We need design help, please!

traceymccApril 24, 2011

We moved to this house just 10 days before our baby was born, and other than unpacking, not much got done. (Ok, nothing else got done.) Nearly two years later, we are finally ready to get to work outside. We have no idea where to begin. I'm so afraid of doing something wrong, that I can't make a decision. I've been reading this forum, and have learned a lot (thank you!), but I still can't get started.

I would like to ask for help with layout, please. The house faces south. We are on a corner lot. We are in zone 6 (if you have specific plant suggestions). We have three boys under 5 and a teenager who will be playing in the yard. We will have to DIY most or all work.

I'd appreciate any suggestions you have. Thank you!


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your garden nice,you are great garden lover.I mean you could do more difficult landscape work.maybe add some color?some shrub such as azalea, boxwood,dogwood...some tree such as maple,evergreen tree:juniper,conifer...
DIY often need design pics,bluepoint.it can tell you detail info,tree shape,walkway curl,hardscape color...
wordy "design'often don't work,make "something wrong'

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 6:48PM
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FEELING is key.here some people are eloquent.but you ckeck out themselves yard pics,don't work.they only know some plants,it isn't enough.plants must match hardscape,house,service your FEELING.you think need redo,I try...

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 7:49PM
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I'm not a pro, but if it were my house I think I'd start by drawing a much larger, somewhat curvy planting bed to soften the front of the house. You can use a hose laid out on the lawn to see what it would actually look like...

My other random suggestion...I'm in zone 5 and have had good luck with limelight hydrangeas. They get really large, and can take a lot of sun. They're pretty hardy, and produce gorgeous creamy blooms. I guess I also consider them pretty low-maintenance, which is something I want with my kids.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 10:22PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I'm not a pro either.

Have you thought about a hedge or fence for privacy along the side street? Before making any plans, it would be a good idea to find out about your municipality's or HOA's fence regulations.

You should also be aware of your legal obligations about keeping sightlines clear at the corner for traffic safety.

While you're thinking about adding a lower-level front bed, keep in mind a couple of things: leaving enough space between the plants at the back of the lower bed and the existing hedge to allow for hedge-trimming, and the possibility of a shrub or two at the corner to conceal the gas meter.

Proceeding to the side of the house: how do you feel about the grate over the basement windows (at least, it's my assumption that's what it is)? Do you need landscaping in that area kept low to allow light in the windows, or does it not matter? Or would you like to hide the grate?

[If the trees were planted a year ago, I believe it's no longer necessary to keep them staked.]

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 11:53PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

You haven't really given any information about what you want your garden to be, what functions it needs to perform, what your needs are, what you like in local gardens, etc. As an example, do you want to reduce the amount of lawn, are you looking to provide privacy with screening or fencing, will you want to add particular types of plants or an area for fruit trees and vegetables, are you interested in gardening or just want the least work at the least cost and a reasonable aesthetic result. Prefer to follow recent trends towards sustainable planting and design layout choices for your region, are there water availability/cost issues, soil issues, and a location rather than a simple zone 6 designation would also be helpful. I'd also want to know how snow and wind drift impact the garden, whether road salt is an issue, etc, etc. The little you've said here isn't nearly enough to get any pertinent feedback.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 2:26AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Also I find it interesting that you didn't include any photos of your back yard area. Should we assume that you are only interested in your "Public face", and have no wishes for doing anything in the back yard?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 10:26AM
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Thank you for the suggestions so far.
Thank you for the advice and photoshop, designshare.
kuriooo, I love hydrangeas. I'll look at limelight hydrangeas.
missingtheobvious: Yes, our HOA allows fencing. When funds allow, we plan a privacy fence for the back yard. I had not considered hedges for privacy from the side street. We do need something. Our HOA states only that we must have 10 shrubs, 2 trees with trunks at least 2" in diameter, and that we must clear any "unusual" landscaping with the design committee.

Yes, I would love to hide both the meter and the grate over that basement window. It is ok if light is reduced to that particular room.

Thank you for the advice about the trees. They were planted before us, so yes, they have been there longer (way!) than a year. They just look so feeble, I assumed they still needed to be staked. We've never had new trees. :)
bahila: I'm sorry I did not provide more information. I will try.

