Help prevent a "plant zoo" and help with the elusive curb appeal

jfacendolaJune 7, 2013

My sister just bought this house and asked me for some landscaping ideas for curb appeal. I am more the plant zoo/collector type, and my yard looks mostly looks like a crazy jungle. Needless to say, curb appeal is not my forte. I was hoping some of you here could give me a hand with that. I am looking for ideas so she can come up with a long term âÂÂplan of attackâÂÂ. I am not looking for advice on specific species of plants, but just ideas on layout and design using broad plant forms (shrub, small tree, groundcover, etc.. ) that will complement the house. Any ideas anybody has would be a great help, as if it were left up to me the house would eventually disappear in a sea of overplanted randomness.
THANKS!
( I have a couple more pics if needed)

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yardvaark

some general suggestions in picture form.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 9:33AM
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jfacendola

Thanks! I really really like the symmetry of the planting that matches the design of the house. There is more lawn to the right side of the house, and a big maple in the hellstrip to the left (see new pic). Would planting just one tree in the front right kill the symmetry too much?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 1:00PM
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yardvaark

Another tree in desperate need of having lower limbs removed. One cannot create a proper view of a house if the view is being blocked. In the added view of the house, my vote would be to another tree rather than not. I don't think the plan must maintain symmetry, especially as one moves away from the house. But it should achieve balance.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 12:12AM
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jfacendola

Agreed, that tree needs to be limbed up, or just put out of it's misery. It was planted directly under the utility lines, and has been trimmed into a weird tree doughnut around them. The front lawn to the right is in need of a nice specimen tree of some sort.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 7:29PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

There's really more to landscape design than following set formulaic design tips that group annual color at the entry, widen an entry walk as if it were an airport runway, and propose monoculture swaths of ground cover along with limbed-up trees as THE best solution. A possible solution if it actually meets functional and aesthetic requirements, but potentially trite and boring if it is imposed without thought to the actual site conditions and personal preferences of the owner.
Given that the house doesn't sit dead center on the lot, an asymmetrical landscape with another tree to the right side is not a problem. Location of such a tree could be seen as an opportunity to screen or frame views, provide shade as required, or provide an interesting focal point as seen from indoors.

Style and placement of shrubs and flowers could be less formulaic yet also frame the house, and/or provide views of garden interest from both the house looking out as well as from the street looking in. In fact, since most spend more time looking out than looking at the house from the street, I generally prefer emphasizing this inside to outside relationship as a designer.

As to avoiding the "plant zoo" approach, avoid too large a plant list which values sheer variety over principles of flow, unity and repetition. I'd suggest a tour of the neighborhood for similar looking houses and review garden layouts that appeal to your sibling. Massing of several varieties of plants to form layers, and thinking of forms and foliage colors as more year round garden interest than complete reliance upon flowers will also help generate a more gracious design. Aesthetics is just one aspect, start with function and goals to be achieved/problems to be resolved first, and then aesthetics.

Good luck with the process, and don't rule out design approaches that aren't so "same as any other".

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 2:50AM
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pattytricia

How about putting longer flowers boxes on the porch rail with a lot more colors of flowers. Hanging flowers pots on the porch with lots of color on each end. Tear out the bushes next to the porch. Put bigger flower beds around the porch and add flat rocks edging them. Make a rock walk to the house. With a big flower beds edging the rock walk way and lots of color. And edge with rocks. To shade the porch, add shade material across each opening, and curtains at each post. In the summer, have morning glories grow in front of the porch and shade the front porch. and add big flower beds at the end of walk way. maybe ornamental grasses, they make a very quick change to landscape.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 2:21PM
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yardvaark

A frame around a picture is a formula. It always works and everyone uses it. But not all frames and all pictures are the same. Bahia's suggestion that if a view is attractive from one direction, it's automatically weak from another would be a difficult argument to prove. It might be just another of the misleading opinions periodically offered here with no support to back it up.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 8:09AM
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agardenstateof_mind

And what is wrong with a "plant zoo" if it is the homeowner's style?

Is your sister "flipping" this house or planning to sell soon ... or does she plan to stay for a while, make it home? If one of the first two, then, yes, go for generic (and usually boring) "curb appeal." Otherwise, I feel the landscape design, though generally pleasing, should reflect the style, taste, interests, personality, values, etc. of the homeowner. What does you sister LIKE? How does she want people to feel as they view of approach the home? Perhaps more importantly, how does SHE want to feel as she and/or her family approach the home after a long day at work or wherever? These things will dictate not only choice of plant material, but also its placement in either a formal or informal manner.

