established. Over time, wherever there was shade, the lawn could be converted to groundcover which could get you out of a whole lot of mowing.

I'm not sure if what you mean by "long rectangular bed". If you mean the foundation planting at the main part of the house, study Melvalena's photos. You need some 12' tall trees so the house doesn't look naked. If you're going to make the foundation planting bed a uniform depth from front to back, don't pick 2' as that depth! 5, 6 or 8' would be a lot more realistic for plant growth. But really, the shape of the bed would most likely vary somewhat to accommodate the well arranged plantings.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 12:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

While you're musing on the Grand Design, you might give some thought to doing something with those leggy shrubs on the left side of the house. I'd be tempted to chain saw them back to about a foot. If the results aren't satisfactory, they need to be replaced anyway.

A heavy steel edging would help keep the soil inside your beds. It could be concealed with liriope.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I have my work cut out for me, i love our house but the hill definitely poses some issues with landscaping. I love everyone's ideas. I definitely want to add more trees to the barren front yard. I never understood why they didnt do that when they built the house.

I think the one problem I have is I am new to all this and the size of the front bed on the right side is too big to manage, I might try scaling it back a bit and planting fewer things in it and focus more on tree layout.

All the advice I have received has made the wheels turn I just hope I do it right :)

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 9:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Please don't paralyze yourself with fear of doing it wrong.
I get stuck there myself from time to time, its no fun and nothing gets done. This is a journey, and you learn as you work on it. You won't do it all at once, break it down into smaller projects.

This front bed project is going to evolve over time. Your ideas and vision may change over the years as you learn more about it. But as the plants and trees (that I hope you plant soon) grow it will change what you do.

If something doesn't work, it is ok to change course and do something else. You can't wreck it. Everything can be 'fixed' later. Yes, even if you kill a shrub--you can replace it. :)

Take your time, but like Yardvaark and whitecap suggested there are a few things you can do right now to make some improvements that will pay off later down the road.

I think you do need to address the bed washing or oozing out. It looks like you need taller edging to keep the soil and mulch in that bed. That would make the soil more level and less sloping. Plantings would help hold it in too.

If you can't purchase the edging material all at once then do a little each paycheck and in time you'll have that part finished.

In the mean time, home work!
1. Look at what others have done with similar yards in your area do to improve the look.

2. google images: landscaping a sloped yard

You'll see lots of images that might inspire you. Look for images similar to what you have to work with. If something you see really knocks your socks off, save that image in your 'yard' folder. It gives you something to analyze and try to figure out if you can do the same thing or similar at your home.

my inspiration for our eventual front courtyard:

below is the website I found it on:

Here is a link that might be useful: Meador Nursery Denton Texas

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 10:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

I think you are miscategorizing the hill as a problem. It is, potentially, your solution to a number of the questions you are facing.

The first thing you have to do with landscaping is identify what you want to achieve. Sometimes that is easy because you have a distinct problem, but sometimes, what you think is a problem is just a symptom that your solution is all wrong. For example, you think you have a problem with edging and planting that awkward bed by the front door. The REAL problem is that the bed is shaped wrong, in the wrong place, and doesn't serve its function.

I have to hand it to designonline here, who has, with few words and one picture, expressed both what I think should be your objective and shown where the solution lies.

The objective of framing the house is different from the objective of framing a picture. You have to cram a frame up against the picture (though even then, a frame is sometimes spaced out depth-wise). With landscaping, you have the freedom to put the frame anywhere on this wonderful front yard that you want and it will still frame the house, and there can be depth to the composition as well as to the frame itself (ie, do not be imagining one row of plants across the yard here, but a composition that extends for a third of the yard's depth or so). The long front yard with the hill is, in other words, your solution.

Your foundation is attractive and the beds that are there are messing it up, not helped by the inept (sorry) selection of plants. A selection of trees and shrubs in the yard, placed so they flatter the house, and with some layers to the arrangement, would look far better even if you had no foundation planting. You might like to maintain small tidy brick-edged beds there with something to enjoy from up close, but for the distance view you do not need foundation plantings. Visually, from the street, plants in yard will soften your foundation plenty. Stand out there and figure out how tall a shrub at spot X would have to be to reach the foundation, or to soften that blank wall. And plan, purchase, and place accordingly.

Now, the question is, what arrangement would flatter the house? I note that some attempt has been made to play up the quasi-symmetry of the house, but in my view this is misguided. Given that the smaller side is recessed, I think you want to mitigate the difference in apparent size between the two sides. I think you want to have the big side recede a little, and the small side project a little more, with the overall effect of giving your entryway star billing. The big bed in which to put bushy plant material has the effect both of making the smaller side of the house recede, and also of making the entryway a little black hole. You want that area to be open and welcoming, I would think.

Here are a couple of random picks off Google and google images (I searched for landscaping slope front yard, for starters) to show a bit of what I mean.

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 11:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

Sorry, I didn't see Melvalena's post before I posted, but yes, image searches are an amazing tool. Getting to the right search terms can be a bit hit and miss, but there is a wealth of ideas there.

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 11:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

THanks again, melvalena, any chance you could take a few more pictures of your front, im getting a lot of ideas from that but would love to see a few more up close.

It is scary how close the front looks to mine, except the small area next to the front door including the window. I am in the process of drawing and sketching a layout that me and my wife and little helper can work on a little at a time.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 11:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sure! I'll be glad to.
Its looking a little sad and sparse right now between the finished daffs and the summer stuff not up to size yet, and I haven't planted the annuals yet either.

I'll get right on it. (anything to put off the other chores I've assigned myself for today)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 12:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'm not sure what you want close up photos of, the plants or the retaining wall structure? Would you like a list of plants that I have in there?

