front yard help - getting rid of large bed - pics

growsveges(8)March 15, 2013

Help! I hate the long railroad tie raised bed next to the driveway. I'm pulling out the bottom half this year, but I really stink at landscape design (obviously). I'd like to have a sweeping line from the shortened bed to carry over to the empty grass/weeds on the right side.
The only thing I really love in this yard is the merlot redbud that's now 2 years old and in the back middle. There's a pic of that bed in the link as well as my first lame attempt at design. Thanks for any advice!

Here is a link that might be useful: top front

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yardvaark

Here are a few suggestion for improving this bed. (I avoid plantings that "hem in" walks and drives. But creating an island (that is not too tall and "oppressive") is fine. If it's not evident, the bed shape I'm creating with the mowing strip is a quarter circle, of which each end ties to the paved surfaces at 90*.

A. Other than the tree itself, this should be the tallest (but not too tall) plant material.

B. Lower plant material. More uniform is better than less uniform.

C. Use the brick edging turned soldier course set flush as a mowing strip, for a better appearance. Place on tamped paver base and use hidden edging for stability and durability.

D. Maintain separation between bottom of tree canopy to top of plantings below. Goal for bottom of tree canopy should be to clear your head+. So limb up half it's height ... preferably BEFORE, and in anticipation of, the Spring flush of growth.

The other photo is tree and bed line suggestions.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 8:27AM
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growsveges(8)

Yardvaark,

Thank you for the input and ideas! Funny that you put the tree on the right. There was a huge oak right in that spot that had to go. The lowest limb was higher than the neighbors roof. Only pic I have is of the trunk in the background.
It was so huge that I still have a six foot area in that spot that nothing but annuals can get planted in (ground stump and roots still there). Could I put a smaller tree lower on that side? I guess I was thinking I should match the redbud, but now that I see your drawing I see how the large tree had a better overall balance with the crepe myrtles.

Here is a link that might be useful: added tree that used to be there

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 12:34PM
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yardvaark

growveges, I put a tree on the right because your house is demanding a large plant that helps it not look like it is stuck on top of the earth like a sore thumb. It wants to be nestled in under earth's green blanket (but sticking its head out from under it!) Trees can grow from where others were removed and ground out. But they need a big chunk of the sawdust replaced with SOIL ... enough of it to support their life until the remainder of the sawdust composts sufficiently.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 9:52PM
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growsveges(8)

Yardvaark...I agree! The yard demands it, but the neighbors were the reason the large tree that was there got taken down so there's no way I can put another large tree back between our houses. Probably a 20 ft one would be tops. I was looking at cherry trees yesterday. And if would help, I'm open to any size trees anywhere else in the front of the house. thanks again for your input; I do appreciate it.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 7:33AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Growsveges, I suspect the impression of the house is guided by the angle of the photo which is centered on the driveway. Can you post a photo that is focused on the entry or center of the house? I'm just wondering if that will give a different impression. Yes, you see the driveway when you come home, but others are looking at the handsome door. The photo as shown elicits a focus on the driveway design when the total design is more important. Yes, it's only a slight difference, but may be useful.

I'm not a professional, but I want to reassure you, your house doesn't look like a sore thumb. ;-) The trees in the background serve well to give the house a sense of place.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 12:15PM
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growsveges(8)

thanks catkim! I added a few more pictures that show the front a bit better. The only absolute that I have is that the lower 2/3rds of that rectangular bed are finally going this year. I just really couldn't decide on the best way to make the curve. I'm a big fan of sweeping lines and continuity (of which I have very little) and wanted the left and right side to start to look like I had some plan (haha). Last year I made all of the shrubs symmetrical to the left and right of the stairs, they just need some time to grow.
So yardvaark you def. gave me the additional nudge to now plant a tree on the right....and if I hadn't found this forum I wouldn't have thought to use paint to try out some ideas.

Here is a link that might be useful: design 3

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 4:36PM
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growsveges(8)

Here is the proposed layout to scale - red is brick edging. What do you think? Thanks!!

Here is a link that might be useful: current layout

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 3:48PM
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yardvaark

A person can't really comment on this in a thorough way because it's just a partial plan. One doesn't grasp how plantings relate to the house (that isn't shown.) And the general descriptions of plants don't give a good idea of what plant you'd install. "Crape myrtle" can be a lot of different things and grow to a lot of different sizes. And where is the existing tree that looks like a crape myrtle? It doesn't seem to be shown.

