Need Help w/ Landscaping Front of House (PICS)

redthreaddiy(6a MI)March 28, 2010

My husband and I moved into our first house last year. The front of the house is totally bare, except for in the Summer, when various bulbs sprout up. We are looking to add some shrubs to the front, as well as on the side. Currently, there are some Daylillies, Mums & Hostas, but still a lot of bare space.

We just don't know what to fill the space with.

Here are photos of the front of our house, and the side.

Click on the photos, and you can see a larger size!


(left side) Currently has 2 Hastas on each far side, and 2 Daylillies in the middle. These can be moved.

(right side) Currently has 2 Hastas on each far side, and Mums in the middle. These can be moved.

The front of the house has partial sun.


Currently, there are 2 Daylillies in the middle, and I planted some Tulips and Daffodils next to them before winter hit. Next to each set of Tulips Daffodils, are these weird Daisy flowers that come up, and next to those are Mums on each of the far sides. Everything can be moved if I come up with a plan.

Has FULL sun.

Excuse my lack of landscaping layout skills. Here is a very simple mockup of what I was thinking of doing for the front.

The 2 green shrubs are Japanese Boxwoods. On the sides, there are Red Twig Dogwoods. Up front, are beds of Begonias, and in the back, a few red Cannas. I have also left the Daylillies, Mums, and Hastas in the mix where they already exist in the garden.

I'm not an expert, obviously, so any help in landscaping the front and side of my house would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!!

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Do you have a photo which shows the entire front of the house including the driveway and road? It's hard to visualize this with the up-close shots -for example the tree in your front yard may impact any suggestions.

I wouldn't be married to the previous owners planting scheme or bed-layout, as it doesn't seem to suit the house or your own tastes.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 8:17PM
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I have a similar type of house - brick ranch, pretty square. Most of the houses in my area are identical or a close variation, and there are plenty of landscapes to evaluate.

In my opinion, you need curvy, soft lines to soften the look of the house, and it would be helpful to create some kind of "depth," perhaps with a raised bed in front.

The houses I like best in my neighborhood have curvy beds that are raised from 1-3 feet in height (measuring from the lawn).

Boxwoods are nice plants, but consider how quickly they grow and what shape you want them in, and how they will fit in to the overall design. You don't want to have them getting so tall you have to constantly cut them back to keep them under the windows. Personally, I'd pass on the boxwoods and go for some type of dwarf evergreen because they can be so slow-growing that you won't need to worry about cutting them back and destroying their shape.

Depending on your tastes, some plants that do well and look nice on the houses in my neighborhood (zone 5 MI) are:

Limelight hydrangea - good in full sun!
tall grasses of different types
creeping juniper (looks great with rocks)
creeping phlox (also looks great with rocks)
Giant hosta varieties combined with ferns and bleeding hearts

Hope this helps

    Bookmark   March 28, 2010 at 8:50PM
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On the left side of the house... if you planting beds are away from the windows, then more interesting plants than bulbs can be used. The idea being to allow for some light into these windows and some plantings for privacy. Leave a space wide enough for maintenace.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 9:20AM
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redthreaddiy(6a MI)

Here is a photo, taken last summer, which includes the sidewalk & rest of the lawn.

"SIDE"/"CORNER" of house:

"FRONT" of house:

Since those pictures, weve replaced the red mulch with dark brown mulch (as seen in my post above)

The beds are very "linear", and somone down the street (3 houses down) as the same style house (same style/placement/size windows) and they have expanded their beds & made them curved. We love it and will probably mimic the shape.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 3:12PM
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redthreaddiy(6a MI)

I appreciate everyone's suggestions! I am going to mess around with some of the plants and ideas that were suggested in Photoshop and see what I can come up with. Thanks!!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2010 at 1:26PM
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mjmarco(Zone 6 Upstate NY)

dito what Kuriooo said... you have a grest canvest to work with raized beds along the sidewalk with plants for hight would look great. curve beds to off set the square house. Circle around the front tree with curves to the house are poss. Only one difference I have to say about creeping junipers or any junipers, they, over time will take over the bed if you what that then they are great if you don't they can take over your other plants in 5-10 years. have fun

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 7:44AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

What direction does the house face? Would it be helpful to add a shade tree anywhere?