If you rt click on the photo and open a tab or new window you'll see my album with lots more photos. I just re set it to public instead of private. Or click the link at the bottom of this message.

Or I could email some to you that might be bigger and clearer viewing. Just be specific what kind of photos you need.

here's one of how the stones meet the sidewalk, you don't have to have them step up like that if you don't want to. They could just be level with the sidewalk or you could not even put any stones there at all.

By this summer this whole area I plan to have filled with flowers for hummers and butterflies:

This one I wanted to show you. In front of that tree used to be a huge washed out gully. Over the past summers we've been adding dirt slowly as the grass comes up to fill it in and get it more level with the rest of the yard, we just might have it all level by the end of this summer, this also gives you another view of yard/house and beds.

Here is a link that might be useful: 2012 house and yard photos

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 1:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks! No thats what I was looking for, I am still torn on how to lay it out exactly to where it looks good. I might have to pay a designer to lay it out and do the hard work myself. I have not decided yet. I have already started to clean up the areas and get some plants removed.

Pay no attention to my neighbors lush lawn and landscape. I hope to be presentable in the neighborhood soon.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 3:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It looks better already! Doesn't it? Feels good to have actually done something doesn't it?

You will be presentable sooner than you think. If it were me, I'd be planting something to screen the view of your neighbor's drive and that trailer. :) It won't happen over night but you can get started thinking about it now.
I have to keep mine hidden behind a fence with a gate.

So long as you are working on it, people are a lot more forgiving of what your yard looks like. :) Any little thing brings smiles even if you don't see them.
Trust me on that one.

Gardeners are really pretty friendly. If you see something a neighbor has done that you like, don't hesitate to ring their door bell and tell them, ask them questions.
People like that others notice their hard work. You are in the south, people are a lot more accustomed to strangers approaching and being friendly.

Feel free to ask questions here, no matter how silly you may think they are.

If you don't know the answer...how are you going to find out? Your questions may even help someone else figure out their own landscape issues/problems.

I see so many things in these threads here that solve or help to solve my own issues.

Just let me know if there is anything else I can do to help you out.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 6:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yeah I am going to do one bed at a time, since money is an issue but I am going to take advice from everyone and do it right. Im looking forward to it, cant wait to see the end result.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 7:54PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

it looks a lot better with the old edging gone.

this idea adds expense but it would make a more useful bed.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 12:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

Before copying Melvalena's landscaping you might consider specifically what your objectives are and whether they are the same as hers - or actually the PO's, who apparently designed it if I understand correctly.

Your house is quite different, and your surroundings probably are too. For example, do you want to hide all the brick foundation of your house? What are your shade needs? What are your privacy needs in those windows? Tall plantings outside will also darken the rooms inside.

The ideal landscaping for Melvalena's house might also not match what is currently there - hence the changes planned, I take it.

I would also encourage you to place those trees in the lawn (at least mentally) before you finalize a foundation planting.

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 2:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Karin L said:
I have to hand it to designonline here, who has, with few words and one picture, expressed both what I think should be your objective and shown where the solution lies.
She is a jealous,never trust her.or she make you to buy her seeds.
I have made tons pics for you.if you like ,share them.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 3:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yeah I wasnt planning on doing it exactly like her yard. I was going to mix it up a bit. Also looking to plant a few trees in the front yard as well.

I think the biggest thing is getting an idea of the layout considering the needs of the front of my house. Just want to make sure I get it right and it looks good. :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 10:17AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

Um, designonline, that was a compliment. I was saying I liked your picture and agreed with what you said. And I don't sell seeds! Or anything for that matter.

Andrew, glad to hear it. Your site really has a lot of potential.

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 11:16AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

One thing that's great about this forum is that there are so many places for good chuckles. It had me on the floor laughing! I'm still laughing!

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 8:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well the cleanup has begun, i realized about halfway into it that it was going to be a good bit of work.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 1:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yep.. work. But you feel so good about getting something done and you can stand back and admire what you've done. :)
Once you're finished, you can plant and maintain--it won't be nearly as much labor involved.

Unlike ironing, or the dishes... it all has to be done again--too soon.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 2:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Yeah I still have a long way to go but seeing it clean is making me work even harder :)

I just wish I knew how to photoshop and I could put plants there to see what it would look like haha.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 9:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

Go back to the street and take photos with nothing there. You'll want to make sure that anything you do is indeed an improvement on nothing! And you'll be able to study the situation better. Post it here, and you never know, someone might do some work with it.

Karin L

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 11:13PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Raised Garden Bed Construction Help
Hello Everyone! What wonderful help! I've built about...
Garden Chickee
Help! My new front yard is UGLY! Any ideas appreciated!
Do I keep the stone flower bed edge? I was told it...
Need landscaping ideas
Hi, we just built this house on a junior acre in zone...
Need help design patio & location of tree
The backyard of my future home (yet to be completed)...
Late Sound
light green leaf tree
Looking for a bright green leaf small/medium sized...
Sponsored Products
Shop Vac Wet and Dry Vacuum with Detachable Blower
$199.00 | FRONTGATE
Flowerbed Rug in Red
| Dot & Bo
Aluminum Garden Edging
$79.50 | FRONTGATE
'May Flowers' Yard Sign - Set of Four
$12.99 | zulily
Horse Shoe & Stars Stepping Stone
$14.99 | zulily
Spun Copper Bell Hat Low Voltage Landscape Light
Lamps Plus
Yves Delorme Ailleurs Duvet Cover
$599.00 | FRONTGATE
Botanicae Indoor Watering Can
$16.99 | zulily
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™