phase one - design

pacmomMay 29, 2010

I have been lurking on this forum for months. Long enough to have learned, to hire a landscape designer if you don't know what you are doing. That would be me. To start, I am not working with a clean slate. The present landscape in the front, sides, and rear are less than desirable. I am on a budget and will be doing this in phases. The first phase will be the front. The designer provided me with a sketch. Unfortunately, I am unable to take 2D and visualize 3D. I can't afford to make any mistakes and would appreciate the opinion/scrutiny of this forum, on the present sketch.

The sketch (to scale if you add 3 sq ft to area under bay window)

From Drop Box

The current image (pan)

From Drop Box

image close up

From Drop Box

image walkway

From Drop Box

The rest of the mess, uh, I mean house

East facing side

From Drop Box

Deck in back (lacking a pan view)

From Drop Box

West facing side

From Drop Box

West facing side cont.

From Drop Box

West facing side continued (complete with trash cans full of misc. bulbs etc)

From Drop Box

I am going to take a deep breath and forge ahead. Any feedback/insight will be greatly appreciated.

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--- >I am not a designer, not by a long shot.

But in my very amateur opinion I would suggest at least thinking about changing your "phases" from areas to plant types. I am in a new house on the third year of a five year plan on an extremely limited budget and this approach works well for me.

I get my trees in the first year- they need the most time to grow and represent a fair bit of change so that was most of year one's budget right there. By trees I mean actual trees as well as whatever large conifers and broadleaved evergreens you might be planning- these are the bones of the yard and you need them in place (IMO) to visualize the rest of everything.
I do hardscapes and lawn the first year as well.

My second year was smaller shrubs- my azaelas, rhodos, hydrangeas, that sort of thing. This is the texture of the yard and for me alternating and switching things around is great visual interest, as is mixing up shades of green and choosing spots for your red leaved plants. Smaller conifers too, as winter interest is important. This is a good time to look at every spot visible from inside your home and create some interesting little vignette areas with benches, statues, fountains, or whatever floats your boat. Not so much the front yard for this, but sides and back can make for some really interesting smaller spaces, and we do spend a great deal of time on the inside looking out.

Next year (3) I did dwarf conifers, which doesn't sound like much but these little critters can be expensive and IMO are essential as they simply exude charm.

Next year (we're on year 4)is (again, for me) perennials. This takes thought and planning as to bloom time and color- I don't want red blooming next to pink, for instance. Actually I don't have red- I kept to a specific color scheme for the most part but that is your choice. The possibilities are endless and I find this the hardest year as far as education myself as to what is possible.

Last is groundcovers- obviously by now I can see what areas I want them in and can have at it without having to rip them out because I forgot about something else that needed to go in.
I do a few pools of colorful annuals, too, but I find them labor intensive so limit them to a very few high visibility/high impact areas. Your broken back, your choice :)

We are in similar climates so I'll put a link to my before/after page only because it has a full plantlist that might stimulate your imagination in some way. I moved here from the subtropics and so all these plants are new to me but I haven't lost anything yet and I think in five more years I'll have a great place.

I am in no way suggesting that you do things like I did- I had some very specific needs in my yard (maximum running space for large dogs) but encouraging you to really take the time to customize every square foot to your specific needs as a family.

My yard was left in near shambles by the previous owner so lots of that first year was clean up type work- the lawns, especially. Yours is in far better shape than mine was, so you have that going for you!

Again, this was on a very limited retirement income, just spread over several years.

The pros will be along now to tell you the real way to do it, but this is what has worked for me.

Good luck!
IMO you will never be "finished" as it will always be a work in progress. Take photos to document every step and post them often- we love photos!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Link

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 11:59AM
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I admire your progress cearbhaill. What a tranquil environment you have created. You have a vision and continue to move toward its fruition. My approach is to try to accomplish as much as I can, in a brief period of time. I am taking on this project because I am home with a fractured leg. I have never had the time to address the exterior of my home. It has really been an issue of concern with me. Beneath the deck was full of trash, overgrown weeds, thousands of insects etc. The front walkway is obscured by the blue spruce holly; there was a beautiful Japanese Maple tree in front of the bay window - but it was pressing against the window and inhibited the view. The dogwood tree in the front left is half dead, literally. There was an evergreen that was infested with "bag worms" (disgusting). I could go on and on. Anyway, I have never had a moment to address any of these issues, and now it is very liberating to do so. This is a small horse farm in which we breed Thoroughbreds. This in and of itself adds a significant amount of work to our daily routine. I also have a full time job, which I will return to once my leg has healed. That said, I am determined to accomplish both purging of the old and the creation of a more clean, cohesive home exterior. The purpose of my post is to tap into the experts and the experienced that utilize this forum. I am definitely impaired when it comes to creativity. I know what I like when I see it, but I don't know what I like until I see it. After my initial post this morning, I gutted my walkway. It was quite comical since I did it from a wheelchair. Here is the result:
From Drop Box

When I look at the designer's sketch, I can look at each plant individually, but I have no idea how to envision it in the context of the sketch, let alone grouped all together, ugh! Again, your opinion of the current sketch and any suggestions for improvement would be extremely helpful to me at this stage. Thank you for the plant list cearbhaill. This is a definite asset for me as I am new to this region as well.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2010 at 9:23PM
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There are some tremendously talented designer folk around here- likely the holiday weekend has them all off enjoying other things and they'll be back soon.

Now, since you asked, I do wonder about this entry walkway getting overcrowded in time with the two Laurels (which can get up to six feet wide) and most especially the (gasp) six! Rheingolds (which can get up to eight). If you enjoy pruning, then it's your call but personally I would stay with lower, less intrusive plants in an area I have to walk and possibly carry things through. You just pulled out a truckload of crowded shrubs- are you sure you want to set yourself up for that again? For me 6 Rheingolds in that space is madness- to me that means a massive tear out in the future. I have a lovely one and they are very slow growers, and if you get babies it will work. But there are so many alternatives I would go a different direction.

