weeded, shaped, edged, mulched...and soulless

bungalow_houseApril 19, 2010

I have spent many brain cells working on my front yard. I'm not finished yet, I need 1 or 2 more shrubs and need to adjust the spacing a bit so they're not lined up, but it's starting to look so, so, corporate. Do I keep going and wait to see what happens in the summer? There are perennials in there.

Designing and transplanting in the spring is such a leap of faith.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Corporate? I see can see quaint or nice. Much better than the guy down the block with crabgrass for a lawn.

What's in there now and they still are young things, so let them grow in and on you more.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 10:14AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Give it some time to mature, add some colorful annuals, and it will look less barren.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 8:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
loribee2(CA 9)

I think it's beautiful! I love the color of your house and trim. I love the flagstone pathway. Remember, landscaping and gardening is a process. You're MUCH better off taking small steps, letting things grow and filling in over time than over-planting. There's nothing worse than having to take out trees and bushes that have gotten too big for the space you've alloted.

The only thing I would think to add is maybe some hanging baskets of flowers from that awesome covered porch you have.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 8:57PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Lovely house! I wouldn't say "corporate" either -- though I might say "tailored," so I guess I can understand what you're saying.

But yes, give it time; let the plants mature, especially the shrubs.

Rather than hanging baskets, you might consider a few planters that would sit on the porch railing, planted with something which would hang down a few feet. Maybe some of the ornamental sweet potatoes with the maroon foliage? Or something trailing with flowers which would echo the color of the trim.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 9:17PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Planters on porch railing with the wave petunias would be pretty, I think they come in several colors! I love the color of your house & what you have done! You are almost there!! Just give it a little more time & add a few annuals for color!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 3:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

It strikes me that the house is very nice, the plantings are very nice, but they don't go together. The plantings wandered in from some other house. It's that house that is being the problem since it's one of those early 2000 cookie cutter tract houses that everybody loves to hate. There are the big, superfluous curves whose main job is to draw attention from and balance the big, bump out garage. The specimen shrubs as 'foundation planting' that work because there isn't anything to hide. The flowering trees whose job is simply to look pretty because the central air does the cooling work.

This house has strong opinions about what should and should not be put in front of it. It has strong lines and strong geometry. It wants rows.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 7:15AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

Something tells me that Mad Gallica's post is either meant for another thread or not well expressed... if it belongs here I agree with what I think s/he is trying to say, namely that you've used a planting style that is common for a completely different house.

And you don't really have room enough at this house to do that style well.

The curves in the bed and the resulting lawn shape do look random and have no purpose in this application. The trees may look better when they are in leaf, but unfortunately if those are the trees I think they are, their leaves are nothing to write home about. There is no reason to have foundation planting here; it would make far more sense to have a "garden". So yeah, my response too was something like "it looks OK, but why is it here?"

The walkway is nice but is the wrong material for a front walk, which should be safe above all, smooth, shovelable, Think of great aunt Ethel coming for Christmas (or whatever politically correct alternative you like that occurs in winter) when you make a front walk.

I think if you have a porch, your garden needs to be where you see it from the porch. That might be enough of a difference in perspective from landscaping advice for the suburbs that it gets you thinking in another direction. Add in Mad Gallica's advice about rows... and you might get a whole new set of options.

My eye always wants a house like this to be embraced by its garden, not skirted.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 1:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I had to read Mad Gallica's reply several times, at first thinking it was in response to a different post or I somehow missed that the OP had done a masterful job at masking the "garage as main feature" and turned a Beltway Baronial into a charming Craftsman style bungalow...

Being totally visual, I surfed images for Craftsman style bungalow and Landscaping for a Craftsman style bungalow. Lots to look at and possibly draw from. With such a small area, an embracing, layered full garden (no grass) from the sidewalk to the house might create the desired look. What's there needs time to grow in, but the bunches of yellow (tulips?) will never become much more than a little bunch. It's the lattice and porch cladding that are the main feature right now.

