Can you steer me in the right direction?

suzanne_slJune 9, 2012

I've been hanging out over in Kitchens, and sometimes Baths, Plumbing, and Electrical for a while, and we now have those things under control. Which brings us to the front of the house. It's never been interesting or attractive, and I'd like it to be. It's not just a question of what to plant, it also involves a house which has no architectural interest whatsoever and a front entry which is generally ignored. Over the years we've replaced all the windows, re-stuccoed, re-done all the concrete walkways around the house, and re-roofed a couple of times. We re-sloped the front yard so the water which comes from above us flowed out to the easement road rather than down the hill to collect under that neighbor's house. I stood on the easement road to take this photo. The actual road is one more property downhill to the left parallel to the house. We added the fireplace, hence the chimney. Years ago my DH built a deck onto the front of the house (that's what's behind that hedge) which replaced the three concrete steps up to the front door. The steps are still under the deck-they separated from the house early on, but are still there. No one ever uses the front door or the front deck-it was just an attempt to make the front look better. Yes, the hedge is two different kinds of plant; they were on sale during a year in which we had little kids and littler income. There were Italian Cypruses out there when we bought the house, and even a two-tone hedge is better than they were.

After coming here a couple of months ago, I began looking up local landscape design people. The descriptions they gave of what they do didn't really match what we need. So I looked up architects and that really wasn't right. The other issue is that the architects tend to feature the marvelous things they do in Rancho Santa Fe and La Costa where houses start at $1M for the cheapies. This house is valued at just under $300,000 these days, which is appropriate to the neighborhood. Landscape design seems to divide between RSF multi-acre gardens and the guys who come out to cut the lawn, which I don't actually think of as landscape design no matter what their website says.

So, can you steer me in the right direction to find the kind of professional who can come up with a design appropriate to the house and property?

We tend to be DIY folks, but not for the things above our competence level: we installed our own kitchen cabinets, but we hired an electrician to wire all the new lights, we re-sloped the yard, but we hired the concrete guys to do all the walkways and patio. That pile of stuff on the front "lawn" is woodchips from the city recycling place that we used as mulch under the plants in the foreground. That area looks quite nice these days - except for those stupid Irish Bells I planted five years ago which magically reappear each spring!! I didn't like them after the first year, but they are certainly persistent.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Replace the all shrubs,redo the frame.for saving my time,I post a un-render pic.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2012 at 11:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Boy do I understand your situation!
My suggestion would be to ask at a garden center for some direction. Not at the big box store but at an actual nursery center.

Often times they have people on staff for this sort of thing, if not they might be able to make some suggestions.

Another consideration is to make some calls to those landscape design people. They, of course put their best and most inspiring projects front and center on the web site and brochures, but they also do smaller scale jobs too. Don't let all that fancy stuff put you off.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 10:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hard to tell from the photo angle and lightpost pillar, but is there a cutaway in the hedge for a side entrance in front of the garage... seems to be a shadow for another entry there?

My initial thoughts would be - right now would I be happier with architectural changes to the house or leaving the house as is for an interesting yard. Assuming they wouldn't necessarily be tandem projects and you seem to be unhappy with both.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 11:02AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the ideas!

Melvalena, we do have one garden center in the next town over and there's the Armstrong nursery over by Legoland and the flower fields; they might have an idea. Hadn't thought of that, thanks.

Duluth, there's no entry by the side of the hedge. I think you're just seeing overgrown hedge. That wall is the end of the living room. We have the front entry in the center front, an entry from the garage to the dining room, and a sliding patio door from the kitchen/dining room to the back. We use the two kitchen entries all the time, but tend to open the front door just to let the breeze in.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 11:34AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Don't automatically count out landscape architects (especially if, as you suggest, there are drainage issues in play). Did you actually contact any of them? Just because they've done big expensive properties doesn't mean they won't also do smaller projects. Some garden centers have decent design people, but, in my experience, they're often plant pushers rather than problem solvers. Give the landscape architects a chance, I say.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2012 at 11:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

I'd be a bit unsure if a garden-centre-type landscaper would be the right answer here, especially if, as MaryMd suggests, they end up being garden centre employees or on contract with the centre. So I'd echo the suggestion to ask the fancy specialists with serious qualifications who aren't affiliated with a plant seller - the worst they can do is say no.

I will say that I think you might be architecturally selling your house short. I can't see the whole thing well, but if you hang around the forum a bit you will see what some other people are working with and appreciate that you have a house with good lines, commodious proportions, and really quite a welcoming appearance.

Karin L

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 12:11AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Brad Edwards

I don't like the look of chainlink fences at all, but love them as trellises :). They grow determinant tomatoes fairly well, not to mention jasmine, morning glories, honesuckle, etc. depending on location.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 1:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

There are some very skilled and talented people who work for nurseries. They fill a much needed service for the average homeowner and yes, some of them actually have degrees just like the architects and designers. They aren't all "plant pushers". That has been my experiance here where I live.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 8:29AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I'd be a bit unsure if a garden-centre-type landscaper would be the right answer here, especially if, as MaryMd suggests, they end up being garden centre employees or on contract with the centre.

