Desperate Need of a Landscape Designer!

strawberrypoe(7)March 23, 2014

I posted here for the first time a few days ago and was so blown away by the quick community response that I'm here yet again with another tentative request :P

Moved into our new house a year ago and looking for a pulled together landscape and planting bed design (zone 7) -
I have a flower bed on the left of the picture that is 6.5ft deep before it gets cut off by the straight walkway (its under the big window). The other side of the house can go as far as need be.
This house needs the works - basically foundation planting, shrubs, flowers - ( I have a propensity to hydrangeas, holly bushes, korean boxwoods, arborvitaes, the color of golden mops... but have no NO idea how to arrange them) I'm also open to retaining walls, and perhaps even moving the walkway if the design really calls for it. Open to anything though, really - artistic expression truly welcome here.

My shutters are actually a very very deep purple black - something that didn't quite pick up in the picture. Id like -if possible - to find plants that pair well with this color. I'm thinking reds, yellows, deep greens. Or you know, whatever you guys think is best :) !

This post was edited by strawberrypoe on Sun, Mar 23, 14 at 20:21

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Added Sketch Pics for those who'd rather paint, sketch, or draw them in !
Black and White version of the sketch below:

Here is a link that might be useful: Links if you need bigger pictures of the house

This post was edited by strawberrypoe on Sun, Mar 23, 14 at 19:57

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 7:46PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I applaud you for actually using your garage for your car! Unusual! Nice you don't have a car sitting in your driveway or on your lawn.

IMPORTANT! Go to your profile and put your planting zone in the cell for that option. See above. I'm in 9b. This helps us help you.

On the right side, looking at the house, I think you need to hide whatever that is over there. A tall tree hedge?

You could use some color in some planting beds, and maybe a small crepe myrtle offset to the house.

Hardscape is the most expensive part. You up for that? But hard scape is what would make your yard stunning!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 8:03PM
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Thanks for the zone tip ! I've added it to my profile :)
Ideally, I would love to find an amazing landscape design done without additional hardscape. I don't want to completely tune out all hardscape ideas though...If I fall in love with one, I can hopefully phase it in within the next couple years.

I should mention the big tree branches you see in the picture - the trunk base is pretty much right where the photo ends. Would this be a big deal for a crepe myrtle? Er - let me just draw the issue so you get a better idea of what going on over there :P

Edit:Alright there we go. You won't see the roots but they are a bit shallow towards the base of the tree

This post was edited by strawberrypoe on Sun, Mar 23, 14 at 21:19

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 8:35PM
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Do not understand your question about the crape myrtle. Would what be a big deal?

Cannot see the whole tree, but it looks like someone might should have removed the leftward leaning limb awhile back. It will probably be in the way if it is not now already.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 3:10PM
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Hey there - I was worried that the roots from that tree would interfere with the crepe myrtle but looking at the post again, I realize desertdance may of meant offset on the OTHER side :X

And the leftward leaning limb does hang over about halfway through the yard I think not a big deal for most shrubs/hedges (I hope) but probably not for additional trees or huge towering shrubs

This post was edited by strawberrypoe on Tue, Mar 25, 14 at 14:19

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 2:13PM
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A basic setup...

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Sat, Apr 5, 14 at 22:10

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 12:48PM
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Thanks Yardvaark ! Huge fan of this - if we end up going with this idea this spring, I'll post pictures :).

What types of shrubs would you recommend for the foundation planting ? I'm having trouble finding shrubs/bushes that stay 2-3 feet in height :\ And from the picture, it looks like ground cover beneath the trees- am I interpreting this right? Would you be able to recommend a good ground cover for this effect?
Been thinking about asian jasmine...or something evergreen that isn't invasive to choke out anything else like to plant in that flower bed on the right of the drawing

This post was edited by strawberrypoe on Thu, Mar 27, 14 at 19:25

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 5:17PM
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Keep in mind that I'm showing you a GENERAL idea of what you could do. The specific plants you use could alter/massage/tweak the picture to what what is compatible with your liking. For example, 'Burford' Holly (or dwarf) OR Crape Myrtle are two good multi-trunk trees ... but they have drastically different character. Either would work, but in very different ways. What, of all those out there would suit you?

For low shrubs, you could even consider Gumpo azaleas or basic green dwarf yaupon holly, as they're easy to cut and without a rampant growth rate. I wouldn't rule out certain well behaving perennials, if you can tolerate periodic absence. But i'm sure there are many possibilities. The best thing might be to look around your locale and see what is growing nicely and behaving in a suitable manner. Or also check out the other plant type forums to see if anyone there has recommendations.

