Need suggestions on landscaping ideas...Help!

melliemeloJune 21, 2010

We just cleared out our flowerbeds and I have no clue what to plant! I had azaleas along the porch, but they never did grow very well. We left the gardenias and are clueless about what we should plant. Manily I'm interested in evergreens and from there we will add seasonal flowers. I am in zone 9.

Suggestions welcome!!! Please help!

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Lovely house, and I like the color.

Can you tell us which direction the house faces? The shrubs on the left don't look happy.

Your zip code seems to be southern Louisiana.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 5:56PM
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Hi, yes to south louisiana! The gardineas were very crowded, so we re-spaced them just a few days ago. I am hoping they return to their former happy state now that they can breathe. My home faces north east, getting morning sun and shade in the afternoon.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 6:25PM
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Hi, yes to south louisiana! The gardineas were very crowded, so we re-spaced them just a few days ago. I am hoping they return to their former happy state now that they can breathe. My home faces north east, getting morning sun and shade in the afternoon.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 7:00PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Hi back at you! My California grandmother successfully grew gardenias in the hot-as-you-know-where Central Valley, but all I know is that they need some shade. I was afraid maybe your exposure didn't give them enough shade, but if they'd been overcrowded I suppose that would explain why they look sad.

I have now exhausted my store of useful knowledge about gardenias and/or Louisiana. Sorry!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 10:48PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I sometimes wonder why it is that so many of the questions about foundation planting that come to the forum are for houses that just do not need foundation planting, and in some cases, like this one in my view, would look worse with foundation planting than they do without it.

I think the reason is this: if your house needs foundation planting, it will be easy to figure out what looks good, and in fact, almost any arrangement of common foundation shrubs will look good. But when your house doesn't need foundation planting, but you're determined to do it, you can't figure out what to plant because you realize that every idea that comes into your head is wrong. So THAT is when people are driven to post requests for help on the internet.

This house is pretty, but it's very busy, right down to ground level. There is no blank canvas on any portion of that house wall that would be enhanced by shrubbery, and there is no place to put a shrub where it would not be hiding or interfering visually or functionally with something. The house is at ground level, has no visible foundation, and as such there is no reason at all to put a single plant anywhere near the foundation.

Plants don't grow well at house foundations, and the only excuse for putting them there is when the house looks awful without them. This house doesn't look awful at all.

So my advice would be to put grass all the way to your foundation, and if you want some plants, trees, or flowerbeds, locate them out in the yard where they can frame and enhance the house rather than interfering with it.

If you must put plants at the foundation - and the urge to do so is strong in America - put something low and plain. There is a concurrent thread started by ParkPlaza that shows a nice bed of pachysandra at the foundation - something like that is all you need, though that is likely the wrong plant to achieve that effect in your spot.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 12:01PM
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Actually the reason I am posting for help is because I am not a landscaper. I do not have the $1000 that it would cost to have it professionally done, so I was hoping for a few suggestions to point me in the right direction. I am clueless as to what plants go well together and what sizes I should look for. Just having grass is not an option.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 7:04PM
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There probably is a LA forum on gardenweb in which locals can provide more specific plant suggestions.

As a general rule of thumb for classical foundation plantings is to start high on the corners with plant forms getting smaller towards the main focal point (the front door). Your house also is very symetrical, so having identical plantings on either side of the door should be considered.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 9:12PM
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Karinl's suggestions were just right for your situation. Be creative with plantings around the house, but DON'T plant shrubs, etc. up close to the house foundation. Some curving islands around the edges, with small trees as centerpieces should work. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 9:23PM
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Is there a reason the mulch is berm shaped like a levee?

Like Karin said think outside the foundation planting box, but don't forget that more shrubs also means more maintenance compared to the ease of grass cutting.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 10:13AM
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What about using some kind of grass, like blue fescue, blue oatgrass, or lilirope? Your home is lovely, but I agree that it is a bit "busy" and some "low and plain" grasses like Karin suggested would be easy to maintain and not detract from your home.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 10:30AM
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pat4750(Zone 6 Cen PA)

Your home is lovely!
There is a posting on the Perennial form - "Does anyone have lilies in their FRONT yard?" from 8/2009 that might give you some ideas especially the picture at June 5, 2010. The OP lives in a very different zone but a trip to local garden center (not a "big Box" store) would provide suggestions for appropriate substitutions.
Good luck with your project.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 11:26AM
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Is there a reason the mulch is berm shaped like a levee?

