Ideas for front yard

katranaJuly 31, 2013

Hi everyone,

I'm looking for some help with the front yard now that the big tree that dominated it is gone. That's what used to be in that large pile of saw dust in front of the door. I've already tried calling some local landscape designers but they're not very good about returning my calls. So move on and here I am. :)

I already have a design in mind but I'm open to anything. Some things I'd like to accomplish:

Low maintenance and water friendly.

No lawn. If I have to, I'd rather have a synthetic lawn. Hopefully that doesn't scare off too many of you.

A path from the side gate to either the sidewalk or drive way. I roll out trash bins every week.

Ideas to deal with the mailbox and that chimney! There was ivy growing up to the roof line which was removed with the tree.

Replace the side gate and fence and all of the accompanying ivy that covers it, the block wall to the right, and currently creeping across the yard. There are two little trees on my side of the yard, the rest belong to the neighbor or are in the back yard.

The garage door is also going, so some front repainting will most likely be involved.

I know all of this work won't be cheap so any advice on the kind of budget I should be targeting.

Thanks very much!

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I wish your picture was better. I can see nothing to the right of your house and get no sense of how much space you have at the left side. Can't tell whether the "tree" at the right is part of your property, or not. Also, where located?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2013 at 11:50AM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

Cool house. First, I am NOT a professional, just a homeowner who has made lots of her own mistakes.

To address a couple of things you have mentioned: The mailbox-does your mailman walk? If so, I would get rid of the box out front altogether and hang a more modern one on the wall near your door or have a slot in the door. If that is not an option, I would move it to the opposite side of the drive just to make it less obtrusive when you landscape-that will give you a cleaner view of the front.

It looks as though your home is sort of a mid-century modern with Spanish influences. If you want to play up the clean modern aspect, I saw an article of a wonderful walkway-I would get large flagstone or granite slabs (or less-expensively maybe concrete which could match the house) and lay them out to create a geometric walk to the front. The slabs were laid out so that they didn't form a solid walk, but they were offset from each other, yet still overlapping somewhat so you didn't have to zigzag. Does that make sense? I have a picture in mind, but couldn't find it quickly. I will keep looking for the one I am describing. Try looking for inspiation on Houzz.

I agee with Yardvaark that anyone would need to know where you are to suggest plants and a picture from farther away would be helpful as well.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 12:33PM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

Not what I was looking for, but here is one thought for path design. Hope the link works. I have another I will post next.

Here is a link that might be useful: one idea

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 12:52PM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

Here is the other. Neither is perfect and both would need to be scaled down, but it gives you an idea for a modern walkway that would allow you to plant around it , but not requiring any lawn. I agree you don't want ivy! I actually like the chimney and with straight modern lines for your walk, it would play up the bold modern look.

Speaking of which, if the garage door isn't a wreck, it works with that look. I would soften it and the panel above it with a color that has less contrast to the stucco. Maybe a soft grayish green or a taupe-still earthy. but not so dark and could work with the roof. I really do like your house a lot.

Of course, if you are a cottage person, then ignore me completely! :) In that case, a curved walk, trellis with flowers climbing up the chimney, cottage garden, etc. can't really picture that with your house, though.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 1:05PM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

Oops. Forgot the link-which, of course, I can't find again, but here is another. Picture with plants rather than grass.

Here is a link that might be useful: Link

    Bookmark   August 6, 2013 at 2:50PM
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Hi cyn427 and Yardvaark, thanks very much for the replies! I like your ideas and that's actually a look I'm interested in but I just wasn't sure if a more modern look is something that fits in with the white stucco and red tile roof. Glad to see someone else thinks it can work. :)

As for the mailbox, yes, the mailman walks but everyone else has a sidewalk mailbox so I'd hate to be that house that makes the mailman walk to the door. I'll just ask him for his opinion next time I see him.

As for the garage door, it's the original wooden door and I really hate it. I agree it works well with the other "orange" wood trim on the house so perhaps a new opener, new springs, and a better color would do the trick.

I love Houzz as well but my fear is that a lot of those designs work well in a big space but look pinched when scaled down. I was also hoping to get the new work to flow with the driveway and front entry that has a lot of brickwork. I think I'm going to have to give up on that.

One of my ideas is to enclose the yard with a low cable rail fence and pavers that follow the fence from the front door and side yard to the sidewalk with a gate lined up with the chimney. Everything would be inside of that, some rocks, shrubs, and a bamboo to pair with the chimney.

