New Homeowner, Please Help

kmack17(6 NJ)April 30, 2012

I have 100 questions, but I'll keep this focused. Here are a couple of pics of the front of my new house:

Obviously a lot needs to be done here, but my question is about replacing/removing the shrub up front near the sidewalk. The oak tree along the street has a root growing around a thrid of the shrub:

Can this root be removed without putting the large oak in jeopardy? If not, any recommendations for a tree that can be planted in place of this shrub that won't have a negative impact on my ability to grow grass in front?

I'd also welcome any advice on what else can be done to improve the landscaping. We are planning on adding a porch of some sort to minimize the impact of the garage being so prominent.


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Golly that's a gigantic mound of ugly house-hiding euonymus. Rip it out!!!!!! You won't do any serious damage to the tree - although it's always worth taking a bit of care with tree roots. I'd pull out the matching shrubbery meatball up by the garage as well while I was at it. Then,step back and take another look. You could probably put in some smaller understory type trees like dogwood without impeding grasses growing ability, but first rip out the euonymus meatballs and then then reassess.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 8:54PM
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I widen the sideway.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 9:18PM
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While the house has large trees fore and aft, there's no small trees nearby to temper its size and give it that nestled in look. It looks naked and unprotected. Simultaneously, it seems that it's "toes" are smothered by a hodge podge of shrubbery, small and overgrown. There's no sense of unity and design with the foundation plants; there are all kinds and sizes. The large domed Euonymus have nice shapes and finish, but obscure the central view of the house. Before removing them, I'd explore their trunk structure to see if they can be converted into multi-trunk trees. If their canopy was allowed to grow above one's head and larger (instead of in one's face) they could make nice small trees.

As far as your question about the root, you don't show or explain context so your question is impossible to answer. Why do you want the root removed?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 11:48PM
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kmack17(6 NJ)

Thanks for the responses.

I'm defintely removing or relocating the euonymus (thanks for letting me know what those are). I'll make my decision after removing it, but I'm leaning towards putting grass seed down as I'm not sure I want a tree right in the front corner of my yard.

The only issue would be the root from the oak tree, which would look odd and would be a potential tripping hazard. If that root had to stay for the stability of the oak, I would probably create some sort of circular border containing the root and plant a more appropriate tree in the place of the euonymus.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 8:41AM
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You should not remove or relocate the euonymus before get some allover designing what you like,although it is coincidence with my ideas pic.How you minimize the impact of the garage being so prominent?it still is a problem.
Now you need tons suggests.some visual designing always help people to read and understand and feel.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 11:39AM
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I had one of these - popular builders special. Fought that thing several times a year, but it did have a very interesting multiple trunk structure. I turned it into a very large bonsai to showcase the trunks. But new leaves sprung out everywhere along the trunks... no shrub is worth all one's gardening time.

The link just has a picture of the jutting branch habit when left alone for a while - which you have no doubt discovered.

I'd remove (and not relocate) - cut it down branch by branch. Round-up the fresh cuts? and dig up any new sprouts. If you love the thing, start over, they're inexpensive but there are so many nicer things that aren't susceptable to scale and the obnoxious clouds of tiny white flies that hide on the underside of the leaves.

My next project would be removing the limbed pyramid between the windows on the left.

Here is a link that might be useful: not worth all the pruning

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 12:13PM
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kmack17(6 NJ)

I'm inclined to take them both out, along with almost everything else that has been planter out front. I've lived in the house for 9 months or so and have pruned both of those shrubs 3 times just to keep them at that size. I have absolutely no attachment to them and would probably enjoy taking them out.

As far the garage goes, it will always be a problem and a bit of an eyesore, but we were thinking a porch built out front with possibly a french door in place of the bay window or on the left side of the house might add some dimension to the house and help soften the impact of the garage. Keep in mind, we have no experiece or talent with regards to all of this, so that may be a terrible idea.

My most immediate concern is what to do after I take the one close to the sidewalk out. Remove that large root and plant some grass or keep the root and put a smaller tree there that we pick out? I think I'd prefer grass there, but not at the expense of the oak tree.

I do like the way the exapnded walkway looks. I'll have to show that pic to my wife.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 1:53PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

You can also do grass and leave the root. I don't see that the root requires a tree for company. Maybe some low flowers or some rocks, but not a tree. Just grass would be permissible!

You might ask about cutting the root on the tree forum, but my instinct would be not to cut it. You are sure it is from the tree, not the euonymus? It does look a bit big for the shrub.

It might eventually lift the sidewalk though. An on-site arborist consult might not be the worst idea.

I'm not an architectural expert either, but I would be careful about further obscuring the front door with a fussy porch. I agree first you should un-obscure it (remove plants) and broaden the approach. Then assess.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 3:46PM
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I, too, would run that by the Tree Forum - along with your second picture showing the euonymous' relation to the oak; and the last picture showing the root and your sneakered foot.

With my experience, the euonymous can produce some pretty amazing surface roots, but the lack of visible sprouts from the one pictured make me think it may well be the oak. My curiosity would make me cut down the eu. and see exactly what the entire shrub is attached to. I think you'd be able to tell pretty quick.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 4:31PM
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kmack17(6 NJ)

Thanks for all the help.

I'll take out the euonymus and try to get some grass growing. I'll reasses when things are less cluttered.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 7:40PM
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kmack17(6 NJ)

It's been a little while, but I thought I'd post the update after I took out the 2 euonymus. I think it looks a lot better. Thanks for your input.



    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 2:06PM
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rosiew(8 GA)

Definite improvements! I think the garage is now way less of the eyesore you thought it.

