Ideas to replace spirea (pics!)

wifiskerJune 6, 2011

Hi everyone.

I'll be the first to admit I'm a novice gardener and I'm terrible at landscape design. I know what I like when I see it but I can never seem to replicate it, or I over-crowd because it all looks so bare and small when the plants are still scrawny.

Anyway, last summer I transplanted a couple princess spirea shrubs from the front of the house where they were crowded to the side of the house where it's south facing and they have more room. They didn't do so well and although they both have new leaves they look awful so I plan to dig them out and put something new and more full in their spots. Ideally something with a little color.

The link includes pics. The two spirea I'd take out are mostly sticks (one looks better than the other.) They're surrounded by russian sage, sedum, golden pillar barberry, red twig dogwood and a weigela (wine and roses maybe?) further down the side of the house a few feet away. They were all planted just last summer so they're still kind of sparse.

Any ideas for what to put in the spots where I take out the spirea OR any other suggestions for this mess? :) Thank you!

Here is a link that might be useful: Side of house landscape photos

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If it helps any, I've been looking at neon flash spirea, Invincibelle hydrangea or potentilla as possibilities. I'm not committed to any of them if you have better suggestions. Pretty pleeeaaase.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 10:06PM
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trovesoftrilliums(5) reply to this disappeared.

Basically, taller, more upright plants would probably look better here than the mounding type plants you have and are considering. You have a lot of exterior wall space below your window, and some vertical plants would give a more pleasing look whereas mounding shrubs down low will tend to emphasis the expanse of wall.

Some hydrangeas grow into a more vase like shape. There are also columnar evergreens of all sorts. Now, I do not think you want a solid row or upright plants--that would look like a sentry of guards at attention. You might want to arrange the taller plants with regard to the windows or the corner of your house.

When you find pictures of gardens you like, try to find planting plans that go with them. Also, note the particular plants you find pleasing. If you keep an ongoing list, or clip our/print pictures of designs you prefer, eventually you will figure out the way that look is achieved.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 12:27PM
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Thanks so much for the input. Your feedback was helpful because I was on a totally different train of thought... that the upright golden pillar barberry and upright russian sage on either side would require a more horizontal/mounding type in between to break up the row of similar shapes. (Also, trying to keep the slightly lower shrubs toward the front to not cover up the others behind them.) Maybe that's not the right way of looking at it?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 2:56PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Heavens yes, you've got tons of airspace there to fill, and also it seems you could go deeper with the bed so the plants don't have to grow in 2-dimensional fans. I'm thinking Physocarpus Diabolo would look great there, and I would probably be putting in at least three shrubs with quite a bit more height than the things you're thinking of. I'd also be putting several perennials among the shrubs; it is far too bare along there and you could really have some fun. The perennials can die out if they must as the shrubs grow.

BUT my perennial question applies. Why are your plantings glued to the foundation of your house? This is your yard, right? If you want plants to break up the wall or shade the house, you can grow a much nicer installation if you let go of the edge of your lawn and place some plants in the middle of it. Your plants will grow better (more evenly due to getting even light), you can choose more variety including a tree or two, and you aren't stuck with a linear arrangement. You can still have a foundation bed if you must, but I don't really see the reason for it.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 5:28PM
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From the pics I kind of thought something nice and tall on that front corner could be good with the bed extended out more. Actually more of a tree off the corner. But, it is really hard to tell from pics. :) What is that taller plant next to the sedum (I think) on the corner and how far is it from your foundation?

Those barberries probably only get 4-5 feet. I am thinking of some plants along the lines of 8 ft. But, for that would need a wider bed.

Right it looks as though you have shrubs and perennials at the same depth of the bed. I'd try to get a solid shrub background and if you'd like perennials in front, make the bed wider to accommodate them.

Of course, the options are endless. How do you feel about trellises? Espalier fruit trees? :D

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 11:16PM
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alameda/zone 8

I have a long tall wall that I utilized a birdbath, tall trellises planted with everygreen star jasmine. Tall junipers, or sky pencils might give height, grasses can give a nice softness and I used a mixture of tall, medium and short plants to give depth and interest, mixing in flowers for color.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 3:01AM
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concretenprimroses(4B NH)

I see a 4 by your name. Are you in zone 4? Some of the suggestions won't work here in Z4.
I recommend that you enlarge the bed to make it deeper.
My two favorite shrubs here in NH: 1) Rhododendron schlippenbachii is deciduous and has pale pink flowers in spring as the vaguely oaky leaves come out. Then the leaves turn bronzy in the fall. It grows to be about the size of a lilac tho a bit broader at the top and narrower at the bottom. I have a clematis growing in mine which produces purple flowers in its branches in early summer. If I had it to do over I would have chosen a lighter colored clematis that would showup better against the leaves. The flowers may be too pale up against your house. You would have to be the judge of that. Maybe there is a darker version than mine. 2) Daphne x burkwoodii "Carol Mackie" has heavenly scented white flowers in late spring and pretty little varigated cream and green leaves. It doesn't grow tall (only 2 feet or so) but gets broad. Don't plant it where you pile snow, it breaks.
If you decide to follow the advice to get a tree, I have to tell you that we love our star Magnolia. We trained ours to only 2 trunks. It is a gorgeous ornamental tree, covered with white flowers in early spring. Birds love the fruits which are highly nutritious for them. It is one of only several magnolias that bloom in Z4.
Have fun. Its ok to experiment and learn as you go. The wiegela sounds lovely.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 4:34PM
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If you don't use the side yard much, what about rosa rugosa? They can get big - like 8' tall - but they are really pretty in the summer when they bloom. But they are extremely thorny and look like beige torture devices in the winter. I love them, but you'd want to interplant with some evergreens.

I think you've gotten good advice to "go big" in this space. A redbud tree would look awesome against the color of your house. And they are tolerant of Zone 4.

I'd also consider a dramatic weeping form of a an evergreen, like a weeping Norway spruce. I am not usually a fan of these, because I think people cram them into small spaces with busy backgrounds. But in this spot, where you have a pretty simple backdrop, it could be just the thing to add some year-round interest. Just don't crowd it with 67 pieces of yard-art and 14 bird baths :)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 6:43PM
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Thank you all so much for the ideas! Yes, I'm in zone 4/5. And for the person who asked about the taller shrubs at the corner - I have a red twig dogwood at either end of the house and I think they're supposed to get about 8' tall if I remember correctly. All plants are new either this year or last so they still look pretty small.

You're all setting me in a completely different path which is just why I asked. I have a bad history of crowding too much together so I guess I was trying to avoid that this time but it seems that more height is the way to go. I do also want to add in some perennials to fill it out more but will wait until I have the larger shrubs chosen first. So if I put in some tall shrubs to give it more height I just need to decide which ones. I'm so indecisive that alone could take days. ;)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 9:27PM
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Lace-leafed elderberries would be beautiful here. Not only do they provide height, but mass as well.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2011 at 12:44AM
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