My aunt had a very similar home; but with center entry, and stone clad porch with tapered columns. She had a common snowball viburnum on either side of the steps, some yews to fill in and a Bridal Wreath spirea on one corner. House was set back so there was too much front lawn to eliminate; plus she wasn't an avid gardener. It looked right then - and still does today when I get the opportunity to drive by.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 2:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for all the responses. I will try some annuals to see if that helps ease the pain of waiting for things to mature.

rhodium, I have plenty of crabgrass too. :)

mad gallica, I know exactly what you're saying. I had the same thought. The funny thing is, this bed's shape came out this way for specific reasons, and it's purely coincidental that it's a McGarden. We have a narrow driveway, as do our neighbors on the right side of the photo, and their property line is somewhere close to our house, so for those reasons, we have to have grass strips on the sides. I had a squared-off bed in front of the porch for a long time, and that plus the little dollop of mulch around the tree just didn't look right, so I decided to swing it out to pick up the tree. That also allowed me to get some shrubs and/or tall annuals connecting the porch and the tree and kind of reign in the focus on the house instead of the periphery and the neighbors' houses. (This was a tip from someone else when I posted about a year ago.) We also have a lot of snow that gets shoveled so I didn't want to load too much in the way of fence, hedge, or even shrubs near the sidewalk or driveways or walkways. I did dream of having no lawn at all in the front, but the reality of 2 young children and not enough time to devote to gardening prohibits that. So I put all that together, and I get ye olde sweeping curves.

karinl, the trees are serviceberries. I didn't select them for the flowers, I selected them because I needed wanted small trees that would play nice with gas, water, and sewer lines there. This is Robin Hill, gets to 12'W supposedly. That's about all my yard can handle without really impinging on the neighbors. Also, they allow me still to have plants in the yard since they don't produce much shade. The walkway is a purely aesthetic choice. The nice smooth concrete walk that was there originally met its death recently when the water line needed to be replaced. To my knowledge no one has tripped on these things. Now the stairs treads inside my house, which are only 8 3/4" deep, that's a hazard. And that lovely porch? Can't see a thing in the yard when you're sitting on it. :(

duluth, I used to live in Northern Virginia. I haven't heard "Beltway Baronial" before, that's a good one. This house is not a craftsman style. Bungalow, absolutely, but not craftsman. It's a Victorian/Colonial Revival/New England stick style mutt. From pictures I've seen of this era, working-class bungalow landscaping consisted of a shrub out in the middle of the front yard and that was about it. Not something I want to reproduce here. They're too small to detect in the photo, but I do have period-appropriate plants, though they may be a variety that is newer and bred down to a smaller size: spirea, daffodils, rhododendron (which needs to be moved because it's getting too much sun and the lace bugs are mutilating it), campanula, shasta daisy, hydrangea, dogwood, aster, peony, tall phlox. If I add more shrubs, I think it will be another hydrangea and another spirea. The bed started out as mostly perennials, but we have a long spring here where snow has melted but everything is still dormant, so I've grown to be a fan of shrubs for their naked structure in the spring.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 9:12AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

As it happens I have a very similar porch so I know that and should have expressed myself differently... I actually sit on my front steps a lot in summer to enjoy the garden (and rest from tending it), but also sit just to either side of the stairs on the porch and have a good view from either side. I also stand on the porch to see visitors off, and so I suppose the garden as often frames me as I look at it :-)

From your response, it sounds as if you are in an interesting dilemma. You've made a bunch of choices for functional reasons and now aren't happy with the aesthetics. What I've noticed when other people (or I myself) are in traps like this is that you find yourself in what might be likened to a turnoff from a path onto a peninsula, or a road into a subdivision or something, and no matter how often you travel around it you can't find any options other than the ones you have selected and now don't like. When this happens, you have to go back far enough in your decision-making process to find the turnoff you took that cut you off from other options.

