short and long term de-uglification

kiki_thinkingApril 27, 2011

We bought this house last spring because of location and neighborhood. I am very happy with those, but honestly I CRINGE every time the house comes into view when I return home. We are definitely the ugly home in the neighborhood.

It's so bare and arid and charmless.

I love to garden and have had nice places in the past but this house - I am so blocked, stonkered, stymied... Sigh.

I would so appreciate any suggestions on how to begin this year, and any ideas I could work towards long-term!!!!!!!

Wishes and Problems and Photos:

The front of my house faces north-east.

We live in a community with a huuuuuge deer problem. Most of my neighbors who garden frequently spray their plants with sour milk or some sort of spray that has blood in it to repel deer, fence, and plant ONLY very deer resistant plants.

I have 11 large oak trees in my front yard. I could afford to remove a few of them, but removing all of them would be a very very big deal to my budget. If I did remove some of them, I'd prefer it be the ones closest to my house foundation.

My biggest complaint is that the front yard looks so dreary and arid. I'm actually an avid gardener and my previous two houses were charming and flowery.

My daughter and I did plant some daffodils last fall. And I planted a Harry Lauder's Walking Stick near the mailbox and a service berry tree near the gas meter in the front yard.

Our contractor suggested that we remove the mulch next to the house under the boxwood shrubs and replace it with rock. The sidewalk is feels very narrow, so i thought about visually widening it by adding an additional stripe of the rock on the side of the sidewalk away from the house.

I would also be thrilled if I could have some sort of attractive pine tree/ evergreen to break up the expanse of the wall to the left of the front door, a tree I could decorate for Christmas -

(also, btw, when we are able to re-stain the house I am hoping to use a very dark brown that looks green in some lights, kind of like sherwin williams Status Bronze.)

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sorry i don't know why those photos are so large - here's a link to the two photos i posted in case you want to see them at a more reasonable size -

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 10:50AM
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and here is the view of the approach to the front door.
sorry for the cludgy-ness

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 10:52AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Well, I guess if Designshare is not to be the first responder, someone else will have to be, so I'll jump in.

I won't say I know what TO do here, but I would like to start by challenging a couple of your perceptions and, just to be contrary, disagreeing with most of the ideas you've floated :-) Sorry, not trying to be difficult. Just the thing is, you are not going to turn this house into something that looks like your neighbours, and trying will just make it worse.

First, your contractor's idea of rocks. What looks best under trees is a forest floor... often achieved with mulch. Rocks would be hideous, besides getting covered in leaves within a few months.

Second, dark stained house. The word "creepy" was used in a concurrent thread recently, and I think putting a dark house in a wooded lot would inevitably go in that direction. You want charm, then I think your current colour or something else light is your best bet under that many trees. You can see how the daffodils already light up the space under the trees... your current house colour does the same thing. The house itself might look dressier in dark, but I don't think it will make your yard a nicer space, nor will it make your house look more charming or welcoming. It will make it disappear into the woods... maybe that's what you want?

Where paint can be your friend is on the door (light! bright!) and windows, and in the question of whether you can embellish that big, central stark house wall in some way. I'm not a big shutter person, but they might be an option here... I would be wanting to do something on those walls. And you could even do more with your house numbers - they don't need to be crammed against the door frame and could be much more attractive. Little things can make a big difference.

I realize I'm still not on the landscaping, but is that stoop really all you've got for a front porch? Given the expanse of wall available, would you consider making a nice front deck to the left of the door? Even if you don't use it a lot, creating a place that looks like a nice place for a person to be creates a welcoming aura. I think that would be far more charming than something that would further conceal and darken the entrance.

Your available planting space is up near the road if you want flowers, but flowers tend to look messy most of the time. You've got a very clean looking landscape that has a lot of appeal, just not the same sort of appeal that a flower garden has. And then there are the deer... your current stuff is pretty deer-proof!

