Landscape Help for Newbie's Front Yard (pictures)

busybee123April 2, 2010

Before I get started I want to thank all of you for your assistance. This site is amazing because of the incredible members.

Now on to business. My husband & I bought a house with a sorely neglected yard and we need a little help figuring out how to make it beautiful, starting with the front. A landscape architect isn't in the budget so I'm hoping you wonderful Gardenweb members can help us come up with ideas. We are looking forward to getting our hands dirty and we are not afraid of hard work; all we lack is a game plan.

A little background info: We live in Memphis, TN (zone 7) and our front yard is now pretty much a blank slate. Right after purchasing the house, we had extensive work done to the two giant oak trees and cleared out a jungle of holly growing up against the front facade. There is not much grass but we plan to address that in the fall by seeding with fescue. The house faces north and the trees provide a lot of shade during the day but some late afternoon sun does shine in from the west. The lot itself slopes down a bit from the sidewalk toward the house, and due to a lack of ground cover, heavy rains sometimes result in water washing southeast across the front yard and along the side of the house (left side of the pictures) toward the back yard. Hopefully grass & landscaping will help with this issue. We planted a few privets near the house in late fall and put some hostas from our old house along the inside of the walk closer to the porch but those can all easily be moved.

We're thinking maybe beds against the house with azaleas (along with other plants/trees too) but that's all we have so far and it's hardly set in stone. As far as the rest of the yard goes, we are clueless. Any and all ideas are welcomed and much appreciated. Thank you so much for your help!

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You've done some thoughtful preliminary work. Tree care, overgrowth cleared.

And you've begun to analyze site conditions. Front faces north. Two established oaks. Shade from trees, house. Zone 7. and a slope of the ground ...

Which is what would worry me. I hope a pro chimes in here, but it worries me a bit that you seem to feel that grass and other plants will address water flow. I don't know. Water and gravity are very powerful factors. A grade tipped toward the house should be addressed so that water is kept away from your foundation regardless of plants. Imagine a Memphis downpour. Plants won't absorb that quickly enough to keep the water away from the house.

Think about it this way. You've got two oak trees. They have huge root systems. If plants could do this, then the oaks' root systems would handle it.

Am I misunderstanding your situation?

If it were me, I'd want to make sure I'd done what needs to be done about water flow and grading before coming up with a planting scheme.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 12:41PM
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Wellspring, thank you so much for your response. I really appreciate you taking the time to read my post and your concern regarding drainage, which I'm afraid I made sound like more of an issue than it actually is.

We too were initially concerned and had several experts (an engineer, a home inspector, a survey team, and 3 contractors) examine the entire property prior to our purchase. They all agreed the small amount of run off we see after heavy rains is not in fact getting near the foundation or the house but rather staying about 2 feet away due to the grade of the ground right up against the house. I should have used better wording in my original post and for that I apologize.

Another contributing factor to the run off is the condition of the ground. The front oak trees were so overgrown for so many years there were literally branches touching the ground and consequently no grass and hardly any ground cover at all growing in the front yard. As a result, the ground itself was very compact and much of the top soil had washed away. We wanted to wait until after we finished the construction on the house to start working on the yard so we are just now beginning to address the issue.

From what we have been told, proper aeration along with the addition of top soil and organic matter, as well as some actual grass, should really help with the small amount of run off. As far as gardening and yard care are concerned, I am just an enthusiastic novice so I tend to believe what I am told. If this does not sound plausible to you, by all means, please let me know!

Thanks again and any landscaping ideas are still welcomed.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2010 at 11:58AM
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