I'm not sure where that is for you, but I almost think it's to the point of deciding on foundation planting and rejecting "a shrub in the middle of the yard." I think if I were to start from scratch here, I would do some combination of island beds (rectangular) and specimen shrub groupings; nothing at the foundation. That could make for an easy mowing job, nice brick or stone edging could counterbalance the house a bit (I've put a lot of rock in my yard), and you could see it at least while STANDING on the porch, and once it grows, the canopy from a seated position.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 12:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I think you should reconsider the idea of taking out the grass and just making it all a garden. If you put in a big, old-fashioned shrub like a bridalwreath sprirea in the corner on the right between the stairs and porch and a big hydrangea or snowball bush on the other side, you'd cover a lot of the space in one shot, keep weeds smothered and have white flowers when they bloom that would look great with the house colors. Then you could fill the rest of the space with smaller shrubs (some with good fall color to go with the serviceberry), some easy care perennials (a peony or three would be nice) and some annuals in appropriate colors. Karin has a good point about walkways - I wouldn't want to visit a house with a walkway like that because I use a walker and that sort of path is dangerous for me.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 6:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I will do some more heavy thinking. Thanks again for the input. All garden would definitely relieve the misshapen uterus/Fallopian tubes/ovaries thing that's going on right now. :)

Karin, we sit on the steps a lot too. I think I'm the only dweeb who sits there and stares at the plants though. At times the porch feels too isolated. There was an open railing on a previous house of mine and I never sat on the stairs there, only the porch proper. Interesting subtle architectural detail.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 8:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

A little photo editing....this makes me breathe a sigh of relief. My SO, on the other hand, is going to roll his eyes and turn to walk the other way when he sees me out there removing more sod. :)

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 8:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Yes: a great improvement. It makes me breathe a sigh of relief as well.

Maybe some of the removed sod could be used to patch a bare place? [I always forget to consider that when I'm removing sod ... even though the front lawn still has bare edges from the previous owner's obsessive use of Round-up, not to mention tread-marks from Duke Energy's frequent visits to the power pole that's only accessible from my front lawn.]

    Bookmark   April 21, 2010 at 9:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

Yup, I'm happier already, though there's still room for fiddling.

Large square-cut stone for the walkway can be a nice compromise between concrete and flagstone... slabs in the 2x2 (that's feet), 2x3, 3x3, type of size are nice. Heavy, but nice. I also have some stamped concrete 2x2 slabs that I really enjoy.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 1:26PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

As you seem to be adept with the old 'photo editing' can you tone down the newly dug look of the earth and stick a pointy conifer in front of that glaring white pole in the middle? Now that you are on you your way to avoiding the stripey look try a non full frontal pic and show us what it looks like.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 6:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Pointy conifer...how big?

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 6:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, you see how (the way you have taken the photograph)that white column leads the eye up to those two little windows and the chimney. A pointy conifer as competition to the vertical interest would be an interesting way to ground things say as high as the top of the blue stripe (don't forget these be growing things) and a round one at 45 degrees off to the left in front of the Volkswagen. Do it on the computer and see what it looks like.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 6:30PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
tibs(5/6 OH)

I think the white column is only obvious in thie front-on photo. As things grow in and you place stuff on the porch (window boxes, or hanging plants, or pots down the front steps), it won't stick out like a sore thumb. Did you ever consider an open spindel railing on the front porch? I couldn't beleive the difference it made in my childhood home (a 1913 foursquare with a touch of Queen Anne) Really took away the boxy look. You just have to be careful to have the railing height the right propostion (1/3 of the opeing rather than 1/2) And have the railing the right style for a bungalow and the right bulk. Have fun with your landscaping. Those little bungalows are quiet gems.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 10:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It is "boneless". The plants are not responding to the house. More meat in terms of size and evergreen are needed, in my opinion. Some kind of unity should help as well - that can be by repetition of some of the same plants across the face of the house.
The beds should respond to the planting rather than the other way around.
The stepping stones to the left going through the bed are not helpful aesthetically because the bed is too small to absorb it. It would have been better to have left grass and to have put the tree in a separate bed, if the walk is necessary.
I'd also like to see the house planting continue to the left (past the end of the house)as far as possible. This could help distract from the driveway and make a background to the tree that is very difficult to notice right now. I'd like to see that tree more to the left, if possible, as well (matching the distance to the one on the other side because it could not go further?). The idea is to mitigate the lack of balance of the steps being to one side (currently, you are enhancing that unbalance). It would be nice to make the steps appear more centered in the landscape which would really make them work off-centered on the house. I find it odd that the steps do not line up with the door (I'd consider adding a porch column to either side of the steps, but it would put one directly in front of the door).
Yes, the result would be a variation of a typical foundation planting and now you know how and why they evolved.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 7:25AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

