From Walkway to Side Yard Gate - What to do?

newhomeowner2011aJuly 10, 2012

What would you do with this space?

(already have green hostas, variegated hostas, incredibal hydrangeas and yews in front yard - annuals incl red geranium ivy)

(view of house from front so you can see if balance is needed - arborvitae on left side surrounded by incredibal hydrangeas and some variegated hostas) - house will eventually be painted all white! :-)

Just had fence put in and trellis over gate (which still needs a handle/latch). I had fallen in love with the "t trellis" idea and family did the fence created this. I like it but do not love it as much as I did the pictures I showed them (doesn't have posts showing for something to grow up from the front view/angle). Don't have heart to tell them but I'm not loving it... :(

Anyway, torn on whether to cut down or leave and hope I can get ramblin red rose (climbing) to grow up front to make it look like we have posts on this side.

Also could put red rose bush where hostas currently are (can move these to side yard where we need something).

I need to do new pathway from front walk thru gate - was thinking flagstone - previous owner had grass.

And clearly the yew needs to be moved away from house to allow for more growth in the future.

Please advise on plants to put on right side of yard (yew to stay and hopefully eventually be even across entire front of house). I also welcome suggestions for walkway material (grass, decomposed granite w/ flagstone steps or mulch with flagstone steps, etc.)


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I would make a wide flat stone path (whatever is local) so you can use the gate without tracking mud all over. Then plant ground cover that can stand a bit of foot traffic.

The trellis is cute, but way too tiny for the scale of the house, and it prevents full use of the gate for bringing in large objects.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2012 at 10:15AM
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Would you put those green hostas on the right side of the pathway or move them out of the front yard?

Do you think a red rose bush instead to the right side of the gate (take out all green hostas) would look nice there or do you think I should try to train the ramblin red rose to go up and eventually go to where the trellis is and just have the pathway (no plants in front of the right side of the gate)?

And large objects into the backyard isn't an issue - we have a back gate too - this is just for entry/exit for our guests for bbq/outdoor parties.

Do you think it would look better w/o the trellis?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 12:38AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I can't quite put my finger on what is wrong with that structure; perhaps it needs to become a 3D arbour? Either going forward or going back, add two more posts and more beams? Could look kind of bandaid if not well planned though. Or does it need to extend the full width of the fence?

Maybe if you show us the inspiration photo?

If there is no hope of adding to the structure (and relationships are far more important than landscaping), it is possible you could plan your planting to somewhat obscure its actual size - maybe some tall narrow shrubs or columnar trees beside it that clematis could ramble up and over the trellis.... Personally if this is a gate you'd go through much, a rose over it would have limited appeal to me - snags. So I'd tend to do shrubs - maybe columnar yew if you like yews.

The containers on your steps are too wide and look like barriers, or tripping hazards to me. Maybe you could do the whole area toward the gate in flagstone or brick as a courtyard, and put a feature container in the corner next to the stairs to get that container vibe.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 12:48AM
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A simple curving walk to the gate would look nice out of the same brick as the main walk. Start at the end of that bottom step. It would probably look best if of uniform width, but you could determine on site if you wanted to taper it. Extend the basketweave pattern and cut the edge as needed. Would need a soldier or sailor border at inside and outside edge.

The thing that bothers me about the arbor is that posts are set so tight to the width of the gate... when anything grows on them it will impede into the gate opening space. It looks like it would not be a difficult remodel to move the posts to within a couple of inches to where the angled cut begins...even if you have to dig it up and reset in concrete. Given that the posts are on the back side of the fence, it would look dorky to try to grow the vine on the front side.

Totally agree with Karin that the planters on the steps not only look bad but dangerous, too.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 8:33AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I was drafting while you were posting, didn't see your questions. I am really not a fan of that particular type of hosta, nor of a mass of them in any location, so in my hands those would hit the compost pile pretty quickly. A rose, perhaps with some attractive companion plants, would look better. Or perhaps you have somewhere where you simply need to cover ground - back alley?

Looks to me like the arbour posts are the gateposts, so not changeable. So don't use the uprights for the vines to come up. What you could do is put a string from each end of the fence(top) to the ends of the arbour, and plant your vine(s) as far away from the gate as you can... this allows the vines to angle up to get to the arbour and will visually obscure just how long/short the arbour section is.

But an arbour does not HAVE to have plants on it; it can just be architectural. The main problem is that it is all alone out there, and the eye makes a beeline for it. Imagine if a small tree were in the side yard right behind it with branches touching, and also a taller plant - not sure if your rose would be that - or group of plants preceding it in the front yard. The arbour would simply become one of a group, not the only tall one attracting the eye like a mega-magnet. Also, it will fade with time (if it is not coated with anything).