I would selectively remove a tree or two, and I would agree with the ones close to the house, but actually I would prioritize the one that most blocks the door from whichever perspective matters most to you.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 12:38PM
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karinL, i really appreciate the input - challenge away!! i'm not married to any of the above ideas, they were just inclinations ;)

the entry area does not feel welcoming - the porch is kind of inset, so there's more stoop there than is apparent, about 5' x 5' . A bigger porch could definitely be an option -

the contractor told me that the cedar siding comes down too close to the ground, and the prior owners installed an interior french drain to deal with the moisture that runs down the yard and from the gutters and ends up keeping the area near the house moist. he suggested to aviod termite complications that we remove the mulch next to the house, and replace it with fist-sized rocks heavy enough not to blow away when we use the leaf blower. so the initial idea was not to rock in the whole mulched area, just the part between the sidewalk and the house. i can see what you mean though about the "forest floor"

in my last home i had lots of cherry trees and forsythia and peonies and perennials - but i do feel that those things are too feminine, or too frivolous or too fun for this house.

the reason that i leaned towards the dark colors -
i often see homes of that era and style painted a chocolate brown, and i thought the greeny-bronze-dark brown would be a slightly updated friend to that chocolate color. Right now the windows look like dark forbidding holes in a light wall, i thought maybe painting the house darker would allow the windows to seem lighter. also, the cedar siding is very flawed and i thought a darker color would hide the repairs better

when i get home tonight i'll try and do some mock-ups of color choices.

i have no idea what to do with that big expanse of blank wall. I thought about building some sort of heavy 2-stroy trellis and planting something like pyracantha to climb it - but i have no idea if pyracantha would grow there.

like i said, i'm not married to the ideas i mentioned, just wanted to toss them out for discussion and to show that i wasn't expecting the world to hand me a solution but was trying to figure something out ;)

keep the ideas coming!!!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 1:53PM
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My thoughts, Do some research on deer proof plants. The area to me is screaming for a woodland garden! I love the big oak trees, so if it were me, I would use the money saved from leaving the trees, and put in a new curvy path to the front door, maybe wondering through some of the oaks. This may give you an option of planting a taller bush/tree where the big blank wall area is. Mary

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 3:27PM
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thank you mary! i do like the idea of putting in a curved approach, that might soften the very rectangular lines of the house and the sidewalk is not in good condition.

i do have lists of deer-proof plants and i also can drive around the neighborhood and see what is managing to hang in there -

do you guys like the daffodils? is that something i should continue thru the whole mulched area?

i have some lenten rose that is growing well under the trees.

the whole area under those oaks is dry dry dry -
which is a far worse problem than the deer.

Do you think I could plant an understory of something like white dogwoods under the oaks, then an lower level under that of rhododendrons and then under that ground stuff -

i need to google the elements of a woodland garden

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 4:40PM
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The side walk not only feels narrow, it is narrow. Widen it by adding a walkable surface. Wide enough for 2 people to walk side by side is ideal.

The excessive "wiggle" in the edging of the beds looks strange. If you want to soften the edge of a shrub border, do it with shrubs that sprawl a bit over a straight or slightly curved interface between lawn and shrubs. It's easier to mow, too.

Definitely do underplantings of something that likes light shade - Franklinia alatamaha, dogwoods, etc. You have an ideal spot for various shade-loving native plants.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 7:53AM
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I am not sure I agree with creepy or ugly. you landscaping could be called "bland", but I would look at the large oaks as an asset and embrace a woodland garden. If I were you I would invest in 5 things. 1 .A large japanese maple (as large as you can afford - hopefully 6feet at least) planted in the center of your facade under the oaks. 2. Another deciduous tree that will tolerate shade at the left of your entrance where you suggested you may need a "christmas tree". 3. a grouping of three large leaf rhododendrons planted in the mulched area under the oaks. After investing in those plants, start gradually collecting shade loving woodland plants that are deer proof. Oh, and plant 1000 daffodils which the deer hate.

Please check out the book THE WOODLAND GARDEN by Robert Gilmore for some great ways to embrace the landscape you have.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 9:19AM
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just looked up the franklinia alatamaha you suggested, what an interesting story behind that tree!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 1:27PM
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i'm so glad of your suggestions -

dirtygirl, will the japanese maple survive the under the oaks?

where generally would you put the rhododendrons?

i'm glad you like the daffodils! i love them! i got a bulb attachment for my husbands drill last fall and planted 50 in about 90 minutes! it's my favorite tool!!

will absolutely get the woodland garden book!!! thanks for the recommend

lazygardens, i'd noticed that the contour of the yard as it was laid out was very hard to mow, lots of tight curves. I will definitely soften that when i re-mulch this year.

much wider sidewalk, definitely on my list. now need to think about where it would go -

if i go the woodland garden route, what to do about the neat line of boxwoods? they are growing well - but they definitely don't look like the woodlands.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 1:56PM
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Sorry for being so brief before: heres my thinking:

The facade of your house is more of a problem than the oaks IMO. The windows are too far apart and the front door is hidden. I am suggesting a japanese maple because the color of the foliage would compliment the neutral color of your home and I am suggesting planting it in the center of the main facade to correct that big blank wall look. It is a smaller tree so it has the effect of lowering the canopy. The japanese maple will survive under the oaks if you water it well as it becoming established. Which is true for any shade tree plant or shrub. The Oaks will absorb much of the water in that area, so you need to focus on watering anything you plant so they can survive.

