Stuck for 3 years! Need help with design.

WizOfOz(7)May 5, 2014

Hi! Long-time reader, first-time poster, here. I'm looking for some guidance for redoing the area closest to the house. What we have now is what came with the house-it's overgrown in some areas and bare in others. I really want to rip everything out! We've been stuck for years on what to do, so I decided to post here on a whim.
Here's the details:
1. The entire yard is sloped.
2. Zone 7
3. I prefer evergreen and love to plant annuals twice a year.
4. We are open to a retaining wall.
5. I prefer a cleaner look.

Thanks so much!

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Replace the rigid walkway,add hosta,dogwood ,forthia,J-maple.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 8:57PM
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I agree on the sidewalk--that's part of the long-term plan.

I had not considered forthia before, but I like it.

I guess what I have a problem with is the height. Should everything come up to the bottom of the siding and cover the brick?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 2:45PM
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    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 8:07PM
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A retainer wall, plus rerouted walkway would really add curb appeal, plus more usable flat lawn... This would also give you some new planting beds for evergreens, Japanese maples, and flowers or small shrubs along the lower wall along the front.

Didn't have time to place anything along the lower wall in the front, but you get the idea... could either be flowers or low shrubs

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 11:13PM
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Could you add more pictures? I can't see the right side of your house. Does your house face north?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 4:26AM
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Thanks for all the help!

SC77, this is beautiful. I'm pretty much convinced of the retaining wall now. I would love to shrink that oversized flowerbed under the tree, too. But, despite the best efforts of our lawn care service, grass won't grow there :(

Emmarene, my house faces directly east.

I've included some more pictures.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 9:09AM
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    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 9:10AM
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Still more

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 9:11AM
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Still going!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 9:12AM
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Last one!

As a side not, I'm sure you've noticed my poor almost dead purple pixie loropetulams. We had an very cold winter (for us anyway) in Alabama and I don't think all of them will survive. I've talked to our guy at the local nursery and he told me to patient with them because his are starting to come back. Fingers crossed...that's $300 I would rather spend on a new walkway.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 9:16AM
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To be sure, one thing that always ends up looking junky is a hard, raised bed border that is neither thick enough (8" min.), level, or uniform of curvature or slope. Here, all of that is going on. Better to turn it into a flush mowing strip (that is uniform of curvature and slope, and wide enough) ... or get rid of it entirely.

The goal of a retaining wall(s) would be to raise and "level" grade around the entrance in such a way that it allows the REMOVAL of some steps and adds the appearance of stability. (A cross-sloping grade at the house face just looks unstable. It's not important that the entire grade be leveled; around the entrance area should be the focus.)

As has been pointed out, there's an obvious conflict coming up between the large shade tree and the walk. A new walk could become an important element of the overall design. (I'm showing two ways it can meet the circle planting bed while not having any unmaintainable "sliver" of grass.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 11:27AM
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I'm with you on the border. I know it could look better.

I'm a little confused as to what you're saying about the garden/retaining wall. Are you saying that it would make the house appear more stable?

Additionally, we really do need a walkway from the driveway to the front of the house (as you can see from the beaten path in the grass).

I really do appreciate the help and I promise to come back with progress reports and photos. Which reminds me that I owe some photos to the bathroom reno forum :)

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 5:03PM
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Three years is a long time. I have a few ideas for now. First let me label myself as an old woman plant collector. I have no qualification whatsoever, just an opinion

You could start this weekend by shearing the shrubs on the right side. All of that window should be visible when you finish.
Your planting beds are shallow now because your shrubs have filled in. You could make them deeper by removing a bit of lawn in front of them. You need a few more feet at least.
I see a small tree on the right that has been neglected, if these pictures are current. It needs to be pruned to look more like a tree.
I actually like the shrubs you have now. I especially like the light colored shrub on the left corner. Do you happen to know the name? (I want one for myself) Whenever you get to add annuals red would look so nice in front it. Everything I mentioned so far is low cost or free.

I have a suggestion for your long term goal. I think the steps up the porch should be widened a few feet so they meet that corner post. You have an upscale door and I think it needs more of a dramatic entry area. It would function with the new path you talked about making.

This post was edited by emmarene on Wed, May 7, 14 at 17:12

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 5:07PM
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In your first photo notice that the grade around the front of the house looks as though water will run toward it, not away. The cross slope adds a ramshackle quality that says the ground is not a place to BE, but a place to pass by. (You would not sit on lawn chairs on a slope and enjoy it.) Stand next to the big tree and walk toward the house. You'll walk DOWN a slope and then UP a fairly lengthy set of stairs. That the grade makes one work harder to enter is not a sign of luxury, but of skimping.

But after the grade is brought to more or less level around the entrance/deck area, you could walk, stand, sit in chairs, put a ball down ... all without fear of the having to fight the effects of a sloping grade. And the path to the house is gentler with fewer steps. It's just a fact ... where people walk, they prefer level ground. And how is it made possible? By a judiciously placed retaining wall(s). (I used two shorter walls in order to make their effect seem less abrupt.)

I left you an easy way to connect the front entrance to the driveway.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 5:32PM
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Thanks again, everyone!

I'm working up a plan right now. We plan to do a little each year, but I will be posting updates.

Emmarene, it's a variegated boxwood that is in desperate need of a trim.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 10:59AM
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