inkognito, like this? I'm not sure exactly what you meant. I see no blue line, and 45 degrees from the middle column and in front of the VW is in the street. For what it's worth, I am not a fan of cones and globes.

laag, no time to respond to your comments at the moment but definitely later.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 8:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

ink, the pointy conifer idea is a distraction--let it go. To actually hide a column it will have to be large and it will compete with the balance needed on the left. It's not a given that the columns must be painted white on this house so there are other ways to mitigate, and also more mature and substantial plantings themselves will give visual competition.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 10:35AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

One benefit of a computer mock-up is the ability to try several things before settling on one. The idea was to break up the symmetry. The middle column is not so dominant in this view but the geometry of the little trees is more evident. Tidying up the walkway looks much better and the colour of the soil is less aggressive so we have learned something there.

What if. instead of a narrow strip of grass around the two front beds you edged with a similar stone to the walkway and arranged things inside in a totally geometric fashion?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 11:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

laag, I totally agree about the bones. I put in a few rhododendrons in the front a couple of years ago, just because they are my preference for evergreens, but the lacebugs are a problem. There is one left there that I have not had a chance to move yet. The idea was that they would be the thing that settled the house down into the yard. A bungalow needs to sit in a nest. I should go snap a photo of a house nearby that has gone overboard on the idea but it would be good for inspiration. Unfortunately rhododendron is not the way to accomplish it in this application and I'm starting over. Perhaps showing this picture while everything is still dormant was a mistake. The hydrangea that's there is mature, though it's dwarf and a runt so it's only about 4' tall. It could definitely use something layered behind it. That is spirea to the left of the stairs, and I thought about adding another spirea on the right and another hydrangea for unity's sake.

The area to the left of the stairs is very small. Here is the undoctored photo, maybe you can see it better. There is no more room to extend to the left of the house. We dug out that dirt strip just a few days ago for grass. We need it getting in and out of vehicles. I could move the side flagstone path toward the tree a bit more. That would solve the problem of a little smidge of space there that looks like it needs something but not much room. Last year I planted tall perennials behind the tree to do what you suggested of visually obscuring the side path and driveway while also giving a backdrop for the tree. It worked, but as I looked at it this year I realized those perennials were WAY too close to the tree, so I dug them out.

As for balance on the house, it seemed weird to me too at first that the steps were not in front of the door, until I realized that the steps are symmetrical to the double windows. If I wanted to go for symmetry, I would need to balance the stairs with something on the right and balance the windows with a chair/table/something on the wall to the left of the door. But really, that's not what I want. Asymmetry is ok.

ink, the little trees have not fully leafed-out yet. The mulch was so dark in the original picture because it had rained.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 12:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Bungalow-house, I liked your first bed layout, but maybe a bit more width in the portion to the right of the stairs and consider taking the beds to the sidewalk. I think the concern over balance has been addressed by the trees and can be further enhance with, as suggested, more bulk in the form of evergreen (junipers or cypress types) for the foundation. the rectangular bed in front seems rather lacking in the mock ups shown. The stairs are where they are, but the other architectural elements completely overpower the stairs in my opinion. A little dynamic tension in a design will aid in reducing monotony and soulessness.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 6:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

While you're playing with mock-ups, why not paint the columns on the porch? I suggest the deeper blue that's used above the beltline and on the dormer. Lovely colors, by the way!