Asiatic jasmine is used a lot down here (Fla.) It's a very tidy look, if trimmed, as it generally is.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 9:42PM
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After looking up more information, I really like the idea of Gumpo azaleas ! I was really hoping for an azalea or holly to fill out the foundation so I think your recommendations have really encouraged me to go for it.

I also love the look of the trees in the design you drew up for me earlier, but I'm very paranoid about blocking sunlight from the windows they'll be partially in front of. My house is already so dark and lacking in good natural light so I'm tentative about adding anything that will block whatever precious sunlight does get through...I wonder if a dwarf japanese maple would be a viable replacement? Or a tree low enough that it doesn't obscure morning light but high enough to still act as an seems
I should definitely check out those other forums for more recommendations :)

I appreciate all this help soo very much, Yaardvark ! It's definitely pointed me in the right direction, and I'd be totally lost without it. I've been playing around with the sketch you provided me and I'll post my ideas once I'm done. I'd love you hear what you think :X Thanks again!

This post was edited by strawberrypoe on Sat, Mar 29, 14 at 3:11

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 3:05AM
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Crepe myrtle is very iffy in this zone. If it survives, it usually dies back to the ground every winter.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 3:23AM
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I cannot see the depth of space you have, but I'm envisioning those two trees as far enough away from the house, small enough and limbed up enough that they would not be light blockers. It would be better to let light in BELOW their canopies (and maintain the view) rather than trying to have it come in from above them.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 5:03PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Your concerns about blocking light illustrate how backwards it can be to offer generic landscape solutions that just address what things look like from a street view/curb appeal solution. A truely integrated design looks at function intended, relationship between inside and out, how the new garden will look from the inside as well as from the street. Two multi-trunk trees limbed up, surrounded by curving beds of massed shrubs isn't my idea of a considered solution that addresses basic principles of design. But since it seems to be all about curb appeal on this forum these days, and no further exploration of form, function, purpose; I guess a generic scheme that seems like the stock solution is apropos, and maybe a good fit.

The fact that you instinctly know trees blocking light if planted close to your windows doesn't feel right, tells me you need to think more about total design solutions, not just curb appeal.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 7:59PM
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Thanks for the input, bahia ! I can't disagree with anything you've said and now I'm trying to really think about form before function before adding onto Yardvaark's sketch. Sorry if I missed the mark on what you were trying to say, with this picture. I'll try to explain myself a bit better than I did in my first post, and hopefully that in turn can give you guys more information to better guide me (or whoever is left that isn't already tired of the task >_Picture below:

1.I kept yardvaarks bed lines because I liked them and because I suck at drawing fluid bedlines.

2.I like the height of the shrubs at the foundation because I feel a shrub any taller would visually shorten the house.

3.Liked the bright yellow accents by the entrances of the house - the portico is offset and I feel it unifies the two offset sides. Stella De Ore lillies for that grassy texture...? Not sure..

4.Added what area gets full shade. I also added flowers (some kind of shade friendly pink flowering shrub, astilbes, hostas, shade friendly catmint or salvia or sage?) in here that mirrored the other side of the house, which gets morning to noon sunlight then afternoon shade. I imagine this presents an issue...

5.Also added a taller tree/hedge behind aforementioned flowers on the right. This will get afternoon light. No idea what tree will grow that high and WOULD be safe to plant that close to the house. I only added this because I felt it balanced out the garage on the opposite side.

6.Speaking of the garage, I added two trees behind it to fill out the space above it. I thought the house leaned too heavy on the right. Probably isn't super necessary considering I added that other tree in point 5...Not sure about this either.

7.Added the dwarf japanese maple tree I mentioned for the reasons I explained above. Looking for a tighter shape -a more upright japanese maple rather than a low weeping mound.(I think)I like an accent here because it breaks up stretch of brick between the garage and the window. If I were to go with Yardvaark's multi-trunk higher ornamental trees, Id do as he/she says and move the tree further down...with means extending that flower bed further down the lawn. Does this mean I should extend that flower bed on the other side down too? For symmetry? I suspect I'm taking the symmetry thing too literally...

8.)Added a random shrub at the foot of the driveway to maybe...ease the eye into the landscaping design as they approach from the left? Erm. Or to soften that angle where driveway meets sidewalk... Probably gonna get scolded for that. I cant tell if I'm actually tying things together with that shrub or making the design much less open and inviting by obscuring it.

