Help me finish the design of my new South FL landscape, PART 2!

Relleum_May 13, 2012

This is a continuation of my first thread here. I'm pretty much done with the back (pictures to come), and now I'm moving to the big job -- the front yard. I've learned quite a bit over the past month or two, especially the idea that "less is more".

Below is my preliminary design. The goal of this exercise is to tweak the beds, decide on the specific plants, and get going!

  • Can a canary date palm fit? Or am I limited to the sylvester?

  • Is filling the entire bed in the center area with caladium "white christmas" feasible? I saw it at a hotel in miami, and I thought it was stunning. But if they only last a few months and are super expensive, then it may not be a good idea.

  • What is the largest, most stunning bromeliads you can think of that can go in the low sun courtyard?

  • The big bed on the right side is going to be difficult.

Here is a panoramic shot that might help put things into perspective:

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I posted some pics,I continue.I still think to need soft some the frame,improve the combinations.the curves should be S shape than C arc.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 6:36PM
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Providing the plan was a big help!

I can't answer your question about the whole bed of Caladiums. I'm farther north. Mine come back every year but they are dormant--and gone--during the winter. I'd speculate that you would have a similar situation, though less time in the "dormant chamber." I'd also speculate that at a hotel, they are changing their seasonal color on a rotation... 2 to 3 times per year. My suggestion below might be practical for you.

If centered in the Island, I think you could do the Canary date. The trunk diameter is the limiting factor and you have room for it.

Numbers of my following notes correlate to revised plan below.

1. The palms would look more inviting it they were arranged in a "flared" fashion as opposed to a straight line (which seems more confining. So much of the bed attached to the drive also seems to give a confining feel to the drive area. Better to locate large agave near center area of bed, not where it will grow to reach edge. I did not show rock, but arrange as you see fit.

2. Podocarpus wants to be a small tree. Unless you love excessive trimming, I would not place in such a confined place. This seems better suited to Sanseveria (Mother-in-law's tongue) or Blue Flag Iris (not yellow... invasive) ... something with vertical foliage that doesn't need to be trimmed.

3. Matching pairs of things invite being used as a gateway or sorts. With the Bougainvillea standards, I'd clump the two (from #1 island) @ R. side of walk to balance what you already have at L. That's a little bit additional of turning more into less. (Which is a good lesson to learn.)

4. Again, Podocarpus excessive height trimming for this area. If instead you planted something that stays low it will be much less maintenance in the long run. How about Firecracker Plant? Has a long season of bloom and NO height trimming. Even something like a hedge of purple fountain grass would work... for a lot less work from you.

5. Scrunch that Agave closer to the tree and further from drive. I would keep this stone mulch bed its minimum comfortable size because of the unique material.

6. See my illustration. (I hope it's clear enough.) It's a bad idea to create a bed which has pointed shapes facing outward. These can appear like topiary claws. Such shapes should never be less than 90*. Admittedly, my sketch is not that good. But if you compare our plans you'll see what I mean. If you have doubts, I'd suggest you mock up my plan on site and then modify it to yours and compare the two. Or drive around the neighborhood and find some of these pointed shapes and appraise them relative to the alternative. In your plan, I think the green outside bed is too thin near it's bottom edge and needs beefing up. Honestly, I think a single nice groundcover would be fine. For the 2-tone effect, you could do something like Caladiums at the center and lavender trailing Lantana at the outside. ...

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 7:51PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Large scale bromeliad of choice: Alcantarea imperialis. The one in my photo is roughly 40" in diameter.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 9:01PM
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Catkim, that bro' is stunning!

Relleum, I forget to mention, it would be good to remove the "dimple" from the bed line above the foxtail palms.

Hope previous things are turning out to your satisfaction.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 10:47PM
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THat's really cool!

The city tree looks,,,weird with the rest of the plantings, but if you're stuck, you're stuck. I'd take that back bed all the way out to the curb. The scrap of grass just looks forgotten right now.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 11:59PM
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Yardvaark to the rescue :)

1. I agree on the flared bed. In fact, I liked it so much I did it on the other side too. Why not use all the space of my inverse pie lot? Also, I moved the Agave according to your input, and placed the rock (in updated plan below).

2. I'm not sure if I got the name right. Whatever is there (maybe Podocarpus dwarf?) has been there since I moved in, and is pretty low and slow. I'll at least leave the existing stuff, but choose something else to hug the right wall.

3. I placed the Bougainvillea as you suggested to create entrance effect, but moved it upwards for some symmetry. I'll have to see if it still looks balanced with a double on the right.

4. I checked out Firecracker Plant and purple fountain grass, and they weren't my style. Maybe other suggestions for that back wall?

5. Good idea to scrunch a bit, especially since I just looked and there wasn't as much room as I thought. Although this means that it still stays relatively close to the driveway. Changes are reflected in the plan.

6. Yep, I agree here. I still want to do a 2-tone, so I chose the white christmas with my wife's favorite, coleus bellingrath pink. I also beefed up the bottom edge a bit.