Yours is not a formal house, and doesn't call out for symmetry. But you do need balance in your asymmetry. As isabella said, "a little dynamic tension." Exactly! If you were inclined to move the tree that's on the non-driveway side just a little bit in front of the house, and put a great container plant (maybe something vining?)on the porch between the door and the driveway, that might give you a sense of dynamism and tension. A bit of a screen in front of the garbage/recycling, built from the same white lattice below the porch, would also add dynamism by moving the eye across the horizontal plane and then farther back.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 10:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Balance and symetry are not necessarily the same thing. The stairs are centered between the two pillars which really emphasizes the middle pillar(I don't think the windows are centered between them).

Below is a simple study of repetition and balance without symetry on the whole house. There is symetry on either side of the stairs. I don't mean to suggest any particular plants or color - this is just what I grabbed out of another photo. It is the form that I'm trying to make a point with. Also, less bed - more grass and stepping stones in the grass rather than the bed. I would not call the mock up well balanced, but there are a lot of things to overcome and a lot of constraints to work within.

If you are going to have any grass there has to be enough for it to own its own space. The beds should be owned by the plants (make the beds fit the plant rather than trying to fill the beds with plants).

I'm not saying that this is what you should do. I'm just trying to show some techniques to overcome some obstacles so that you or anyone else can ponder and try to work within their own style and plant choices.

Just one way to look at it. Note the extra pillars on the porch and one of your steps and your daffodils mocking up a window box.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 10:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you laag. I see what you mean by centering the steps. Unfortuntely there just isn't enough space. There is maybe 4' between the house and he driveway. We need a foot of that to enter and exit a car. I will keep tinkering, which is half the fun anyway.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 3:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

It's certainly an interesting one to tinker with! Usually I like laag's mock-ups. This one leaves me feeling so-so. The additional pillars on the porch are interesting. Now that I've seen them, the original porch looks like the porch roof is not adequately supported! On the other hand, the porch looks smaller and a bit cluttered with them there. The windowbox leaves me cold, regardless of the reason it is there. It definitely adds a cluttered feeling.

The alternating evergreens also do nothing for me, once again regardless of the point being made. It makes it look like the stereotypical foundation planting and this house deserves better than that! And less grass looks better than more. I think the fact that it is a uniform, solid green vs. the variety of the plantings is enough contrast to give it 'ownership' even if there is less of it. In the 1/3 2/3 proportions, I think the plantings need to be the 2/3 to enhance the house. I'd stick to pretty heavily white colored things for any flowering plants to coordinate with the white trim on the house and keep the whole picture cool and elegant.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 4:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't like it either, but it is food for thought. I'm not a mockup guy nor do I want to do free online designs, so I only do these for very quick, simple, down and dirty, discussion points.

The house is a very simple bungalow with a few inherent flaws (door to stair relation, centered column, narrow lot, very close to road...). Variety and complexity in a planting are great when there is room to overcome the difficulties that they create in any landscape. This situation creates a context that takes away a lot of the options that let us get away with using variety and complexity without trashing the verall composition. The problem is that basic foundation plantings are so maligned and thought to be passe so that people try to get complicated. That is tough enough in any context, but very difficult. In order to make it work, you keep finding that you have to go "corporate", but you are so fighting not to have what the house needs (a basic planting) that you are frustrated.

The walkway is not helping matters in my opinion.

Simpler is always easier. Below is an even more basic stereotype foundation planting. The house is altered with part of the porch shown with an open railing and a soilid stone walkway is shown.

These plant abstracts are actually the top of a grafted "spruce on a stick", one pom-pom of a "bonsai" juniper, and a portion of an Old Gold juniper. They are stretched and distorted to make representative plant forms.

We've seen this puppy before ....

I think it illustrates that with more space there are more ways to overcome the burdens of more complexity. It is much harder to do with the reality of the actual site dimensions.

