Ideas for a space within a driveway

cartwrijJune 29, 2010


So, we recently redid our driveway, and now we have a space within it for some type of garden. It's egg shaped, 10 feet long and a little over 6 feet at it's widest point.

We have ideas for the side yard and the rest of the front of the house... just stuck on the "egg"

I like the idea of a Japanese Maple there, but I'm concerned that even the small ones will eventually be too big for the space. I'm also considering a small fountain with a rock garden, but that's harder for me to conceptualize. Pictures are below... any suggestions are welcome.

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    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 8:19AM
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Why exactly did you leave that spot? Seems like it will be hard to maneuver around.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 11:03AM
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I keep looking at that and wonder if the cut-out seemed to "make more sense" in the planning stage than it does in reality. As it stands, a good spot for a twisted ankle or tricycle tip-over when not paying attention. For the short haul, I'd fill it in with mulch to pavement level until you decide what kind of treatment you want to give this feature.

Is that pipe for water in the event of a future fountain? There's a lot of bad garden art out there; and for something that'll be front and center in it's own concrete plaza, making a choice for the right style, height, bulk, etc. will be doubly difficult.

Even dwarf trees and shrubs are often the eventual 20' offspring of 50' parents. I'd probably consider filling up the egg to level and putting in a rock garden - might not make the visual impact you were hoping for, but you wouldn't have to constantly be aware of where you were putting your feet.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 12:50PM
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Thanks for the input. The idea was to break up the space so it isn't a mass of concrete and to provide an actual path for people to walk to the house from the street, it was originally larger - but then we couldn't fit 2 cars side by side, so this ended up being the compromise. It works quite well functionally -- we can fit 2 cars side by side and step out onto the driveway without hitting that spot, and it creates a definable walkway for guests to use when visiting.

The pipe is to pull in electricity if we ever want it. A just in case feature.

The yard grade was 6 inches below the driveway in that particular spot, so that's why it's not level with the driveway, the goal is to have it at driveway level, whatever we decide to do there.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 1:31PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

You might want to look at photos of garden water features. Ask at your public library; if they don't have anything, they can obtain books for you through their Interlibrary Loan service (often free, but sometimes involving a small fee).

Or search Google Images for phrases like "small water feature," "garden water feature," "fountain rock garden," etc. Most of the results will be much larger scale than you have room for, but they'll give you ideas. Print or save the photos you like the best. What do they tend to have in common?

To get an idea how the "egg" will seem when it's full of fountain or plants or a tree -- or whatever -- begin by putting something there temporarily: the pots on your porch; a 4' tall cardboard box or stack of boxes (freebies from the grocery); the next potted plants you buy at the nursery; a tall pole or pruned branch; someone holding a patio umbrella; etc. Put something inside the "egg" to give it a bit of height and drape it with something green: how do you react to the color there? Is it better to have green plants there or neutral rock colors? Something lower or higher, wider or narrower? Try a brightly-colored bedsheet: how would you feel about an "egg" filled with blooming annuals?

View these experiments from different angles: how does each affect the view of the house from the street? from the driveway? How does it appear when walking toward the house? What height will hide the view of the house number on the porch roof? Try too the view from inside the house, both from the front door and from the window to the left of the front door.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 2:20PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

If you do missingtheobvious's experiment (good idea...!) and decide something tall and colorful might work, consider finding an interesting metal tripod/obelisk or two and grow some clematises on them. The clematises that do best for me are the ones in closest contact with a lot of concrete! I really think they like a lot stronger alkaline conditions than is usually stated. While clematis would not be evergreen, if you can get some interesting structures for them to climb on, the 'naked' frames would be winter interest.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 2:51PM
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Thank you very much for the suggestions. I like the idea of mocking things up in the space. I'm not very good at visualizing things in my mind, so anything to help is great!

We have a great clematis growing in the backyard, and they seem to do well in our soil here.. (northern Virginia)

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 5:54PM
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The oval is fine. It is just that it needs context built in and around it. I would not go with anything very high because it will compete with he columns and entry to the house.

If drainage does not go there, a convex soil surface with a lot of color might be nice. You could support that with a little nore of the same in the crook of the outside curve (on the right) of the walk. That might help it look like a walk going through a planting instead of a hole in the driveway.

A large planting bed way off to the right in the picture would help, but I'd let the lawn push back into the middle of the house like it does now. A good size tree over to the right might rame the center of the house as well.

I think it is a start to what can be a very nice approach to landscaping the house. Something about this driveway/walk is really working well to take the attention off of the cars and driveway and brings me to the front door. That is a really good thing that is hard to pull off on a small lot with a big driveway.

I think this pavement, including the oval, has done more to support your landscape than it has left you to overcome. (... not easy to overcome scrolling past the rainbow sherbet to look at the original picture, though... wth?)

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 8:35PM
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Suggestion - Put a wall and bench on the driveway side of the oval as a clear traffic divider and fill the remaining bit of oval with paving that matches the driveway. Or put the wall down the middle with a rounded bench on either side, filling the oval. Add a couple of low voltage or solar lights to mark the walk areas at night. has some ideas.

That gives you a place to put parcels, sit and watch the kids, etc. And it doesn't need weeding, planting or anything. If you want plants, put them in pots on the wall.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 9:09PM
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I think one thing that is throwing people off is that that driveway and walkway are made of the same material, so the hole stands out as a blank spot. In fact having such a bed flanked by driveway and sidewalk to front door is very common method of joining a frontdoor to a driveway via a pathway. Usually though the walk and drive are different materials.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 10:48PM
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dsb22(z7 VA)

I do really like the way the drive curves, and how the color and pattern look with the house's roof. I agree with Laag that whatever goes there should be low or it will compete with the front of the house. On the other hand, are the toys and strollers usually on the porch? (I have a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old so I'm sympathetic.) If they are usually there, then what about a planting that includes a medium size, solid shrub at the rear? Does one exist that could tolerate a decent amount of shade (based on the fact that the hostas look happy?) It could be deciduous, since I imagine everything is inside when it's cold. A dwarf Japanese maple cultivar wouldn't be too big for the spot. However I think an tree (Upright JM or dogwood?) would look best on the right side of the house, off center so it doesn't entirely block the windows.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 6:52AM
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rosiew(8 GA)

I'm so glad you had the foresight to include the possibility of running electricity to this. Have you considered a 'pondless fountain'? The buried receptacle for the pond would be covered with a perforated protective 'lid' topped with smallish stones with an opening for the submerged pump to splash the water. Minimal care required. Water can be easily added to keep the level right.

Truly admire what you have done. And HTH.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 8:30AM
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Thanks for all the suggestions!

We do clean up the strollers and bikes occasionally, but the reality is that at any given time, there's likely to be some toys or something there.

To answer some questions, the 'egg' gets pretty much full sun, good eye on the hostas. We had a large bush that shaded it, but it was badly damaged in the snow we had this winter, so I just removed it. I'm going to transplant the hostas to shadier areas... for now, I'm just keeping them plenty moist.

The plan for the foundation along the front of the house. Right next to the porch I'm thinking of a hinoki koster cypress, at the corner a virbunum, and at the edge of the photo in front of the house a kousa dogwood. I'll fill in the areas with some smaller evergreen plants... I should have that done in the next week or two.

I'm looking into the Sharp's pygmy japanese maple which supposedly only grows 2-4 feet... but I have my doubts about that.

Thanks again for all the great suggestions!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 3:41PM
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