Multi-level/exposure country dilemma

miconsumer(5)April 27, 2012

Hello everyone,

I love reading through these forums for your "expert" advice. I always enjoyed gardening, but have so much more to learn! Thank you in advance for reading my lengthy post, and for your time and suggestions.


We purchased our home three years ago. It sits on a few acres in a rural residential area. The previous owners idea of landscaping was a run-down haphazard mess. It's been a major work in progress, but we've accomplished a lot. Because of the time and money we've invested, I try to research a lot BEFORE sticking a new plant in the ground. But, I really need some advice.

My dilemma:

As you will see from the pictures, we have a foundation flower bed that extends from the front of the house under our wraparound porch, around to the side and the extends outward as it undulates down a hill with a couple of landscape walls and finally tapers off on the back of our home.

The front of our home has southern exposure, which means it gets a lot of hot sun, all day long in the summer. The side of the house is eastern exposure. It too gets a lot of sun, but it's early in the day. The back of our home faces north. Aside from some morning sun slanting from the east, it's shaded all day long. I am trying to plant a flowerbed with shrubs and perennials that look cohesive despite the variations in exposure and levels. Review the pics below to see what I mean.

Here is a photo of the front, southeast corner of our home and flowerbed. I currently have lavender near the front porch steps. I then staggered green gem boxwood and dark pink double knockout roses. I have silvermound planted in front of those.

East section of the flowerbed, top level. Here, I don't have much. Not sure how to continue the foundation landscaping. I don't necessarily need to cover the stonework. All I have thus far is a yellow coreopsis, three sedum, a couple of redhead perennial grasses that grow on top of the wall (they frame the view to our backyard nicely, I think), and a few pink coneflowers.

East section, bottom level. Here I planted a Sandra Bernhard peony against the wall. I also have a couple of Wine and Roses weigelia on either end of this section.

Rear view of side, north section (Gotta love yellow siding. Power-washing is on our to-do list this spring!) I only have a couple of yellow and pink coneflowers I stuck in the ground beneath the wall after moving them from elsewhere. Not a good spot for them, since it's so shady.

Thoughts? Again, I am looking for a nice mix of shrubs and perennials. I am willing to move my existing plants as needed. My garden also needs to be deer-resistant. I already have daylilies and roses in the front that I must spray to repel the deer, so I don't want to add any more to the mix. I also don't want anything invasive!

I am currently considering the following plants, but am not sure of the layout, or how they would look with my existing plants:

1) Perennial geraniums, Rozanne and Kashmir White

2) White and pink coreopsis, if I can find it.

3) Hydrangeas? Annabelle, Blushing Bride or Invincible Spirit

4) Siberian Iris I have growing elsewhere on my property that need to be divided and moved

5) Creeping phlox? Sublata for a sunny area or the other kind (?) that is shade tolerant

Thanks so much!

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Sorry, I often can't open these "imbed" need some programs in the computer.
You upload photo to any photo-hosting site.Photobucket and Flickr are examples . While at that photo on the site,
look for a link to "share." Then look for a way of obtaining "html code" (don't select the thumbnail version.)
Copy that code and paste it directly into your message here.
----any computers can see your pics.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 8:03PM
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So sorry! And I spent so much time reading about how to embed images and do it the "right" way. Obviously, they show up just fine on my computer. Let's see if either of these options works. If so, I'll post the rest of them. Please let me know.

Here is a link to a photo of the front our home, so you get a sense of the big picture.

Here is my attempt at an embedded version the same pic, but this time the URL is from a different photo-hosting website.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 9:00PM
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Here we go again... Since embedding Yahoo photos didn't work, and I'm not sure if the embedded Snapfish URL worked, I've thrown in the towel and uploaded to Flickr so I could obtain an HTML code.

Here is a "big picture" view of our home and property.

Here is the front, southeast corner of our home. Notice how I have double knockout roses, green gem boxwood and silvermound repeated in the front. I also have a lavender plant on either side of the front step. Love the scent, but not sure it was the best choice.

