HELP - I need ideas for landscaping front yard

KY2011May 26, 2013

We just built a new house in Michigan (zone -5), and are getting ready for landscaping. However, we have a very basic idea where to start. I am writing this message to seek the opinion and advice of the experts in this forum.

To start with,
1. To hide the concrete at front of the porch, we were thinking of planting some 2feet tall boxwoods, and some perennials in front of it.
2. In the place between porch and driveway (20 feet x 8 feet), we were thinking of doing the same (boxwood and perennials)
3. Plant a couple of Japanese Lilac trees in the front by the street for ornamental purposes.

We would greatly appreciate if anyone could share their opinions on how to shape the yard under a decent budget.

Thank you for your time.

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I'm no expert, but you're going to need bigger beds to go with the size of your home. Since you are in MI, I'd you a mix of conifers, a japenese maple for display, maybe a nice dogwood pagoda on the left side of your house to bring down the scale, and a mix of siberian iris, black eyed susans, comsmos and some daylilies that bloom and diferent times (Ithink groups ofthree ). Living in WI I've learned the hardy plants and that repition with a specimin thrown in seems to be the best for our areas. Good luck and check out lots of will help you, big time!

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 7:26AM
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Dbl post sorry

This post was edited by dani_plus_2 on Mon, May 27, 13 at 7:29

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 7:27AM
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Lovely home! I would want to have shrub of some kind that would grow up to bottom of the stone on the wall. Im just homeowner too but think Dani is right about some larger plantings as large home. I'm sure others will weight in with what type trees & shrubs best for your area. House not far from me always had beautiful hydrangas so I wondered why they weren't blooming. The house was nothing special but the plantings across the front were wonderful. Well, I stopped & saw that all had been removed & little stuff that is never going to do anything , annuals & marigolds,in there now, so sad to see 1 house that always looked lovely with the blue flowers gone & looking worse than rest of houses on the block. Lot more upkeep now too.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 4:30PM
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@dani_plus_2 & @sunnyca: Thanks for the insightful comments. I very much like your idea of scaling down the size of the house through small trees such a japanese maple. Here is what I am thinking now.
1. Velvet boxwoods (evergreens) to block the concrete and also have evergreens under the porch
2. Japanese Maple "Hogyoku" towards the left side of the house (right before the porch)
3. Two colors of day lilies right in front of the evergreens

Per the flowering bed between the porch and driveway, I am still uncertain. After browsing through some other posts, I realized that I could draw a top view of my lot, and seek your expert opinion tomorrow.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 10:57PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Dani makes a good point about scale. Your house is large scale, so make your beds correspondingly deep. You have plenty of empty canvas, so use it. At least 10 to 12 feet or more from the house to the outer edge will give you room to layer your plants in front of those evergreens.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 12:34PM
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Please take a look at my first thoughts on lanscape idea.
To scale down the house, I am thinking of planting two Japanese Lilac trees (late bloom) on the front by the side walk, and one japanese maple on the left corner of the porch.
Per the shrubs near the porch, I am thinking of velvet boxwood, followed by day lilies as marked.
As per the area between walkway and house, I am lost of what to do. Please advice.
Thanks for your time.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 5:18PM
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We must be living in the same neighborhood, I will be updating my new construction in MI post later today. I'm going to keep following yours though too and see what ideas I can glean.

I have the same "dead space" you do in between the walk and porch, I was thinking hosta and boxwoods....maybe some small creeping annuals for color in the front if it doesn't get too crowded.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 7:39AM
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KY2011, a plan will not be useful to you in creating a landscape design unless it is accurately drawn--with the distances being measured--and your's is not. One 16' distance is shown at more than 3 times the length of an 8' distance and many other measurements are obviously not proportionately correct. You'll can print out a scale that will allow you to measure the distances. (Link below. Use the inch-decimal--sixth one down--to create a plan that is 1" = 10". That will probably work the best. Be sure to disable "shrink to fit" when you print.) The measured plan allows one to fit in objects that are also measured ... to make sure that there is room for everything and that one has placed enough objects (plants) in the plan. It allows one to see that the distances between objects are properly proportioned, for best use of the space being created. This brings up another point that plants shown in your plan are not well or realistically arranged. Some are too close to the house, but too far from one another in the rows. The "bump-out" portion of the building is not shown, so plants march across the front of the house as if it weren't there. This will not work in real life. The Japanese maple could not be placed as you have it. That's a space sized for a Hosta. (The 6' - 8' ht. you've marked is at one stage of its life, but is not its end height.)

A nice landscape uses plants to solve problems and create a positive image. It's not just placing one's favorite decorations (plants) wherever they can be squeezed in around the yard. There's no reason a homeowner can't do their own landscape design, if they're willing to use the methods professionals use and also learn a lot about plants. I suggest that you draw an accurate plan and re-post (without plants shown.) Then you could probably get suggestions for better plant placement. You should also be thinking about what architectural shortcomings need enhancing by plants. The size of the house has been mentioned. You've also mentioned the "concrete at the porch," but it's far enough away that it doesn't look any different than the siding, and and I don't get the impression you're anxious to hide that. While its finish at close range might not be the greatest, couldn't some paint take care of it?. Why not start with that and see if you detest it as much? One person mentioned hiding the bottom of the stone facade. (A vine on a custom trellis or a clipped hedge could take care of it with the least bulk.) What about hiding the bottom of the "bump-out." With no architectural devices appearing to support it (same as stone facade) it looks like it defies the laws of nature and so would be better hidden. Street trees help frame the house (as well as provide a protective ceiling at the street) so why not pick ones that can be more readily limbed up in order to create the view below? If you don't do the things that need be done, you'll end up with the typical "builder's landscape" ... something to rip out just as soon as, or shortly after it becomes grown.

