Need input on layout please

jem199June 17, 2011

We are re-doing our front foundation planting. The plants needs to be deer-resistant for 5a. It's north facing and gets light to moderate wind.

I'm including a link to the album that contains photos, measurements, graph paper layout with the list of plants and a rendition of the design I tried out in Photoshop just to get an idea of the look.

I really like the overall look of the layout. What I'm not sure about is the blue arrow junipers. I like the shrubs a lot, but the height is a concern. The tops of my windows are 9'. The junipers grow 12-15'. Will they be too tall? If the spread is 4' I think that will be much better than 2'. I'm not sure I like the juniper in the center. It seems to be a focal point and steal away from the hydrangea tree.

Do you think the height of the junipers will be ok? Can anyone suggest an alternate planting for in between the windows?


Here is a link that might be useful: landscape photos

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Nice looking dog :)

I like the shrubs being a little taller than the tops of the windows. I think that will look better than having them stop below the windows.

My only concern is that you have several evergreens there now that are pretty sparse. That could be from pruning or from lack of light. If it's lack of light, then your new plants might suffer the same fate. Evergreens aren't usually big fans of shade - I'm assuming that by north-facing you mean the sun arcs so the house casts a shadow over this area much of the day, right?

I'm thinking about what else you could use between those windows. That area does seem to cry out for a plant with strong vertical lines. One idea (that might be stupid) is a white dogwood. I know you don't want a lot of width, but hear me out ... You know how the dogwoods you see growing wild in the forests are slim, graceful creatures? But the ones growing in everyone's front lawns are big, fat lollipop shapes. IF that is because of the heavier shade in the forest, then you might have a more graceful, arching tree there. And the white flowers would be amazing against the dark red siding on the house. But you'd need to plant it 15' from the house, minimum, which means your bed would need to be wider.

At our last house we had a dog wood in our front yard that saw a lot of shade (it was the north side of our house & we had mature maples & oaks around the edges of our yard). It was sort of in between the thin (some say spindly) dogwood I see growing wild and the fat dogwoods you see in parking lot plantings. It was really attractive - but I always loved the ethereal nature of the wild dogwoods. Someone who likes lollipop dogwoods might think it looked anemic.

Just a thought...

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 7:20AM
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Thanks for the input. The old shrubs are sparse because the deer feed on them...which is the entire reason for this project. I absolutely love dogwoods, but they don't grow up here on the ridge I live on. They grow fine down in town, but I've never gotten one to live through a winter here, despite much effort to do so. :-(

Any other ideas?

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 7:46AM
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First off, don't repeat the mistakes of the past, which is one of scale and balance. Widen your view to include the entire space you are working on, which is defined by the house and drive. Go back to your grid paper and accurately plot all that exists in this larger space. Then size the major elements such that no isolated and distinct part is tiny compared with the whole.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 9:17AM
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Nice lawn.there should not be any block between the windows and grass.plant shrub,arbor in S shape bed along property line,it will give you more private different color shrub,evergreen rock,form different color line on curve improve curb appeal.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 9:35AM
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Nice work over there Jem but i dont see any sidewalk over there :/
Need some tips ?

Here is a link that might be useful: Landscape Design

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 10:44AM
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Thanks for the input. I honestly think my house looks better with nothing in front of it. I am not a designer and I don't like complex mcmansion landscape designs. I'm restricted to 'deer- resistant' plants. It's got to be low maintenance. I don't want another job to trim and maintain. I'd rather be at the beach!

It sounds like some of you have identified design problems, but I really don't get what that means. What sidewalk??? We live on 16 acres on a rural road, so that's not something we have here.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 12:42PM
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Deer resistant ... that makes it a little harder. BTW - have you seen the motion-detecting sprinkler things? Just in case you fall in love with something that isn't deer-resistant.

Do you need/want year everything to look good year round? I think that deer are the hungriest in the winter, so maybe if some of your plantings were perennials that died back in the winter it would let you have more options for summer color, and even let you have more light in the windows in the winter.

Heuchera (Coral bells) are a nice plant that have really pretty foliage, you could mass several of them for blobs of color. There are purple and chartreuse versions (and other leaf colors as well). They are hardy to zone 4 - since you said dogwood struggle to make it through winter I'm guessing you are in a cold spot in 5, so looking for zone 4 plants would give you a better safety net against frigid winters.

Ferns would contrast nicely with the coral bells because they have that arching shape with fine cut leaves, while coral bells are low mounded plants with round leaves. So you'd get nice texture difference there. I'd plant daffodils among the coral bells so you'd have some spring blooms before the coral bells really leaf out (they have flowers as well, but they're tiny). Daffodils are pretty deer resistant because they're toxic to deer. Also toxic to dogs, but I think most dogs know that. I had a beagle that ate a bag of tulip bulbs but he never touched the bag of daffodil bulbs.

