[Design] Help a complete noob with a complete redo (with pics)

carterficklingMay 4, 2011

Hi, so, I have no idea what I'm doing, but I want to redesign the front lawn, because at this point, it doesn't work as a lawn, nor as a garden.

I have no design ideas, and am really stuck, but know that at the very least, we need some patiostones/rocks at the landing of the front steps.

The gardens themselves - would you go rock garden or perennials/annuals?

Would you extend the beds to the road (and how would you deal with the sloping ground? Would you edge the beds with something?

I welcome all ideas - trying to gather as many I can from the internet before tackling this as a project!





Here is a link that might be useful:

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I would first start out with a path from the front steps, either flag stone, or brick. Have it lead to the sidewalk, or the driveway. I could only open the link, so can't tell about the slope.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 9:16AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Whether the path leads to the sidewalk or the driveway, at the base of the steps it should be the full width of the steps. (I think a path to the sidewalk is a better solution re. the landscaping.)

I'd plant something evergreen against the house to hide the foundation, then something flowering in front of that (yes, very traditional). If no evergreens against the house, then paint the foundation the same shade as the siding.

Due to the shallowness of the yard, eliminating the grass entirely is a possibility.

Links to all of the OP's photos:

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 9:34AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I have an almost identical house except with a porch across the front, and also a small yard, so I feel your pain - it's harder than it looks, isn't it? And I have that curse of the slight slope too - too much to garden as if it's flat, and too little to make it seem worth terracing.

So much of what the right answer might be depends on (a) the surrounding of the house, and (b) who you are as a gardener. For one owner of the same house, all lawn is the right answer, while for another it is all garden.

Myself, I'm a big fan of structure. I also love that as a DIY(?) homeowner, you can make changes incrementally and don't always have to know ahead of time exactly what else you're going to do. For instance, you know there is a path issue. Sit down and solve that. Make a statement with your path, and with it, some decisions... eg, will you have a step on the path,or will it slope?

Once you have made that decision, you may have clearer options as to what to do about planting and terracing. Since it's a concrete foundation, you can increase the dirt level around it.

As for (a) above, do you want any screening, any shade, any enclosure?


    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 12:20PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

One thing I would advise you to do, is cover the space under the steps, ie box in the landing and staircase. Otherwise all the skunks, groundhogs and other vermin in the neighborhood will try to get under there. Best to bury whatever you use about 12 inches under the ground too. Ask me how I know, lol! My folks have the same kind of steps/porch with this problem. May not seem like a huge landscaping issue, but after you've had a groundhog go after your perrenial garden, you may feel differently, lol!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 3:03PM
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Looking at your front made me think of some photos I just saw in "Front Yard Gardens" by Liz Primeau. It has some houses that are close to the road. One in particular that I am thinking about allowed the garden to extend into the grass on the other side of the sidewalk. It is too hard to explain, I just went and snapped a picture of the page:

Here is a link that might be useful: House w/short front yard

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 4:29PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

dainaadele, that design would be wonderful with a wide parking strip (hell strip, or whatever it's called in your neck of the woods).

I like how a herringbone pattern was used on the bricks in front of the porch steps to make an easier transition to the twin brick walkways on the sides of the central bed.

[It does kind of look like a giant DO NOT ENTER sign, though.]

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 5:56PM
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Wow - thanks all for the help - and good notes that I'll be using!

I went out and looked at the lawn a little more. For the path, it's actually quite flat from the bottom of the step of the porch til almost 6 ft out. Then it's a sharp drop (45degrees) over 2 ft, so if I'm thinking correctly, it makes sense to just lay a flat path with a step, rather than a slope, because the slope isn't really that pronounced except at the end. I think I like this idea more than creating a softer incline over the length of the 8ft. What do others think? (again, I'm kinda new..I know there's no "right" way to do it, I just want it to look nice.

So it would be a 2ft deep section from the sidewalk towards the house, then a step, and 6ft again flat section to the bottom of the stairs. Obviously these would be as wide as the steps themselves.

I think I'd like the rest to be garden - but you're right Karin, it's almost all on the same level and might be boring. Maybe I could make my job more problematic and do something shaped, leaving still a small portion of grass, maybe the little ridge of the slope.

dainaadele that's such a beautiful picture, I just don't think it's doable here - the grass section on the other side of the sidewalk isn't even a foot..so the impact might be lost..