More pics would be great - one showing how the entry walkway is laid out.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 2:40PM
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kmack17(6 NJ)

Are you sure you want to see this? It makes me upset, and I don't know anything about landscape design.

Widening the walkway is definitely the next thing to do out front, but it's not something I'm capable of. The next step I want to tackle is addressing the other side of my house. Maybe you could help?

    Bookmark   June 16, 2012 at 4:07PM
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After looking at the last 2 pics of the walkway and front porch, it's time to tear everything out. Leave the Japanese Maple to the left of the porch but have everything else tore out. It dates the house. Everything needs to be opened up and spread out a little. When planting new plants, do not plant taxus or any other evergreens in front that get any height to them. When someone comes up the drive, the approach to your house is not inviting. You want it to where people are exited to walk up a walkway.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 3:11PM
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kmack17(6 NJ)

Oh yeah, it's all coming out eventually. I'm doing most of the work myself, but will need some professionals to expand the walkway for me. Once I've saved up enough to get that done (along with my driveway), I'll have to start from scratch. I'll keep everything low so the bay window is visible and do what I can to draw attention to the front door.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 3:25PM
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Is that more euonymous in front of the bay? Or boxwood? You can easily temporarily open up the right side of the stoop (until you really decide what to do) by simply hacking the first one down to the ground - or at least any part of it that overhangs the stoop slab. Give the tops of all of them a severe haircut all the way down to the thick looking bottom growth just to buy yourself some time.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 3:46PM
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Before you tear everything out think, some of those plants are really nice evergreens. Can you keep one or two of them sure. Can you save a couple for the back yard or side of the house, say as a screen for an AC Unit?

I think a wall water feature to the right on the door front entry by the bay window "maybe even a birdbath if its a breakfast nook" would look really nice behind that overgrown evergreen.

I would get of the three evergreens on the left side against the house and plant a row of azaleas, boxwoods, or dwarf holly for evergreen color and uniformity. Then on the far left side an ornamental tree, like a dogwood, crap apple, or saucer magnolia. Something non evergreen as you have plenty in your beds.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 4:36PM
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I would also expand the walkway like you have planned, but make it wider on the entry in the bed to the left where nothing is planted, then have it go narrow pretty fast as to slow down company and force them to view your garden, then do some really nice focal groundcovers or annuals. Maybe a groundcover blueberry or grouping of pansies. I just think your yard needs color, not a ton of work or as much as some would suggest. The iris and Lilies are pretty but sporadically laid out, group them all up and plant them together.

A nice large container pot on the entry corner in the bed itself with say blackie sweet potato vine and new zeland flax would create contrast, depth, and focal.

I would also look into what grows well in your area in the shade that has color, a grouping of ferns or hosta would look good in most beds.

Underneath that front bed near the road I would put loriope, mulch heavily, move the iris to there, and probably plant an annual like pansies that have a lot of color. You could also frame it off and plant some flowering roses like the knock out.

Also repaint the green shutters a dark charcoal grey color to compliment the roof and kill the green theme. Its a wash with all the evergreens.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 4:47PM
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kmack17(6 NJ)

Thanks, that is a tremendous amount of good information. I've been spending hours online doing research, but it seems like the best ideas/advice I get is from this forum. Not to abuse all of your expertise, but what would you do with the side of my house:

I'd like to create some privacy as my back yard is pretty visible from the street as it is now. I'd like something visual appealing, so I didn't want to just plant a privacy screen. I really like Colorado Blue Spruce, but was going to pick a slower growing variety like Fat Albert and plant around it. Here's a rough sketch I did with some free online tools.

Don't be gentle, if there's something wrong/stupid I'm doing here please let me know. I can take it. The only real restriction is that I don't want to shade out the garden that's planted behind the fence, so any trees taller than 10-12 feet would have to planted a decent distance from the fence. I have a pretty decent sized front yard (for suburban NJ) so I can expand the depth of the bed as far as necessary.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 5:06PM
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Thought the shutters are blue - grey/blue. Probably a bit faded and might have matched the front door at one time.

No experience with liriope; people seem to like it... if they get the clumper (L. Muscari) and not the rampant spreader (L. Spicata). Tall bearded iris are beautiful, but you do have only the spikey foliage left once the relatively short blooming period is over. A bed of them close to the road - even sticking up above liriope - might look a little ragtag.

My thought would be to get a couple of rolls of sod and just green it over - even having to piece it around the big surface tree root. Some times an additional little piece of garden plot makes little sense. The lawn looks to be in good shape; draws attention across it to the house. It's not like there's a mailbox there that "needs its own garden" to compliment it.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 5:20PM
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Duluthin, I agree with the iris. I guess I should have said space them out fairly evenly as a filler and foliage contrast, I only think he has a couple of them and they would compliment something else depending on color. I would never plant a focal bed of them, but its ashame to let them go to waste.

I really like your ideas and think they go pretty good with the rest of the home.

On the front rip out-
Most people would green it, I just see a lot of potential for a really cool bed to add depth to your house, not to mention color. I always do one by the mailbox, ex I have 8 foot sunflowers with okra at my house right now out front, its really crazy and wild/eclectic but pretty fun for people coming by "especially when most front beds look like crap right now with weeds etc". Surrounded by Mexican heather and sweet potato vine for the atrocious Texas summers.

I honestly think the house needs color, thinking annuals, I would def look into summer and winter, as spring and fall in NJ totally take care of themselves. An old farmer told me that and it always stuck with me.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2012 at 7:32PM
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