Here is a link that might be useful: Decimal inch ruler

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 9:09AM
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Yardvaark: Thanks for the wonderful and constructive feedback. As you might have guessed, I am newbie to this drawings, and have no idea where to start. Now, per your advice, I shall create a drawing to scale, and post it here for input.

Per the Japanese Maple, the tree we liked was "Japanese Maple Hogyoku." A quick literature search showed that the mature height was about 8 feet, and I marked the same in my previous drawing. Per the trees by the street, we do like small ornamentals (15' - 25' tall), with low maintenance. One other reason we were inclined towards these small trees is to highlight house, but not the trees in our lot.

On the other hand, can you provide suggestion on any street trees that can be readily limbed upon? If my wife likes them, I am all in.

Thanks for your time and input.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 9:59AM
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"... we do like small ornamentals (15' - 25' tall), with low maintenance. One other reason we were inclined towards these small trees is to highlight house, but not the trees in our lot."

This is not how it works. It's rather like putting on a shirt that's too small in order to "highlight" one's torso. Rather than featuring the person in a positive light, it makes one looks awkward and gangly. Your goal with your yard should be to have the house appear well integrated into the surrounding "natural" world ... nestled in ... looking like "it's always been there" ... not like it's a big box sitting awkwardly and lonely on top of the ground. The tree must fit. Low maintenance in a tree is getting one that doesn't grow with weak wood, shedding a mess all over the place ... or is disease prone ... or has some other undesirable feature. But large size, alone, is not the indicator of maintenance requirements. If a person (as rarely happens) has a good idea of what they're creating in a tree (not letting it grow however it wants) and performs the pruning right along from its young age, it's pretty easy to have a great tree. Most people let them grow any way they want and then try to correct these early mistakes years later. It's a terrible--and high maintenance--strategy. Many--most trees--can be easily limbed up while they're young. If one does it before the spring growth, they get most all of the growth back at a higher level. A good rule of thumb to limb up is 50% of height. This gets rid of branches that try to turn into trunks and make later removal psychologically impossible. Also, remember, you are not trying to prune to achieve someone else's idea of horticultural perfection. You're pruning to achieve the design specs for your yard only.

What you see quoted as "mature height" is usually a typical size at age 10 years. But that's not the end of a tree's life so it'll be larger in years hence.

There are many variables in the criteria for plant selection and arrangement, which is why it's hard to toss out "something just right for you." Street trees might be larger and a tree(s) near the house might be somewhat smaller (the Jap. tree lilac could pass here.) But it/they should be large enough appear that they are "protecting" your house. To my thinking, it's hard to beat a male Ginkgo as an ideal street tree. But I say it only for example as there are lots of nice street trees with a variety of personalities. Several will likely be right for you.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 11:57AM
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Yardvaark: Thanks for the advice on how to pick a tree. I do like the idea that "house appear well integrated into the surrounding "natural" world ... nestled in ... looking like "it's always been there". If I did not visit this forum, I would have done exactly the opposite (as suggested by my local nursery). Now, I realize that I do not the basics of landscaping, and need to read a book something like "Landscaping for Dummies."

Anyways, as suggested, I have created a drawing of the lot with accurate measurements to scale. I shall take pictures of home with different views and post them a little later today.

I would appreciate if you could provide your input on how to do good landscaping. Thank you.

This post was edited by KY2011 on Wed, May 29, 13 at 15:21

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 2:22PM
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That's a world of better plan drawing! A few general suggestions about tree placement are shown in the sketch and plan. Of course, you need to adapt them to the details that I don't know about. Notice how you'd be looking below the street tree canopy ... not into it. Can't say how your front beds would connect with the sides (or what would happen at the sides) because there's too much unknown information at this point. I can't say how the trees should be by the deck because it depends on window locations at the back of the house for one thing. So, they're just shown schematically as a couple of trees. Hopefully, they will give you shade, not view obstruction.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Thu, May 30, 13 at 7:48

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 9:31PM
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Mike Larkin

Many people try to design their own landscape and are successful. Yardvaark has given you many good suggestions. However there is so much more to proper planting and curb appeal and the consequences of wrong choices can create an overgrown eyesore. Take your time. Learn what can grow properly on each side of your house. (not all plants can grow in northern exposure- some need more sun...etc) Learn how big they actually get, how to carew for them , how many insects they get! ( talk to the people at the nursery, and read, read, read ) Then look for a designer that can create a beautiful design with you ideas. By looking at your house you did not hire a do it your self contractor., The contractor was a professional and he/she created a beautiful home. You can be a do it your selfer, by taking the design, and buying and planting the from the design.
Not saying that you cant do it all yourself, but the cost of a landscape plan is fairly reasonable, a good design could save you thousands by guiding you to the right plant for the right spot.

Best of luck and enjoy your beautiful home .

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Design Ideas

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 10:47PM
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First of all, nice home you have there!

Right, first of all, I recommend you scale back your ideas and instead of going for elaborate japanese fittings, I would recommend going for a neat approach with simple turf, paving and fencing decorated with some simple shale and stones.

I have attached a link to our site so you can see some ideas.

Hope this helps


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 31, 2013 at 9:38AM
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