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 12:50PM
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Fair amount of traffic on the "other" side - picture from the inside too.

Here is a link that might be useful: from the Home Decorating forum

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 1:06PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

If you don't have the heart to tell your family member that you don't love the arbor over the fence then you need to screen it. The sooner the better.

The reason why it looks less than wonderful is that it is disproportionate to the size of the other wood members. the cross beam is way too wide. It is actually a very easy fix.
Take it down, lay out a nice pattern that is proportionate to th other wood members and cut it to shape. re set it.

Here is an example of proportionality of wood members. I did not design this, had it readily available . normally you start with a larger member on the bottom , say a 2x6 and then the wood elements get smaller as you start stacking them - the next size would be a 2x4, then 2x2's.... as you stack from the bottom beam upwards.

Another common mistake is placing the last stack too close to the end of the beam. Keep it set back so that you have ample wing.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 1:13PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

There are some good comments on the HD side too, and the inspiration photos do make one of them clear - the gate is not delineated from the fence at all. In all the inspiration photos of such a trellis, the gate is curved and/or uses different boards from the fence. Perhaps altering the gate slightly is the easiest fix you could do and it would not hurt feelings... because it makes it hard for your visitors to see that there is a gate or to find it (a latch alone is not going to solve that problem).

What is really wrong with the trellis is that it does not APPEAR to be over a gate at all. It just looks like it's stuck on the fence at random.

If it's possible to drop the gate down about 8 inches, that would help without touching the trellis at all. That, and plantings to de-emphasize the narrow posts.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 1:26PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Proportion and the invisible gate, you all have figured it out. How to easily fix? If you could replace the supporting posts with more stout 6x6s or whatever two sizes up would be, that alone would improve the heft of the arbor. To better define the gate, perhaps add some bolder hardware? A big metal handle, some big strap hinges (I only see the bottom one in your pix), hey, even a (faux) letter box, or a repurposed brass name plate, why not? (I can see it now: BOILER ROOM, or 1st CLASS ONLY.) ;-)

Even if you do nothing, the whole thing will look better when it weathers to gray. Right now that brand spankin' new look is a big contrast to the mature looking house. When you grow something on it -- thornless! ...maybe some kind of jasmine, that can obscure some of the proportional flaws.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 4:50PM
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daisychain01(zone 3)

I like the look of something completely different if you're adding to the walkway. I like the look of something organic like the flagstone suggested above.

I don't mind the trellis. I think, as suggested above, that adding a vine and something on either side will help it to blend in. I grew virginia creeper up one side of a small pergola to make it look better while my slower growing vine went up the other. The plan was to eventually take out the vc, but the other died and I'm happy with the way the vc looks (just have to cut it back every year.)

Could you convince your family member to cut a curve into the top of the gate? That would help it to look more gate-like. That as well as more obvious hardware.

You have a beautiful home and the fence will weather and the trellis will look great with something growing on it.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 11:42PM
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Old walkway was made of grass and tapered. I agree, I like it to be uniform width and yes, curved.

Our plan is to replace the brick with concrete in the spring so we don't want want to use brick for this pathway - maybe flagstone as it was suggested? Do you use landscape edging with flagstone if I use grass or another ground cover as the "filler?" What about if we used decomposed granite? I like this look -
Think it suits this space?
How about this -
Wonder which is easier to lay out and then to keep up...

And you are correct - relationships are far more important than landscaping which is why I'm struggling with the pros/cons of the situation.

Steps are crumbling behind containers on steps which is why these containers are there. I didn't want anyone to walk on the crumbling parts anymore - steps to be replaced in the spring and containers removed at that time! (maybe nice/more plants in them would help until then though?)

Yes - trellis/arbor posts are the gate posts and not changeable - even adding 2 more posts is out of the question. (I originally wanted 4 but they nixed that idea...)

Karin - I'm intrigued with the string idea. So you are saying to put string from the other posts on the ends to the tip of both sides of the trellis/arbor? (note there will eventually be caps on the post next to the house and the one on the corner - just an fyi).
Do you think cutting the crossbar so it isn't 12 inches wide would help? And then maybe putting it up not as high up above the gate? Another idea many have suggested is altering the gate but I'm not sure how hard that is for the guys to fix so I'd have to look more into that.
There are 2 strap hinges but they covered part of the top one w/ the board across the top. We don't have a handle or latch on it yet but it will be on there soon - maybe that will help?

deviant-deziner - as mentioned above, I agree it is too wide - the bars across the top are 2x4's so maybe 6" is more proportional vs. the 12" it currently is? Would you take off the end stacks? Where did you get yours premade? We looked around but didn't have much luck hence me having him make it... I'd love to see your entire fence - it looks beautiful!