I'm not sure if adding a fence would make the yard look even smaller but I'm hoping to accomplish a few things with it. Create a more proper entry so the driveway doesn't have to be the only way to approach the front door. Gives a more natural spot for a mailbox to sit near the sidewalk. Delineates the old area from the new so they don't necessarily need to match. Allows me to tie together the path from the side yard and the front door. I'm hoping the cable rails minimizes the enclosed look of a fence, and I want to add a very similar style to top off the block walls in my back yard as a cat fence. Yes, I know, good luck with that.

I have a few more pictures which I'll post separately since it seems I can only attach one per post.

Oh, and I'm in Los Angeles, closer to the coast, so we get a lot of overcast mornings and milder temperatures. Doesn't the painfully close houses give that away? :)

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 2:07PM
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Sorry I don't have an eye for taking pictures at all, thus I don't have a camera better than my phone. :)

I took a few pictures of the side area but this ended up being the best of the bunch. There's a side gate and a block wall under all of the ivy that's attempting to choke the persimmon and apricot (?) tree and a small shrub near the sidewalk. Everything else, including the juniper (?) peeking in on the right belongs to the neighbor.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 2:20PM
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More of a front view. This is about the best I can get as the neighbor across has a tree in their front yard.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 2:29PM
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A Google Street View picture from long ago. A slightly wider angle with a better view of how the side of the yard looks with the neighbor's junipers and backyard wall.

Looking at this picture, it almost makes me wistful that the tree is now gone, but mostly from the perspective that having a big tree covering everything up makes fixing the front so much easier! Ask me again in the fall if I still miss that tree. :)

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 3:01PM
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1 You should get a better paint scheme, unless you want the chimney the focal point here. I like your entry area.
The eye should rest there, not at the chimney.
2 If you remove the ivy yourself wear a long sleeved shirt and gloves

Will you have enough privacy when the ivy is gone or do you still want to screen that area?

Are you thinking of the So Cal type of yard with Bird of Paradise and Yucca.?
I would like some fake grass also:)
Could you take another picture standing on your drive way and facing the ivy area? It would be helpful.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 3:48PM
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the chimney cries out for a sculptural speciman plant there, to stand out against the background. If it were in my area, I'd plant a nice big fancy yucca or something--don't know what would be appropriate for your area.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 6:37PM
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Hi emmarene, Thanks for the reply. Here's the other pic that I couldn't decide which was a better view.

I'm not too concerned about the privacy in the front as the neighbor already does most of the screening on his side. I'm actually more concerned about what to do with the wall once the ivy is gone. The current plan is to add some wood as a facade to tie together the fencing in the front and rebuild the side gate to match.

I'm not a fan of birds of paradise or yuccas, especially here in So Cal. I think my dislike of the look comes more from owner's lack of maintenance than the plant itself. I'd be such an owner. Or maybe I'm not really a fan of brown, prickly things, which pretty much means I live in the wrong area.

I lean ocd-ish so my preference is simple, clean lines, stone, and wood looks. Low maintenance because I'm already going to have my hands full as my black thumbs attempt to raise an edible garden in a backyard overrun with creeping fig.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 7:15PM
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Hi Violet.West, Thanks for the reply. Yes, I agree it cries out for something to be done there! I think repainting the orange parts may soften that up a bit and something tall and thin to compete with the chimney that doesn't cover up the windows. I want to avoid replanting another tree as roots disrupting the sewer, water, and gas lines is one of the reasons the old one was removed.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 7:57PM
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maybe a nice big container specimen?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 8:11PM
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pinksand(7a MD)

I agree that some nice vertical height in front of the chimney would help break up the long rectangular shape. Maybe a hibiscus? If you really don't want to plant something in the ground there, like Violet said, a large container might work well there.

It's hard to tell in the photos how much space you have on the side, but I like cyn27's idea of a modern staggered walkway. Unfortunately the example I have in my head is in a garden book, not online, but maybe something like the second photo ("Quince") on the site linked below? If you do end up building your own path, don't forget to budget for the base layer materials in addition to the stone for the path. I made that mistake when I budgeted for a garden path I put in this spring.

You could always set up a trellis along the side wall once the ivy is removed and grow a native flowering vine? My zone is so different that I'm having trouble coming up with anything that will thrive in your area! As for other plant ideas, maybe some California Lilacs and nice airy flowering plants like penstemon?

A softer accent color would definitely help subdue the lighter stucco so that the chimney isn't quite so prominent. I think a sage gray/green might go nicely with the light beige as well as the color of the roof.

It has so much potential!