So that's what I have so far... I've tried to wrap my head around adding plants that will all work with eachother's acidity, ph soil, similar drainage, zones, sun exposure time..which I can barely do and then when I think about designs that provide year round interest and bloom times, my head...literally feels like it will explode. (I've never gardened in my life and have spent the last three weeks just introducing myself to all plant forms online, at nurseries, and soon, gardens. But I'm committed to learning !)
So... if anyone hasn't bailed on me yet :P... I have some varying concerns that if any part can be answered in whatever capacity, Id be so appreciative: 1.) Is there anything that needs to be addressed from what I did above? 2.)What are the things I'm doing/thinking wrong? 3.) Is there a better design I should reconsider ?(of course there is) Just looking for a design that will not make the house seem so bare, and wont ruin my foundation and walkways with roots or block the windows. I was hoping to really challenge myself (and keep my small budget...small) and see if I could do it without a landscape designer but if it seems I've bitten off more than I can chew, then :( Anyway, criticize away !

(Sorry for the long post, and thank you so much to the people that gave me their time ! )

This post was edited by strawberrypoe on Sat, Mar 29, 14 at 23:51

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 11:13PM
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Oh, and here's a bird's eye view of the lot - Its not exactly exact but an idea of it. I can measure everything once it gets a little warmer/less rainy over here!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 11:16PM
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After spending 2 paragraphs of pseudo analysis whining about my contribution and complaining -- again -- how unimportant street appeal is, Bahia doesn't have a single concrete contribution of his own. ...? (Not really a surprise.)

Strawberry, because the existing tree shows up quite close in the plan, the yard might not call for a small tree at the right. Can't tell because we can't see your real existing tree, its size and character. Maybe it needs some attention? At the left side of house, your drawing reads weak to me. Too much of the roof and house face shows ... like in a brand new subdivision where only immature plants exist. Nothing seems large enough to balance the mass of the house and there is no sense of protection that a small overhead canopy provides along the entry path. You might be looking at the small tree as an unrestrained behemoth, but this depends on what you pick and how you train it.

The way you've reshaped the bed line at the left side is creating an, arrow-head shape where the bed meets the walk. It will not be possible to manage plants in this wedge shape. It would be better to tie to the walk at 90*. I know it won't exactly match what's happening at the right, but it doesn't need to. These don't need to be 100% symmetrical.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 12:21AM
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Strawberrypoe your last drawing is nice.The only thing I did not like is the shrub where the sidewalk meets the drive. Now you need to choose plants. You will need to know the dimensions of every area to be planted.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 3:41AM
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babera(5a (Montana))

I think the advise and help you are getting is very kind. The folks have put some time and thought into your issue. . . personally, I think the look is too stuffy. Too predictable. If I were driving by that house I wouldn't remember it, it makes no statement. I'm sure you've heard of Pinterest, there is a world of ideas there. Determine the light conditions for your space, look at ideas and take notes of the flowers/plants that catch your eye. You have a perfect blank slate, do fall back into the *predictable theme* that was there in the beginning. . . Just my 2 cents worth.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 8:19PM
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Whew ! Its been a busy couple of days, so sorry for the silence. Relieved to see you're still with me, Yardvaark. I'm warming up to the idea of the tree - been doodling a tree shape in the sketch tonight but much too tired from work to come with something conclusive :) I like the idea of moving it further way away from the house, perhaps. I've obviously got a lot of tree research to do - maybe I'll open a second post asking what trees people would recommend in that spot.
ANYWAY ! I have a new picture of the house WITH the big tree - maybe this might change things? Thanks so much yet again for the lovely help, Yard :)

And thanks for the input emmarene and babera ! Been on pinterest and houzz for a past couple of months to get an idea of what I like aesthetically but completely freeze up when it comes time to knowing how to apply it to my own house. :(

Anyway ! here's the picture !

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 1:20AM
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Sigh. Looking at it, it IS a strange shape for a tree, huh...? Never took notice when we bought the place.
Anyway, here's another closeup.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 1:22AM
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Couldn't resist adding one more picture before bed :) This a google streetview of our house before we moved in last year and before the paint job on the shutters/garage. Better idea of what the tree foliage looks like. ( What IS this tree anyway...?)

This post was edited by strawberrypoe on Thu, Apr 3, 14 at 1:32

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 1:31AM
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Allowing those branches that begin at 4' above grade to remain is a big mistake. Now they're turning into trunks where, physically and psychologically, it will become more difficult to remove them with each passing year. Especially, since light is a concern, they should come off asap. The head of the tree will redevelop but it will take a little time.