Thanks - I thought my eyes were deceiving me. Such a heavy, banked up mulch layer will affect the growth of most plants especially when it's piled up against them. The optimal mulch depth is 3-4" (and pulled back a bit from the plant base) - although mulch does settle some and decomposes some and needs to be refreshed periodically.

Some people like to see a little strip of grass, but I'd extend the garden bed to the walk on the left. Perhaps all you need are a few good clumps of the dark royal blue Siberian Iris (Caesar's Brother)... nice upright sword-like foliage even when not in bloom. A scattering of sedums for a texture change. If you like them, both are carefree and easy to divide to increase your stock.

To experiment with shapes and colors - without the monetary investment shrubs require - get your landscaping feet wet with annuals. That might give you a better idea as to what you really "need" in front of your home.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 11:43AM
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Your house is very pretty on it's own but if you would like some evergreen foundation 'bones' plant low growing spreading evergreens in front of the windows with medium height shrubs at the corners of the house and porch and flowering annuals in groups in the front of the beds. Don't block the view of/from the windows from the inside or outside. Remove the grass strip by the sidewalk. Extend the bed on the right side and give it a nice big curve--lay out a garden hose to give a guide of where you want the bed to be. Possibly a good place for a small tree. I would lower the mulch humps in the beds to be the same height as the surrounding ground. For a beginning landscape you can just keep it simple and attractive and add to things as you see other homes with landscaping that would work in your situation.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 12:44PM
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Thanks for the suggestions!

The mulch is only about 3" thick. I guess the reason it looks so high is because we tilled up the dirt under it and dug up everything that was originally planted there. It will settle over time. We had the yard professionally landscaped 5 years ago and this was the layout. The strip of grass is actually much wider than it looks in the photo -it's the angle that makes it appear so narrow. We plan on having the walkway paved at some point, so maybe after that we can look into extending the beds as suggested.

I am curious as to what makes my house 'busy' though? The peaks? I think it is rather plain in comparison to many houses in my neghborood, and most have lovely flowerbeds and ornamental trees along the front!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 7:48PM
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barbaranh(z4 NH)

I agree with everything frankielynn says.

Have a look at this website:

They show several beautiful low-growing evergreens. I particularly like these, which they say are good for zone 9:

Daphne burkwoodii 'Carol Mackie'
Boxleaf honeysuckle
Sweet box
Hebe 'Emerald Gem'
Hebe 'Hinerua'
Variegated yucca 'Bright Edge'

A nice small ornamental tree for the corner would be Sweet Bay Magnolia or Oyama Magnolia.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 8:27PM
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tibs(5/6 OH)

If you are going to pave the walkway, I would widen it so two people can walk comfortably side by side, and widen it befor the steps ans swing it gracefully around instead of the sharp right angle curve. I like Karinl's suggestion. The "business" comes from the 2 wall materials, brick and siding. And the brick is multi colored. You have a round top window and square top windows. You don't have a bland red brick box like I have that fades into a blob, lucky you!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 9:47PM
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Hi melliemelo, hubby and I have owned a landscape business for almost 20 yrs, so I've seen a lot of designs over the years. I'm not a designer by any means, but my first thought was you need some "curves". Everything looks very squared off. Since all homes are basically square, the curves of landscape beds seem to soften it and give it more "personality".

I can see an arc shape working well on the right side, plus maybe adding a tall shrub, dwarf ornamental tree or evergreen in that corner. (an arc shape is easier on the mower-man than too many curves!) You are so far from my zone, I'm not knowledgeable for your area. I'm just thinking you need some height in that area.

You really have no foundation to "hide" in the front. Have you considered a low growing groundcover in front of your porch? I really can't advise specific plants for your region because I'm no expert in that field, but we have used Verbena 'Homestead Purple' in our beds and I loved it - along with the butterflies! The foliage is pretty and it have beautiful deep purple blooms all summer that the butterflies will swarm. Maybe any type of low growing flowering ground cover would fill in the area in front of your porch since you don't have the height of a foundation to hide with shrubs. The bonus would be to use something that would attract butterflies. The Verbena didn't seem to attract bees like some nectar plants do.