I'm still struggling with the area between the windows - I can't think of any tall, spiky plants that will be decent height and are either deer resistant or die down to nothing in the winter. Your house doesn't seem to want an arbor - the architecture is all clean lines as opposed to ornamentation (IMHO an English cottage garden would look really out of place there).

I'm still loving the idea of using the dark backdrop of your house color as a stage for something white. What about paper birch? Again, it's a tree, so you'd need to plant it away from the house. But they are hardy all the way into Maine, they're beautiful white trunks would look great against the house in winter, and the multi-trunked ones are almost sculptural. They aren't a plant that deer favor, either.

One last (possibly crazy) idea. I know it might look weird to have a foundation planting and then a single tree out in front of it. It could look like the tree had been "voted off the island" by the perennials. But what if you made the bed a wide triangle shape? It would echo the shape of the roof there - as if the gable end of the house was mirrored onto the ground in plantings. That would let you put something tall in between those windows without it having to be a shrub.

On the flip side, that kills the idea of the big white hydrangea tree on the corner.

I really do like the sketch you have so far, I'm just thinking of other options in case you were thinking, "I like this, but what else could I possibly do with the space?"

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 2:04PM
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Hi Pam,

Thanks for your thoughtful post. I have a gorgeous cottage border garden behind the house, full of coral bells and perennials. It's in front of a shabby-chic very country porch and I absolutely love it, tho i'm a slave to it in the Spring and Fall.

My favorite part of this plan is the hydrangea tree with the weigela's under it. I've asked the landscaper and the nursery to weigh in on the junipers. I know that big honkin evergreen is too huge for the spot. We had another one die and it's too bad it wasn't this one instead. Maybe I'll take it down someday and really look at the curb appeal and get all the sound design pricipals operating. But right now, I just need to do something cheap and decent.

I don't think the dogwood die because of cold or wind. After reading up on them just now I've learned they are a 'deer treat.' We get herds of 60-100 deer up here and they don't have all that deer traffic downtown. I am going to look into motion water/lights. Apparantly even the large dog sisn't enough. I guess I'd have to make him sleep outside at night to really take care of it. Or put a doggie door somewhere so he can be on the lookout. I bet I could even train him to guard the bushes for deer. He knows how to dig for hockey pucks in the snow that get shot out of our ice rink LOL.

So we'll see what the landscaper says. If anyone has any more ideas, I'm all ears!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 3:24PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Your house does look better with nothing in front of it. Your design of plants is a perfectly nice one, but with 16 acres to work with, why are you set on cramming this group of plants up against the foundation? If you move it to a spot away from the house, the plants could grow to the size they want, plus you could enjoy looking at it from the house rather than feeling hemmed in by it. I think it would darken your living (?) room considerably plus close in your view.

As Duluthinbloom said in your previous thread, "I don't design, but if I thought about what you're facing and eventually did rip out what's there - I wouldn't replace it. Probably paint or stain the foundation the color of the house and pull any planting away from the house itself. You've got plenty of yard for a conifer island which could also accommodate some blooming deciduous shrubs, and a scattering of anything but tulips spring bulbs."

You could also erect a chicken-wire or netting fence around a bed removed from the house that you could open to go in and weed, but that would hardly show from a distance.

Also, I would put flagstone in the whole area outside the front door to make a nice open entry patio. The plants there make the door seem very constrained.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 3:48PM
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I'd eliminate the blue arrow juniper between the windows and put in an additional boxwood instead and keep the rest pretty much as is.
Personally, I'd go with either the same shrubs across the length, or a mixture of shrubs all the way across. I think the symmetrical planting beneath the windows mimics the existing symmetry in the house too much. With your deer limitation and the other things you mention, boxwood seem like a good choice.

Ok, and I thought we had deer problems. With that many deer, I'd be afraid of a stampede. Is your cottage garden fenced?
best regards!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2011 at 11:24PM
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Thanks! I'm going to mess with Photoshop more tomorrow to try out some of these ideas. I'll post some more picts sometime this week. My cottage garden is dormant in the winter when the deer are hungry. When there are other preferred food sources for the deer in the warmer months, they leave us alone. Also, we often forget to close our back door in the summer and the dog knows how to push the screen door open to get outside at night. I think our shrubs are a last-resort food for the deer. They don't eat any landscaping when there are other food sources. Our vegetable garden is fenced in, but the guy across the street doesn't have a fence and has no deer munching problems in spring and summer. It's a dead-of-winter famine for them and it's not every winter either.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 1:03PM
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