I still don't know what to put in that giant right bed. That's where all the question marks are.

catkim, do you think the bromeliads can be trimmed to work in the courtyard? They don't have a full circle's worth of room in each corner, and I see that Alcantarea imperialis gets pretty large.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 12:16AM
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reyesuela, you read my mind. As you can see, in my latest design, I'm removing the one that will block the canary :)

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 12:20AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I would suggest a couple of changes to your plans... I think the Phoenix canariensis is oversized for your house, and the P. sylvestris or another palm such as Bismarckia nobilis silver would be a better fit. I also think the three Royal palms are way too big and potentially dangerous with falling leaves to locate by your driveway/garage, and would you really want 3 palms there that can get 80 feet tall? The Alcantarea imperialis need sufficient room to look their best(4~5'), and shouldn't be forced into a corner; narrower more upright foliaged bromeliads such as Portea petropoliteana or Portea 'Jungles' would work better in a tight space. I'd also agree that trying to force any species of Podocarpus to be a low foundation hedge is a poor choice, better to use a shrub that is better scaled to the location. If you wanted a circle of vivid groundcover that was year round below the palm, perhaps Setcreasia pallida or Rhoeos would be a better choice if purple foliage would be acceptable. White variegated Spider Plant could also serve as a massed groundcover, or dwarf massed Sanseverias.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 3:01AM
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Thanks for the reality check. My wife keeps saying the same thing about the canary date palm; it is too big. She also raised the same concerns about the royal palms.

I must confess, even I think that I'd be squeezing them in. We both love P. sylvestris, so I guess that is now the front-runner once again for the centerpiece. But what can replace the Royal palms? What else has that clean look? More foxtail seems boring.

I also think that we may go with the Portea petropoliteana in the courtyard, since Alcantarea imperialis is too big.

Here is the stuff we have in the walkway as shrub. Is this podocarpus dwarf?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 8:05AM
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Relleum, if what you're calling Podocarpus is really something else that works fine, since you've already got it, maybe matching it is the way to go. It would be best to identify it before making that call.

I overlooked R. side palms. The flare as you have it at both sides, is better. In general, don't pinch beds around trees too tightly or the palms will look like they want out. Give at least 3'. 4' or even more, is better.

Observe groundcovers that others are using nearby to see what looks and performs well.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 8:58AM
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I see you added the pic of Podocarpus... that you are keeping as a bonsai. If a person wanted, they could keep an Oak tree at 18" ht. interminably by faithful regular cutting. But using such a plant in a tight space is far from optimum. In your case, Relleum, I'd select a different foundation plant for any new additions. In the future, the Podocarpus you already have may make its potential better known and cause you to want to replace it.

As for what to use as a "foundation shrub" I'd consider that you probably don't need anything... depending on what groundcover you end up with. It may be high enough that it's sufficient. There's not a need to cover to cover all the space below the decorative brick band on the house. If you covered the bottom 12", or so, that would take care of it. If you must have a shrub, something that gets no taller than 2' without trimming for height, would be good. Even a perennial could work. Something like Gaura lindheimeri, though it gets 30"-36", it's upper portion is airily transparent in nearly constant bloom. Available in green foliage with white flowers or burgundy-tinted foliage with pink flowers. You could check locally for other shrub and perennial possibilities in this height range.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 9:28AM
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I am considering the 3 single christmas palms for the left side lineup, and I have also fattened up the beds for the right side foxtail lineup.

Also, You have convinced me not use any more podocarpus. I'll probably go look at the local nursery for something similar to Gaura lindheimeri.

I think this is almost ready to present to my landscaper.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 11:20AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Trimming big bromeliads -- no, definitely not. As bahia suggested, use the narrower shapes of Portea petropolitana or Aechmea blanchetiana (maybe).

Instead of royal palms (too big) or Manila palms (no presence and subject to lethal yellowing) what about foxtails (Wodyetia bifurcata)? They grow beautifully in Florida and should be readily available. If those are still too big in the trunk, perhaps some Veitchia mcdanielsii or joannis. They look nice in informal groups, tall and slender.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 3:37PM
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As I mentioned before, I'm already lining up some foxtails on the right, and I was hoping to switch it up on the left. If Manila palms aren't as hearty, then I see no reason to choose over foxtails.

However, more and more I like Ravenea rivularis. It has a clean, hearty trunk, but doesn't get ridiculously big like the royal palm. What do you think?

    Bookmark   May 14, 2012 at 3:47PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Ravenea rivularis, as the name suggests, need a lot of water to look good. And they will get rather fat at the bottom. I don't really see this as a palm for a small group. Below is a photo of Ravenea rivularis in habitat in Madagascar. You can't see it in the photo, but the reason these look so healthy is because they are growing in a pond. These are roughly 30-35 ft. in height. True, they are not as stout as a royal, but they are not slender like the Veitchias I mentioned.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 12:05AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

A group of three Teddy Bear palms (Dypsis leptocheilos) would look very fine. The crowns are not too dense, and the leaflets are neatly arranged, plus they are a self-cleaning palm. The white trunks make a stunning contrast to the fuzzy reddish crownshaft.

This one is growing in California where it stays a little too cold a little too long for these to look their best:

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 12:22AM
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I like Dypsis leptocheilos, but not as much as the Ravenea rivularis. I'll have to take pictures of the palm trees that some neighbors have on my street. They are either Royal or Majestic, but either way, I think they are looking pretty good.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 11:26AM
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