We are near Wichita, KS. We get a lot of wind. Road salt is not an issue. We get some snow, but are not snowy all winter.

I do not want to greatly reduce the amount of lawn. The boys play in the front as well as the back.

Increasing privacy along the side would be good. Our street is not busy with cars, but with lots of walkers and the school bus stops at our corner. We get quite a crowd in the morning.

For the front/side, I do not think I want fruit trees or vegetables.

I would like to add color and seasonal interest. At our previous home some of my favorites were: daylilies, peonies, tulips, mums, carpet roses, a burning bush, bridal wreath spirea, a shrub with small yellow flowers (?), and some shrubs with pretty red twigs (dogwood, maybe). I had two beds where I had room add a few annuals for additional color (usually I had vinca, petuinas, pansies...) . I'd like that again. I like flowering shrubs. I have always wanted a lilac bush.

We don't mind yard work, but with 4 children, we don't have time for anything really high maintainence or delicate.

No water cost/availability issues. I have not had the soil tested.

I know I could go to the gardening center and just buy what I like, or what's popular and grows well here, but I think my problem is how to design the yard. I don't want to just randomly plant or just line the perimeter of my house and the edge of my walk. I don't want to end up with something giant where I should have had something small. I know when something does or doesn't look "right" to me, but not enough to know why, maybe?

Thanks for questions to guide me. I do really appreciate that you took the time even though I did not provide enough information.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 11:21AM
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Sorry, bahila, I just saw your second post. No, I am not just interested in our "public face", and I do have many things I'd like to do with the back, including a patio and a vegetable garden. We just don't have the funds to do both the back and front right now, and are starting with the front. (Is that a mistake? Should we wait and do everything at once?) I also did not want to bother everyone here with asking too much advice at once. :)

Sorry again for not providing the needed information, and thank you for your help.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 11:35AM
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Sorry! I spelled your name wrong every time, bahia!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 11:40AM
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jtyrie(Z7+ DFW)

Holy Cow! Your lawn is beautiful!! Good luck with the design.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 12:14PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

As the questions you've gotten indicate, design often needs an objective and an understanding of constraints and limitations.

In terms of an objective, with 3 boys under 5 plus the elder, and a yard that slopes to a street with some activity, I think I'd be looking for a ballstop (or something that would stop running/rolling boys) at the edge of the yard. Or? Something else in terms of function. Second, obviously while they're this little you want to be out there watching them - there is already a bench. Also, do you want the kids to have free run all the way around the house or kind of stop/confine them to the front yard when you're out there (some kids stay within your orbit based on your instructions, others don't).

I don't think I"d be looking for a lot of hardscape, because kids fall. Plus, there is a driveway where balls can be bounced.

Finally, unless you have a yard service, you have your yard and lawn maintenance act together! And you like things to look tidy. Also, you don't want to encroach too much or have anything sensitive planted at the public sidewalk.

So to me this is not as much an aesthetic project as a practical one, and the solution does not have to be complicated. If it were me, I could just lose the moustache on the house and put seasonal colour in that planter, and put hedging along the side street instead, a few feet from the sidewalk. Possibly even just move those hedge plants and add to them. But that would make the house look a little less formal.

Does any of what has been said or asked so far help things begin to come together for you yet? If you've been reading the forum you know we tend to try to support your planning rather than doing it for you :-)


    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 12:16PM
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Thanks, jtyrie!

KarinL, yes! We are forever in the street after balls! I will avoid anything prickly along the public walk, so as not to poke the bus riders. (I'll save those for outside the teen's window, perhaps. ;-) )

Yes, I do try to keep them confined to one yard at a time (otherwise, they divide and conquer us), so that is something I need to think about as well.

I had not thought of moving the moustache (it *is* a moustache, isn't it!) to the side, only of removing it completely, so thank you for that idea. And less formal is fine.

We do have someone spray the lawn for weeds, but otherwise we are on our own, so I will try to keep things simple. I guess I am making this too hard?

Yes, Karin, you are right. All of the questions and comments have been very helpful. Just what I needed. Thank you!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2011 at 1:18PM
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