This is the upper, east-facing section of our landscape bed. I have three sedum, a yellow coreopsis and a couple of pink coneflowers left over from plantings that were elsewhere around my home. I also planted a couple of redhead perennial grasses on top of the wall. When mature in summer, the grass frames the view to our backyard quite nicely.

Here is the lower, east-facing portion of the bed. I have a pink Sarah Bernhardt(?) peony against the wall. The bush under the window is a wine and roses weigelia. It was there when we purchased the home, and I'm hesitant to move it because it's very established and blooms well. However, I will move/dig it up if for the greater good. Last summer, I also planted Morning Light maiden grass in front of the pipe that goes up the side of our house, but not directly in front of it, since the meter guy needs to get back there :)

Here is a view of the lower, north end of the bed. You can also see the newer, small, Wine and Roses weigelia I threw in last summer. I'm not convinced it's a good spot for it. As for under the wall, all I have are a couple of poorly placed coneflowers. I'm sure it's too shady for them most of the time. Also, at the left (east end) of both walls, I have a dwarf perennial grass planted.

As you can (hopefully) see, I'm struggling between the more formal look of the roses and boxwood out front, a sort of prairie-style side, and ??? in the shaded end. How the heck do I make it all work? Also, I really like the roses out front, and my peony by the wall.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 10:19PM
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Very nice your landscaping.I just try to add other some color.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 11:16PM
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    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 11:35PM
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Thank you designonline6. It's come a looong way. Actually, where you show coneflower in the front by the lightpost, I already have some planted there! I'm not concerned with that section so much as the bed that wraps around the front and side of the house. The side had new hardscaping as of last summer, so it needs the most work. I want to tie the areas together so it is a cohesive look, and am not sure how to position everything. I also want deer-resistant, perennial plants and shrubs. Again, I've been considering hydrangeas, perennial geraniums creeping phlox and maybe even more perennial grasses. But, where should I plant what perennial? And should I move some of my existing plants? I don't have a good vision of how to tie it all together, and have it not look too random. Not to mention, there are a lot of perspectives at play here - front, side, rear... I feel like the standard "tall plants in back" doesn't always apply.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 11:35PM
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Add "and a shrub" to my note.
And the right side of house seems to beg for some 12' tall sized flowering shrub/tree. It's empty except right at the ground.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 12:12AM
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I lay out these plants.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 1:05AM
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Thank you both for your suggestions! Yaardvark, I like your design for the bottom area. What type of flowering shrubs would do well in that location? Would the hydrangeas work? It is pretty shaded most of the day, northern exposure. The tree in your sketch looks nice, but I don't want it to get so tall it affects the view of our backyard from the frontyard, as I like the perspective. Check out one of my top photos to see what I mean. Are there dwarf varieties of flowering trees with a slow growth habit?

Also, do you have any recommendations for the side, by my stonye foundation, and on the lower level near the weigelia and peony? I can post another pic with a more complete view of the side of the house.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 9:43AM
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I'm from z5 originally (northern Ill.) and Hydrangea macrophylla was grown, but bloom iffy because the flower buds frequently froze during the winter. Don't know how it would be where you are. As the single shrub in the picture, Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' might be a possibility... a little large, but sure flowering and workable. Or a nice big, fat Hosta would work instead. For a groundcover, I'd consider Convallaria majalis or Asarum canadense. For the tree, Lilac, or an old fashioned favorite of mine is Kolkwitzia amabilis. While grown quite a bit in z5 trying to keep it as a 3' or 4' ht. shrub, I think this 100% contrary to its nature. It makes a good very large shrub (which would not work for you here) or a small tree, which would. So would PG Hydrangea, Philadelphus coronarius, Euonymus alatus 'Compacta' and a host of other choices depending on the exact flavor you're looking for. For the "color" area, you might consider Astilbe or the colored foliage (and flowers) of Heuchera sanguinea.

Your thread didn't offer a good square on shot of the side of house. However, it looks like one thing you need is some groundcover to link the disparate plants. If you put a good picture up, I'd take a look at the shrubs.

