Front garden beds and improving street appeal

meldivesMay 18, 2014

I recently purchased my first house :) There are two garden beds at the front of the house, but other than a Fuchsia and a Hydrangea they are a blank canvas. I would also like to remove both of these if I can.

The garden beds get good sun for pretty much all day. They start to be in shadow from about 5pm at this time of the year.

Ultimately I'd like a garden with year round interest - some shrubs and flowers. I don't really want anything that is going to grow taller than the fences - 3ft to the front, 4ft to the sides. Some scent would be nice too. I'm probably asking the impossible! I'm on the west coast of Ireland and I'm not familiar with what grows here and gardening doesn't seem as popular as it in Australia (where I am from)- a lot of houses don't even have front gardens. Suggestions and layout ideas would be fantastic.

The garden beds currently have pebbles which you can see. I think I'd like to remove these and ultimately have bark. There is a layer of plastic underneath the pebbles. What sort of preparation will I need to do the soil before starting?

Finally, I'd like to improve the street appeal - my house is the only one with a fence out the front. On the agenda for the summer is painting the house and I'm thinking about getting some big window planter boxes made up for the windows. What about something that I could grow on the front side of the fence - I don't want ivy or anything like that. Also the front side of the fence really only gets the morning sun.

Sorry for the long post. Any suggestions would be great.

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A pic of the garden beds.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 10:34AM
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Layout plan and dimensions of the garden beds (all measurements in feet).

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 10:36AM
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Why do you wish to get rid of the hydrangea and fuchsia?

A low groundcover below some trees would complete the essential portion of the landscape. Where I'd put four trees and 3 "needle" conifers ...

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 11:55AM
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Thanks Yardvaark for the suggestions.

I want to get rid of the Fuchsia and Hydrangea as I don't really like them - maybe the Fuchsia could stay if it worked in with a plan but I really don't like Hudrangeas.

With regards to your plan, I appreciate it. However I really don't want large trees at the front of the house. Directly across the road (you can just see them in the second photo) are mountain ash that will eventually grow large. The front of the house only gets morning sun and I want to keep as much light coming in the front windows as possible.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 1:39PM
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Congratulations on your first house purchase!

Right off the bat, I'll admit to knowing nothing of the flora of Ireland. And with the enclosure, any appeal will be more from inside your house looking out than from anyone looking in from the curbside.

Rocks/pebbles are problematic, more so with plastic underneath since that has a way of tattering and starting to come up in places. Skimming all that away is very labor intensive, although you can always plant through it leaving the pebbles as the mulch. But digging through and displacing dirt, etc. just dirties things up.

Could be interesting with plants that tend to have mounded shapes, punctuated with some of the smaller shrubs and dwarf - even miniature form - conifers; counter balance all the straight lines.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 2:41PM
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Oops ... I guess some of your words went in one eye and out the other! Looking again at your opening remarks, I see that you are interested in developing a garden, not landscaping. It's going to be very hard (impossible actually) to solve the "street appeal" issues without analyzing what's wrong with the current picture from a landscape point of view. For example, in the first picture, is seeing the large, blank side of your R neighbor's house an attractive part of the view of your yard? Not really! But a 3' or 4' ht. plant will never address this issue. In fact, plants of that size will barely be seen from the street. Plants of this size are never going to make a significant impact in regards to giving the house warmth, charm and and an established appearance. The feel will be more like bright, sunny army base housing.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 3:25PM
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Thanks Yardvaark, you've given me food for thought. I guess I'm just so used to it - this is pretty typical design in Ireland sadly. If I was to look at some screening plants that could be combined with a garden what you suggest? Keeping in mind that I want to avoid 'trees'! For me, the street appeal issue initially was more about the fence - I'm in the only one in my area with a fence along the side and front boundries and it's an ugly fence that stands out and I wanted to try and soften if it i could.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 4:08PM
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Graffiti artists can paint some nice pictures on the fence. That should soften it.

Seriously, if 3' and 4' ht. plants on the back side of the fence (from the street view,) lovely as they may be, are your goal, that's not going to create appeal or softening for anything but possibly when you are standing inside the doorway looking out. You could grow something that will cling to the wall and cover or top it, but as I already pointed out, that's not going to address the major visual issues. Currently, the "look" that's projected is of a brand new tree-less subdivision. It looks immature, stark and harsh.

When you say, "...I want to avoid 'trees'!" I'm sure our definitions of what a tree is are very different. To me, it's not a size. It's a form. Some of them come in pretty small sizes. I can't see how, in most cases, one could plant the yard of a home, use no tree forms AT ALL, and call it a good, complete landscape. The house will look forever stark. That look may be good enough to satisfy yourself and many others, but sorry to say, it's just not a quality landscape. Interestingly enough, I'm sure that when you pay good money and take a vacation, wherever it is you go, you'll want there to be some trees. Even if they're just palm trees.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2014 at 9:19PM
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Yardvaark, I appreciate your time and thoughts.

When i said trees, I guess I was thinking of something very much like in your first pic - that is what I really don't want. However, something like in this pic - tall, slim and willowy, I like (I don't know what they (silver sheen) are like when they have matured though?). I have space behind the brown gates that join onto the house where I could plant something like that and also have a few on the front side of the gate. However I wouldn't want it all the way along the fence line.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 1:09PM
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Despite sentiments to the contrary, the landscape design process brings about solutions that are based on logical problem solving ... not just on "I like" or "I don't like" with nothing more than that to back it up.

Good luck in your quest to find what pleases you.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2014 at 6:52PM
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