One feature of the plan is what I personally consider a landscape "sin" and that is the arrowhead shaped wedge of bed located at the left side of the steps. You have it now and it would be something to do away with. There's never a case where these look good. Plants do not fit in these pointed beds in any natural looking kind of way.

When you say brick "edging" I'm wondering if you mean brick protruding out of the ground. Doing such "edging" is a way to downgrade the look of your home to a lower class. For one thing, very thin lines (2 1/4") in the landscape look out of scale and cheap. And if the thin line is raised (as in sticking above the grade) it looks worse. It would be better to use brick laid flush, soldier or sailor course (face-to-face on edge or side-by-side face up...not end-to-end) as a mowing strip (8" width.) Even a double course, 16" width, is not too wide for a two-story home like yours.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 12:19AM
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growsveges(8)

Thanks Yardvaark. I was hoping you would comment, because I wasn't sure from your second drawing if you thought I should keep that wedge. The crepe myrtles are the two current large trees. They're easiest to see in the first post. I like your suggestion of the flat brick - that is what I'll go with. Would you continue the brick in front of the porch?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 6:42AM
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yardvaark

Based on the fact that you already have a significant tree (which looks like a crape) at the left front corner of the house (while facing it from the street,) I'm wondering why you are not creating bed geometry that emphasizes/frames the tree and is symmetrical in theme with what needs to occur on the other side of the steps. I think it would be easier to see and work these things out on tracing paper if you had a nice clean, clear, accurate base plan (such as where the house was shown.) Also, Though you're planning, it would be better to think of/draw these plants at their nearly full grown size as that will help you fit the distant vision together better. Even if they're shown full size, it's easy to extrapolate out of it the small plant you must purchase and where you must plant it.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Thu, Mar 21, 13 at 10:10

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 10:08AM
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growsveges(8)

Here it is with a better drawing as shown from the street. The two large trees to the left of the house are crepe myrtles.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 6:25PM
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yardvaark

If you're going to go with the concave curve, it would be better to eliminate the purposeless backdip in the curve.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 10:38PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I would also widen the walkway and mirror Yard's red curve onto the right side too - i.e. the curve of bed on the top right would invert and the bed size would change. (It'd be a relatively small bed - probably for one shrub and a few perennials, but the shape of the lawn would be greatly improved and it would be a lot easier to mow past the beds.)

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 10:24AM
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growsveges(8)

Thanks for the input...I keep drawing different lines. I guess I should ask...does anyone think just keeping that long bed is the right move? Or is replacing it with any configuration a step in the right direction? This makeover is what got me motivated to work on the front again.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 3:04PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

The striking thing about the picture you posted above is not the planting but shaping the lawn so that it becomes a feature on its own - no silly wiggly lines but lots of drama from a nice clean line. The line of the walkway though disturbs it by cutting through the calm green space in a rather jarring way. From the limited view in the picture it's hard to tell whether there would have been an better route for the walkway.

I tried to play around with your drawing to see what it would look like if you widened the walkway and focussed on making a simple, clean line for the lawn, with the beds then being the residual. Not the greatest drawing perhaps but something to think about:

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 8:23PM
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yardvaark

While I agree that the large curve makes a very pretty bed of grass, it creates very awkward and unusable wedge shaped beds. They're unattractive whether something is growing in them or they're just mulch. I don't think it's possible to have a bed shaped like that that looks good. And the concave curve shape is less good at accommodating the redbud tree. What happens on the other side of the driveway? It seems that the yard on one side of the drive ignores the yard on the other side. A good rule of thumb to follow on bed corners is nothing less than a 90*.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2013 at 11:14PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Yard - while I agree that acute angles are a problem in hardscape situations because they are structurally weak and the hardscape can/will crack. But I disagree that they must be always be considered a problem when the material is 'soft' - e.g. plants, soil, mulch or gravel. The 'points' you highlight in blue could be filled with crushed stone of some sort to blend with the walkway if need be to minimize the pointed look while retaining the dominant lines of the curve of the lawn and the horizontal of the walkway. The concave shape is much easier to mow past as it follows the natural line a mower would take when pushed in a curve. The previous outward bulging bed would be hard to mow neatly in the corners without risking cutting plants and would require a lot of fussy manoeuvring on the part of the mower and machine.