And why would not these folks be able to offer appropriate advice or develop an attractive, workable plan? Much as melvalena notes, there is as much opportunity to obtain highly skilled design service through a retail garden center association as anywhere else. I happen to be involved in such an association - I am employed by the nursery as a horticultural consultant onsite 4 days a week at the nursery and through my personal business, do landscape design and consultation for nursery customers. fwiw, I have several degrees and a number of certifications, as I am sure a good number of other garden center designers are likely to have. I do not design full time as I find it rather mentally draining and I am no longer physically able to do any actual landscape work. I am also not a "plant pusher", although many of my clients do frequent my nursery, largely because of the variety and quality of the product they offer, but they are under no obligation to purchase anything here.

Vague generalities about the quality or skill set of designers with retail nursery associations are not particuarly valid nor do they serve any benefit to forum visitors who may be mislead by such misinformed opinions. As when hiring any design professional regardless of source, ask to view their body of completed work/portfolio to confirm they can produce what you want and make sure you can establish a good working rapport.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 3:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Read again folks -- I said there are decent design people in some retail garden centers. Just know what you're getting into, because there are plenty of plant pushers out there. My caution about retail garden center design services was no more broad brush than the dismissal of all independent landscape design and architect operations as being too high tone for smaller home projects.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 5:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Sorry, I thought it was clear it was not your comment I was objecting to. That's why the direct quote was included.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 6:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
karinl(BC Z8)

Ah, my apologies that I did not suitably qualify my comment, Gardengal. I was thinking back to some examples we've seen, for example the guy with the turret, who posted the plan from the garden centre designer that was spectacularly unimaginative, failed to incorporate the homeowners' most basic stipulations, and included about 4x as many plants as would be required to make a nice space.

Like anything of this nature, we make generalizations - for example, we often say you won't find staff with expertise in big box stores, or that you will find staff with expertise in independent nurseries. In truth, neither of these statements is universally true - I have found exceptions to both. And so it isn't true to say that garden centre designers either would or would not be the right people. I simply wanted to put up a yellow flag, not a red light.

My reason for picking up on the advice in this case was that the OP seems to be searching for a certain... is the phrase "genius loci?" Someone to pick up and unleash the magic of the space, shall we say. And the use of the space is unusual, given the deck in front. Not a standard foundation planting, not a standard island bed, not a standard row of arbs. So I think my point was that even if she goes through a nursery and gets a recommendation, she still has to check that she's got the right person.

Thank you for pointing out that I didn't manage to make my point :-) and I hope you can forgive me.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 8:07PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

There are fantastic, mediocre and crappy arse people in all professions.
It is up to the consumer to do their research, ask questions and educate themselves.

The last few years have been economically tough on almost everybody in some form or another.
The construction and landscape industry has been especially hard hit.

I think we all know talented and over qualified people working at coffee houses, clerical jobs and nursery centers. They are collecting an honorable paycheck and offering a job that is valued, otherwise we/ the public wouldn't be seeking their product/ service.

I think it is well worth the time to contact a nursery center if you want a planting plan.
I also think it is worth it to contact a landscape architect / designer too.

Just be sure to check out their portfolio, ask for current references and inquire about their skill sets, and how their company involves itself selling plants and offer warrantees .
.... you know, basic consumer stuff that the regular joe/jill should know.

If you are new at purchasing services or goods there are wonderful resources out there called a library or the internet to help you educate yourself.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 11:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Searching within 25 miles of where I used to live (92020) turned up 12 designers. That's a good place to start.

A landscape designer or a landscape architect is your best place to start. Since you're a DIYer, someone affiliated with a design-build company is probably not going to be interested in your project, as their goal is to sell design to sell the install. So an independent is who you want.

The "size of house" issue is one we all struggle with in our marketing. My website features my bigger projects because those make people go "oooh, want" and they don't require explanation. I do plenty of small projects, both because revenue is revenue and because at the end of the day - I'm in this because I like solving problems. As long as someone is willing to pay me for my time, I'll design a miniature formal garden for a chicken coop. Don't let fancy pictures put you off.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2012 at 8:28AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks all for the suggestions. Marcinde, thanks for the tip on the APLD, I'd never have known they existed. Looking now.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2012 at 10:20PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Landscaping ideas - Need help with suggestions of plants please
We would like to seek help in filling our concrete...
New construction landscaping
I am looking for any suggestions for low maintenance...
Raised Garden Bed Construction Help
Hello Everyone! What wonderful help! I've built about...
Garden Chickee
Help with frontyard design changes
Hi, I’m in the process of replacing turf in my front...
Sponsored Products
Designers Fountain 9185 Alhambra 8 Light Island in Natural Iron Finish - 9185-NI
$718.00 | Hayneedle
Heller | Bocca
Round Natural Stone Bathroom Sink
Illumine Outdoor Lanterns. 1-Light Black Clear Beveled Glass Hanging Lantern
$80.00 | Home Depot
Minimalist Nesting Tables
$269.99 | Dot & Bo
Arrock Granite 40 Round Outdoor Bollard by SLV
$534.00 | Lumens
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™