Need TONS of design help

wantdreamyardJuly 30, 2012

Hi all,

I've been lurking on the forum for quite some time and dreaming of beautiful landscape like I've seen here. We now have a home of our own and can't wait to dig in. This is official my first post so I apologize in advance if it's a bit long.I'll split it up into multiple entries so that I can better address each concern.

Background info:

The previous owners did an AMAZING job with the interior decor of the house and it's very Tuscan/Parisian without being too over bearing (picture tile floors, wrought iron fixtures, grapes painted on the kitchen wall etc. We left it 95% as is and only major change we made was painting one living room wall a burnt orange.

With that in mind, we'd like to change the exterior & landscaping to add more of our personalities (we want creative, bold & colorful aka not cookie cutter)but still compliment the inside and current architecture. This is also in red clay GA so we'll need plants/design that work with such soil & temperature or advice on how to amend it for species that don't do well in clay.

I would also LOVE to get some chime ins from deviant-deziner, karinl & Yardvaark if they're available. Sorry to call you out but you've offered some great advice, mock designs & inspiration photos in several other posts that I liked.

If possible, I'd like recommendations on top choice and budget friendly options. Budget is definitely a concern but its second to overall value, ROI etc. We'd be fine with breaking it up in stages as needed and save for each one.

Thanks in advance for all the suggestions to come and patience.

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Here are pics of the front of the house looking to the street and up at the house.

-main concern here is what to do with the flower bed. It currently has a bunch of junipers which we plan on ripping out. We want to replace them with flowering perennials/bulbs with year round texture and color. The edgers & statue were placed to see how they would look against the house but they're not set in stone and we can move them to the back of the house. However, we'd like to have some sort of edging- the current ones straight up, laid down flat & stacked 2 bricks high, or try to find some landscaping stones? It also had some red mulch which we desperately need to replace so ideally want plants or changes that will work with that color mulch.
-to change the facade, toying with continuing the stone on the stairs up through the section above the door or also on the section with the 2 windows or just changing the trim color on the windows, garage & small squares along the wall.
-There's some unused space to the side of this (I'll post next) so maybe some sort of path to it would be nice
-not sure what to do about the giant tree next to the crape myrtle & rose bush. It's just overpowering to me.
-need suggestions for the 4 flower pots on the stairs (annuls are ok. Currently has, potato vines, irises, begonias & the fountain grass but they're not doing so well. Need to transplant the irises somewhere.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 2:16PM
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Here's the side of the house. It's totally obscure from the front of the house. We'd like to have it functional and cleaned up(tying the front design elements to the side) but nothing too major. Looking for ideas to cover/soften the AC unit, what to do about the green floor covering stuff (it's not really grass), and something to do with the bases of the magnolia & crape myrtle.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 2:32PM
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I am interested in what those three will come up with here too!
I know yard will like the crepe myrtle.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 9:10AM
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Part of the problem with trying to help you is that the pictures don't show what needs to be seen. You have a laundry list of things that need attention but it's unclear in the pictures where all of these things are. In your first picture, landscaping at the right of the house is obscured by plantings that are 50' away but right in front of the camera. I can't get any sense of what's right or left of the house. If you stood in the middle of the front yard and took panning shots in a 360* circle, it would help a lot for understanding what's here. In the last picture, it can't be seen how plantings relate to features of the house. It is too close-up and the aim is wrong. 'Film' is cheap. If you could add such photos to your Photobucket site, we could pick those that need to be moved to the thread. That's where I'd start.

I would definitely NOT put that edging in the front yard. It's exchanging a clean look for a junky one. If you want to set the bed apart from the lawn and reduce maintenance, look at installing a mowing strip--nothing sticking up--instead. I think the bed needs to be re-shaped but you don't really have a good picture that shows how it relates to landscaping at its right side. As far as shrubs in it goes, I'm generally opposed to covering up architectural features to any appreciable degree and see that it obliterates the lower half of the window. I'd be inclined to have only a single low groundcover and judiciously placed seasonal color and maybe some perennial doing most of the work in that area.