The OP has not talked much about the other side and it's not clear to me where the property line runs on that side. But I wouldn't foresee a lot of difficulty making the other side tie in with this one if the OP want to change that side too.

BTW - the circle in the 'pointy' bed is not a tree but a moundy small shrub....

This post was edited by woodyoak on Sat, Mar 23, 13 at 12:40

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 12:35PM
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growsveges(8)

thank you for your input! I do like the quarter circle for the redbud bed, but I would like to maybe tie the two beds together along with continuing the line to the right. I'm not sure if the two soft half circles would be better or the concave and then quarter circle.

Here is a link that might be useful: better view

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 1:51PM
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yardvaark

@ woody, my main complaint about the wedge beds is not how they affect or don't affect maintenance, but that they look bad. To have the arrowhead shape bed greeting you as you arrive into its space is not friendly and welcoming. It's not attractive in ground hugging 2-d design. If it's a 3-d shape, it's attractiveness lessens with every inch of height it gains. The shape is in contradiction to the growth patterns of almost any plant. Usually these beds are planted in contradiction to their true shape which helps lessen the mistake of their existence. How about offering a picture of any pointed bed that proves me wrong?

@ growsveges, overall, I like the shape of the beds/lawn in your last picture. It's remarkably similar to my first suggestion with a couple of detail differences. The only part of it with which I take exception is completely confining the walkway to the front entrance with a planting bed. If what was planted in the bed in front of the entrance was very low, I don't think it would be horrible. If it was very low, colorful flowers that added a lot of cheer, it could even be good. Other than that, it seems to some degree a contradiction to have an expanse of green velvet carpet that leads to the front entrance and then as visitors actually get there, tell them to go elsewhere and enter a different way. Even if people won't actually access the entrance via the front lawn, the appearance that they could completes a thought process that seems logical and sensible. Being confined by foliage along a walk is not necessarily a pleasant experience.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2013 at 10:38PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Yard - a key difference in our approaches is that you are looking at the beds and I am looking at the lawn i.e. shaping the negative space. This illustrates the difference:

While my version is not ideal since the lawn is too wide relative to its depth so the proportions are not near the 'golden mean' proportions, and the necessary driveway flare prevents the space from having a neat finish (both issues could be solved with a bed on the left side shaped to address those issues....), I find it a much preferable shape to the upper one with the bite out of the corner. Having a deliberately shaped 'negative' space IMO doubles the interest of the space since the lawn now become a feature as much as the beds, instead of being a nothing residual space as it is when you only focus on shaping the beds. A shaped lawn does a better job of being the calm green space that adds drama (through contrast) to the more detailed and colorful planting beds. I think disregarding the shape of the lawn is a missed opportunity to add interest to a garden space.

This post was edited by woodyoak on Sun, Mar 24, 13 at 11:14

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 11:03AM
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yardvaark

Woody, I'm not ignoring the lawn. In the balancing act that is landscape design, I'm going for what accomplishes the most and offends the least. As I first said, I consider those arrowhead pointed beds a landscape SIN. So one pretty lawn isn't justification for having them if a different pretty lawn can be had. (Actually, I could never find any justification for having them!) What's more, they create too much (complete) enclosure for the walk to the front door. Bad enough ... if not another sin. My first suggestion included symmetry (for a house that seemed to like it,) only modest (island) enclosure for the walk, beds shaped to accommodate trees and a carpeted path to the entrance. Say all the positive things you want about those arrowhead shaped beds, but until we see a real picture that demonstrates they have any value, the talk is just theoretical.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 9:52PM
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yardvaark

adding photo.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2013 at 10:08PM
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growsveges(8)

looks like a plan! thanks for all the advice; I've learned a lot.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 5:14PM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

Quick question: Is the redbud you keep referring to on the left of your house in the picture? That sure looks more like a crape myrtle to me. Just wondering. A redbud blooms before it leafs out, unless there is some type I have never seen-which is entirely possible! ;)

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 7:21PM
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yardvaark

it's the tree I "grew out" in front of where the garage meets the house.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Tue, Mar 26, 13 at 4:14

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:34AM
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