Hodge podge front yard. :( pics

clyft(z5)May 21, 2010


This is my third summer in our house. Each year I've been trying to make some improvement/addition to the front yard. Now what I've ended up with is a hodge podge of plants and no real plan. I need help.

I know some people will say take out the rhodies but I would prefer not to. I've slowly been cutting back the front rhodie to a more manageable size. It looks a bit scraggly now because of a hard pruning this winter.

The yard is north facing and parts of it get a lot of shade.

I'm looking for thoughts, suggestions, ideas.

Thanks in advance.

Straight on:

From west:

Thanks in advance.


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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I would kill to have rhodos like that! No way would I get rid of them! If it was my garden, I'd make a bigger bed around them that swept in a smooth curve from the bigger one, around past the smaller one, down to the walkway - as far down as you think you can maintain the resulting bed. You say shade, but the area look sunny in the pictures. The choice of specific plants will depend on the light levels, amongst other things. I'd tend to use the color of the rhodo flowers as a theme and have the plantings dominated by things that would continue the color theme through the rest of the summer if you can.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 9:14AM
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The yard is a northern exposure but, as you mention, does get some nice afternoon sun. Those photos were taken around 5pm.

I'm glad you mentioned one big sweeping bed. I had been toying with that idea. But then I get stuck with the transition from the BIG tall rhodies to other plants lower in the front beds.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 11:00AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I would use several medium and small shrubs, not all perennials. That would give a way to have a transition in size. You've already got very tall and large medium. So I'd add some medium, medium-small and small so you've got a descending scale. The perennials would be filler and froth. Perhaps some clematis climbing through the shrubs would be nice is there's enough sun. Maybe something with purple foliage would be nice - like Weigela Wane and Roses (might be too big?) or the smaller Midnight wine (quite small - end of bed?) Maybe a dwarf mockorange for scent? Maybe the smaller Little Henry itea for summer flowers and fall color? Maybe a dwarf clethera for late summer flowers and scent? An interesting smaller evergreen for winter? So many choices.. you have to decide what you like; how big you want the bed to be, and so on...

But I'm just a crazy gardener so my comments should not be mistaken for design advise!

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 12:28PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

You're saying "front yard" but you're only showing us the foundation, which leads me to think you are trying to accomplish all your objectives by only using a small part of your yard.

If keeping the rhodos is a prerequisite, and the foundation is all that you think about, then you will always have more or less what you have now: a house with two big rhododendrons. You may make the best of that by not adding any other plants at all - just smooth lawn and two specimen plants may be your best bet, though their placement is unfortunate. If you do want other stuff, though I don't think it will ever look that great, Woody's right that deep beds would be better, and clean distinct edging would also help.

But I would personally put a new bed or new specimen shrubs out further in the yard. That way they aren't dwarfed by the rhodos to start with and deformed by trying to grow near them later on.

It is hard to make the big decision about plants that are so beautiful in bloom (if you like pink and if you like rhodos), especially when you photograph them in bloom. I personally can make way better decisions about keeping/tossing plants when they are not in bloom. For me the effect of the big rhodo is spoiled by the way it is smooshed up against the house, so I wouldn't have a problem getting rid of that one (much as I love rhodos, though not pink ones) but I would keep the other one until a new planting grows in somewhere else in the yard. I don't like that much root mass of anything at my foundation either. Also, I'm darned if I know how you'd paint that house.

But if you keep them, I'd put some of your pruning energy into shaping them from being just great blobby things to showing some branch structure - I'd thin them considerably. And I would prune the foliage back from the house for the sake of both house and plant, and to make it look less like it's outgrown its spot.

By the way I feel like we've seen this question before - and if so I suspect I've give the same advice before!


