Need curb appeal and color!

jennyzone5(6)June 19, 2011

I've been lurking on Gardenweb for quite some time and just found this forum. I have zero curb appeal and want to do something about it but am clueless on landscape design.

I'm interested in perennials, I don't want to have to plant every year if I can avoid it. I'm in zone 5/6 (Northern KY, seems plants from both zones do ok?)and the front of the house is in shade until mid afternoon. I'm going to try and include a pic from when I bought the place a few yrs back. I know the huge shrubs need to go (they are over 4' tall) but I'm terrified of removal since they are so close to the house.

I'll post more recent pics when the daggone rain lets up but here is what I have for now:

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I looked outside and the rain has stopped. Here are closer pics of the front of the house:

Any ideas?

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 9:10PM
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Guess no one else has any ideas on what to do with it either?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 8:08PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

I am not a pro-far from it, but I do have a couple of thoughts and maybe others will chime in to give you better ideas.

I would get rid of the pruned hedge and shrubs and put in a bed with some interesting plants in a looser form. Perhaps a Vitex at the left corner in place of what is there (wonderful blue-flowering shrub that can be pruned to tree form) and another tree out in the lawn-a Kousa dogwood maybe?
I would also extend the bed from the wall out to and surrounding your walkway from the driveway. I would plant shrubs in front of the house. Not sure what direction you face and how much sun you have, but I would consider a mix of things like hydrangea, callicarpa (purple beautyberry), azaleas, rhododendron (for mostly shade only) camellia with (if you have shade to part sun) hosta, heuchera, anemones (for fall flowers). I like depth in a front garden, not just one row of shrubs. If you layer things, it becomes more interesting, I think. Interspersing some evergreen shrubs like the rhododendron, camellia, or azalea helps.

If you want, you could even add an arbor over the garage with something climbing on it to soften that area (if you have full sun in front, then a climbing rose with clematis would be lovely, otherwise, climbing hydrangea is great).

You have a pretty house and I think you can make it even better with some added planting. Don't worry if you make mistakes-you can always dig up and change anything. I used to just go to the nursery and look for things I liked. I learned as I went. Still make mistakes, but fewer these days and the yard/garden is coming along. I hope you have as much fun as I have had!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 1:10PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Oh dear, saw you said zone 5/6. I was focused on missingtheobvious's zone 7A which is the same as mine. I don't know how well the plants I suggested do in your zone. I do know the perennials will be fine. I would definitely plant a tree out front to offer some afternoon shade as well-that hot afternoon sun will fry things. Not sure if the Vitex will grow for you, but maybe you could find something similar at your nursery (I do love that plant!).

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 1:18PM
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I've looked at this several times - piecing together the elements from left to right in the photos. Eliminating the severly shaped hedge under the windows would be my starting point. Whatever the ornamental tree is in the extreme right of the retaining wall will eventually attain some height and do some softening of that corner; maybe even give the main block of the house the appearance of more width.

You don't have the space for uprights as part of any foundation planting.

I'd be scouring the local garden centers for their recommendations - reading tags and labels for zone appropriateness, sun/shade conditions, heights and widths, etc.

If you're in an HOA controlled community, you might have restrictions about adding anything structural to the house exterior... like an arbor. I'm thinking that would lend weight to the look of the garage anyway. Something looser with maybe a cascading effect instead of the shaped shrub at the left garage corner - a nice Ninebark (Diablo or Summer Wine for burgundy foliage; Dart's Gold if you like chartreuse foliage).

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 2:12PM
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Getting rid of the hedge is already number 1 on my list. I've trimmed them back as far as I can without killing them while I look into ways to get them out. They are so close to the house that I fear the old rope and truck method. I do think I want a couple smaller shrubs though, I was thinking maybe Boxwood?

The ornamental tree on the far right of the house - I've lived here 3yrs and it hasn't grown taller in that time period. It grows outward instead :(

Love the idea of extending the bed over to the driveway, and I love the idea of an arbor over the garage but I've heard that can cause issues with rot and termite. Have I heard wrong?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 6:56PM
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Mike Larkin

Guess no one else has any ideas on what to do with it either?

