Suggestions for front??? I'm stuck.... :(

teejay2039(7a)June 27, 2010

Hoping for some (cheap) suggestions on overall improvements. Link is to pics of what we've done so far (first 12 shots). The tree in front yard (in 1st pic) already has some hosta and fern under it, just need to border and mulch to finish it.... I also have over 300 red patio pavers if anyone has suggestions for those..... 6x12 rectangular.


I'm stumped, I think, becoz of the odd layout: no sidewalks in front of house, and a narrow walkway from the small front concrete stoop (6' x 6') that runs parallel to right side of house in front, and goes directly to the driveway, which is gravel..... (currently in process of being widened).

I can usually do a half-way decent job of landscaping, but this is boyfriend's house so I can't just do whatever *I* wanna do, I have to clear it with him first. LOL

I am aware that the bush on the right side of house is much too close but he vetoed removing it, afraid it would just cause more problems if roots are under house. We do keep it trimmed.

Current plans include:

1)Rectangular raised beds on both sides of widened driveway, made from landscape timbers, 2-3 levels high. (cheapest)

2) removing excess wood parts and handrails from front porch/stoop, leaving just the concrete slab

3) adding a small (6' x 6') floating deck that will be a step down from the concrete slab. That will bring the edge of the new deck to the edge/corner of the new border bed across front of house.

4)remove narrow walkway. Create new curving path ( C-shaped) from bottom of new deck to driveway.

5) Add at least 1, if not 2, more "layers" of the landscaping border stones in front of house.... as it is now, it just doesn't look "substantial" enough to me, to match the house...... and what else can I put out there in that bed? I think it needs something tall in center, in front of those double windows?? Water feature or trellis/obelisk maybe?

Would appreciate any and all suggestions for:

a) new house/trim color (not too distant future!) What style house is this?? Siding is wood. Have tentatively picked out a new door with crescent shaped window in very top.....

b) something to "pop out" the windows..... shutters? Marquee?

3) any suggestions for the humongously tall section that in reality covers the fireplace chute? I see the paint is peeling there, too, at the top.......

4) Depending on planned paint color, will need suggestions for mulch.... I'm partial to black, then brown/pine.... have red in front bed right now but it looks terrible d/t washed out color of siding....

any and all suggestions are *greatly* appreciated!!!!!

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Theresa, you've accomplished a lot already. Congrats.

Will have more to add later, but two things for now. Please consider natural color for mulch. The dyed stuff belongs in service station beds, IMO.

Re removing the big burning bush, no damage can be done if it is cut down at ground level, without root removal. The roots will rot after awhile. Drill holes into the base and throw some dirt over it. This will hasten decomposition.

Looking forward to all the other suggestions you'll get.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 7:50AM
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    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 12:05PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

In my opinion you're "stumped" because you've limited your canvas to a narrow strip around the house. That is a common mistake, to call it landscaping but actually only be addressing foundation planting.

What you've done at the foundation is nice, but for heaven's sake don't make that rock wall any higher. You'd totally hide that quite cool stone foundation, at least if you topped the beds with soil you would, and if you didn't, then you'd have this wall sitting out in the middle of nowhere. The foundation rocks are way prettier than the pre-fab blocks you're using anyway, so don't hide them with the latter.

Instead, realize that your canvas is way bigger than just the foundation, and use your ability to place trees/shrubs as specimens or in new beds to mitigate features of the house that concern you, like the plain bulk of the chimney. Put a nice tree so that from whatever angle concerns you most, the canopy of the tree will eventually cover that - prune it high as it grows so it doesn't also block the view of the entryway.

I would not necessarily do your planned beds along the driveway. What we call that urge around here is "perimeteritis" the urge to plant along every existing feature in the landscape and around trees, mailboxes, and anything else that is stationary. Far better, I think, to put in an island bed. This would also mitigate the effect of the walkway, although your plan will improve that to a large extent.

And I don't have a driveway, but I believe beds alongside also reduce the ability to get in and out of the car sometimes, maybe for visitors, and constrain the ability to plow them if your weather includes snow.

Anyway, the perimeter-planted yard just suggests a gardener who is like a swimmer who won't leave the wall of the pool, or a skater who clings to the wall of the rink. You get the idea, I'm sure: Olympic performances are not produced by people who cling to the perimeter.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 8:19PM
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Hi Karin;

Thanks for your suggestions.... :)

After mulling over what u've said, I took another look at the front of the house from the street.... and I see what you mean about the foundation. Why AM I trying to hide that??