PS if you ever take the rhodos down or prune them substantially, be sure to post the wood on craigslist or find some other way to contact local woodworkers/wood turners - you might have some around who'd enjoy that.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 11:59AM
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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

If you do create new beds farther out in the yard, may I suggest planting new rhododendrons as the anchors for those beds? Having more rhododendrons should make it easier to reconcile yourself to eventually removing these, which will surely become necessary eventually. And since you obviously have excellent growing conditions for rhododendrons and an appreciation of them, why not make the most of it by planting more?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 1:26AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Where's the hodgepodge? I see a small number of shrubs etc. and a lawn. Looks very spare to me. Yes: Unlike the splendid one to the right the rhododendron in front of the house has been pruned too much to be appealing. I'd move it elsewhere, where it can be left to produce a natural size and shape. Where it is now it will indeed forever try to grow up in front of the windows.

You could buy some home landscape software and play around with potential layouts. Or do some scribbling on paper. Grouping plants and so forth are well treated in Garden Design Illustrated (not in print but inexpensive from used book dealers, written in magazine article style). Otherwise it might be worthwhile to get a planting design done by a garden center or independent garden designer. If you're trying to do part of the yard only a professional plan for that should not be a huge outlay. Make it clear what your particular concerns are.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 4:16PM
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pippi21(Z7 Silver Spring, Md.)

Oh my gosh, those rhodes are beautiful! I've never seen them grow so tall though. Can that large one be split or divided into many others? Have you sought the help of a professional landscape designer? Perhaps for a minimum charge, they could come out and look at the situation and advise. While that plant on the side is beautiful, it is possible that it could be causing damage to your siding? Maybe we have some landscape designers on this forum that will pop in and offer some advice.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 5:50AM
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Those rhodos are stunning...I definitely would make them the main idea of the garden, not remove them but rather work with them. Maybe even add some smaller growing rhodos(if such exist) on the left side to further increase the "rhodo attack" feel of the yard(which I think is lovely and quite unique).
I would keep it simple and not add plants that compete with the rhodos and draw the eyes away from them. Not many different textures or colors, only plants that accentuate the rhodos in a simple and attractive way would work fine imo.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 2:08PM
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"This is my third summer in our house. Each year I've been trying to make some improvement/addition to the front yard. Now what I've ended up with is a hodge podge of plants and no real plan." STOP!!!! Make a plan that you can implement over a several year period before you do anything else.

I like the rhodies ... what they need is something shorter than they are in front of them so they aren't floating like big pink balloons.

Here is a link that might be useful: DIY Landscape planning: How to

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 11:54AM
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Those are just gorgeous plants. Thanks for showing them
And I as well would incorporate them into larger beds as suggested
Just stunning
Thanks for the pictures

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 12:03AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Pippi: some landscape designers did pop in and offer advice, and no, you cannot divide Rhodos as a rule.

And isn't it interesting that a month later, people are still responding as if the plants are blooming now.

I think it would be useful to post current photos, when the plants are either festooned with dead blooms or are just green, and see whether opinions differ. Too bad the OP isn't getting responses by email, likely no longer checking in.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 12:19AM
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The first thing I would do is underplant the rhodo in front to cover up the trunks. Maybe with some hostas of different colors and heights....higher under the rhodi and lower off to the side of it. Intersperced with other perennials to create a real bed of interesting plants to the left of the rhodo by the windows. (I'm looking specifically at the last picture.) There is that blank spot next to the evergreen shrub, that I would personally fill with some sort of shrub similar in height (possibly a bit shorter than the shrub)... so it all flows together and 'fills in the gap' so to speak. I personally am longing for an actual "bed" in that spot..... Cut out a nice rounded shape, then plan out the placement of perennials to fill it. I'm not a big mulch fan---I'd prefer to see it filled with greenery---but it needs an actual shape.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 9:50AM
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If the color of the house trim and roof don't change, place periwinkle blue blinds in the windows. Paint the front door an interesting color and prune the plants to see more of the plant structure. Fill in the low ground under the rodes with color matching the blinds. Then work on the driveway side corner. what do you think? My $0.02 worth

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 12:34PM
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daislander(Van. Island B.C Z 8)

A sweeping bed for sure. Its hard to know without a pic takin futher back to see where the property line is but I think a tree if you look at your picture in the middle and bottom of pic sort of where the edge of the house points lol. Mabey a nice dogwood. Try draw the eye out and create some balance.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 9:53PM
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