Need help picking plants....completely clueless

SicklyscottMay 10, 2011

Hi -

I've enjoyed the Home portion of this site for many years and in fact have used its reviews extensively when redoing our kitchen. I'm a handy guy who's not afraid to get dirty however when it comes to landscaping I am completely clueless! I'd like all of your opinions on what I should be planting in front of my house, but first a little back story....

My wife and I have been in this house for 4 years, the previous family didn't do much in terms of landscaping and all we have been doing is trying to keep the plants trimmed as well as plant some flowers here and there. About 2 years ago I was able to install a sprinkler system which helped with the lawn (thats another story). This spring though one of our bushes up front looks to finally have bit the dust from ice damage (was 1/4 way there when we moved in) and I'd like to just clear the area and start from scratch.

We live in Central New Jersey, the front of the house faces south-east, we have a big tree in the front that blocks most of the later morning and early afternoon sun. Around 3 or 4 the sun starts moving behind the house. The winters here can be quite tough and the summers probably average around 80-85. Again, i have a sprinkler system which I think I may extend for some pop-ups in the bed area.

Here are a few (large) pictures of where things are today. We'd really like to add some color in there and some depth without extending the beds out any further. Please excuse the over grown grass, I have bricks outlining the beds (which I am starting to hate) and haven't broken out the weed whacker yet.

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Looks like the pictures didn't show as I expected....

Trying this again

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 7:00PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

Looks to me like that tree in front of your house is a red oak, not a maple, but maybe there's a maple in there somewhere too. The shrubs you have in the front hiding the porch footings are Juniper torulosa (next to the mailbox) and I dunno, something that looks azalea-ish and appears to be doing poorly. I have the torulosa juniper in my yard and I can tell you that they get pretty massive. You can't prune them just any old way or you will ruin their growth and they will languish just like the bush that is on the end of the front of your porch.

If it were me, I'd tear out those shrubs because they are planted too close to the house, and it doesn't look like or seem like you're going to want to do a lot of pruning. The middle shrubs appear to have been poorly pruned as it is. Then, try to find a nice nursery that specializes in shrubs, (NOT a big box store) and find someone who can guide you to dwarf shrubs that will stay the size you want without a lot of pruning. Or Google "dwarf shrubs" or "small shrubs" and your garden zone (I think NJ is zone 6, same as me in E. PA), and you will find lots of suggestions. Use the "image" tab to help you decide what you like. Another option, and one I just LOVE, is the Missouri Botanical Garden Web site, They have TONS of resources on plants, but one great one is a plantfinder database where you can search by characteristics. The database has gads on info on all the plants, how to grow them, what they look like, etc.

I honestly don't think you need shrubs to cover up the foundation of your porch. It is nice looking so I wouldn't obsess about covering it with shrubs. My folks had a shady front porch and grew ostrich ferns agains the foundation, followed by lily of the valley. Lily of the valley isn't much to look at after it has bloomed, but it smells heavanly when it does. Don't be intimidated by shade, you have lots of options. One colorful plant that comes to mind is astilbe, which you can find everywhere in nurseries. Another popular plant, due to the foliage, is coral bells. But for color, best to plant annuals. You could put in great big bright begonias, or impatiens, they are the most colorful shade flowers I can think of. Small azalea shrubs are gorgeous when in bloom, but boring otherwise. Like I said, I think that is what you already have in front of your house. If those shrubs bloom in the spring with a pretty big flower display, that would confirm it.

Frankly, I'd tear out all of what you have and start over with something a little more to scale with the size of the bed, particularly if you want color and yet don't want to expand the bed. You don't have much room to work with. Another thing to think about is to use colored foliage, there are lots of options for that with shade, like hostas, for example, with a whole variety of leaf colors, (albeit all green), and the aforementioned coral bells, (also called heuchera). Then fill in with colorful annuals, which is like makeup applied at the very end.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2011 at 9:09AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

This is one of those places where I am not convinced that the foundation is the right place to plant, and I think your stone wall is in the wrong place too - primarily, right by grass. Interesting to have an open porch; not sure it's the best idea, but if it is, then closing it off with shrubs seems... inconsistent, I think.

I think the whole yard needs a re-think - location of beds if any, amount of lawn if any, edging and maintenance of either side, space usage, snow removal needs, and pathways if any.


    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 11:42AM
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