Front Porch Landscaping

jan_in_wisconsinApril 30, 2011

Hi all,

I'm looking for landscaping ideas for our front porch area. We built our home about five years ago, and the landscaping we have is very nice, however, I would like some more color. Most everything is green (with the exception of the golden stella d' ora daylilies along the sidewalk. So, we're considering removing the evergreens and stonecrop directly in front of the porch railings and replacing them with something else.

I'm envisioning layering something taller (maybe 3' - 4') in the back and something shorter in the front. The area in front of the porch is shady the first half of the day and sunny in the afternoon hours. I'm in Zone 4b, and the winters are cold here.

Here are some picture from a few years ago:

Would some variety of hydrangea in the back and some compact shrub roses in the front work?

I would love to hear your thoughts. As far as color goes, deep pink, yellow, blue, purple, or white make me smile. Our house color is a neutral herringbone color, and the front door is Cottage Red.



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Your home and landscaping footprint is beautiful. I'm from the south so I don't know what would survive in your area. If you took this photo to a nursery couldn't they help you with suggestions for what could go where and you could see color, texture, shape and size. You could also add a special tree, shrub, bird bath, planters spilling over with annuals, or a bench for a focal point.
I like little special areas scattered around the yard. Places that beg you to sit/swing and enjoy nature--birds, butterflies, special blooms, scents. Specimen plants that when in bloom or autumn color makes me happy to drive in/out of the driveway and feast my eyes. The front of your house looks welcoming and just needs some tweeking.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 10:20PM
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    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 10:51PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I'm not familiar with your area or zone. Are the empty mulch spaces where you pile the winter snow, or is it simply that the landscaping was very young when the photos were taken? Did you plant sedums at the foundation (where evergreen shrubs would usually be planted) because snow slides off the porch roof and collects in that area -- or simply because you like the tall sedums and/or dislike foundation shrubs?

Other words (besides "empty") that come to mind are "sterile" and "emotionless." I'm not sure color is the only issue: I suspect it's the emptiness.

So, since those photos are out of date, I wonder how the shrubs have filled in in the intervening years. Have you ever planted annuals in the empty spaces?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 11:56PM
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frankielynn - Thanks, we do have a couple of nice nurseries in the area that might be very helpful. I notice that sometimes local garden centers carry plants that are not friendly for our zone, i.e. zone 5 stuff could struggle here. So, experienced input is important.

designshare - wow - I like your interpretation! The visual is extremely helpful.

missingtheobvious - We do get a lot of snow in the winter, and the entire mulched areas on either side of the sidewalk do have at least a couple of feet of snow piled up for portions of the winter, but the picture was taken when the landscaping was very young. Sorry, I don't have a more recent picture, although, the changes are that the spireas on the left are larger now, and the sedum and lily bunches are larger. I have also planted some tulips and hyacinths near the driveway on the left side of the sidewalk. We replaced the porch railing system with round columns and more substantial rails.

We planted the sedums at the foundation because my husband is always afraid that shrubs would "take over" the area and get too unweildy. BUT . . . at this point, I am actually hoping to move the sedums elsewhere and plant some sort of shrub there instead that reaches 3' - 4' in height. I was thinking either an evergreen or hydrangea variety. The area gets shade in the morning and sun in the afternoon. In front of the shrubs, I would like to plant something colorful and flowery at a lower height, like compact shrub roses, maybe.

I have not planted annuals, as the cost and one-year nature are not appealing to me. I agree that filling in the empty places would make the area more attractive and welcoming.



    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 8:12AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

A nice tall flowering shrub that is pretty easy to find at the nurseries is weigela. Lots of foliage varieties for that one. Another nice one is ninebark, which has the advantage of being a native plant. Also has red foliage when it is not blooming. One that I have in my yard and absolutely love is a small spirea. Can't remember if it is Goldmound or Goldflame or something like that. They sell this almost everywhere. The foliage is a pretty lime green with reddish tips, so it's very showy even when not in bloom. The flowers are bright pink. It is also very hardy, and easy to prune. I can't tell from the photo but maybe you already have it in your yard, it's pretty ubiquitous in the modern landscape. If you want something native and more unusual, try Clethera, which is somewhat harder to find, or Fothergilla. I don't know if there is a reliable small fothergilla, but Clethera and my small spirea are fairly well behaved. But watch it on the spirea, there are other much larger varieties out there so check the label for ultimate size and double check with a knowledgable nursery employee (an oxymoron in most places but you might find a place where they actually know their merchandise, best bet is to go for a locally owned place rather than a big box store).

But ultimately, if you want color, best to fill in with annuals like impatiens, pansies, etc. And keep them deadheaded!

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 11:40AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

You know, I've been thinking about this all weekend and I realize I didn't give you very good input. You don't have much more room for shrubs, although you did ask about them. BTW, I now remember the variety I have, it is Magic Carpet spirea. Seems like you want a mixed perrenial garden with more flowers? That takes some planning, you have to plan a succession of blooms. But do you still want the sparse look of the garden you have now? My cousin has a garden in front of her house, it is wild and loaded with the colors you like, but it's like a crazy quilt!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2011 at 8:30AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I find I agree with your husband. I think shrubs would take over that area where the sedums now are, or require aggressive pruning to not do so. You'd have more leaves and bugs on the porch too. I'd put the shrubs further away in the bed.

There is another advantage to this, namely that when you sit on the porch, if you have shrubs at the railing, the shrubs are all you'll see - the shorter stuff in front of them will be visible from the outside only.

That said, anyone gets bored with a flower bed from time to time and needs some changes. Your description actually suggests you already have a fair bit of colour but maybe not in summer and maybe you are tired of it. Change can be good. I agree with Pink that foliage colour may be a good choice; news flash, most shrubs are green most of the time too :-)

Also, I'm not a big fan of repeats, as they automatically reduce variety. If you just trade out some of the sedums and daylilies for some different perennials, you may see your way clear.


    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 9:35AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I have a tiny, tiny yard and there is no way I can get color all the time, and be low maintenance. My strategy is to go for foliage color and pattern variety. It seems to be a common strategy because I am seeing more and more plants coming out with varigated or colored foliage varieties. Take weigela for example. Gorgeous when in bloom, but Yawnsville the rest of the time. Now I'm seeing red and varigated leaf varieties at the nurseries. And dwarf varieties, because the dang thing is not only ugly when not in bloom, it's huge. I'm thriving with these new plants. Some have been spectacular disappointments, but others have been great. That magic carpet spirea is an example of great, it looks interesting most of the time except winter. I have a small goldmound arborvitae that I am loving, and the newer "landscape" roses look great and are so easy care. I find with most perrenials, the foliage is kinda boring so I intermix them with cool foliage plants. Also, if they are so boring when not in bloom, I rarely want to give up my prime space for them. The exceptions are heuchera, (coral bells) which have some AMAZING foliage color varieties out now. Also, I like to sprinkle silvery leaved carnations among the garden, it provides a great grey accent even when not in bloom, and the blooming is very colorful.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 10:17AM
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A small shrub that doesn't disappoint is Potentilla Fruticosa "Pink Beauty". I've had mine for 4 years now (and think I want more for other spots) and it's stayed in a nice 2 1/2 x 2 1/2' mound with no shaping needed so far. Starts to cover itslf in bloom in June and doesn't quit until the first killing frost. It's a soft, non-clashing pink.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 1:53PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I totally love potentilla, and there are some great varieties out now. Cool foliage too!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 9:22AM
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