I can't tell if there's another tall Juniper at the right of the house, but if so, it and the one at the left of porch must go. The one that can be seen at the left is hideous.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 11:10AM
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Thanks for the response. Our camera with panorama just broke so I have to use my cell phone. it's also harder to get some shots because the huge tree is in my way (our grass area is quite small actually- 25ft at the longest length). I've uploaded some more shots. here's the left side that was cut off.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 1:18PM
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Here's a mock up drawing and more pics of the right side. It's not much better because I really have no space to step back (I was right on the big tree. The juniper & crape myrtle tops are right on each now and form somewhat of a natural fence to the area with the magnolia & ac unit. You can barely see the magnolia between them.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 1:34PM
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Not looking for you to provide a panoramic photo. What we need are enough proper shots to be able to understand your yard in a panoramic sense... to grasp a continuous flow of what's there, not just individual snapshots that don't link one area directly with the next. While it would be nice to have a full battery of proper photos, the one that is consistently and noticeably missing is from left side of yard taken across looking at the right side. You might try taking it from a couple of different distances so that the front-of-house bed (in its entirety) is clear in how it relates to the right side lot line.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 2:31PM
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It's impossible for me to get a true full shot of the bed because of the position of the big tree & small trees separating us from the neighbor.

The 1st shot in my last post is from the left side of the house & the big tree looking to right. The 2nd shot is from the right side of the big tree showing the rest of the curve that's cut from the 1st shot. I've also taken a shot from behind the crape showing the end of the bed. I asked the neighbor to take pics from their steps to try to get a bird's eye view & the best is attached.

The bed curves around the juniper and the crape is about 1.5ft away from the bed. The grass is roughly 18x25 and the bed is 26x6.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 4:56PM
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"we'd like to change the exterior & landscaping to add more of our personalities" nobody here know who you are or what you like so how do expect any help. You show the landscape that you want to change but don't offer any clues as to how. I see tons of potential but how is anything I say going to help you personalise YOUR garden?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 6:05PM
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@ inkognito
I said "to add more of our personalities (we want creative, bold & colorful aka not cookie cutter)"....I thought those were descriptive of what we like.

Re: clues as to how we want it changed- I thought I covered that in my 2nd & 3rd posts.

We just want it updated and don't have a preference to any particular plant, material or structure as long as the redesign addresses the points listed.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 6:26PM
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Not really, as 'creative bold and colorful' may itself be a "cookie cutter" how would you know it until you saw it. I shouldn't really be commenting, especially as I wasn't invited, but this is of no interest to me.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 6:38PM
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The post was addressed to anyone for suggestions but I listed the 3 of them because they consistently had inputs I liked on other posts and hoped they could chime in as well.

Maybe wrong choice of words but most of the houses around are neutral colors all over and have the same basic tree around the entrance and shrubs in the flower bed look so not cookie cutter to me meant adding more color & texture to the exterior & landscape (however that's achieved).

Bed shape & actual plants aside, this pic shows what I'm referring to in regards to variety in textures & colors I'd like to achieve.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 8:12PM
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The problem is, the house strikes me as very 'cookie cutter' not bold or colorful, so you are fighting against something that is intrinsic to the situation - how do you think you might change that? How did you change it on the interior of the house?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 8:13PM
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Sorry we were posting at the same time.

I really am trying not to be to hard on you, but the picture you posted is one of the things that really pushes my buttons. Irises, calla lilies, rudbeckia, zinnia, salvia - none of that blooms at the same times - so when they illustrate it all blooming at once it is SO misleading. In addition, many of them are annuals, so they need to be replanted each year.
(If that is an illustration from the catalogue I think it is they also sell winter hardy palm trees and continuous bloom lilacs...)

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 8:20PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Thanks for your vote of confidence, although in my case I'm afraid it's misplaced... I'm just a hands-on gardener and enjoy landscape problem-solving, but in the absence of an actual problem, and in matters that are mostly about aesthetic opinion, I am learning to defer to actual designers, and I think what you have here is mostly an aesthetic question. Your place looks pretty good as is, and as has been pointed out, your objective - putting your personal stamp on it - makes it difficult for a stranger, unless they thoroughly interview you about your preferences and how you use the spaces, to contribute.
What I can see as a gardener is that you have an interesting mixture of new plants not quite grown in, and long-since-mature plants that need skilled pruning. I suspect your POs pulled out a bunch of other overgrown stuff to sell the house, and the stuff they put in to replace it is just coming into its own. To some extent I would give some credibility to what they put in - they knew the site, and the conditions. They probably didn't want to take out all the old stock for fear of making it look a bit scalped, but you would be free to do that. Don't rip stuff out just for the sake of being different, though. Some of it is at least a good start - say, the new junipers.