I would probably choose to locate the three rhodies in a group under the two right hand windows, in the center of the four oaks if that is possible. It will have a greater impact when visitors enter your walkway and the lack of planting on the other side would be less obvious giving you more time to develop this area. Check with your neighbors to see if they have had problems with deer and large leaf rhodies - its not common here to have problems but who knows what the deer will do in your area!

I am leaning towards a deciduous tree next to the front door because an evergreen would bring a great deal of weight and darkness to an area that is already pretty shady. A small tree that flowers would bring attention to the front door area, lower the canopy and prevent that falling off into oblivion feeling that your entrance now faces.

I love daffodils - and the deer dont so they are a great spring bulb for deer infested areas. You may also want to experiment with alliums - another bulb that the deer dislike. I have tried companion planting allium with things the deer typically like to see if the odor would repel the deer but with little success. "invisible fence" is the product I use - or I should say my crew uses because I cannot not get near the odor of the stuff!

I posted 4 pictures for you on flickr - starting with allium and ending with the japanese maple. The two photos of the japanese maples are both in wooded areas. One is summer color and one is fall color. The two trees have been there for more than 7 years now.

Here is a link that might be useful: woodland photos

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 4:04PM
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I think the problem that kiki is facing is that her house differs from the others in her neighborhood. Its not common in suburbia to have a woodland garden. In the rural area in which I live that is extremely common - 2 out of three jobs I get are for shaded or woodland areas.

Obviously one of my favorite woodland plants is the japanese maple. despite its reputation with home owners, it is a relatively easy tree and provides beautiful foliage color. I also really like amelanchier, shadblow or serviceberry which ever you prefer to call it. Rhodies both large leaf and small leaf - kalmia, hemlock, summersweet are some of my other favorites.

It is easier to garden in full sun in most areas, but what is the reluctance about dealing with shade? Trees are so amazing and full grown trees are very rare in most suburban areas ...whats the issue?

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 4:20PM
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just a quick post because i have to go work, but i did plant a serviceberry (amalanchier) beside my gas thingie - it's my favorite tree!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 4:27PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Drtygrl, I think you have it exactly right and it is what I keep coming back to - what you now have is quite a spectacular landscape in its own way. Your problem is
really mostly that the landscape is placed disadvantageously relative to the house, and that the most has not been made of the house itself. I think that you
also want to ameliorate the landscape by adding more flowering and small elements, and that's going to help, but unless you address the house issue separately,
the landscape alone is not going to do the trick. And the landscape itself is not really so problematic that it needs a lot of intervention.

Mitigating the entryway is, in my opinion, job One. I think a big part of this could be a different pathway arrangement. If there were a pathway from the street
to the door, or even from near the mailbox to the door along the top of the tree grove, the place would look more accessible, and then there are the other items
I mentioned before. We can't even see your doorway, and that's got to be an issue for passersby and for you coming home.

As for the landscape, which can go some way toward mitigating the house, I think one amenity we have not discussed is the slope. Kiki says it's arid under the trees,
and I think it may be arid enough to preclude the use of summer flowering plants (bulbs and hellebores and ferns, at best, I suspect). Maybe epimediums. That's not
just shade, it's very dry shade. People don't often realize that dry shade plants can look pretty ratty in summer once their spring phase is over - I'd sometimes rather
have none. As such, iIt may make more sense to do the "woodland" garden up in the grassy area where it will still front the house, actually more effectively than if shrubs
are down in among the trees. I bet it's wetter up there with runoff from the street. Maybe the plastic edge even holds water for the grass :-)

Plant material up at the top that silhouettes against the house may reduce the need for the boxwoods. But I think you could still widen the pathway a fair bit without
losing them, if you want to keep them.