I'm such a visual person, it helps me to drive around and take pictures of other houses' landscapes that look interesting. Maybe that would help give you some inspiration? Then a knowledgeable person at your local nursery could help you choose the correct plants. You might consider how much upkeep you are willing to spend when choosing your plants. Anything with 'dwarf' in the name will maintain it's size without becoming overgrown. Keep in mind your new landscaping will look sparse when newly planted because you have to space enough to allow for growth. It's fun to take pictures every year to note your progress.

I agree with everything that Frankielynn said! Your front bed should extend all the way to your sidewalk without the grass strip. And when you redo your sidewalk in the future, I would suggest softening it a bit by giving it a curve instead of the sharp corner where it leads to your porch.

I love plants that bloom or change color in the fall, but then again, we don't have the same seasons. LOL. I'm sorry I haven't been much help with specific plant recommendations, but I hope some general tips helped!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2010 at 12:28PM
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One thing to do is plant something piramidal at the corners at to not cover the windows. Take the mulched bed out to the walkway and edge with a paver. This will help with mowing and trimming. I like the idea of evergreens, low growing and maybe adding some skirting with a softer more wispy material like fescue grass or a flowering perinnial repeated. For example: Piramidal at the corners with evergreens and at the posts a simalar upright skirted with perhaps the Gardinia centered inbetween this? Some curve shaped bed to the right may be the way to go. Keep the amount of plant material to a minimum. You already know that you want the Gardinia so work with that and the rest will fall into place and cost less. Example: Upright evergreen then Gardinia then upright and so on. This may be boring to some however it is a very smart look and gives good curb appeal. Pop this with some color. This can be a favorite annual. You can place pots buried in the ground and lifted when the season is over. Or a small growing perinnial with the same result. I do think it may be best to bring the bed to the left of the picture to the walkway for a more finished look. Good luck!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 2:59AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I'm not a pro, so please bear with my "amateur" language here!

If you're planting shrubs at the corners of the house, don't feel limited to pyramidal shapes. The purpose of the basic corner shrub (or small tree) is to break up the strong vertical of the corner of the house, and also to help make the house seem like a natural part of the landscape around it, as opposed to an artificial box plopped down atop the lawn.

So what you want is to conceal that vertical corner line. You want something that'll have a fair amount of height when it's mature. It could be a broad shrub or a fairly narrow one. Because of the location of the window at the left corner of your house, a narrow-ish shrub is probably better for you than a shrub as wide as it is tall -- but it doesn't have to be one of the "pencil-thin" cultivars like Sky Pencil holly (my parents have several which are about 6 years old; I'm convinced, every time I see them, that they're going to remain a foot wide for the next decade -- and I'm not sure they're even that wide yet). It'll look best if you plant the center of the shrub directly in front of the corner rather than to the right or left.

You can overlay different sizes and shapes on the corner of your house pic and see what works best. (This can be done by laying shapes of colored paper over a printed photo, or by doing the same with your photo software or something as simple as the Paint in your Windows Accessories.)

By the way, you don't have to have the same variety of shrub or even the same shape at both corners of the house.

And you don't have to have corner shrubs at all. But if you do have them, they don't have to be pyramidal Christmas trees.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 11:53AM
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Just a note on gardenias...they resent root disturbance. That's what the books will tell you, and I've found it to be true. Don't know how you did your work around them, but they often don't take kindly to transplantation unless it's done with extra care. They are, however, one of those plants that's hard to predict...Be warned though. They can sulk for several years, sometimes for no apparent reason, going through seemingly inexplicable periods of recovery and decline before finally dying. It's a little like tragic opera. And that's when you are doing everything by the book!

But some folks slap 'em in the ground, ignore 'em, forget about 'em, and they flourish.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 1:43PM
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Thank you all SO very much!! I really appreciate the replies.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 6:28PM
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I like the idea of low hollies, Stokes or soft-touch, in front of each post and low junipers, Wiltoni or Procumbens nana, to fill in the remaining area in front of the porch. Use DeGroot's Spire arborvitaes to frame the window on the right, with Armstrong juniper between. Not sure about the bay window on the left; perhaps same hollies and junipers as in the front, but you do need some "pop" here.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 10:46PM
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