Here is a link that might be useful: Walkway Link

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 11:23AM
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I agree that a new paint scheme could do a lot. You might consider a medium body color and a light, or white trim color. The chimney would look better as part of the body color... stone/taupe colors are a good possibility. Avoid yellows & browns.

I would long for a tree again. But in the Google pic, the low-hanging branches DESTROY the view to the house. Instead of the tree acting as an extended shelter for the property, it's acting as a wall raised off of the ground ... high enough to crawl under. It would have looked better if the tree's "ceiling" were limbed up so that we could see the house and its features.

Here's a few ideas on things you could do (with notes on the pic.) I think you said there was a path at the right side, but I can't see anything over there well so am making up how one might run through groundcover. I'm not showing the large tree trunk, but you could imagine it anywhere in the lawn. If a tree is limbed up, one can grow things below and behind it.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 2:44PM
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Hi Violet, pinksand, and Yardvaark, Thanks for the replies and taking the time to do an impressive paint job! I tried my hand at it and decided I should stick to photography.

I'm not adverse to planting in front of the chimney. I wasn't necessarily thinking of an actual container, just something that better contains a tree to keep its size down, or a small, slow growing tree. That's probably a question for the tree forum.

Sorry I wasn't clear before about the side. There isn't really a path there now but I need to add one. I can't decide if it should go straight to the sidewalk or should be connected along the front of the house to the front entry.

I really like the idea of a big canopy in your picture, but I think it may be more appropriate in a much bigger yard. I included a more side view that may make it easier to imagine. This tree seems to achieve about the right height but I think one problem is the space. If you keep just the parts above the roof, it starts to look a bit like a giant lollipop. To get a better spread, I'd need a huge tree, which would turn the yard into a giant tree ring. That would certainly make this design easier! Still, I agree, it's a lovely idea.

More in next post, since I have another picture I wanted to include. :)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 8:14PM
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Amusingly, here's a house that looks a lot like Yardvaark's design. Are you my neighbor? :) It hits a lot of the same notes: taupe paint scheme, lighter trim, white window frames, expanded front entry along the drive, side path from the side gate, plants around the chimney, minus a tree.

As you can see, even with a less contrasting scheme, there isn't much that can soften the size of the chimney. I think this is a nice look but a few things that would bug me, recalling I lean ocd.

I know it's impossible to match new concrete and bricks to the existing, so probably better to not even try, but then what to do? Can the drive be stained to match the new walk? A few houses didn't bother and added completely different colored bricks or pavers.

I think these colors work but I'd probably have slightly darker trim for a little more contrast. I'm having a bit of a problem deciding what color windows to get as well. Or go white trim, windows, and garage door.

Their side gate path just kind of ends. Looking at it up close, the side gate path was previously connected to the front entry. They dug it up and sodded over it. But I'm not sure extending it all the way to the side walk works for me either, but at least mine wouldn't divide the lawn.

Anyways, thanks again for all of your input!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 9:13PM
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Sure we're neighbors ... but just 3,000 miles apart! I like the colors, but IMO they have not painted near enough details the white trim color (which is the highest contrast in the picture.) What remains looks a bit like an army-base paint scheme. I would EXPLORE other architectural features being painted white and possibly the chimney a darker color ... EXPLORE MORE. There are online websites where you can play with paint color schemes. The link below is one at Valspar.

"...just something that better contains a tree to keep its size down..." I suggest you pick a plant that matures at the size you wish ... rather than one that must be trimmed, repeatedly, to keep it sized.

"...I can't decide if it [the side path] should go straight to the sidewalk or should be connected along the front of the house to the front entry." If you you mean to the city sidewalk, I'd say no. How often will the side path be used? If infrequently, then there's probably no need to connect it to anything but lawn (which is a nice, wide path.) 2nd choice would be connect it to the walk to your front door. In that case, just be careful of limiting foundation planting space by placing the walk too close to house.

With determining the canopy bottom for a large tree in the front yard, one would not go to top of their house with a laser level, beam over to the tree and cut off everything below. One would stand near the street and see what on their house needs to show, choose a reasonable horizontal plane and remove what's below that. So it might end up that there are parts of the roof, or tops of chimneys, etc. that can't be seen because of being blocked by the tree. (But some of these things will show when one approaches the house.) One is trying to create a BALANCED picture, not one of sterile, separate elements. Surely, it's possible to find local examples where there are trees limbed up so that most of the house can be seen and the result is pleasant. (Unfortunately, it's much easier to find examples where limbs are likely to drag on peoples heads and poke their eyes out.) Trees spread according to the habits of their species and lots of times they gain height first, then develop spread later.

Here is a link that might be useful: virtual painter

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 3:10PM
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