How would you make this space perfect?

lschibleyMay 25, 2010

Hi all,

After getting my front walkway installed, I am ready to think about designing the garden it encompasses. There are certain elements in the space I don't think I will change, such as the position of the Japanese Maple and the Chamaecyperis behind the Berberis Thunbergii. Other than that, I am willing to start from scratch. I would also hate to move the cedrus deodara for fear of stressing it, though I recognize is too far back in the bed.

Here is a long view of the house. From April 30, 2010

Here is the garden in question. From April 30, 2010

Another point of view, sorry about the bad lighting. From April 30, 2010

The rest of my front gardens are a hodgepodge of shrubs and perennials without much form. I have lots of impulse buys that I plop down wherever I see some empty ground, and I'm happy with those spaces. But this garden I'd like to have more of an impact, so I'd really like to come up with a plan before I start plopping stuff down. If anyone has any advice, I'd be thrilled to hear it. Thank you in advance!


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Nice brick walkway! Are those clay or pavers? This is off-topic but what what was the thought behind the paver pattern chosen? The running bond with the long axis parallel to the pathway and the stackbond on the edges?

I'm curious, as I am still in the process of planning a front walkway, and looking at how the paver pattern(s) influence the mood and feel of the space.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 7:05AM
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Madrid - Very few houses in the neighborhood have fences. We're just too neighborly I guess.

Isabella - They are clay bricks. It's funny you should ask about the pattern, because we spent a lot of time messing with it. We tried to come up with all kinds of fancy shapes for the path with flares and landings and interesting curves with different patterns, but in the end, we decided that we wanted the door and the garden to be the focal points, so we kept it simple and traditional. With the long axis bringing attention to the door, and the edging being a way to define the garden. I think it works. Good luck with your project!


    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 7:47AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Madrid strikes me as spam of some sort, let's ignore.

To the OP, I would ask you what you hope to achieve from this space for yourself. Sure, everyone wants a foundation planting as if by reflex, but that's less the case here since you have a porch and railing. You could quite credibly just put lawn here or pave the whole area for play vehicle parking. Can you articulate what you want - not visually for the house, but experientially and viscerally for yourself - from this space?

You may not even need to do that for us, if you can do it internally you may have your answer.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 12:59PM
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Hi Karin,

I want a welcoming garden. I want people to walk along the path, look at the plantings and smile. I'd like to emphasize the cedrus deodara by framing it somehow. I want to have a somewhat neater appearance than the rest of my front perennial beds, but only somewhat....not too formal.

I've designed spaces before that I am happy with...a wild flower meadow, a black and white themed shade garden, a full sun mixed bed with conifers, shrubs, and perennials, but I'm putting more thought into this space, because this really is the most important space in the front yard. It's the focal point of anyone approaching the house. Nothing has jumped out at me as a good starting point yet, so I thought I'd see if anyone on this highly talented forum had some thoughts. Thanks for your reply!


    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 3:36PM
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I should also say that I imagine this being a mixed bed as well. It already has a tree, two conifers, two shrubs, several types of perennials, a couple of vines. Here is a picture of this garden from the steps next to the garage door. From May 21 2010

And I am happy how this section of the garden, but the journey from the driveway to the front door needs a lot of work, and I haven't found my inspiration yet, if you know what I mean.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 4:00PM
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"After getting my front walkway installed, I am ready to think about designing the garden it encompasses" = landscape design mistake number one. A desire for perfection may be number two. Sorry to be so blunt, sure you can make something of it but it will be difficult and this is what you are experiencing, you install a beautiful path that has nothing to do with anything else in view and then you fret about making everything else compliment it.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 5:23PM
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Do you have a concept that you want to work around? An area to attract butterflies, birds? I like the walkway. It reminds me of a stream and flows.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 9:11PM
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"you install a beautiful path that has nothing to do with anything else in view"

I guess I disagree with this statement...a lot of thought was put into trying to make the path very related to the house (a wide bed because the house is large, the color matching the door, lines mimicking the lines of the porch...a traditional path for a traditional house). The path is also meant to be strongly related to the color and position of the maple, the strongest element in the garden. The extra edging was chosen because this path is also meant to edge a garden. So I suppose whether we succeeded or failed is arguable, but in fact we did attempt to make this path have everything to do with whats in view.

