Front yard HELP!

akmom1June 2, 2010

I'm a total rookie. Everything I plant dies. I've lived in my house 6 years and haven't done much outside. I'm at a loss. My front yard is almost completely shade. I have hostas, but would love some color too. Ideally, we want to knock down the wall and I'd love some seating, but no clue how to incorporate that. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Here is a link that might be useful:

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queerbychoice(USDA 9a/Sunset 8 (CA))

Hi akmom1!

I can completely relate. Everything I planted used to die too. Honestly, some of it still does, but I have definitely improved.

For me, the most important thing was to research plants' needs thoroughly and make detailed lists of which plants I thought would work in my yard's conditions. I make spreadsheets listing plants' heights and widths at maturity, light and water and drainage needs, and general appearance (evegreen/deciduous, foliage color and texture, flower color and bloom season, etc.) Instead of working harder to keep any old plant alive, work harder to choose plants that won't require a lot of work to keep alive.

Some here will disagree with me, but I recommend looking first at your local native plants for two reasons: (1) they're obviously among the most likely to stay alive with no effort on your part, and (2) you can usually find more detail about exactly where they should be planted in your area than you can find for exotic plants. When you develop a better sense of how to guess at what conditions each of your plants need, then you can move on to the increased guesswork necessary for selecting non-native plants.

Although I think choosing the right plants is by far the biggest obstacle most people face in keeping plants alive, it's also a good idea to search Google for information about the best season for planting in your state and for basic tips on transplanting: for example, make sure to water your plants thoroughly when you first plant them, even if they are species that do not want to be watered much or any after they've been in the ground a while. All plants need extra water to recover from the stress of being transplanted.

None of what I've just said has anything to do with landscape design, of course. My advice only relates to finding plants that you can keep alive. You have to start somewhere, though, and keeping plants alive seems like a good place to start.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 7:44PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Ideally, we want to knock down the wall and I'd love some seating, but no clue how to incorporate that. -- I see the wall, but I'm not certain exactly where it is (in front of your walkway?), but removing it seems like a great idea!

When you say "seating," I assume you mean in front of the house. You don't seem to have a porch, or not much of one (it would really help if we could see a closer picture of the area bounded by the driveway, the front door area, and the wing on the right). Are you thinking of a seating area with a roof, or without a roof?

Are you envisioning a place to sit after dinner and enjoy the weather? An area to entertain friends? (Generally we think of that in connection with the backyard, but maybe that doesn't work for you.) How much seating would there need to be room for -- a couple of rocking chairs, a table and chairs, something else?

I have some very shady areas, and had to learn what will or won't do well in shade. Part of that was learning that one garden bed was not "partial shade" but essentially "deep shade" (pretty much complete shade).

Have you looked at the Gardening in Shade forum? Lots of good ideas and photos there:
Take a look at their FAQs, particularly "How is Shade defined." Here's another view of the same topic:

If you're gardening under or near trees, part of the problem may be that the trees' established root systems are drinking up all the moisture and your new plants are dying of thirst. You may need to water whenever the soil is dry -- for a year or more -- until your plants' roots can compete with the trees'.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 9:28PM
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Thank you both for all your input! We are planning to put in a basketball goal along the drive. I was thinking just a little seating to sit out there and watch the kids play. Not really a roof or anything and not like the backyard patio area. I will def try to take better pics this weekend. :)

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 12:54PM
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dogridge(7b nc)

Are you looking for a garden with plants to tend and grow, or more of a "curb appeal" makeover with suggestions for changing design elements and more of a landscape plan. What type of budget do you have? $2000?
Do you have any inspiration photos of houses/ landscapes you like?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 8:50AM
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