Foundation shrubs for a brick home - first time garden planner!

october_cosmosMay 7, 2010

Hi, I'm hoping I can get some suggestions here. My husband and I recently purchased our first home, a brick ranch. The previous owner's gardening tool of choice was a chain saw, and you could tell. The garden was full of twisted and unhealthy azaleas, a near dead wax myrtle, and some really ugly boxwoods. Normally, I like to try and save things, but I ended up only saving some of the azaleas and hope that they are happier in their new home in the back yard.

Now that the front gardens are mostly cleared, I'm at a loss as to what will work best. I love shrubs that have purple, red, and burgundy foliage.. but I feel as though they would be lost up against our red brick. The front yard has full sun to partial shade, and I'd really like some great foundation plants that will accent our home and provide nice curb appeal. Bonus if they are easy to care for.

I'd also like to investigate how to best design the small garden that is framed by our front walkway and the side of the house... should I consider a specimen tree? If so, what? Should I look at some interesting plantings? My only concern for this area is not blocking too much sun into my home.. we already have some big trees around the house.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated!!!

Here are some photos of the house. The azalea to the left of the front door is gone, as are the ones to the right on the other side of the garden created between the walk way and the house.

The azaleas around the pine and the elm remain.

The shrub behind the dog and to the right of him also remain, but maybe not for long...

the clump of nonsense far to the right of where the dog is sitting is a rock with plantings around it... those "plantings" will likely be replaced by something else. No idea with what though!

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Oh, and I am in zone 8... that didn't show up as "zone 8" next to my name in the original posting.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 4:16PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Your photos (I hope it's okay to post them rather than simply links):

I think you did the right thing, removing the shrubs to the left and right of the front door. How about the one on the left-hand corner of the garage? Was it removed as well? I can't see keeping the other two shrubs in front of the garage if you removed the left-hand one.

I love shrubs that have purple, red, and burgundy foliage.. but I feel as though they would be lost up against our red brick.

I agree with you -- but then, my tastes aren't particularly sophisticated, and you may well get other opinions.

One possibility is to use taller shrubs with green or chartreuse foliage, then place shorter shrubs in front of them with purple, red, or burgundy foliage.

With the windows so low, it would be difficult to place two layers of shrubs in front of the windows. So perhaps plant taller green shrubs where there aren't windows, with contrasting foliage shrubs in front of them. Then where there are windows, use a single layer of shorter green shrubs, with short flowering annuals or perennials or even groundcovers in front of them (and perhaps those might have the colored foliage you prefer -- or even flowers in the burgundy/red/purple range).

Would it be possible to take a photo -- probably from across the street -- which would show the entire house in one shot? (And ideally the entire width of the front yard, from property line to property line?) It's difficult to know exactly where the double tree in front of the garage is; and I'm wondering what's on the other side of the rock bed, and whether the driveway is entered from the street in front of the house or if the house is on a corner and the driveway is on the side street.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 5:59PM
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People usually don't like to hear this, but those trees are too close to your house. Unless your house is older than it looks, I suspect the builder left them there in an attempt to provide shade or something. I don't know how close to the ocean you are, but even so I'm sure you get storms from time to time. The pine, especially, is prone to uproot. Do you know if its a short leaf pine, or a long leaf?

HUD recommends no tree be allowed to grow closer to a house than it is tall. For many reasons. Some to do with safety. Some to do with maintenance of the house/roof/gutters.

Your house has a very pleasing facade, but in my opinion the bare trunks detract from it.

As for foundation plantings, you need things that will stay low for the areas in front of the windows. I believe there several variants of dwarf spirea that grow in zone 8, though I'm sure they they require extra water. But they come in all sorts of colors. Goldflame and Goldmound spireas come to mind, if they'll grow in zone 8.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 9:04PM
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We built our new brick home almost three years ago. Here are a few ideas that have worked for us.

For the low area in front of your windows, how about junipers? We have Parsons juniper, which has been fast growing, doesn't get tall but will gracefully spread a bit, and is evergreen. Virtually maintenance free, which is always a plus.

Indian Hawthorn shrubs are also a nice foundation plant. A friend of mine warned me that they would really get big, but ours are almost three years old and have made nice, but not too large, mounds. They flower beautifully in the spring, then have berries. They also provide a softness to the brick background.

You said you would like to have a touch of burgundy color - Lorapetalum is a great shrub to have. Perhaps scatter some among your greenery and it wouldn't compete with the brick. Also, I've had good luck with the knockout roses - have them in the deep pink and also the yellow.

In our back we have variagated pittosporum. Funny, we worried about it being a slow grower, but I'm going to have to get the clippers out soon!

Good luck! You have a lovely home.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2010 at 8:45AM
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Oh, I'm sorry that I missed these responses! I thought I indicated that I'd like a notification in my email when someone responded... perhaps I made a newbie mistake!

Anyway, I'm glad I checked in and do appreciate all of the responses. Also, I've already been considering many of the suggestions you all have made - that makes me feel less inept!

Yesterday I bought three dwarf soft touch Japanese holly to place below the windows on the left side of the house. I've also cleaned out all of the yucky and old pine straw. To the poster who asked about the shrubs on the right side of the house, by the dog, I have not yet ripped them out. I think we'll be doing that tonight though. I was considering keeping them (really, I felt like a plant murderer, haha!) but I honestly hate them and who plants azaleas crammed between a house and concrete walk way?! You can't see it, but there is one still left over..

To be honest, at the time of posting this initial thread I had somehow missed how low the windows were. This weekend this fact hit me, and I realized that many of the shrubs would have to be low and mounding. I was, however, considering putting a large burgundy shrub at the outer corners, and then perhaps the inner corners (the corner to the left of the door and the corner to the right of the enclosed garden space) putting some matching burgundy/reddish plants. I was hoping that they would 'pop' more being flanked by a lot of green.

Then again, I also like the idea of including some chartreuse shrubs. Perhaps I could plop two larger shrubs that offer this color on the outer corners, and at their base create a grouping of lower mounding burgundy shrubs? If any of you like this idea, could you recommend a chartreuse colored shrub? I'm new to this, and can only think of a nandina variety.. but it turns red later in the year.

Wodka, I really like the knockout rose suggestion. I'm actually hoping to include them somewhere. They do very well in this area.

Dave11, I don't like those trees so close, either. The home is 15 years old, and I'm shocked that they weren't removed at some point. I actually had them looked at recently by a tree person. I was shocked when he said that he didn't see it as an emergency to remove them. The pine, I believe, is a long leaf. The other tree is an elm. They are 10' from the house. Since I limbed up the elm, they distract the eye much less. I'm not sure what we are going to do with them, but if we remove anything it will have to wait - the pine alone will be extremely expensive.

I will try to get some extra photos later today and post them. Many thanks to everyone!!!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 10:31AM
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october, if you would like, I would be glad to share with you some pics of our brick house and what we used. Just email me and I will send you a slideshow we recently took.

You mentioned the possibility of a specimen tree in your earlier post. We have 3 vitex/chaste trees that anchor our courtyard and I absolutely love them. They will be blooming blue flowers soon, but even in the winter their trunk and bare limbs are so pretty, kind of like a mini crape myrtle. You will see them in my pics.

Also, lorapetalum makes a smaller, dwarf plant, we have them in our back but I didn't take pics of them. More a low, spreading shrub that is deep purple that has pink flowers. Seems like "Diamond" is in the name, but I'm not sure.

I'm jealous that you have an elm tree. Our neighbors have one, they didn't realize it would get so big and it's really close to their house, but still and all, it's a beauty!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 10:53AM
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