help with design

glakessubMay 15, 2012

Hi All

Here's my self made design in google sketch up. Please review and help me make my garden interesting hopefully without changing the shape of the planting bed .. (I don't want to mess with moving sprinklers)

To be vision :

As is state :

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I still thought the line some hard,the bed some small,the pencil yews some close the window.need to improve for curb appeal.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 7:27PM
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Think much larger. It looks like foundation plantings for a dollhouse.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 10:14PM
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you have many cute little things in the scheme already so that makes it "interesting." But some of your solutions break design rules that I would apply. For example, edging the space with the outside row of evergreen shrubs, is ultimately going to make your entrance seem confined. There's too much business. I'd play up the bay window by building it out with an architectural looking uniform green "foundation" of low shrubs. (A small, semi-circular hedge.) The left side of the house seems vacant and it looks like you're adding a little tree. Good, except the it is scrunched too close in. If made of a large shrub, it wouldn't get too big. It should be left (outside of the bed) and a little forward of the house) and then the bed should be expanded to encompass it. (Sorry. I know you didn't want to hear that.) In a word: simplify.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 12:28AM
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Thanks yardvaark and reyesula. You have convinced me to move the boxwood in front of the window in a semi circle.
I also see you don't have my alberta spruce in your design. May be I will move them to flank the garage .. let me know if that breaks any design rules.
So I will think some more about expanding the bed and adding a tree in front of the pond. The pond has to stay and is non-negotiable with the spouse :)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 9:05AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I snapped a photo of some Alberta spruces in my neighbourhood the other day. There is a bit of a story to this.

I am guilty of often wanting to be different for the sake of being different, and had a strong prejudice against Alberta spruces because they are just so common, and used in such cliche'd ways and combinations. Then a few in my neighbourhood started to attract my attention... maybe they just grew big enough to notice. It struck me, to my chagrin, that they looked great, and that no other plant would have been as effective in those situations. I found I had to eat a bit of crow! So I have started to articulate a theory of good Alberta spruce usage.

The first rule is to plant them where they will grow well. They are prone to die-off from being shaded, and also from various insect infestations that seem to get an easy foothold. All the places where I have noticed them living long and healthy lives, they are growing in open air, and not against walls, so I conclude they need good air circulation to do well. But that could be specific to my climate... see what seems to work in your area.

The second rule is to give them room to achieve their potential. They are a bit artificial and stiff-looking when small, but as they get to this size they develop both presence and character. Even if they don't keep all their branches right to the ground they can look quite amazing - one local yard has seven of them planted around the perimeter of the yard, each with about a 3-foot bare trunk, and even at that the shape is quite wonderful... the 7 dwarves, right?

But maybe not quite dwarf enough for the spot you are considering putting them, unless you want to replace them often.

Thank you for explaining why you didn't want to change the bed shape. While I understand that, I don't think you need to make that a firm boundary. If you extend a bed and plant in fall or very early spring to give plants a chance to get established, it may be possible to survive on manual watering in the longer term. But that's a bit of a lesson for others, that if you are going to have an irrigation system, it's best to plan (and ask for advice) before installing it!

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 11:08AM
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Maybe I'm just a conspirator theorist, but I think Alberta spruces exist only to be a real money-making machine for big box stores. It seems that they're sold to everyone dreaming of lush decorative pots near the entryway. Inevitably however, the spruces all turn brown and get spider mites ... but gosh, it looked so darned good for a few months that surely it's worth replacing the trees yet again. And again :)

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 12:08PM
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Though not given to conspiracies, I agree on the Dwarf Alberta Spruces - Menard's, HD, local garden centers are loaded with them. For the price, I might look at them as a short term potted plant - knowing that one side (usually the one facing a structure) will go totally brown & bare and all the cute is gone. If you're really unlucky, spider mites will take the rest - or at least whatever isn't already a big brown patch.

As a new gardener, you'll learn that lilies are not a front and center plant. Once finished flowering, the stalks will start their dying back process and look awful. Don't cut the stalks until they're quite browned and "woody" since this dying back is replenishing the bulb for next season's growth and bloom. Once they're at the point where you can cut them down, dig the bulbs up and replant in a spot where other plants or foliage can hide the lily's after bloom ugly stage.

