Too my symmetry to my farmhouse?

jessinpiner(6a)April 22, 2010

Last year we moved into my father in law's old farmhouse (which was also once owned by his parents). As you can see, the landscaping around this time last year was pretty plain (and oh, the weeds!). I have since done some work but feel that all the baby perennials I am planting are in too much symmetry- however the flowerbeds are symmetrical to the symmetrical porch. I just don't know where to go from here. My mulch beds look horrible by the way... I just don't know what to do with them since I tore the 20 year old landscape timbers out.

As far as the backyard goes, I am not too concerned with right now because we just removed a 32 foot kayak pool and are about to yank out the deck and install a 3 seasons room across the back wall of the house. Therefore, I will worry about that landscaping later.

I've been worn out as far as design goes as we are just about finished with renovating the inside of the house. Now I want my pretty farmhouse garden, and I have no more ideas. Any input is welcome!

Last Year

Last Year Right Side of the House

What I've done so far

A current view of the right side of the house

Help! I just think everything looks messy and uneven. Granted I think it looks a lot better than it did last year... I just want it to look "put together" yet still have a somewhat "country" and "farmhouse" feel to it.

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By the way, if you can't see it, I've planted (in the front, in order from left to right, in front of the taxuses sp? haha)

Emerald Euonymous

and then the same on the other side of course.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 7:07PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

It may be a regional thing but, to me, there are too many evergreens. Old famwhouses, to me, mean lots of big old-fashioned deciduous shrubs like lilacs, bridalwreath spireas, beautybush, snowball bushes, hydrangeas... It needs the liveliness of color and movement from arching shrubs and flowers. But then 'farmhouse' may mean something completely different to you.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 10:27AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I think those shrubs are massively overgrown for the space and need to be substantially cut back or removed.

But I also think you need to find your way between the formal foundation planting the house has and what you envision for the house and yard as a whole, which might be more along the lines of what Woody describes, which I like. Those shrubs would not be at the foundation but out in the yard as free standing specimens, perhaps with garden beds connecting. Certainly not at the foundation.

Finally, it may not be symmetry you're after but balance. That can consist of equivalent plant forms, or groupings of plants of equal visual weight on either side.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 10:41AM
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Just curious ...

How much ground is this house situated on?

First recommendation: Break yourself of the habit of thinking that your primary role as your own designer is to plant plants.

Your thinking "family home" and "farmhouse", "country" and "pulled together".

Great goal. Keep it as a constant touchstone. Let it help you move away from thinking that a few perennials and annuals are going to resolve your design objectives.

Farmhouse, country, honoring a tradition?, pulled together.

What needs to be kept, or stripped away, added or subtracted or re-oriented in order to better accomplish your vision?

A friend of mine has the loveliest farmhouse porch IÂve ever visited. ItÂs pretty simple. She has the space for two large rockers and an old carved church pew. I hear her talk about different ways she marks the seasons with her door wreaths, something she enjoys creating. She also gets tons of mileage for the re-use of an old water trough complete with pump handle. SheÂs turned it into a planter and itÂs where she tries different annual displays each year. But thatÂs it as far as foundation planting. The trough is a few feet in front of one side of the porch. Other shrubs, as described above, are located away from the foundation. I think she told me she is considering a climbing rose on a trellis at one corner of her porch, but thatÂs because itÂs one of the few places where she feels a rose might do well.

I say itÂs lovely, because of the number of times a group of us have gathered there. ThereÂs a feel to it. Nothing fussy. Yet I constantly hear others oooh and ahhh over the setting. So I guess IÂm assuming it works somehow.

My point is that symmetry isnÂt the issue. Someone above suggested balance. I think thatÂs right, but even before that I think you need to give yourself permission to do something different from what youÂve been persuaded is "right". Why did you plant these symmetrical beds?

What if your house, and the porch, and the approach to your porch is better served by thinking differently about what, where, and whether to plant anything?

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 12:18PM
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The beds appear too thight. My feeling from the pics is to give some hight to the home with some upright evergreens on each end. Then use the deciduous shrubs like mentioned. Sweep the beds down along the walkway. Under plant with perinnials. When I say this I don't be afraid to go large as in the size of the beds. This is a great opportunity to give depth and color to the area. It really has a great feel to me. Good luck and have fun with this.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 11:59PM
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Ok, so I've taken all of your ideas into consideration and put together something in Photoshop (which I'm not very good at, but learning). Am I'm getting into "too busy" now?! I personally like it, however I don't want others to think it's too much. By the way, all plants in this photo are ones somewhere on our land. Some may not be this mature, but at least I wouldn't have to go out and get them!

BTW, for whoever asked, we are on 20 acres. The house itself is on about an acre, fenced in

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 11:55AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Your mock-up is a great improvement over what you have now. Two things occur to me. First, I think there needs to be something much wider and more massive at the corners than the narrow triangular conifers. I'd prefer rectangles (unshaped, not sheared) over triangles -- but if you do use triangles, center them on the corners of the house.

Second, Photoshop mock-ups are deceptive about bed depth. That doesn't mean mock-ups are a waste of time, just that we need to be aware how much space is actually required. A graph paper diagram is necessary as a reality check.

For instance -- I'm going into picky detail here -- at the right corner you've got the tall triangular conifer. Judging by the width of the front door and the windows, that conifer is probably about 3 1/2 - 4' in diameter at the ground, and should have been planted so the back edge is at least a foot from the house (to minimize moss on the clapboards and allow for maintenance to the house). So the front of the triangular conifer is 4 1/2 - 5' from the house.

In front of that is the round green shrub. It looks about 5' wide. So the front of this shrub is about 9 1/2 - 10' from the house.

In front of that is the white-flowered hydrangea (peony?). It looks about 6' wide. Let's assume it's two plants next to each other (rather than one of 6' diameter), and is only 3 - 4' deep. So the front of these plants is about 12 1/2' - 14' from the house.

And in front of the white-flowered plants is a low, moundy green thing about 5 1/2' wide. Let's assume it's two plants also, about 3' deep. At this point, the depth of the flowerbed is 15 1/2 - 17' deep.

How far is it from the house to the lowest step? I'm guessing it's about 9 - 10'?

By the way, did anyone ever ask what direction the house faces?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 2:00PM
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If you got the space, then simply keep those evergreens as a unifying evergreen backdrop for the decidous and perennial display of color and texture you are thinking about in your photoshop mock up.

Besides yanking out those big shrubs will be a chore and you'll probably regret it. If after a season of the colorful seasonal parade in front of the steady as she goes evergreen foundation plantings you don't like it, then rip them out.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 3:19PM
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I don't have the skills to be able to take this far enough, but I think you need a different approach. Even though the house is square and symmetrical, its setting is much looser. You want to back way up (with camera and thinking) and think about the house within its setting.

Go back to some posts on thinking about how you want to use and experience your property.

At some point I think the actual plantings will need small trees, farther away from the house. The current approach of having everything tight up against the siding looks wrong, to me. This is not a general anti-foundation planting concern--it has to do with the fact that your property is more expansive, and so it doesn't help to look as though you are limited to 6-8 feet out from the foundation, as though the house is girding itself from the surrounding acre. That also addresses the height of the house--you can't get tall enough item planted that closely--the tight columnar forms look wrong--compared to small ornamental trees softening the corners.

Try more of an aerial or overhead drawing of the house and property and not the frontal or elevation views, for now. Use more space.

Or something like that.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 4:04PM
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