Solution to offset strange house front (2 front doors)

canada-eastApril 21, 2012


I would like to landscaping to offset the strange front of this house: it has two front doors. It is a small bungalow with a deck centered on the front of the house and with two doors. I can't envision a landscaping solution to work with this and the size of the house (and high foundation). Should it be a symetrical approach?? It is in the country and I like small gold spirea,blue irises, flox... I am new to gardening.

Here's a picture. I am looking into moving the driveway from the front to the side. But that may be too expensive to me. So that is another aspect.

I would love a solution I could implement over time.

Thanks so much for your help!

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I like small gold spirea,blue irises, are my some design.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 10:04AM
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    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 10:17AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

An interesting set-up, but to tell you the truth, I don't see the problem until someone actually gets onto your porch and has to pick a door to knock on. So I don't really see a landscaping problem. In determining landscaping, the location of the door you want to highlight would be the smallest of issues, because there is just one set of stairs to get to.

I see the decorating and arranging problem - it is your "back" deck that people are coming through to your "front" door" but the solutions there are things like light, mailbox, house number. And Barbeque next to back door, not front. Moving the stairs would be the most obvious solution, but I'd be hesitant to tear out what look like new stairs to me.

But landscaping? There would have to be other objectives besides clarifying the door, because that one objective doesn't point to any landscaping decisions. What else do you want your landscaping to do?

Perhaps you could tell us more about the way you use the space, and what kind of involvement with your landscape you hope to have.. one you can ignore, beyond mowing vs. one you tend full time, or anything in between. Irrigation supply, weather challenges... and so on.

Karin L

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 11:32AM
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Just a conversation starter using some of the plants you mention, and others. Your big empty yard needs some trees sprinkled about.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 11:52AM
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Were illustration of the kernel of truth within the saying "softening the corners" required, this is it.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 12:07PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

I see the challenge as more of a master planning / landscape architectural solution.
You have a driveway and parking area to address, the pedestrian flow patterns of the hardscape leading up to the house and a problematic sense of entry due to the layout of the door and entrance to the deck.

All of this can be solved by sitting down and doing some landscape architectural planning, cost analysis and ROI ( return on investment ) - This is what landscape architects were trained for and can solve for you thus increasing the value of your property.

If you have bad bones to start with, in this case the confusing front door choice combined with no hirearchy of entry to the main front door , all the landscaping in the world is going to do little to enhance / increase the value of the property.

This is a conservative home on a fairly large lot that would greatly benefit from some professional planning in getting it off to a good start, one that can be built upon over the years and one that will increase its value over time .

Briefly - rearrange the stair case so that it sends the pedestrians to the correct door, Layout the driveway and an ample entry path to the house. Use softscaping ( plants ) to intergrate / frame / anchor the box into the landscape.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 12:27PM
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Wow!!!! These suggestions are fantastic and really illustrate how much landscaping is going to change the look of this modest little home. Thank you everyone! What great ideas!

To answer some of the questions...
The home is in Zone 5a (Eastern Canada -- PEI)... our summers are short and not terribly hot. Lots of snow in the winter. The house faces south, so lots of sun.

I need to economize so my relationship with landscapers is minimal. They put in the bed, I buy the plants and plant them. I cut the grass. I use lots of mulch.

I would love to engage the services of a landscape architect but my budget is limited.

This is a new home (for me). I want my home to be pretty and welcoming. Privacy is not a big issue at this point as my neighbours all have small houses on 1-acre properties. Across the road (a very quiet road) is a screen of trees behind which are protected wetlands.

The property is 1 acre and it is all lawn---flat and square. It is in the country and I am considering (next year?) planting wild flowers in the back 3rd of the property. I am thinking large shrubs to delineate the side borders. (Not necesarily a line of shrubs... something softer than that).

At the back of the property is a neighbour's horse pasture which has a lovely white rail fence. It spans the back of several homes.

I love the illustrations you guys prepared. Yardvaark, what are the "other" plants in your design?

Thank you!!