Not sure who did this one (not me, I don't think):

I recognize the plants in this one (me). Here again is a very simple foundation planting and a couple of bookend trees with under plantings.

One of the reasons I don't like mockups is that it is easy to distort distances. These older mockups clearly show larger front setbacks than actually exist. I'm thinking that we were doing mockups on other mockups without the original.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 11:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

I think this house is begging for a cottage garden with no lawn at all. I'd like to see every square inch of dirt on both sides of that sidewalk covered with all different flowers, flowering shrubs, and ornamental grasses.

But what interests me more are the possibilities for handling the way the door and the steps don't line up. Obviously one way of handling it would be to move the door or the steps, but I imagine that either of those would cost a fairly significant amount of money. So for a cheaper (perhaps interim) option, what about adding a wall hanging of some sort to extend the sense of the door into the area of the steps, drawing the eyes farther away from the central white pillar and improving the "balance"?

It would be tricky to get something that both looked like it belonged and spoke to you enough to merit such prominent positioning. You might have to make it yourself or have it custom-made. But if done just right, I think it would lessen the need to cram an impractical volume of plants into the left corner to create "weight" there.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 12:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Woodyoak, almost everything that flowers here is white, with some blue, purple. Definitely cool.

Laag, I appreciate your mockups and see what you are trying to demonstrate. Yes, you've seen this puppy before. The first old mockup you posted is new to me, so you must have done that one too. The second is the one I mentioned earlier in this thread that had me planting around the trees which did work to disguise the driveway and walkway but ultimately I thought it bad for the trees so I removed them.

Queerbychoice, I agree a full cottage garden would be ideal. I even mocked up a white picket fence once, and it was perfect except for the aforementioned heavy snow shoveling.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 5:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Continuing my last post...

I also agree that shifting the focus right would be the only practical way of addressing balance here. As you pointed out, I would have a hard time finding something I liked enough to hang next to the door. In the meantime I am collecting old unpainted wicker furniture (which is hard to come by, btw) and have a rocker that sits to the left of the door. I'm on the lookout for a small table. Then I'll put something on the wall. An antique planter, perhaps.

Generally speaking I will not be changing anything about the house itself. Mine has been a mission to restore the house, so I will not change any original features.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 5:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

And as an aside, the house to the left of us in the photo used to be an empty lot that belonged to our house. A previous owner sold it in 1992 and someone built a house on it. It is an incredibly tight squeeze. I mourn that empty lot on an almost-daily basis, and here is just another reason I need to win the lottery, buy that house, give it to someone to move, and reclaim the lot! :)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 5:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Laag - the third mock-up in that series is the one that looks right to me - but with the solid stone walkway of the first one.

bungalow-house - I think a cottage garden look would be right but not one with a fence. Part of the charm of the house I think is it's open, sunny feel and a fence would be contrary to that.

The front steps of our house are not aligned with the door. It was a deliberate, practical choice for us. It does look a bit odd of course but we live with it :-) The The mailbox and decorative house number are aligned with the stairs. The porch is too narrow (6') to have anything like furniture sitting there. In the summer we usually have a shade-tolerant house plant there. You could use a plant in summer and a winter arrangement of something-or-other in a pot.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 9:22AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The recent mockup showing the "Green Meatballs" is to make the point that the bulk of the house and the small size of the front yard are most effectively blended by hitting the viewer between the eyes with a two-by-four first. This then gives you the ability to get funky on top of that without making the whole composition disjointed. I did meatballs because a more well developed foundation planting would distract from the point that I want to make (plus I don't want to spend a bunch of time on it). By showing primitive cliche amatuer meatballs across the front of the house it clarifies the concept if it is looked at as a concept. If you look at it as a finished landscape, the point will be dismissed.

The mockup above that I did not think that I had done may have been done by me by grabbing pieces out of another posters image (maybe brick churchy looking house in the midwest a few years ago?). I think it shows that getting funky without tying the house becomes a landscape that might be nice on its own, but does not work on the house.