I guess what is keeping me from just picking plants I like and running with it is the element of formalness or structure that landscape designers tell me a front garden needs. I have been content designing gardens that look like this. From May 21 2010

or this From May 21 2010

These are gardens I am comfortable with. Messy and interesting with lots of trial and error and only a hint of a plan that changes with what works and what fails. These gardens make me smile and that's enough. With the front garden, though I feel like I am gardening for an audience. All of a sudden making good choices seems more important. I guess that is why I came to this forum to get some inspiration and ideas.

By the way, I really don't feel like I am 'fretting' about this. If worse comes to worse, I'll just do what I enjoy doing and plant what I like without much of a plan and be happy. It's worked before! Again, thanks in advance for any help!


    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 9:52PM
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I believe Ink's point was that instead of carving up the whole into bits to be designed in a vaccum regardless of there surroundings, the entire landscape as a whole needs to be considered. This is especially important as the OP has noted LDs place an emphasis on the front garden designs, most likely because it's is such a visible part of the whole that if that peice fails it can collapse everythng else.

If you had a 2 foot bed, you might have more limited options, but You do have a generous amount of space and that works for you.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 8:25AM
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To repeat something I have posted many times. Maples and dogwoods are very susceptable to Verticillium wilt which enters through roots that have been nicked/cut during the digging process. If you plan to keep the Japanese maple in that bed in time your digging, change out, rearranging of plants will infect the maple in future years. Think permanent, mulched and simple. Use large standing pots/wine barrels within the garden for annual summer color.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 8:29AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I'm glad you posted the pictures of the gardens you feel happy with. What that makes clear is that you are trying to transition, in this front bed, from gardening to landscape design.

This has come up often in past threads, though those threads may be long gone. Basically, a garden is enjoyed for its individual elements or for a fleeting time, while a landscape has to be more static to play an enduring role through the year. Also the plants are not selected for the joy they give you individually up close, but for the role they can play for other people from a distance. Thus you need to think in terms of plant structure and other generic attributes rather than in terms of plant personality.

The two concepts can be integrated, so that a garden can be an integral and useful part of a landscape design, but it has to have enough definition to have more of a big picture impact, rather than being valued for its details. To me your pathway isn't wrong, it's just not enough to define the bed from a distance. We talk about the "bones" of a garden which would be either hardscape or structural plants. These are the plants that most of us just look past in the garden centre, wondering why anyone would buy something so boring.

A keen plantsperson can do both, but it takes some expertise. You have to find plants you love and then use their structural attributes to "build" a landscape. Some people may have to learn to love different kinds of plants (psst: check out the conifers forum). Or get into rhododendrons, or some other evergreen family. I often mention Ilex crenata 'Mariesii' as an example of a structural plant that a gardener can get excited about.

You may find some helpful points in a concurrent thread titled "unify a collector's garden."

Nandina, your point has been useful in understanding why I seem to lose another maple every year...!


    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 3:12PM
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Rhodium - I think I understand what you are saying, that this space needs to fit in with my overall design. But I am not sure if you and ikognito are saying that it doesn't, in fact, 'fit in'. Here is the overall design of my front's pretty simple-minded, so maybe not enough of a 'design'. My front yard is a very simple rectangle, the 4 sides are road, forest, house, forest. The gardens that run along the forest edge are basically transitions between yard and forest, informal, colorful, fun. But really, they aren't imagined to be focal points, since the house is so obviously the focal point, and all lines point to it. This garden was imagined to be the transition between the informal side gardens and the house. Does that make sense?

Nadine - Thank you so much about the info about the maple wilt. This is another reason why I should definitely get this right the first time and not come up with something that I'll want to change in a couple of years.

Karin - So I think what you are saying is that what I need to put in the bed are things that "define the bed from a distance". Are the bones of this garden the house, the walk, and the tree? I am a big fan of conifers, even in my messy gardens I have lots of different kinds, and I will definitely be happy to put more in here, but again, I haven't figured out where to start. I already have one very tall element, so I assume I shouldn't add another one. Should my linear focus be the tree (lots of low plants)...or the cedrus (higher plants on either end)...or the house (plants simply below the porch line)...should the heights of my plants vary like in my messy gardens or be more uniform...should my foliage be more consistently green than in my other gardens where I mix silver and maroon plants in with yellow and blue tinted leaves happily....these are the decision I am thinking about and I know it's because I don't have a vision yet. Thanks for letting me talk through some of the things I am thinking about though. I appreciate it...


    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 8:06PM
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