    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 3:44PM
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Visually, I don't really think the extra door is much of an issue. It's another feature that helps there be less blank wall space. (The nicer the door is, however, the more it contributes to the overall picture.) Not that there's anything wrong with the deck, but it does make it look a little like a back yard entrance. I would suggest you make the entrance to the deck the major focal point by making it look more important. You could double the width of the stairs by adding a matching set of steps to the side that is closest to the predominant door. (I went left in the picture.) It would be an inexpensive remodel. Then, surround the steps with a combination arbor and flanking trellises and it becomes a way to pay less attention to doors.

Regarding the plants, I would not put too much stock into what's shown along the sides of your house as I'm just trying to make the picture look pretty. I've never seen the sides of your house. What's actually needed might be something very different. However, they're pictures of 'Goldflame' Spiraea, two kinds of Miscanthus, Lilac, 'Annabelle' Hydrangea, Siberian Iris 'Caesar's Brother', spreading Yew, your-favorite shade trees and now some flowering vines....probably Clematis and Morning Glories. A person would need to see your whole yard and what's around it to know where trees should be placed.

Before you do actual planting or other improvements, you might consider creating a layout that shows the major trees and landscape beds and get some feedback on it. (If you post pics in future, I'd suggest making them a little larger.)

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 6:53PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Paint the main door periwinkle blue (or other obvious color of your choice).

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 11:28PM
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Oh... I was wondering about the doors' colour(s). Thank you for the suggestion.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 6:31AM
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Aah, PEI - God's country. Hydrangea and lupine heaven :) As you are a novice gardener with budget concerns, I would suggest, as others have done, is to address the traffic flow problems first. You've already indicated that you are unhappy with the approach ie the driveway, and the confusion about the main entry door.

My inclination would be to make the one acre property more manageable for you by "zoning" it. I would first enclose the home and the new gardens within a low white rail fence and mixed shrub border, in whatever perimeter wouldn't be overwhelming - maybe 1/3 of your land? That would leave the back for you to sow to meadow or wildflowers as you prefer later. The front third would be dedicated to vehicular needs and setting the stage.

Your southern view of the wetlands across the way is probably quite beautiful. The driveway as it now lies in front, while practical for ease of access to the house and for snow removal, will likely detract from that somewhat. However, if you are not going to be adding a side garage in the future, you could just leave it where it is and improve the appearance. Think of a traditional Island approach. Fresh gravel isn't costly and is practical in your situation. Don't bother with edging in a snow-country setting. Run the drive from the roadway up to within 10 feet of the perimeter fence in a "T" shape - that way, you can create a defined turn-around area for vehicles or for extra parking. The facing fence, with an arboured opening or gate centered on your newly positioned front steps and door, can be softened with a small perennial bed in the front of it as well as behind. Line the driveway edges with spaced heritage-type trees on either side. Ash trees are fairly fast growing but also ask at the local nurseries for their recommendations.

On the house, I too would reconfigure the steps to lead up to the actual front door. Periwinkle blue is a really nice colour choice, especially if you echoed it in a trim around the white windows and ultimately with your flower choices. I wouldn't get too hung up about the asymmetry of the house. The plantings will distract from that... and whatever other cosmetic changes you may ultimately make.

Fruit trees and flowering vines would be appropriate and lovely somewhere in the fenced yard. And while your home would benefit from some foundation planting, just be careful not to concentrate everything in a claustrophobic huddle too close to the house. Plant out to the fence line, spill over it and frame the views as you look out from your windows.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 1:03PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

In the long term, based on what you have said about your winters, and based on others' comments that this looks like the back of the house, you might want to consider converting the deck to a proper porch with a roof over it, and some sturdy support columns and design to give it the heft and equal visual weighting with the house structure. Right now the deck is very lightweight looking, and with the weather you have, I wonder if it won't turn to mush in 5 years, even presuming it's made of treated lumber?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 1:39PM
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Thank you adriennemb and Catkim.

adriennemb: So you know our lovely Island! I am thinking gravel for the driveway too. What about leaving the driveway centre, but turn it immediately to the right and then turn left so the car ends up front/to the right of the house... Might be a headache for snow removal!... the "T" shape might be better. But gravel it is!

Catkim: I like your suggestion very much but my budget doesn't!. But a porch as you describe you be the ideal. It's surprising how long a deck of pressure-treated wood will last despite all the snow! Keeping the deck clear of snow helps.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 7:53PM
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