In general, I agree with bahia's comments.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 7:57PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I don't think I've ever seen someone paraphrase what I've written here on this forum and fall so wide of the mark. Seems like a difference of opinion can affect one's reading comprehension. To recap, design based on a formula isn't nearly as responsive to the site potential as a design based on satisfying client/owner needs and functional requirements for a successful landscape design. Generic design principles as advocated to provide a frame isn't necessarily the best approach. Some people might prefer their artwork frameless, at no detriment to appreciating the art. My point was that great design needs to satisfy functional requirements first, reflect client/owner preferences over alleged general aesthetic principles of curb appeal that would homogenize every garden across the country into the same style, and give some sense of personal or regional style. Interesting to read these are considered "misleading" opinions, and what sort of substantiation is required as proof for a philosophical statement of preferred design approach?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 2:21AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I don't think I've ever seen someone paraphrase what I've written here on this forum and fall so wide of the mark. Seems like a difference of opinion can affect one's reading comprehension. To recap, design based on a formula isn't nearly as responsive to the site potential as a design based on satisfying client/owner needs and functional requirements for a successful landscape design. Generic design principles as advocated to provide a frame isn't necessarily the best approach. Some people might prefer their artwork frameless, at no detriment to appreciating the art. My point was that great design needs to satisfy functional requirements first, reflect client/owner preferences over alleged general aesthetic principles of curb appeal that would homogenize every garden across the country into the same style, and give some sense of personal or regional style. Interesting to read these are considered "misleading" opinions, and what sort of substantiation is required as proof for a philosophical statement of preferred design approach?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2013 at 2:22AM
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yardvaark

Using the forum as a marketing tool is what really affects a person's reading comprehension. It's pointless to point out the fallacies of a person's argument when they create what they claim to argue against ... paraphrase and fall wide of the mark! Lobbing off insults as a means to dominate only speaks to the seriousness of their marketing strategy.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 9:07AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Marketing? I see several people attempting to broaden the discussion beyond the obvious and trite, something a 'plant zoo' person might appreciate. No one should feel threatened by that. It's a discussion. People will have different ideas, different opinions. That is the whole point of coming here to ask questions -- get some fresh points of view. Plural. Let the OP sort through the ideas, reach their own conclusions, become inspired. Anyone can have an opinion, including amateurs, and it's not a courtroom -- "supporting evidence" is not required.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 8:18PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Well said catkim!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 9:33PM
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yardvaark

"Anyone can have an opinion, including amateurs, and it's not a courtroom -- "supporting evidence" is not required." I have no idea what in this thread you are referring to. If the discussion is in danger of going far afield of the OP's question, maybe it would be better to start a new thread ...?

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 12:21AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

To refresh your memory, quote verbatim: â¢Posted by Yardvaark none (My Page) on Fri, Jun 14, 13 at 8:09
"... would be a difficult argument to prove. It might be just another of the misleading opinions periodically offered here with no support to back it up."

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 1:11PM
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yardvaark

Sorry, I did not get how you were relating the quote to here. You're preaching to the choir that anyone can HAVE an opinion. But if the opinion is to have value beyond anyone's personal "itch," it must be based on facts that incline others to accept it... or why would anyone else care? People can hold ridiculous opinions. Pretending like those opinions have value is not seriously helpful to anyone.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 8:03PM
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jfacendola

Ok,
First, thanks all for taking an interest in my post and offering ideas and opinions. I agree with most of the points made above. For some more context, my sister plans on staying in this house for the next 6 or 7 years then selling. I think a well done cottage style garden packed full of perennials would look amazing with this house and would match my sisterâÂÂs taste. However, neither her nor my bother-in-law are going to be interested in (or do) the upkeep required to keep up any complex gardens. Their goal is to give the front of the house some appeal that they will enjoy and will be an asset when they sell. A large well placed swath of low maintenance ground cover, coupled with some grasses, shrubs or trees that need minimal attention once established are probably a realistic solution for their needs. The window boxes will also work and can be easily cared for. I agree if they were planning on staying in this house long term, and had an interest in getting out in the dirt and gardening, the only limit to what they should do is what makes them happy. I think in this case, what is going to make them happy is finding some low care plantings that will improve the appearance of their home from the street, and be appealing to 8 out of 10 people. (as trite as that may be, ha ha)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 12:20PM
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