Below is what should be a total clash between the "blue" landscape and the "green meatball" landscape. But, the power of the base foundation planting overcomes that. This is a real hack job of blended mockups (like wearing a paisley shirt with plaid pants) which should absolutely prove the point that I'm trying to make because it clearly works.

Neither you or I will put the meatballs in front of the house, but the concept of the basic foundation plan as a base to the landscape of this house is clearly at the heart of allowing you to do almost whatever you want in front of it and still have a landscape that works with the house.

I guaranty that at least four other people have tried to do mockups of this house, but have found that they are not proud enough of them to post them (I'm more shameless).

Revisionist history is that foundation plantings are a result of post war hack contractors fluffing houses with plants. I contend that it comes from basic artistic composition. Running from cliche is one thing, but ignoring basic composition without a suitable substitute is another. Nothing is more basic than a box bungalow, so why fight continuing to build off of it?

Lock down your house with some variant of a basic foundation planting as the "bones" of your landscape. This can be small background plants or bigger shrubs. Because of the mass of the solid porch wall and lattice below, it is easier to achieve with larger shrubs. Lock down the house and freedom will follow. You could do almost anything in front once you do that. Use the plants that you like and do well where you are for the foundation planting. The foundation planting becomes far less obvious as you develop the rest of the planting.

When you see an "out of the box" landscape that you don't think is a cliche foundation planting, study it closely and see if it is just not a well disguised and added to foundation planting. I think you'll be surprised.

It does not have to be a row (I don't). A triangle of three (middle slightly forward) of the same plant in the middle of the long wall with a pair of a different shrub on either side of the steps (slightly forward of the rear two of the triangle) and something more upright on at least the right side end. You could match bookends, but it is not necessary. The end plants should partially cover the corners when looked straight on from the road. Try to extend the left end of the planting as far as you can. The right can end abruptly with the upright plant (or not).

The toughest thing here is that the sidewalk is so close to the house and having to overcome the bulk of the porch in that space.

One other thing that I think would go a long way is to either get your stepping stone walk surrounded by grass or make it a tight stone walk with no mulch in or around it.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 10:04AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


The problem with the hydrangea & Daylily mockup is that the front yard is not anywhere close to that size.

The concept is what? A basic foundation planting.

Also the width of the property is distorted in that mockup.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 10:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

FWIW, here is the only photo I have from late last summer showing the perennials blocking the side path and driveway. It was effective, though I overplanted. I intended to bulk up the plantings in front of the porch and plant around the right tree but never got around to it with a newborn in the house. As I said before though, I thought the stuff was not good for the tree roots. The only thing left now is the tall white phlox at about 10-11 o'clock of the left tree and I put some shasta daisies at 1-2 o'clock of the right tree and shuffled things around a bit in between.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 10:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Yes, but I still think that it's the right sort of 'look' for the house...

Do you do any teaching laag? I think you'd be good at it.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 10:54AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't do any teaching. I did some TA work in school, but I'm still trying to develop more clarity of these things to myself and then to improve my ability to convey what I do believe I understand (why I post and sometimes drag out threads).

I have fantasies of writing a basic design theory book some day, but I have a lot more learning a commuications skills to develop. I think there is a huge void in basic design theory books that do not cross the line into the "how to design like me because this is the only right way" design book.

I'm also not sure there is a market for it because most people believe they are too advanced to learn the basics. That is as true with college LA students as with first time homeowners.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 11:24AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Bungalow-house - I forgot to say... re last years's picture - I like the white on the right but the stuff on the left is too 'see-through' and messy-looking for me. Something like 'Little Lamb' hydrangea would be nice there I think. I'm not sure why you're worried about planting too close to the trees. I do that all the time and, as long as everything is getting enough water, they all do just fine.

laag - interesting... Go for it! The communication trick you need to think about is how to make the reader think they are reading something advanced while teaching them the basics! A little manipulation is in order... :-) Make sure the title and the promo blurbs are right and you're away to the races....

