brick ranch house in zone 6b desparately needs TLC!

gingerpeachApril 19, 2013

We bought our 1960's era brick ranch house as a fixer because we liked its simple design and potential. It turns out that we've had to spend most of our time and resources on rehabilitating the inside. However, we are getting to the point that we can't stand the current exterior. We are in need of advice for making our little house more attractive from the outside. Although we hope to be able to invest more in the front yard landscaping in a few years, we do need a solution for the near term.

Although pretty much everything needs work, we are focused on addressing the following as high priority: 1) adding some depth and height to the front bed; varying the plantings and possibly adding a tree or shrub in between the windows; 2) de-uglifying the front porch without replacing it; 3) figuring out if we can address the awkward entrance that leads straight from the driveway.

Some strong preferences - we would like to keep the lawn as undivided as possible as our small kids and their neighborhood friends enjoy playing in it. Given budget constraints, hardscaping is probably not an option, and we will need to DIY as much as possible. Also, is a trellis a good option to consider instead of a tree to bring in some height?
On a side note, the side yard adjacent to the left side of the house is also blank and open for ideas. The right side yard (and most of the front lawn) is unfortunately riddled with bamboo shoots and stalks from the next door neighbor. We have to mow and trim religiously for now - having a bamboo barrier installed would probably take up our entire landscaping budget. Thanks for any help!

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Here is a view from the left side of the driveway.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 9:25PM
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Pressure washing and painting (not staining) the front porch would dramatically improve it's appearance. Medium darkish color for the floor and below (lattice) and trim color (white) for the rail and stiles.) Could be done fairly easily.

Not sure why you are calling the direct access to the entrance "awkward." I can't yet see that it has that problem.

I don't see that there is a front bed so it seems that adding anything at all would "add depth and height." Adding a bed would be good as would adding small trees in the small spaces and a somewhat larger (flowering type) at the left side of the house.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 9:41PM
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I feel your pain and am in a similar situation.

I agree with Yardvaark's comments.

I think a new larger light and a potted plant to the left of your door could be an easy, quick, cheap fix. I would think that you would want a small shrub to the right of the porch, a larger shrub between the window, and a then a tree on the other side of the small window. Perennials can be filled in between.

Perhaps you may want to add raised beds made of stone or so.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:25PM
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This is really, really helpful. We thought of adding potted plants and painting the deck but hadn't thought of that particular placement of the pots and those colors. And we are complete newbies when it comes to arrangement/placement so specific guidance about what plants to place where is appreciated.

So yeah, the front "bed".....there used to be a row of overgrown azalea bushes and we ripped them out and in a fit of desperation and penny-pinching, planted a bunch of perennials from bulbs. Things are pretty bare during the winter though so it's not obvious from the picture - the front bed goes straight across and is even with the edge of the lattice. Based on other pictures we've seen and like we will try to make it a little more curvy to add more dimension and interest.

We will consider any and all ideas so please keep them coming!

Edited to add photo: does this help with conveying the entrance problem? Even when the car is parked way over to the left, there is only a very small strip of driveway for people to walk on to get to the front porch. We have enough issues as is with the yard without making the entrance seem unfriendly.

This post was edited by gingerpeach on Fri, Apr 19, 13 at 22:56

    Bookmark   April 19, 2013 at 10:49PM
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koszta_kid(Iowazone 5)

You can add white trellis and mix vine of morning glory + moon flower -so can bloom day and dusk.Container of different color + plants.Many books show best combo. In container. Spread annual seed like cosmos.Take pictures to garden center.They can help. Start small But don't plant Real close to house.Leave room to work around the plants.And Nothing better then Bird feeder to watch out your window

    Bookmark   April 21, 2013 at 8:37PM
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That picture helps explain how the drive is not wide enough to accommodate all the needs. I would extend it to the right and forward toward the porch. If concrete pavers are used in your part of the country, you might call the company and see if they sell "seconds" at discount. I've found this is the best way to acquire cheap pavers. Enlarging your drive/walk is small enough to be a DIY project. Pavers require a stabile compacted base, but this is not difficult to construct for small areas. My other suggestions are add a couple of small, multi-trunk trees (12-15' height at full grown,) some small hedges (3' ht. at full grown,) groundcover, flowering shrubs or seasonal color at each side of the steps, and a flowering tree at the left side of porch. (You could stand to add more at the left side of the house, but I did not address that area.)

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 9:54AM
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I really like yardvaarks first design, which would add a tremendous amount of curve appeal with not too much effort. I definitely think you need to add a walkway, and think it would add some interest to the space as well as serve an important purpose for you all. In terms of material, where I am in zone 6a, the freeze thaw cycles do a number on poured concrete, so pavers are much longer lasting here. I am guessing that is the same for you. They can be more expensive, but they should last.

I watch too much hgtv, but I imagine if you spent the money to do this design, you would reap it all back in house value.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 7:59AM
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Wow! I love the mockup, yardvaark - thanks very much! It would be quite the makeover if we got anywhere near that vision. The walkway is a fantastic idea. Thanks to all for comments and suggestions.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 2:46PM
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If you learn to control weeds well, you'll have fought half the battle. Learn to start a suitable groundcover that you like from cuttings, and you can save a bundle.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 8:02PM
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