Definitely curve the beds. And put large-ish shrubs at the corners, overlapping the edges of the house (center the shrubs more or less on the corners of the house). The shrub on the right will help hide the driveway.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 1:52AM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

This is kind of off-topic and purely for my own curiosity, but I have to ask: What are the tiny, diagonally arranged windows next to the door arranged that way for? Is there something on the inside of that wall that the windows are arranged that way to accommodate?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 3:10AM
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redthreaddiy(6a MI)

Nope - they are located where the stairs to our basement are.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 4:17PM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

Ah! Makes much more sense now. Basements don't tend to exist in my part of the country, so I've never seen anything like that before.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 5:04PM
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swedish_miss(z5 southern NH)

I agree with others - definitely curve some portions of the beds. Another thing I think is important is height variation - so much more pleasing to the eye. I would suggest one or two small trees, including one for the corner by the drainpipe. There are some nice pears (Cleveland for instance) that flower in spring; that will ultimately get 20-30 feet tall. Smaller trees you could use as a focal point might be a weeping cherry, purple leaf sand cherry, or many types of crabapple. none of those will get much bigger than 10-12' and all have various points of interest during the year.

As far as shrubs, consider things like weigela, andromeda (Pieris Japonica), and bridal wreath spirea. Those mature into very nice size plants and if you choose carefully you can get both beautiful flowers and leaf variegation. Of course you will want some evergreen as well.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2010 at 3:57PM
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I'm going to be devils advocate here. I think you need to play off those neat little windows, and the straight linear feel of the home. Google zen gardening, and look at some of the concepts. I would offset the flat front of the home, by building raised garden beds out of the same stripstone that is above the brick. But I'd have differing heights, and shapes, square, oblong, etc. And I'd play up the concept of 3s. 3 windows. 3 beds in a grouping. 3 shrubs in a grouping. Do you really want your house to match someone else on the block's taste or reflect your own?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 1:36AM
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Curvy or straight?

The main point is to give beds depth. Rule of thumb for a border or foundation would be a minimum depth of 6 ft, but most look better if deeper than that.

Narrow beds and borders, I think, are one of the things that leads some people to plant in the dreaded soldier rows. Also, although I sometimes think some people get a little anal about the "rule", it's kind of a common mantra in gardening books and on garden forums to hear that plant material should be planted in odd numbers. Three is the favorite number. For smaller plants, or for greater impact, try 5 or 7. If a plant has presence enough to be a specimen or accent on its own, then plant just one.

Consider that most dwarf shrubs are about 2 ft at maturity. You need to keep an access space along the house, so you don't plant them write up against it. And, you just read this rule of 3 thing, so you have 3 little shrubs that you won't plant in a row. How much depth will your irregular planting of a trio of the same shrub or perennial need?

Then you figure that ... hmmm ... a 2 ft shrub doesn't have a lot of presence by itself. What if it were to have a grouping of evergreens here ... and, say, here ... Oh, and the evergreens are something slow growing that will eventually reach 4 to 5 ft. Pretty soon you realize the border depth needs to be 8 ft to accommodate the shrub groupings.

And, because I think it's how many of us think, I'm starting from smaller plants and working from there. Of course, the other common scenario is trying to plant something that matures at 6 to 10 ft with a similar spread into a bed that isn't deep enough.

So, my recommendation would be that you get a working idea of the shape and especially the depth of the beds. Incorporate the raised bed idea if you like ... But for now, just play with the ideas on paper, keeping foremost in your mind the way these beds will enhance your home.

Once you've got a paper plan that you like, you don't necessarily have to pull the whole thing off all at once. You have a plan. Execute it slowly. Given that you are trying to learn design and learn plants and "do" the garden all at once, give yourself permission to work at a reasonable pace. Maybe the shadier side first, and focus next year on the sunnier side.

Give strong consideration to checking out if a local nursery provides design services. Often you can pay a reasonable fee (about $300) for a reasonable plan. If they seem to be going in a too cookie cutter direction, call them on it and indicate the preferences you are already developing. Mainly what you want is something to guide your process. And, there are designers out there who work specifically with clients who intend to put the plan in place themselves.

Anyway, whether you sketch it out entirely yourself or get professional input, once you've got a plan, implement it in stages.

Don't do what I've done ... rush out to look at all the pretty plants and come home with babies that need to go into the ground ... now!

Give your future plantlings the courtesy of beautifully prepared beds with wonderfully prepped soil. You won't regret it. Focus on getting a particular section of the project done well. Maybe it won't look finished, but you have a plan and you know what you will be doing next to fulfill it.

Hope that makes sense ... It's just often the case that we get an idea, and think we can execute it and then it turns out to be way more work than we realized when we were just playing with it on paper.

Get the big picture on paper ...
But, if you are doing the work, stage the execution in manageable phases.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 8:51AM
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