Looking at the last picture, there is too much foliage obstruction at the right half of the yard, and a look of "vacancy" and hardness at the left half. The picture needs some balance.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 1:29PM
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I agree, that large lower branch on your side of the yard needs to be removed. I would wait on the other one, cutting both in one year would shock the tree. If you do it, make sure you do it in multiple cuts, otherwise the weight will rip the cut, making it look bad and prone to infection. Start like 5ft out the trunk and then make smaller cuts until it's properly pruned. This will open up your yard visible and for you a shot at growing some grass there.

Otherwise, the main concern for me is the lack of's just too flat and makes the view boring. This is why I like the island up at the front, to build depth...and I threw in a large landscaping rock for good measure. The white dogwood to the right should be pulled away from the house to avoid shading your window...this can be done once that large branch is gone. I wouldn't worry about the roots of that big tree, shouldn't be a problem at that distance.

I would also like a wall of arbs or something to separate your neighbors house on the right. On the left, maybe a large red japanese maple (Bloodgood). The individual plants can be changed, but I think the main point is to build some layers to offset the perfectly flat yard.

Shouldn't cost much if you buy smaller plants and let them develop.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 10:48PM
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Also...really hacked mock-up, but long term I think your house would like incredible with a farmer's porch on the front... would really balance out that half roof look. I know it's not in the budget, but something to consider long term

    Bookmark   April 3, 2014 at 11:00PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

We are often asked to come up with innovative design solutions for homes with your existing type of curb appeal , ie: homes that use the driveway as a source of pedestrian entry and a wide open front lawn area.

The first thing we do is ask the owner what their budget is and what is the most important considerations to address ( sense of entry, low water use, maintenance requirements, creativity vs a cookie cutter approach and or a pedestrian design, privacy.... yada , yada ... yada.

From there we develop a variety od design solutions.

My first impression of your home is the Americana iconiclastic problem of having the driveway predominate the hirearchy of your entry.

We would address this problem by changing the emphasis on the driveway by designing a gracious and welcoming entry path flanked by planting, - in your case we would use a mass planting of hydrangeas, boxwood and accents of holley. Besides integrating your wish list a good designer would bring new and fresh ideas that you previously would not of thought of - .. that's the beauty of working with a design professional.

I would suggest visiting Pinterest and Houzz again and search out entry paths that make a statement and reflect the personality of your house and yourselves.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 4:42PM
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Seeing the latest picture of the large tree serves to illustrate how important it is to remove lower limbs BEFORE they start turning into competing trunks. It puts one at a great disadvantage to remove them AFTER they've become a significant part of the canopy. Here, it's still better to remove it, but there will be a period of time until the canopy redevelops a normal proportion.

That's sure sounding like a sales pitch, Deviant. How is it really helpful to tell the OP that if she were your client, everything would be fabulous? The generalized claims seem like a way to hide behind words instead of showing how things could really work. If you want to help, why not put the help right here and now?

We have a lot of "paths flanked by planting" here, but they end up looking like smothering barricades to entry after a couple of years. After a rain, some seem like open-air caves. "Mass plantings with accents?" ... that's a bit hard to visualize.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 10:49PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

no wonder this forum has made a mass exodus.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 11:12AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

well one designer remains to contribute, but you had better like your trees always limbed up, multi-trunk Crape Myrtles bracketing the house corners, curving foundation beds with massed color to announce the entry, and looking good from the curb is always more important than views out from the windows, or a design based on functional requirements rather than curb appeal as the driver. Designing by stock solution ain't my idea of design, but the graphics dazzle if someone isn't aware of more grounded, time-tested design based on site constraints, views, intended uses, regional character issues, etc, etc.

Exactly so that I'm not offering specific design advice on this post, but suggesting the owner think about the full picture, and I think they have, at least with regard to blocking light at the windows, the design is already a step ahead in practicality and function.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 1:06PM
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Dev, Innuendo is how you address challenges to your landscape design claims?

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Sun, Apr 6, 14 at 13:21

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 1:17PM
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Bahia, we're never going to agree that seeing the front yard from the bedroom window is more important than seeing it from the street. If that's what you think, then you're entitled. And the rest of your false premise BC is fine for you to believe and spew as well. If someone is here for an exercise in theory, they might enjoy hearing all that stuff.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 1:29PM
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