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 8:09PM
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I know it's boring, but is this getting somewhere? How would you tweak it? (no mocking me for Photoshop lack-of-skills)

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 5, 2011 at 9:22PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Dainaadele, that is a fabulous picture. Hmm, I may be able to use that - am just considering a redo of my hellstrip. MTO, I don't find it unwelcoming at all.... curious as to why you see it that way. Too personal a space?

Carterfickling, I won't mock your mock-up skills as I have none of my own, but I think you are under-reaching in terms of making an actual improvement. Not that a little wall and a walkway wouldn't be an improvement, but you did come to the "landscape design" forum :-) Plus you've left yourself with a lawn plus beds... still have to haul the lawnmower to the front. If this is not a problem, and you are happy with this idea, then there is nothing wrong with it.

Interesting, though, I hadn't caught the slope from front to back, was noticing it from side to side and was wondering if you'd put a walkway branch to the driveway, but given the distance there is likely no point. Regarding step vs. no step on the walkway, obviously even fridges can be delivered up steps and you have steps so you won't get wheelchairs in there anyway... maybe worth thinking through the winter situation with snow in terms of deciding.

Without the answers to the questions I first posted I can't go much further, but if you aren't familiar with a lot of garden design options, go shopping! I solve a lot of my uncertainties in yard design by shopping. If you have a local landscape supply yard, go and wander around - it's free, and see what materials appeal to you, for either bed edging or walkway design. Not that there's anything wrong with concrete for a front walkway, given the mail delivery and snow clearing requirements. Also check out some nurseries, see what kinds of plants appeal to you. Do you feel the urge to plant lots of different things, or would several of the same type, as in a more formal layout, say a boxwood edge, be pleasing to you? What kind of maintenance tasks might you enjoy - lawn mowing vs. shrub trimming, weeding, etc.


    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 12:04PM
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I'm glad KarenL mentioned concrete for the walk - it's fitting for 40/50's bungalows. And would be a simple pour directly out to the sidewalk with someone else doing all the labor. It won't "go anywhere", doesn't need rocks or sand swept into crevices between pavers or individual slabs of something, slope no problem, easy to keep snow free, and perhaps not too much more expensive than bricks or pavers.

With RA, I'm very mindful of where I'm putting my feet and on what - I pretty much avoid anything slick or with trippable edges.

And having a walk of some type would be a good best start in thinking how you want to treat the remaining space.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 12:56PM
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Personally, while the lawn moving isn't a big deal, I'd rather be a gardener out front, but that being said, low mantenance is something I'm leaning towards. Right mow there's host as and other stuff that pretty much comes up on it's own. The burning bush I trimmed for the first time last fall and I'm still waiting to see if it'll be coming back :)

I think an overly creative/colorful/chaotic garden is something I'm drawn to, and there's nothing like that on the street. The neighbor to the south has a large lawn and regular close to the house shrubs. The north has a small front lawn but large side lawn neither of which do much. We've got that thin green out front, flanked on the south by the neighbors yard and the north by the driveway. So for me, it really feels all or nothing.

I don't think I'm looking for screen or shade at this point. We have a backyard and tend to use it more. The front is just not appealing enough to get people back there :)

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 1:25PM
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I guess something like this looks awesome but I wouldn't know where to start and if it'd look good here (so nervous)

Here is a link that might be useful: Inspiration

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 1:48PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

karinl, by MTO, I don't find it unwelcoming at all.... curious as to why you see it that way. Too personal a space?

were you referring to when I said this: It does kind of look like a giant DO NOT ENTER sign, though.

I wasn't trying to say I found the photo/garden unwelcoming, simply that the shape (circle of brick walks with horizontal sidewalk through it) reminded me of this sign:

The European version doesn't include the English words. Do you have them in Canada?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 10:43PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Oh of course, now I get it. Duh! Sorry.

Carter, I love your inspiration photo, I think you picked that well. You start with designing the hardscape, I think, and it doesn't have to be a carbon copy; the idea of an open area that is not lawn in the centre of an exuberant planting can take on many shapes. Likely you'd have a small open space on each side, or one larger one in the centre that incorporates the walkway. Sketch it out on a plan view, and then try to mentally plant it up in general terms - not plant identity, but characteristics - evergreen or not, blooming or not, and what heights and shapes of plants you want to see from inside and outside the yard.

At specific plant selection it starts to get personal. I love my orange tones, plus I like flowers that attract lots of bees, love foliage, and I enjoy watching shoots and buds unfurl and open. Other people crave fragrance, or want things very tidy and controlled. That part can also change a lot from one year to the next; hardscape not so much.

Does that make sense?


    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 1:26AM
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