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 12:49AM
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A lot of you suggest vines that I'm not familiar with so I need to look more into them.

Question - if we are going to grow something up the trellis/arbor and fence, should we seal it to make it last longer first? The neighbors have agreed to split the hiring of someone to stain with that thought in mind - anyone know if this is in fact true?

Also, the neighbors are going to grow a vine up their side of the fence they have told us - maybe we should just let it take over the entire fence? (shame to let so much hard work be covered but maybe it would look best???)

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 12:55AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

The string would only be needed to initially train a vine to grow from the other posts to the trellis. Once the vine has found its way, the string would be redundant.

The romantic ideal of growing a vine over a gate does require some maintenance, and some of them (clematis for instance) have a winter downside. But I think the vine would help to overcome the results in this particular installation that have caught you by surprise.

I know just how that feels. It seems like every project we do around our house, we get an "aha" moment as soon as we're finished. But sometimes the competing needs that influence a project simply don't allow a perfect outcome, and actually it seems those things create what ends up being a house's "personality."

Your trellis and gate are by no means unattractive, and a bit of plant material around or over them will have them blending in seamlessly in no time. I think there is value in just figuring out what is making you dissatisfied, but there is no obligation to fix or change those aspects, and often it just isn't possible, or worth the time and effort (and in this case, conflict). Whether you decorate the gate a bit to emphasize its presence will depend on whether you decide you need people to easily find it or not.

I am not a fan of sealing/painting. In my climate the wood lasts adequately without it, and as has been pointed out, if plants are growing on the fence, it will be hard to refinish. You will be able to decide how much vine growth is right as it grows.

By the way, thank you for explaining the planters in the other thread. I think with the number of projects you have on the go, fixing an already very good trellis and gate could understandably take a back seat. Also, your new thread about your back yard on the HD forum has reminded me why I thought I recognized your screen name - I remember your back yard project, which alone would be keeping a lot of people busy :-)

I'm not sure I like flagstone for the side walkway, especially if you are going to be replacing the front sidewalk with concrete. Flagstone requires some maintenance no matter how you lay it - the question would be, do you want to be weeding, or mowing/edging.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 9:06AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I would recommend removing, down-sizing/narrowing, and replacing the wide board on the arbour top if it is possible to do that. I was just out looking at my clematis-covered south gate arbour. The clematises climb the front panels of the arbour wings before they sprawl over the top. While there is some hanging-down from the top, the horizontal board at the top of the arbour is still quite visible, so I doubt that a vine will totally solve the problem of that board looking/being too wide.

I used to grow a combination of roses and clematis on the abour. We removed the roses in 2010 because they were too vigorous, dangerous for people passing through the arbour (too thorny!), and difficult/painful(!) to prune and control. Now we just have clematises and we're happy with that. We grow the group 3 - hard prune - types but leave them unpruned, which gives us lots of coverage and lots of flowers. When/if we need to (e.g. when we took out the roses, or if we wanted to repaint the arbour), we can prune the clematises down hard and they quickly rebound. So I would not recommend roses for the abour.

I'm wondering about the roses and hosta issue - usually if there's enough sun for roses, it's too much for many hostas. Your zone probably makes is easier to grow hostas in sunnier conditions. What are the light conditions in the arbour area? BTW - I like hostas in masses but I like the big, blue ones - they have a lot more impact I think than the smaller green ones that, to me, look best as part of smaller 'pictures'.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2012 at 11:23AM
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How about something like this walkway? the bed on the right is covered in marble stone, the walkway is done in 1" shells.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 9:41AM
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I have done the edging from the front walkway to the gate on both sides but nothing more. I am leaning towards flagstone (a white one - someone said something about Eden?). Anyway, I guess the question now is to continue mulch from the "yew" side or continue grass from the opposite side to go in between the stones. I also like decomposed granite but think that might be too many different textures in such a small space. Grass is likely the easiest option from a maintenance standpoint, correct?

I have since removed all of the hostas from the right side of the walkway so there is now just sod/grass there. Plan to put in tree on right side of house (if looking from street) hopefully this spring.

I should post an updated pic too with the hardware on the gate - it does make it look A LOT better b/c like many of you said, the #1 problem was that nobody knew it was supposed to be a gate! ;) There are plans to decrease the width of the horizontal board and lower it but that will have to wait until my FIL is back in town in the spring :) Still debating doing an arch in the gate door to make look even more like a gate but was going to decrease/lower the t-trellis first and then see what I think (one step at a time!)

Thanks again for all of your ideas!!!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2012 at 11:07PM
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