What I can perhaps contribute is to point out one slight contradiction in your objectives - on the one hand you don't want cookie cutter, and on the other you are considering ROI, namely resale value - which usually means conventional plantings.

There are certain kinds of landscape decisions that a forum can help you with, and certain kinds that it can't, and of course everyone on a forum is different. What I like doing best is to help you unleash your own creative thought process, because ultimately, the thing that will put your stamp on it and make it work for you is if YOU set the course. It sounds to me as if you do mostly want to colour within the lines (of the existing beds). There's nothing wrong with that - but it's important for you to understand about yourself. It means you aren't looking to design the landscape so much as to design the existing beds in the landscape - a small but important distinction.

It may be that the best starting point for your creative process is the local nursery, to help you figure out what kind of plants that are available locally appeal to you.

Karin L

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 8:50PM
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Thanks for the feedback and you're not being hard on me.

I don't want to replant anything in that bed so annuals are a no no. The pic was just for reference to show what I meant by wanting varying textures & color and I know I'm somewhat limited on the color without annuals.

Yes, the exterior is very much typical which is why I said we're toying with changing the colors, adding stone etc The interior is what we fell in love with and has so much character- murals, venetian plaster, intricate tile & iron work throughout. You pull up to it and it's very regular but you walk in and it just transports you and we'd like it to give more of that vibe on the outside.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 8:57PM
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Thanks for checking in. You are correct that for now, the objective is to mostly redo the current beds and also redo the space on the side with the magnolia.

I'd love a totally redesign but it's hard for me to win that discussion without a concrete design/idea. If left up to me, I want to totally get rid of the tall junipers, small junipers, trim down the giant tree, maybe even replace some grass and add in groundcover along the perimeter, add some planters or art, maybe add in a walking path....

The only thing we both agree on for now is that the little junipers are going, just cannot stand them, so I figured start there.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 9:36PM
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The photo I'm looking for is taken from standing roughly where the orange is showing the zone between the blue lines and beyond in that direction...

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 10:57PM
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Hey, WantDream-
Your last post may be moving you toward your real starting point. That and the further detail you give on your home's interior.
In passing, you mention tile, ironwork, murals, and a burnt orange wall. you mention Tuscany, Paris, and Venice to describe atmosphere and various features inside.

If these are the things that made you fall in love with this house, then these are the things from which you will draw your inspiration to dream your garden.

All three of these cultures have entry garden and courtyard idioms. Not that you can do something "whole cloth" but that's where to go to seek out the pieces you might borrow or shape to your space. Be a little open ended about what's possible rather than immediately ruling things out because of what you have at present.

And, right now, I sense some sort of tension between doing something quick and fairly cheap and doing something that really moves your home up a notch in some way that is meaningful to you.

I'm not sure you can get there unless you go ahead and dream the big dream. then at least even your smallest steps, even temporary steps, will be testing and clarifying the direction and, finally, moving you toward what you are dreaming. Otherwise, you, and anyone you recruit for ideas, is working within a rigid frame.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 11:27PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Wellspring took the words out of my mouth -- study Italian, Spanish, and French gardens and you will soon be awash in garden plans. And don't be too hasty pulling things out; you may wish you still had them after doing your studies. Use this time to observe your new garden through the seasons as you play with your plan. Watch the sunny areas as they get shadier in winter, see where the water flows, what unexpected plants sprout. Be true to your house with your choice of materials, and you won't regret it.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 11:47PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I'm guessing you're located somewhere in the southeast, maybe Georgia? For what it is worth, I'd suggest that the two tall conifers at the house(junipers?), are worth keeping for scale, while the dense bushy tree down by the street either needs thinning/limbing up to make it less of a blob/visual block. The bank of lower junipers don't add much to the aesthetics of a more colorful landscape, and could easily be replaced with a selection of more interesting foliage and flowering shrubs. Even in climates more severe than balmy California, there are evergreen
shrubs with diverse foliage color and texture that can
provide year round interest. Several east coast botanic
gardens that present the range of possibilities might
include several in North Carolina, or the display gardens at Plant Delights Nursery.