One planting scheme that is guaranteed to look unsophisticated is alternating, disparate shrubs. While "cute," nothing says amateurish quite like that does. I'd reconfigure near the front steps. Here are plant suggestions... or re-use what you have in a better way, or some of those new things you're after. The silver mound would work as a groundcover if there were a lot more of it.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 1:40PM
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Thanks Yardvaark. I completely agree that too many random shrubs/plants will look amateurish. That is exactly what I don't want. I like your idea of using groundcover to tie the areas together. That just might work. Could I use perennial geraniums for that purpose? I was considering Rozanne and Kashmir White... Maybe even removing the silver mound and planting Rozanne in front of the boxwood and roses?

Here are a few more pics that may be helpful.

Front. This shows the boxwood, double knockout roses, silver mound, and lavender near the steps. I really like the roses because they bloom all summer, so would like to leave those in place if possible. You can also see that I have daylilies planted in the mulched area within my sidewalk. I could probably divide and add a few more of those around the house if necessary. Although, the deer like to munch on them, so I hate to use to many on the side or it will be like a buffet...

Here is a full side photo. Again, the top area currently has sedum, yellow coreopsis, and a couple of cone flowers I have two stands of Redhead fountain grass planted near the wall. Middle lower section, to the left near the wall, I have a peony plant. The shrub under the window is the Wine and Roses weigelia. The smaller shrub to the right is another WR weigelia. In the middle, to the right of the meter, is a stand of Morning Light maiden grass. I also have dwarf fountain grass planted at the ends of the walls, facing the camera. It may be worth noting that I do have perennial grass elsewhere on the property, so it somewhat ties in...

Last but not least, a broader view looking down the side of our home, so you can see the perspective.

Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 3:16PM
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Yardvaark, thanks also for the specific flower suggestions. The Kolkwitzia amabilis looks like it might be a good option. I love Hosta, but so do our resident four-legged critters. They are like deer and bunny dessert so I don't bother planting them. Lily of the Valley makes me nervous because of how poisonous they are. I realize many plants are, but their scent is so enticing, and it makes me nervous since I have a small child. So...this is why I'm wondering if perennial geraniums or similar might be useful. As for Coralbells, don't they require a lot of sun? They definitely won't' get that on the north side of our house. The Astilbe just might work, if they will tolerate the sandy soil...

Agh! This is why I go crazy. I do appreciate the suggestions.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 5:28PM
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Given the wealth of poisonous plants in proximity to homes, it would not occur to me to not teach children not to eat them, or to leave them alone with the plants until they've learned. Just me.

At the front, I would try NOT to cover a lot of the foundation. As a groundcover, the Geranium would be too tall for my taste. I'd be looking for something that stayed below 6". I may not hit on just the right plant solution for you. I'm more trying to show you a layout. You can research more about the plants locally and online to find what is just right for you. Or someone else here may have a better suggestion.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 11:21PM
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I wasn't finished when I pressed the wrong button and sent the last post. I was explaining that often when I draw the plant I don't know what it is and the plant suggestion comes later. That explains why the rec. of Viburnum carelesii is shown with lavender flowers when they're really white. If you don't know that plant, it's a delicious smelling thing and an attractive shrub, too. But there are many others that would work in that spot.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 11:30PM
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Around the loop of the driveway would be a better place for the roses. Find a spot sunny enough and make a real rose garden out of it. Plant the roses so they grow one into the next. Roses of the sort you have make terrible foundation shrubs because of the dramatic pruning they need each year and because their forms are, frankly, UGLY without flowers.

You can add to them, too, over time and expand your bed, and you'll be able to see the roses better from inside the house.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 2:26AM
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Thanks again. I do appreciate everyone's time and input. I don't mind putting effort into finding specific plant options (I've logged several hours thus far), but have had a very difficult time figuring out how to make the front, side, and back cohesive, while dealing with the different light exposures. So, any and all specific suggestions are much appreciated!

And, of course I teach my child not to eat plants. I also realize there are many, many poisonous plants. But, there is something about Lily of the Valley. I remember being fascinated by it as a small child, due to it's miniature size and bell shape, exceptional scent, etc. So, I just don't care to have it around until I have older children. Just my preference, even if it seems odd.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2012 at 12:29PM
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