Resist the urge to plant "at" things such as the mailbox and meter. That Harry Lauder will totally overwhelm the mailbox anyway, so I'd put that in a deciduous shrub
border where it would be silhouetted against a plain part of the house wall. The placement relative to the house is what matters, not relative to the mailbox.

And finally, if those are really oaks, there will likely be some value in the wood so if you get any of them removed, be sure your arborist is factoring that value into the
cost - unless there's a reason they're not worth anything. And with a site like this there should be a tree plan and an objective - either continuous renewal with the
removal of the biggest one every ten/twenty years and planting a new one, or gradual culling so you are left with just a few very big trees in the long run. All depends
on your objective.


    Bookmark   April 28, 2011 at 5:38PM
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for the hijack:

(i'm not sure my opinion carries any weight because i'm just a dabbler)

but what i really like about gardening and landscaping is taking a daily tour, checking on everything that is popping up or budding, and then getting a burst of delight when there's some big dramatic thing "ooooo the cherry is blooming!!"

in a shade garden, it seems that the daily changes are more muted and subtle and there's rarely a big payoff of blossom.

the other thing about a shade garden is that i'm rarely "struck" by a shade plant at the nursery. i'm of course drawn to color, so the plants that i come home with generally are colorful sunny plants. i think it takes a special kind of forethought to choose something quiet and green and maybe a little spotty when presented with a cotillion of other abundantly blooming riotously colored flowers.

um, i should add that personally, i'm not at all flashy - i don't wear cloying perfume or attention-getting clothes - i'm more introspective and quiet - so now that i think about it maybe shade plants would be a little more me

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 8:11AM
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Kiki, it may help you to get good Ideas by visiting an arboretum, or someplace that has a shade garden to visit. To me shade gardening is very relaxing. I have a fettish for Hosta's, yes they need water, but they have so many varieties that have very interesting leaves. Another plant I love is Heuchera, they can bring you some color! Google Georgia Peach! Best wishes! Mary

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 11:24AM
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I think epimediums is a great suggestion Karin. I also love the use of the word AMELIORATE ---it is one of my favorite words. My daughter came home worried about an exam on which her vocabulary would be graded. I told her "just use the word ameliorate and you will get full credit." and she did and did! :)

I would love to suggest hostas - but not with the deer issue. Really, dont even bother. Just as they start to look nice - the deer will kill them. Here are some other choices though if we are going to get into the understory: Tiarella, astilbe, as Mary mentioned, heuchera, azalea. Japanese Haku grass is an amazing plant in the shade, as is variegated red twig dogwood, They bring light and will tolerate difficult conditions.

Here are some other choices for dry shade: ALchemilla mollis, asarum (ginger) vinca, lamium, ferns, galium, pulmoniaria, iris crestata, dicentra exima (bleeding heart), woodland phlox ,pachysandra, rodgersia - ok that is all I can think of after a long day of work! There are probably more options in your zone - as I am north of you and its pretty limited here.

A woodland garden will lean towards blooming more in the early to mid spring, but with careful planning of the blooming shrubs and perennials you can have pretty extensive bloom. One plant that is important in that equation, since you cannot plant hosta, will be the use of astilbe. Plant a series of early to mid to late blooming varieties to maximize the summer bloom in your garden. And for the times when there is nothing in bloom, the structure of the garden using evergreen shrubs is crucial.

Most gardeners evolve to the point when subtle changes and the beauty of foliage is what they are looking for, so consider yourself ahead of the game. Instead of flashy, I would go for Peaceful, classy (kate middleton :), and Zen.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 3:03PM
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Thank you for the advice! Based on some of these idea I did some searching around - and found a large nursery about an hour and a half away from my home that specializes in medicinal, culinary, ceremonial, aromatic, fiber and dye, and woodland plants! Their website lists plants like mayapple and jack in the pulpit and lots of varieties of ferns -- so anyway I'm on my way there now to scout out the possibilities and explore. Very excited!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 2:09PM
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i know this is the landscape forum, so probably house colors aren't really an on-topic discussion, but with respect to showing up prettily behind a woodland garden, do you like any of these colors or are they all too dark?