Which leads to, should I ditch the stones altogether, and do just an edged border? (The stones werent purchased specifically for this project, I just used them because I had them, so no big deal to take them back out)... the only drawback there: ground isn't level across front, so not sure if that would look good or not. But, now I wonder if the stones aren't *too* much, since we've got wood (siding) and another color/type stone (foundation).

I like the idea of a tree in front of the chimney. The driveway beds weren't my idea, and I wasn't ecstatic about them, but now I have valid reasoning for not putting them in, so thanks for that, too. LOL

I love island beds and have had them before, but Jay is in love with his yard and it's not easy talking him into giving any of it up for what he terms "foo foo flowers and stuff"..... so will save that for a future project.... :)

I knew you'd have some cool suggestions, tho, thanks!! :)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 12:44AM
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Hi Rosie:

I agree about the mulch; I used the red becoz i found about 15 bags for 1/2 price last year, but normally I do use natual color cedar and we'll be re-mulching this fall.

Good idea about cutting down the bush at ground level.... I was trying to visualize that area w/o the bush, and it *does* need to come out, so will broach that topic again ..... Thanks!! :)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 1:03AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

You've done a lot and are to be commended!

I'm glad you got rid of the huge shrubs, and I agree that you should also cut down the one that remains.

karinl's correct in pointing out that your foundation is nothing to be ashamed of.


let me argue for some evergreens somewhere.

Going by your zip code, you're in Tennessee just south of the Kentucky border. Your zone is 6B, so you have a definite winter -- one zone colder than mine.

I did see your photos earlier, but for some reason Firefox won't let me access them again at the moment. From what I remember, there wasn't anything that would have any winter interest. I remember a low rose bush -- empty twigs in the winter -- but the rest may all be annuals and perennials which die back to the ground at the end of the growing season. So for four months, there's nothing around the house except empty dirt and a dormant rose. (Apologies if I'm not remembering correctly, or if there was something I'm not familiar with; I'm not a plant expert.)

Even if the stone foundation is interesting, it wouldn't hurt to hide some of the utility boxes, not to mention the phone (?) wire that snakes along quite a bit of the siding.

Not all shrubs are five feet high, as were the old ones. How about a few low evergreen shrubs and groundcovers?

I understand that it's not your own house, and that evergreens may be more than you wish to invest in landscaping at the moment. But think about adding something evergreen this fall or next spring -- or several somethings.

Here's the Missouri Botanical Garden's PlantSearch. It can give you some idea of plants in a particular category.

You might, for example, use these settings:
Sun = whatever's appropriate for each bed
Height = 1-3 ft.
Maintenance = you'll probably want "Low" or "Medium"
Zone = 6
And on the far right, under "Leaves," click "Evergreen"

Depending on what you checked, you'll get somewhere between several and several dozen evergreen cultivars. Clicking on the links will give you more info and generally a photo.

Then try slightly different settings: maybe two different sun settings, and both "Low" and "Medium" for Maintenance.

Or go for shorter plants and/or click "Groundcover" under "Uses" on the right.

To avoid future worries about roots and the foundation, plant far enough from the house so that you always have 1-2' clear for house (and plant) maintenance. (Take the mature width of the shrub/annual/perennial, divide it in half, then add at least a foot: the figure you get is the distance from the house that the center of the plant should be located.)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 2:05AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I actually like the stone edgers as you've made a very pretty shape to your beds and the stone really emphasizes it. So I wouldn't remove them, just not add more.

I don't see a need for evergreen material in the foundation beds, to be honest, as I think you've made not so much a foundation planting as a necklace for the house, and adding evergreens to it would make it less a necklace and more a failed foundation planting. If it's bare in winter, you still have the bare shape of the bed as a necklace in winter, and the necklace becomes more colourful in summer. If you just plop in some evergreens without making a cohesive evergreen planting, you don't enjoy the flowers as much in summer nor do the evergreens achieve what they are supposed to, namely a base for the house. Plus, they hide the foundation! Nothing wrong with leaving it as a seasonal flower bed, in my opinion.

Regarding a tree to hide the chimney, don't take me too literally on that - you can't place one so it hides the chimney from every angle and maybe the existing one already does from one angle at least. It might block the entrance too much to put one to ameliorate the straight-on view. The point was merely that you can manipulate the appearance of the house without working just AT the house.

If your driveway is wide enough, and if conflict will ensue if you try to put in an island bed, far be it from me to state as a rule that a driveway border is wrong. I was just responding in an objective way about the plan you listed, but people are also landscaping elements, and they need to be happy. If the driveway beds can make you both happy and an island bed will make one of you miserable, maybe the plowing issue can be worked around.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 7:15PM
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