Yard's mock-up makes the water feature only visible by looking down from the bay. Hard to really tell how much space you've got between the back of the water feature and the bay, but the boxwood might work there - keeping in mind that as shrubs grow taller, they also grow wider.

I wouldn't turn down free hostas and a Japanese Maple. Japanese Maples are the stuff of dreams in my climate, but I don't think I'd cram one in the space you've already established. Hostas nicely grouped around - but not ringing - the pond would work, especially with a North exposure. A few clumps of Siberian Iris... I have a bias towards the royal blue "Caesar's Brother" and the white companion, "Snow Queen". Siberian's swordlike foliage stays green, clean, and upright after blooming - totally reliable and undemanding. There are interesting, non-agressive ferns, too.

Whatever you do in that bed, do more of it - dot & dash plantings never quite achieve the lush look that we have in our minds. Nice thing about gardens, they can always be edited if you go overboard; can be added to if something's lacking.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 12:53PM
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Since I don't know what I don't know, it's not clear to me if we're talking about dwarf Alberta Spruce, or NON-dwarf A. S. "Dwarf" is the only one I know and am familiar with and is what I think the ones in this yard are. I happen to like them. (If it's a plant, I love it. I dislike almost no plants!) But I removed them from my landscape suggestions because I didn't see them fitting well into a scheme over a period of time. As a temporary plant, use them anywhere that suits. As a more permanent part of the landscaping, I'd look for another place in the yard to put them with some thought as to their ultimate size and the length of time it will take for them to get there.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 12:55PM
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I'm slowly wending my way through the wonderful world of conifers - takes a lot of assiduous application to parse out the varieties within types. But I gather there are more than 30 species of White Spruce (Picea Glauca) commonly referred to as "Albertas". Karen L's examples are not the dwarves - some of which can reach beyond 90'. The most popular is the dwarf which might top out at @6' (in ten plus years) if it should live so long in the kind of captivity they're usually given.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 2:08PM
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Duluth .. that is wonderful stuff ! If I move the boxwood back and have shorter foliage (hostas) framing the pond it might work. I need to get home and try to visualize that.
If I extend the bed like yardvaark suggested, I could get the japanese maple or some other dwarf tree in there. I am thinking may be a tree with greener foliage would be appealing against the brick . I will turn on the sprinklers and see how much they would have to be moved !
Re: the Alberta spruce (they are dwarves) I am saddened that they dont have a strong chance to do well in the current spot. May be I will have to move it to the back yard where I have tons of space and south sun (may be framing a future patio )!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 3:02PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Depending on where you are, you may not even need the sprinklers. It looks like either everything is being heavily irrigated by everyone, all the time, or it isn't really necessary. I go for not really necessary, and probably harmful. Overwatering, particularly in the shade, can cause a lot of rather strange plant problems that can be hard to diagnose because they don't happen under normal circumstances. And I won't even start on the plant carnage caused by a combination of water rationing and plants that have never had to develop a good root system.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Take a look at the hosta forum - folks post pictures. I like hosta for the simple fact that there's variety - mounding, upright, variegated, mini, medium, large sizes... And they have a nice footprint which could eliminate the need for which people would look elsewhere for a groundcover.

Link shows a smallish bed that might give you ideas. Another thread on the Hosta Forum, "Decor in the hosta garden" from May 12 has some nice pictures; bigger spaces and a water feature or two; just interesting to see different plant combinations.

Here is a link that might be useful: hosta, heuchera, and ferns

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 4:50PM
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Does this look better? I added the semi circle hedge and increased the bed size.. moved the dwarf alberts spruces so they have more room and get they will get some evening sun

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 5:26PM
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I like 4 things that you have in this incarnation:

the simple seasonal color @ ea. side of steps.
the simple hedge below the bay window
the tree (it's simple)
the positiion of the Dwf. Alberta Spruce is improved... it's not so bunch up and confined.

What I don't care for is fussy, busy little things: the pond (it's a piece of jewelry for the yard; the plants backing the pond...just growing a wrong thing larger; the landscape bed fussy, busy shape of it's edge; the odd assortment of little plants when a uniform groundcover would do such a better job of linking disparate elements together.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 5:49PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

... but the pond is non-negotiable with the spouse, and this perspective you're showing is totally unnatural; no one will ever see this angle. In real life, the pond will be mostly invisible from the outside, and a nice thing to look at from the door. No argument from me on the pond - and unlike Yardvaark I do enjoy small fussy things to enjoy up close. Also, I'd prefer a Japanese maple or something more natural looking to the very static-looking green globe-y thing.