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 10:54AM
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my husband has plans for our backyard, he wants to create a little wandery walking path loop and a dry streambed where the runoff from the house gutters goes (the pink line)

while reading about woodland gardens online, i noticed lots of references to circles of trees and i and my daughter (age 7) got very excited about that idea.
the only place i can see to put one in the back yard is in the area marked with red circles - the diameter of hte circle would be about 18'. Could i use yoshino cherries as the trees in the circle? i know they would be crazily close to each other.

is there a better choice for a blooming tree? i could do redbuds also -

the Ds on the left hand side represent where i'd like to plant white dogwoods. my neighbor bought 25 dogwoods from the state forestry service 10 years ago, and has a sweep of white dogwoods running diagonally across his property. if i were to pick up the natural end of his dogwoods and continue the flow across my property, they would be where i have placed the Ds.

i so much appreciate your thoughts.

i was thinking yoshino cherries for two reasons -
1. i would like something that bloomed at a different time than the dogwoods
2. i lived in japan for 3 years and a group of cherry trees would be a very nice reminder of that time -

appreciate all your thoughts and help!!!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 11:11AM
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just wanted to tell you thank you so much for the help -
based on the suggestions i now feel like i can start acquiring the japanese maple and rhododendron, collecting woodland plants and i've actually found a couple of inspiration photos

they are from a landscape architect's website at in case anyone wants to look at more of their lovely stuff

i know their yard slopes down from the house where mine rises up, but i thought the scale of the porch steps was a very good place to start imagining.

i super appreciate the planting advice for the rhododendrons and japanese maple and also the idea of focusing my planting on the edge of the grove where it meets the yard - and of course now i'm constantly trying to visualize a new sidewalk ;)

thank you so much for the help! i appreciate the sharing of your expertise!!!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 1:53PM
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I love your inspiration photos - i think that is perfect!
I really have no comment on the house color -they all look very similar to me except the blue- green and black- blue photos- it really depends on what you are looking to create. But if you look at the inspiration photo you posted - it is a blue green/black blue recessive calm color, so if that is what you like....

In the back yard - I think a tree circle can be a very powerful landscape feature. My only concern is the way you outlined it on the photo - the trees are really close to the existing trees and probably wont thrive. I have seen birches planted in 4s or 5s that look very nice and since it is a more horizontal tree, it works closer together. Its hard to tell from the photo but I dont think you have the space there to plant eight trees.

Same thoughts apply to the dogwoods - they seem crowded. Would you consider taking trees down?

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 6:23PM
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yep, will take trees down if I have to but it would really take a large chunk of my $ to spend on outside of house.

I just realized there is the same type of space on the opposite side of the yard, where teh diameter could be bigger. i know 4 trees wouldn't look like a circle, would just 5? or 6? or, over time i could take down some trees i would.

sorry about the dogwood placement, i only sprinkled them there without thinking just to show the general area. i was very excited to find out that our state forestry department sells dogwood saplings (1 to 2' tall) every spring for $1! They are sold out already this year, or I'd demand them (I mean hint nicely about them :) ) for mother's day.

I have spent the last several months moping about the plants I can't have here. And the idea of shade garden just didn't make me feel happy - but it's funny just the change in terminology - woodland garden, grove, understory ... started to sound more appealing - and then the photos surprised me completely! I love them a LOT!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 7:28PM
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you have gotten some really great feedback already and that's awesome that you're getting excited about your woodland garden! I was aprehensive about gardening in the shade at first and I have a long way to go to get my own woodland garden, but I'm getting there. In my situation I have maples to deal with which are worse then oak trees I believe. I have most of what the others here have mentioned except I have a brunnera plant that is absolutely my favorite shade plant right now! I have the all green version (there are silvery leafed ones as well) and unfortunately I left my camera cord at work so I can't upload a pic. Disclaimer: I don't know if it's deer resitant. Also Toad Lilys are cool, they actually bloom in the fall. Again, I don't know about the deer.
But I am in the same zone as you (I'm in Eastern PA)

What about Hydrangeas up near your house? Or viburnums? They both like shade, probably need supplemental watering and again the pesky deer situation. Oh, and ferns too, they might work.

I attached a link below to the fine gardening website. I really love their design articles and I did a search for shade gardening. You might find some good information on there.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Fine Gardening shade design search results

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 9:38PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Kiki, your house colours all left me a bit cold but when Drtygrl pointed out that the one in your inspiration photo is
similar I thought it all through a bit more. My conclusion was that the browns don't work in the woodland but the
blue-gray tones do, and I wonder why you didn't try that, but then I noticed that you have a brown roof that shows
quite a lot and might not go with the blue-gray. Also, it's possible that the inspiration photo is in more sun. So I
wonder if picking your house colour is going to be a bit more complicated than simply picking a colour you like.