Also- the Rheingolds will need some sun in order to keep their color, and I didn't see which way this entry faced?
How many hours of sun per day does this area receive? If it is very shady plants overhanging the walkway will make algae which is both unsightly and slippery, and just one more cleaning chore no one needs.

Ferns and hostas for sure (and hellebores and heucheras), and for height I'd go with things in pots that could be changed out when they intrude or it turns out they aren't getting enough sun. But keeping to low growers would keep it neat and tidy all the time. I would put a pot of something large to the right of your door and perhaps a very small bench or seat of some sort. Plants in pots on the left looks like it would impede doorway access. Maybe think about finding some lovely things to hang on the wall on either side of the walkway- I love outside art.

Eh- I'm just rambling.
But do think about future ultimate growth and space. It's all about how you intend to use the space.
Good luck, and you should have had someone take a photo of the wheelchair purge!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 8:40AM
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The plan is asking a lot of the three boxwood and the holly in terms of scale at which they are drawn. You may be waiting a long time to see them fill those spaces as drawn unless you buy very large plants to start with.

I'm bit uncomfortable picking apart a design posted by someone other than the designer. Rather than that, helping with visualization is something that is more comfortable.

The holly is in front of the wall rather than in front of the corner of the house. This tends to make the planting look shorter than the house or actually that the house is longer than the planting. That would be even more true if the holly is undersized.

The entry will have a some zest with way the designer is working contrasting foliage colors which I like in that space.

Architecturally from the street the house emphasizes the garage and columns. The plantings are going to add to that through color. I don't think what is going at the entry is bad, but it might be nice to beef up the other end of the house with a tree and larger mass of planting to compete with the entry through scale. That would make the triple windows seem more like the middle of the house. As it is proposed keeps the emphasis on the garage and column facade. You may want that emphasis or you may not (I would not).

To sum it up, I think it is fine but should have more mass and depth on the left side and be sure that the foundation planting is not too sparse. I would leave the middle (under the windows) planting recessed in comparison withe the left end and the entry (that means bringing the left end forward with a deeper planting bed and perhaps a tree in it).

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 9:48AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

You're lucky to have a wide front walkway; too many builders try to save money by stinting on the cement.

It appears to me that the plan is not to scale: on paper, the bed on the right is deeper than the width of the walkway, but when I measure the photo, the walkway is more than twice as wide as the bed.

Exactly how deep is the bed on the right? Will those plants really fit without monthly shearing (the Otto Luyken laurel apparently can grow to 6' in diameter, and the arborvitae 3-5' in diameter)? Do you want to lose half the width of the walkway to the shrubbery -- again? [I too would love to have seen photos of you, the wheelchair, and the Doom of the Hollies.]

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 11:17AM
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cearbhaill, thank you for stating what is now obvious. Upon reading the posts, I went to the nursery and picked up some of the plants to get a better idea of how it all fit together. The three Rheingolds are much too large for that space. The Hosta and Fern idea are appropriate. The Otto Luyken and Laurel will need pruning almost immediately. This is too similar to what I just took out. Much too crowded. I like the idea of the lower plants, as it keeps the walkway open. I actually purchased a Sky Pencil Holly in an effort to understand the relationship. The symmetry looks good and the lines are clean. You are exactly right about the focal point of the house being the garage and columns laag. I agree that something needs to compete with this large, bland area. If I am understanding you, I can beef up the West side of the house, bringing it forward and adjacent to the garage door. Then the foundation needs to be more dense and the tree that will be placed at that end should be centered with that corner of the house, in addition to being pulled forward? That makes sense. The width of the windows exteriorly is just over 11 feet. I placed three, 3 gallon boxwood under there and it doesn't begin to fill the space. In fact, it looks awkward when I placed the two Barberry in front of them. I am very disappointed at how this is coming together. I paid the gentleman for his time and effort in mapping things out for me and severed the professional relationship based on my own lack of knowing what I want. This is so frustrating. I don't understand why I can't do this myself. Missingtheobvious, I did not even note that the beds adjacent to the sidewalk have different widths until I removed the bushes. The one closest to the garage is 2'3", while the opposite side is 2'6". I will fill the bed that is deficient with topsoil and compost to decrease the depth. Thank you so much for the feedback. I believe I understand the process so much better, conceptually. I will follow your guidelines through trial and error. If you have any suggestions for plants or trees or anything, please share them with me. I will be heading back to the nursery now. Should I stick with the boxwoods under the window and just increase the qty, or add additional plants? I will try to find plants similar to the Rheingold, Laurel, and Otto albeit on a much smaller scale. I will post pictures as I go and hopefully get additional insight from you all.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2010 at 6:33PM
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You don't need to visualize 3-D to plant the design provided.

You said the plan is to scale, so what is needed is a tape measure, stakes, and some marking spray paint would help too! Measure from multiple reference points to ensure you have laid out the plan correctly, and use triangulation to double check all of that when done.

If you don't like the plan, then don't implement it, but it seems odd to me that you would want this forum to suggewt their own plant preferences.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2010 at 6:12PM
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It would appear your LD was planning on keeping the tree and large shrub masses you already have by the left corner of the house.

Yes the columns do standout because of the red-brick white cladding contrast. That could be played down with painting, if you wanted the additional maintenace. Lot's of houses also have private garden near the front door and the entrance to that secluded garden area then becomes the new focal point (entry way ) for the house. I couldn't tell you how to do that, as I'm not an LD, but something to consider?

    Bookmark   June 1, 2010 at 9:51AM
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