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 12:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

"Running from cliche is one thing, but ignoring basic composition without a suitable substitute is another. "

Again, Laag, you have me hitting "file, save as..." and rethinking my ideas about foundation planting. Very nicely done. Yes, you should write a book. Woody's take on your audience is interesting... and that would be how you get to the design snobs. But it might be that yours would be one of those books at the checkout at Home Depot that normal people use to get good results and that snobs pick up just because they haven't had a fix for a while, and then it turns out to be the book they keep going back to (can you tell this has happened to me?). and that Bboy keeps telling people to look for in used book stores long after it is out of print. We always have a bit of a yen to write for an audience just like ourselves, when really, people just like us don't need our book.

As for this house, I do not think the offset door is a problem. I have a door centred on my stairs, and when I am in the front yard with the door open, every passerby can see all the way through my house. I hate that.

Finally, what about focussing on the shape of the lawn instead of the shape of the beds? I think that is one thing I don't like about the status quo.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 1:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Laag may not realise it but he is using the term 'foundation planting' in a different way than the one that is often used to refer to the "result of post war hack contractors". Here we see 'foundation' as a synonym for 'bones' and not as a concrete apron to be disguised. The cliché is lining up plants in front of a house whether they add anything to the "basic artistic composition" or not.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 6:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Ink, I know where you are coming from. But, I have observed countless threads where people are extremely paranoid of any organized planting along the face of a building lest they be considered unsophisticated.

I'm pretty sure my green meatball example is just about as cliche as it gets (purposely so in order to make the point).

Dress normally and accessorize uniquely.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 7:53PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Jon 6a SE MA

Charming bungalow and some very good suggestions. For my 2 cents the observation that the landscaping is severely weighted to the left is very accurate. I would plant a heavier conifer on the right; picea abies pungens would be my choice. Am evergreen would balance the area all years. How about a low fence with a gate centered on the house (possible an arbor) with a winding path (material there) to the front door. Large container on the porch left of the door to try and center the mass to the entry. Finally I thik the house shouts for shutters to dress it up. Knockout shrub roses along the fence. OK, that should keep you very busy and financially strapped for a long time.

Good luck whatever you decide and I am sure by te start you have taken and the concern you show it will look great.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 8:36AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The porch rail planter box of Laag's with the color scheme of the stairs is really great. Make the box the same width as the stairs and symetrical about the center post wiht the stairs and call it good! Just weed out the crabgrass and have fun!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 9:32AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Well, I'd plant a white vine on the left and eventually train it along the roof line and a pink vine on the right and eventually train it along the railing. Let everything else just fill in.


    Bookmark   April 26, 2010 at 10:07PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Help! My new front yard is UGLY! Any ideas appreciated!
Do I keep the stone flower bed edge? I was told it...
the bane of my existence - what to plant in driveway ribbon???
I live in a historic district... the board has to approve...
Plantings for Driveway/Walkway Design
We would like to pave the driveway. (I hope I am in...
Need help design patio & location of tree
The backyard of my future home (yet to be completed)...
Late Sound
Landscape design assistance
Hello, Our home is in Connecticut (Zone 6A) and we've...
Sponsored Products
Nourison Area Rug: Contour Smoke and Teal 3' 6" x 5' 6"
Home Depot
KOHLER Shower Bases Archer 36 in. x 36 in. Single Threshold Shower Receptor
Home Depot
AXO Light | Spillray Large Ceiling Light
$425.70 | YLighting
Eye of the Horseshoe Frame
| Dot & Bo
Swan Style Loveseat
IFN Modern
Refrax Stainless Steel 19-Light Jaguar Swarovski Elements Pendant Light, 36.5W x
Tech Lighting | Larkspur Pendant
$655.20 | YLighting
Campania International Martini Urn Cast Stone Planter - P-641-AL
$514.99 | Hayneedle
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™