I do agree your current colour is a bit dead, although I did express a preference for lightness. An alternative can be
to go brighter, to more of a clear yellow for instance, or warmer, to more of a red tone. I saw a gorgeous house the
other day that is stained a dark burgundy/maroon. As it had natural wood trim I can say it went with wood/brown
rather well, harmonizing/complementing rather than either contrasting or disappearing into the background.

Regarding tree circles, I am not familiar with the concept but remember touring an arboretum near where I live at some
point where the trees had often been planted in groups of three. Now enormous specimens, they are all a bit misshapen
with dead or flat zones where they connect. So my inclination would be to put each individual tree where it will have
some space. The swath of dogwood does sound lovely though.

It is an interesting woodland you have just as it is - quite outside my experience, mind you - but again for the back
as for the front, I wonder if you need to think forward a little and make a plan. You could, for instance, probably cut
down several of those that are currently quite small at a reasonable cost or DIY, if your intent is to later have a few
large oaks with some attractive understory trees. Or, look at placement and make your choices on that basis if there
is capacity for something out there at some point, outbuilding or patio or clearing or what have you. If you just add
trees, it could be quite random later.


PS I really enjoyed your new thread - you're verifying your screen name!

PPS I almost think I see a piece of landscape fabric at the trunk of one tree in your second large photo.
If so, you might be better off without that.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 12:02PM
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Randomly, i think some form of gray might work for house color even with brown shingles. Try some more photoshopping. I'm thinking take a cue from the tree bark.

Also randomly, I like how you are thinking about how you experience your yard and what makes you want to go there. This fits in with ink's thread (maybe -- never sure I should claim to discern the mind 'o ink) of flat lifeless 2-d versus real being in the garden stuff , or with landscaping has to at some point be not just visualized from a wide-angle photoshoot but should also have small treasures and pleasures. Plus those small steps often are the path to bigger decisions and more discerning designs. I have a lot of shady areas and find lots of plant combinations that thrill me when I walk by and see who's up now.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 12:04AM
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I like the 2nd paint color. I like the way it minimizes and blends the house into the trees and woods. Maybe just a smidge greener, (a sage-like or olive-like shade of green). Monitor colors aren't dependable, and the light in your yard will be different, so get some paint samples from the store and judge them in person. Maybe even get a quart sample, paint a large board with it, and set it up in front of the house behind the trees and judge from the street.

If you go this way with the color, you'll need to consider the color of the plants you put in front of it and make sure they don't blend in too well and become invisible - use lighter green vs. dark green.

I would also go ahead and figure out where you can move the Harry Lauder while it's young and before it gets too well rooted where it is. It is too close to the mailbox for the size it can get. My suggestion: Toward the middle and front of the yard, so it has the blank space between the windows as a backdrop to show off its branches and catkins when it gets them. Front and center of the tall straight trees would be a good contrast in plant form.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 12:58PM
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thank you craftlady, karinL, frankie and AD .. it's hard to comment on all the advice without sounding like a parrot, but thank you so much!

i've got a great list of suggested plants to start with from you - i actually bought some woodland plants this weekend - 3 brunnera macrophilia, an epimedium, some ferns, some lamiums (i'm sure i'm mangling the plurals of these names),
lady's mantle (ladies mantles?) and coral bells .. and jack in the pulpit! i didn't buy enough to do anything significant - but i just wanted to plant them and see if they thrive, and if they survive the grazing deer.

i loved the fine gardening site, i will play with grey colors of siding, i will move the harry lauder's walking stick this week (and thank you AD for the placement suggestion) and yes, i am slowly and determinedly excavating the landscaping fabric and removing it. How else could i use it? I hate to waste it.

I've been reading thru a lot of the old threads and it has become clear that i ought to ignore the plants a little until I have dealt with the hardscape issues. We do have a curved retaining wall that must be replaced in the next couple of years, and since I have my first-time homebuyer's tax credit and some savings, I called a local landscape designer and made an appointment for next week, for him to come look at the wall and give me an estimate on a segmented retaining wall and to also talk to me about widening/rerouting the sidewalk and even possibly pouring a new porch (although I doubt that last bit is in the budget yet) so i'm a little excited about possibilities but i won't know if any of that is financially feasible until after i talk with the designer - so i'll keep you posted.

i'm reading now about desireable qualities for entries. meet and greet areas, human space, the appeal of pavement to the psyche ..