You have a great house. Begin to learn about what plants grow where and how big they get. Agree with seeking some professional advise. Forums are great, but they are limited to who is reading at the time. That is why the slow response - we are all out in our gardens.
It may benefit to pay someone for a plan and you install. Some that will come to your house and take the time to look at the site, measure and has experience with what plants grow in which conditions.

rip out everything and start with a clean slate.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 7:58PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

You can probably just saw those shrubs off at the base; depending on what they are, they might not grow back.

And if they do, then either shovel-cut the roots or sacrifice a pruning saw to cut the roots through the dirt around the stump to loosen it enough to pull manually. I do doubt that yanking the whole thing out is going to hurt the foundation, but why tempt fate - do it manually.

I've even sometimes used a shop vac to vacuum dirt out of the root area so I can cut the roots with a pruner, lopper, or saw. You don't lose the soil as you can just dump it back out when you're done.

I have one pruning saw that I keep just for root cutting, so it isn't really a sacrifice.

I also don't see the point of getting professional advice - if you are so new to gardening, reading a couple of books or magazines will get you so far ahead of where you are now that you will be able to achieve the results you want. It isn't cutting edge design you're after, just a nice frame for the house. I'd consider a front yard tree or two, but waaaay out in the yard, not at the house. Near the side/fronts of the lot, but you haven't shown a full-lot photo to see where is best.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 8:59PM
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I thank everyone for their suggestions! I've talked to a few professionals, and even to my newbie ears their suggestions weren't great. All want to plant the exact same things I see in EVERYONE's yards and what reading books and the internet has taught me is that there are far more choices available to me.

karinl - I'm going to plant a tree pretty much dead in the middle of my front yard to provide both interest and shade since my bedroom windows face that way and it gets HOT in there come late afternoon. I've been searching local nursuries for the last 2yrs but again, I just keep seeing the same couple types of trees!

This is when the internet is both a curse and a blessing. I know enough to know that I can easily stand out with different things that everyone else, but not enough to know exactly what to choose.

Thanks again for your suggestions, I really appreciate it!!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 9:32PM
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I just re-did my front planting last year. I did pay for a design, and it was way more expensive than I imagined, but it was worth it. I did all of the planting though. Check out some houses in your areas. Surely you'll find someone's landscaping that will appeal to you and guide your design. My design included green gem boxwood, limelight hydrangeas, oakleaf hydrangeas, some ornamental grass, Rosanne geraniums, lady's mantle, Southern Comfort heuchera, a globe blue spruce, acer griseum maple, paperbark maple, fothergilla gardenii. I'm also in zone 5 but a northern exposure. Have a plan before you tear out your shrubs. My yard was a mess all spring and summer as I waited until my shrubs were removed before getting a designer. The design took a while because it was her busy season.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 10:47PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

If you want interesting plants, mail order is a good way to go, although you likely can't get anything shipped in mid summer as it would stress the plant. But ask on the tree forum what the best mail order sources are. You will get smaller specimens too.

You could also range just a little further afield than "local" - what happens if you drive for maybe 2 hours? I'd go that far for the right tree :-) But again, maybe not in the heat of summer.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2011 at 11:34PM
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leafy02(6 Central Kentucky)

Your house is cute and I'm with you when it comes to not having the same plantings all the neighbors do.

A book that I found very helpful when I moved to KY was Perennials for the Lower Midwest by Ezra Haggard. The photos were inspiring and he goes beyond the run of the mill choices.

Another tip for figuring out what plants do well in your area that aren't identical to your neighbors is to drive through older neighborhoods (houses from the 30's through 60's) to see what they have that you might like. Here where I live, newer homes seem to have lots of red barberries planted with yellow cypress and sky pencil hollies, whereas the older homes have hydrangeas, lilacs, fruit trees, etc.

Not to say you want hydrangeas or fruit trees, just pointing out that if we only look at houses built post 1980, we'd be missing out on a lot of what does well in our region and on a lot of tried-and-true beauties.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 8:01PM
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