Ink, don't feel insulted that you weren't called out for specific input; the OP is simply responding to the more visual postings by those listed, or the extremely detailed/wordy responses that spoke to the OP. It is the nature of this forum these days that more philosophical replies don't have much traction. It is what it is...

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 12:24AM
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@ Cat & Well
You both make a great point that it would better serve us to start with the big overall redesign and then work in stages from there. We just thought we had to do something soon.

We had made a comment about not liking the small junipers and were told to remove them sooner than later because they really dig in and become more costly to get rid of, needing a chain to pull them out. That, plus also being told that fall is the best time to make plantings, cuttings etc, is what prompted the sense of urgency to find a plan of what to do with the holes that would be left but to do something that we could then build on.

There really wasn't a rush on anything outside of that. We've been saying for outside renovations for a while since most of it won't be DIY and would prefer more lasting changes over temporary fixes. This is our second summer so we've already gotten to see a full rotation of seasons and are more than ok with pushing it out further as necessary if the juniper removal/relocating won't be a problem.

Any recommendations of sites to check? Though the general idea is the same (warm colors, pebbles, statues/vases, skinny trees, vines, water, etc) majority of what we've found are for backyards and we already have a large folder full of notes & inspiration photos for that reno. It's been harder finding pics of a front yard like ours where there's no formal walkway and the house is not surrounded by lots of green on both sides.

Thanks again to all for the inputs.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 1:03AM
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@ Yard
Here's the shot w/ me standing in the orange spot.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 10:17AM
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That last picture definitely changes one's perspective of the front yard. None of the other photos give the clue about how short it really is. It cannot be told from the photos what the plants are that separate your yard from the neighbor's drive, but it's apparent that there is the need for some screening at the upper level. Seeing the blank side of your neighbor's house is not a good feature of your yard. You've indicated a desire for a more comprehensive plan at some point, so that would definitely be something to take into consideration. It would be good to tie the front bed to plantings at the side lot line. Right now, they are separate and there is a grass path between them that leads around the corner to the side of the house. I think it would be better to end the lawn at the front yard and not let it go back into the side yard area. The side yard could be a private separate garden space or just a landscape area that is entered via a path, but lawn there seems unnecessary. Also, I find the somewhat pointed tip of the front bed where it is adjacent to the walk, to be awkward appearing. I'd get rid of that "point." It looks like my picture is using the juniper that you want to get rid of. I'm not trying to show you ANY specific plants. I'm trying to illustrate the need for a different bed shape and for screening. And I'm trying to show that plants covering half the window is not an advantage. Creating most of the interest at the side of the house and below the window would be better. What the plants actually are is yet to be addressed.

The monster Juniper at the street, as it sits, is not a plus for your house. (We still don't have a picture that explains that relationship.) After seeing a photo of how it really relates to the front of the house, I might consider exploring if it could be made into a tree. It seems that the possibility for having something unique exists. There is at least one other tree-like plant mixed in with it so how to sort it out is up in the air. We still don't know what you have there for sure. A picture taken from standing in the street showing it with the house 3/4 in the background would help.

If I were you, I'd be thinking about getting that long range, comprehensive landscape plan developed sooner than later since you're likely to be in the house for a good while. Then, implement each portion of the plan as it suits your priorities and budget. That way, your periodic efforts are always working toward a goal you can believe in at every point along the way. And you end up with something that is well thought out. If you don't feel up to the task of creating a plan yourself (with or without help) then I'd certainly get a professional involved. In the meanwhile it's fine to work on individual places as you see fit, but without a plan, you might need to re-do your previous work. (I'm not at all suggesting that you don't pursue this thread.) ...

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 12:20PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

As an aside, I can't resist pointing out how much easier it is to identify what you do NOT like than it is to put your finger on what you like or to come up with a vision.

The process of elimination is sometimes a useful method of determining what you do what to do.