Who knew such a concrete subject was so abstract?

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 12:01AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I think you may get the best "look" for your Harry Lauder's walking stick if you plant it where it gets full sun. As it is, it is located at the edge of the shade area, so the side exposed to the sun develops more, giving the tree a lopsided appearance.

I worked at a school with a show garden in shade. I really have come to love woodland shade gardening. There really are so many options, even for color and dry shade. But you won't find the plants at just any old nursery or big box store. I think that's why most people are intimidated at first by shade gardening, the lack of common availability of the plants and the skill set. But it is not really all that hard to get into the swing of it. Visit some awesome examples and get into the loop of specialty nurseries, especially ones with show gardens attached, so you can see what you like in action before you buy it. There are four such places near where I live, all require about an hours drive, but are so fun and pleasant, I don't mind making the excursion a couple of times a year.

Oh, and BTW, get your color fix with groovy pots of colorful annuals stuck in your sun spots, along with some very colorful annual shade show plants like the begonias and new guniea impatiens. There's even a perrenial begonia, very pretty!

Oh, and honestly, I'm not a huge shutter fan either, but I might at least try the look if I had your house. Seems like it would be easier to fill that huge space around the windows with shutters rather than plants. Although, once you get some understory action going with your woodland garden, the space might not be that noticable. Also, really, in the grand scheme of things, it's not that big of a deal, you have a beautiful home with a gorgeous setting. It pays off more to plus your pluses than to spend a lot of time, effort and money trying to extinguish small negatives or achieve something that just isn't that necessary. To me, in GA, having a shady lot with nice mature trees would be a tremendous plus when the air conditioning bill comes due! And if I was at all artsy, I might commision a grand metal wall sculpture for that space, lol!

Here is a link that might be useful: Perrenial begonia

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 11:15AM
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1pink, thanky ou for the annuals in pots suggestions and the plant ideas and the reminder to accentuate the positive ;)

"You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium is
Liable to walk upon the scene"

i hope it's not inappropriate to mention
(I have absolutely no vested interest in these places)

but noticing your location, there's a place in Spraggs PA -Shield's Herb and Flower Farm, i think it has a pretty broad selection of non-mainstream plants - but the thing i like best about them is that the owner has chickens and emus and wild peacocks wandering about. they are now a winery too - so it's a fun spot to visit and they have had very low prices until recently - i'm sure gas prices are affecting them.

i also found a plant propagator within driving distance Companion Plants, and they do mail-order too.

If you know of any great shade gardens to visit in OH,PA,WV, eastern MD areas, we do like to take trips and gardens are definitely destinations!

I'm artsy but I don't think my budget extends to art installations!!!!!! Not on that scale anyway - but I would love it.

I see what people mean about filling up the space around the windows with shutters, but if you really walked around the house, and saw the jazzy diagonal V siding and the additional sguare windows in the walls in random places, and the general contemporary mood of the house both inside and out -- the shutters would be quaintly out of place, i really do think. and i loooove houses with shutters so if i thought i could get away with it i would.

actually, i have metal window blinds that slowly shake closed as my front loading washing machine runs, gradually darkening my whole house with each cycle. as landscapers, what would you suggest? jk ;)

i will report back with what the landscape designer has to say on wednesday.

Here is a link that might be useful: companion plants

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 12:21AM
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Our house too suffered from curb appeal so I know where you are coming from.

We started with what we could realistically change and what we'd have to keep and make the best of.

Front entries are to be the focal point of the house and yours is lost. I would remove the 3 trees closest to the front door on the right. I would put shutters on all 4 of the windows to soften the wall up. I realize that this will draw attention to it, but the massiveness of that side of the house needs to be tamed down.

The trees (which I'd love to have in my yard) have little interest down below. I would place a smaller ornamental tree (15-20') that sits just off to the right (3-5')of the middle of the 4 windows midway to the street. This would break up the massive wall with the lower branches. You can place your perrenials below.

Assuming the small walkway is from the driveway to the front door, I would make the main entry for guests toward the street and keep the small walkway for daily use. You can curve it several times which will follow with the landscaping lines.