BUT what no one has yet mentioned (surprising, since we mention it to almost everyone) is that this little vignette is part of a whole - clearly, a larger front yard.

Stand way back and see how the design looks (or imagine how it would look) in context.

The one spruce, if it survives, is going to be become an obstacle hiding the door. Depends from which angles you want it visible.

The objective, remember, is not to make a pretty picture but to make a pleasant space, a three-D installation. Moving pots around in your space for your own feedback is far better than running 2D representations of it past far-away strangers.

Karin L

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 7:12PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

my mantra : honesty is the best policy. with that said the so called 'pond' is inappropriately placed, sized, styled and built.
1- style . it does not relate to the architectural style of the house. totally out of context. there is no narrative between the two, except perhaps tension.
2 - scale. it's a puddle not a pond.
3. - mode of construction - bright white rocks loosely laid as a white necklace . where in nature have you ever seen this ?

I could understand some semblence of this concept if it was sculpted and presented as a piece of modern sculpture. But that's not this.

If you want a water feature there are more aesthetically pleasing ways to have one at your front entry.
First consider your architecture and how the two will create a harmonic narrative with one another. It looks like the front window coughed up a faux pearl wristband.

As an example , look at one of Oehme van Swedens projects that they did for the Woodward house. link :

The formal style of your house is trying to mimmick a historic brownstone which would relate well to a fountain that has the same type of architectural/ historical bones.

The program for this landscape would be to add foundation to the bump-out window ( boxwood properly spaced would be fitting ) and proper framing of the entry door via some stately containers. Restoration Hardware has two or three lines that would work in concert with your architecture , the estate line, the salvaged wood and metal line and the traditional zinc line :

A red japanese maple off to the left hand side with a nice understory planting of dwarf mugo pines some daphne and seasonal bulbs would be classic .

Ditch the dinky scallop edging. It cheapens the look of the landscape and pinches the walkway.

Here is a link that might be useful: stone forest fountain / van sweden

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 9:19PM
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How about the pond in the backyard instead? It's really a backyard element....

My 9-year-old and the neighbor's 8-year-old made a water feature last weekend that was about that size with only a little help. Really, it'd be stupidly simple to move.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 9:24PM
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I'm a ponder and I have to agree with everyone else that what is pictured here is too small and poorly placed. Leaf and dirt debris coupled with runoff from the garden bed will create a watery nightmare here. Think green, slimy, smelly and buggy - yuk!

What is your wife seeking? Is it the sound, the reflection, the movement, the wildlife attraction? Happily, there are other, more suitable alternatives than a shallow puddle in front of the window. A google search for water features can help you narrow down the possibilities.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 10:10PM
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Wow.. lots of varying feedback with a common theme - everybody hates that pond and the edging. Considering we spent most time on that (LOL) I am afraid they will stay for a few years until our landscape design is solidified and we become 'seasoned'. But that said I have a new plan for your review. (Yes, the ground cover might not look low enough or the bed might have jagged lines,but, I am not a graphic expert).

The pond is 3.5 ft x 2.5 ft and I was planning on adding a tiny fountain - so that will take care of circulation and also thinking of replacing the white marble stones with may be small boulders or stone that matches our facade. Our subdivision landscape plan includes a tree in my front yard, so I will wait to see how and where that goes.
Cant agree more with the bed being part of the vignette and I would like to think that our vignette is just starting to form and that with the help of nice people like you it will be better than it was before !

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 12:27PM
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Your latest landscape design is much improved over your first. I think you get the general idea that simpler is better. Though it might take some time to fully sink in, this conversation will probably have the effect of making you more observant of landscaping in general, as you observe its application out in the world. You'll start to see things that look better than other things and begin to discover common elements between them.

When I toyed with SketchUp for a brief moment, all I saw was a block of grey "iron" that could be pushed and pulled any which way. How does one turn this grey "iron" into plants, bricks, windows and the like?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 12:56PM
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I really like the direction things are moving!

If you do the changes you're talking about to the pond, it'll be improved...but no one but you will know it's there.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 8:49PM
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I still like the cascade

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 10:39PM
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You could use soft S curve,avoid hard C line and some straight line.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 6:17AM
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