Karin L

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 1:02PM
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You state that you have a full folder on what you want in your backyard. I'm going to assume you want a similar style in your front yard but a tone that's less private and perhaps more formal or welcoming. I think going through your backyard folder with a new eye may turn up photos and ideas for your front. Instead of looking at a photo and thinking you really like that deck, focus on the stairs and how they're framed. For photos of the back fence, think if some of the ideas can be translated to the bed in front of the house.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 4:06PM
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Here�s additional feedback trying to include more likes vs dislikes as Karin mentioned.

-tall trees: the addition of the tall trees looks great and we can probably place 2-3 in front of the other trees in the gaps between them. They'd have to be top heavy though so we don't cover the blooms from the small trees (sorry I don't know the name but they have some pretty pink blooms). for the tall junipers, is there a process/technique that can be done to tighten up branches & make the trees look more narrow & dense? My only main issue with them now is that they look big & sparse.

-bed: i do like the new bed shape. unfortunately our property line is about 2ft in front of the small trees so we can't extend the bed to them. also some pics are somewhat deceiving and the shrubs actually don't cover much of the window (the view from the neighbor shows it better). it's 10 tiles wide by 5 tiles long and the shrubs only come up to the 1st tile covering just over 1/5 of it. We do like the current shrubs (i think they're azeleas), would like more color either thru flowers or foliage (i like Purple Loropetalum), don't like the junipers, and want to change the bed shape. We also like the look of a tilted vase in the bed.

- side: the grass actually stops by the tall juniper. the side is shaded so grass wont really grow there. the green stuff you see is some kind of funky mossy thing that needs to go. That side won't be used too often so it would be great to have it converted to more of a decorative/ landscaped area(ie change the flooring, maybe some plants at the base of the magnolia, cover the ac unit somehow).

-street side: went to dig further into the giant tree and looks like they were 3 individual trees pruned on the inside to gel into 1 (if that makes sense). The other tree form you see next to it is another crape myrtle. don't like how the tree over powers the view from the street and dominates over the crape & rose bush. Street view attached.

-lawn: if I can be convincing enough to get a full reno, I personally think the grass is not big enough to justify the upkeep and weeds and would prefer to get rid of it. I can see extending the bed forward, adding some sort of walkway to the back, adding some ground cover like hostas under the big tree, adding some pea gravel, throwing in a small fountain/birdbath/statue etc

@ yard-When you say "comprehensive landscape plan" do mean the actual drawn plan? If so, we definitely need help with that or suggestions on software we can use to create one. I was hoping to get enough suggestions/ideas/pics to come up with a final list of likes that can then be translated into an official working master drawing for whomever does the job.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 7:11PM
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Seeing the view from the street, I don't think there's any hope for that giant juniper near the curb. And for the Torulosa junipers at the house, I don't think there is any pruning you can do that would correct their condition.

Many of the things your yard needs (or could use) depend on knowing precisely where things are located. The best you can expect here without providing precise and specific information is general suggestions. If you like a suggestion, you would need to massage it into position and make it workable.

"@ yard-When you say "comprehensive landscape plan" do mean the actual drawn plan?"

Yes. I'm saying that if you intend to hire a design professional in the future, it would be best to do it BEFORE you start making your own plans and changes to the yard, not after. And it sounds like you're ready to make some changes soon. If you intend to design it yourself, draw a plan before you start making changes. While landscape design software might help you produce a tidier looking drawing and grasp the 3-D view if it has that capability, I doubt very much it would be easier to use than pencil and paper as those programs come with their own learning curve. They do not help you be a better designer or understand plants or construction. If you'll design the yard, it is not too soon to prepare a base plan that is to scale. It would be useful now.

If hiring a designer there is not a need to create a thick file of everything that appeals to you. A few photos that indicate the style direction you'd like to go in and a list of amenities to be included will be helpful. Hire someone whose work you admire and let them do their work and bring suggestions to you. Not everything you like will fit in your yard and if you forced it, you would probably not end up with a nice landscape. A landscape is not as much about individual things as it is the way everything works together.

If this was my house and I was trying to get front yard help off of this forum, I'd cut down that Juniper at the curb, tidy up/limb up the crape myrtle that is intertwined with it, take a new picture square on of the property (from the street) and ask for suggestions.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 9:48PM
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