We too have an unslightly utility in our front yard. I found a removable fake rock (actually I forget about it until I'm up close and it sure beats the alternative). With a bush you hide only one side. With a cover, it looks better from all angles. You might be able to make a see through cover with wood that breaks it up, but doesn't hide it completely and grow a vine through it.

By the front door I would have a small patio with either a pergola or rail around it making a courtyard effect. You can do this also with shrubs/plantings of some sorts. I would place an additional small tree to the left of the house far enough away to cover just about half or less of the wall by the front door. You could find or may have a nice outdoor welcoming decor that you can place to the left of the door to break up the wall.

Our before:

Our after, used to conceptualize the matured changes.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 4:44PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I thought of you today Kiki, I was driving through the swanky part of town on my way to the nursery, and there was a beige house with a big sun painted on one of the outside walls. You know, one of those smiley suns. It looked cool, not kitschy, this was obviously professionally done. Too bad you have siding! Anyway, it would be kind of a joke to have an art piece like that seeing as how shady your yard is!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 7:54PM
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hi again! sorry for the absence, i just didn't have much to report -

but today a local landscaper came and i'm all excited again.

we have a retaining wall that must be replaced, (between the garage and the front of the house) it's 6 feet tall at the highest and about 19 feet long, the landscape company that is associated with my favorite local nursery sent their designer out to give me an estimate on the wall.

i've been lurking and reading past posts on this site, i'm reading backwards down thru the 60s - and have learned a lot in just 10 pages of links to posts ;) and a lot of what i learned may have made me a better customer. the LD who came today seemed to be having fun, and to be excited about the project.

one of the nicest things i found out today was that he suggested instead of replacing the whole wall as it is, that we could terrace back instead, creating some new planting areas, and also that it would be possible to widen the narrowest "choking" area of the driveway when we moved the wall. he also assured me that it would be possible to reroute the sidewalk thru the trees, without harming them, and mentioned that while this was being done, it would be a simple matter to address the slope toward the house, creating a small slope that would drain away from the foundation (something that we knew we needed). he's also going to break the plan down into stages, so that if i can't afford to do something now, i can at least plan for it.

i'm so excited. so. excited.

and lpink, lol - i think my 7 year old knows just who would loooove to paint that sun on the side of my house. she already chalks my sidewalks with art constantly.
oh and btw, as per orders i moved the harry lauder's walking stick to a different location, in front of one of the tall oaks. i have marked out a different curve for the mulched area - more of a grand sweep instead of all the wiggly ones - and so far no deer have eaten any of my woodland plants. when i chose plants i shot for prickly, herbal or poisonous (charming i know).

the only thing not going well is that i bought 40 cleome plants for near the mailbox that were supposed to be white - but in fact they are very very pink, which delights my daughter - so okay.

Oh, and with much persistance, the landscaping fabric is slowly being dragged out from beneath 9 inches of mulch. I'm about half done the front yard.

Even when I'm not posting all the time, think of me, endlessly poring thru the old threads :)

And if it's okay, I'll post some particulars about his plans when they come back!

Thanks guys!!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 7:34PM
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and aloha thanks for the input - actually i've been really thinking about making some sort of semi-enclosed courtyard down the road beside the front door, since we spend a lot of time sitting on our front stoop, watching each other garden -lol -

we're thinking of losing only the two trees closest to the front door.

one of them is nearly dead and has (I think) a serious carpenter ant infestation.)

i also asked that the shape of the concrete pad at the bottom of the front steps not be square, hopefully some sort of irregular shape that will allow me to naturally from there, branch off in to some other path that will go from the street to the front door since that's where most guests walk -

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 7:40PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

It's OK, once we know we've got you thinking, we let you go down to quarterly or even semi-annual reports!

Seriously, thanks for reporting your progress. It sounds great. I hope you're not cringing when you see your house anymore!


    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 12:03AM
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Just an jpdate

I went to a local ld about the necessary replacement of the white retaining wall, and he came up with plan that incorporated many of the suggestions given here. I had asked that the work be divided into three stages, wall replacement, Then grading and sidewalk and porch, then last planting... Figuring that my 10k would pretty much cover the new wall. But the ld wants do do the porch, the sidewalk , the regrading and the wall all in one swoop, which means i need to wait u til next summer to save the rest of the $ for the project.

Is it okay to posy a photo of his plan here. For suggestions and commentary?

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 10:46AM
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