Need foundation planting ideas-PICS

michman(5Mich)July 8, 2007

Hello everyone. I have been lurking for a while and always wanted to post pics of our farily new house-2000, and get some planting ideas from some knowlegable folks here in this forum. Here is some background...we live in SE Mich, z5. clay soil, mixed with compost around the house, and a little sand mixed in from backfilling the basement. The house is south facing. It is a rather exposed site. The Forest Pansy was planted last year. My wife watches kids during the day, and they hang out on the porch a lot, so plants that attract bees are not welcome. We have a dog that currently has a fenced in yard out back, but I will likely put in an invisible fence that would include her in the front yard. Like most people, we would like 3-4 season color, low maint., but I don't mine it. We would also like to attract a few hummingbirds.

Here is the front of the house,42' wide, south facing.

Corner shot

East side-30' wide, there is a neighbors drive 50 yards from this side. It is not essential to hide the utilities, maybe just take your eye from them a little.

Thanks for taking the time to look at this post.

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Wow, what a great blank slate to start with--by the way, if you want hummingbirds, you're going to get bees--you can't have one without the other--they both feed from the same sources. And hummingbirds can be more bothersome than bees, while both are actually quite lovely to watch. Bees are really not the problem you think they are--they are far more interested in feeding on plants than they are in humans--it's the yellowjackets/hornets that are really the problem for humans and these you can control by eliminating hives near the house.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 9:06PM
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I've been tempted to plant things on a whim, or cause they were on sale, but have held off to hopefully do it right the first time. 1 or 2 hummingbird plants near the corner might be alright. That is a ways from the seating area. We've had yellow jacket problems in the past. Just last year I covered the lower portion of the porch and that seems to have eliminated about 90% of their nests, since they loved it under the porch, just the other side of the rim joist. By the way the pictures were taken at around 5:30pm, to give you an idea with shade.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 11:35PM
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Uh...the thing about gardening is that you rarely "get it right" the first time, as nature always has something to say about the outcome of a garden.

You should think about a mix of conifers and deciduous shrubs for your foundation -- conifers, so that you don't have that "dead stick" look in winter.

Landscaping is expensive and you have a large area to cover, so I would start by adding to the planting area you have already begun to establish on the right and move left as you have funds. My preference would be to create a "layered" effect, rather than everything in a straight line.

On the electric fence for the dog, I would recommend you do some research before installation--I am not a big fan of these, as they can result in aggressive dogs-- other dogs can get in, while your's feels as if he/she can't defend themselves.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 8:53AM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

I can't offer advice about the landscaping as I read this forum mostly to learn - I don't have the landscaping knowledge to share (yet)

However, I will comment briefly on the invisible fence. This is the landscaping forum, and I don't want to turn this thread into a pro/con discussion of the fencing. Instead I suggest you check the pets forum, it has had recent threads on this topic (unless you have already made up your mind, in which case no need to read the threads). For the record, I have an invisible fence and love it. There is no need to worry about the problem suggested above if your dogs are supervised while inside the invisible fence, not just left there for hours on their own.

Good luck and have fun with the landscaping.

Here is a link that might be useful: invisible fence thread

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 10:59AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

Hi, I'm from se MI myself. My folks like to watch hummingbirds. You're not going to get many hummingbirds right now around your house. It is fairly easy to attract hummingbirds to watch with a hummingbird feeder, but they have to be living in the area first. You're not going to find many hummingbirds, or other birds for that matter, in such an open, exposed lot as you have now.

If it were me, I'd plant some trees around the house for shade and wind protection. I'd plant a sugar maple because they are Michigan's pride. Also the state tree, white pine.

Hummingbirds like hosta and salvia, both of which are hardy and very easy to grow and look great around a foundation. Also day lilies, which are fun for the kids because you can make fritters out of the buds and spent blooms, they taste like squash. You can grow some fuschia and purple petunias in the hanging baskets, they aren't too "bee prone." I do agree that bees aren't as much of a problem as people think. They are attracted to most flowers, but unless really pestered, they are pretty focused on gathering pollen, not stinging kids. Yellowjackets are a whole other story, but for them it is controlling the nests, they don't go in much for plants. They do like fruits and human picnic food though! There are also "ground bees" that will swarm out if you step on their nest hole, but these are not the same bees that hover around flowers.

One other hardy shrub you could plant by your foundation that hummingbirds like is weigelia. I have seen a nice dwarf variety in most nurseries called "wine and roses." It has burgundy foliage and hot pink flowers.

I'd also plant a scarlet oak and some hemlocks for privacy around the perimeter of my property. None of these plants are too expensive and are easily found in most nurseries. Another pretty tree for faster shade is called "river birch."

I think all of these plants could be arranged as to look pretty good together. Avoid creating a lot of little beds, that's a pain to mow around and you loose the effect of the plantings with a little of this here and a little of that there. Put your plantings together in large beds that relate to the traffic flow, scale and design of your house, and the purpose for which you are planting them.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 11:18AM
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Thanks for your tips pink. I'll save your post. I've planted a tulip tree west of the house, and there is a mulched grove of 24 single trunked river birch at the south end of the front yard. The pic of the front of the house was taken from near the birches. They are doing fine after 2 years. I also planted some norway spruces on the east side of the property near the neighbor's drive. I'll trun that into a mulched bed also. I'm with you, keep the beds large, which really cuts down on the mowing and having to spin aroung each individual tree. We've had hummingbirds come to the hanging baskets with wave petunias. Need to get some feeders up.I've just planted a 325' screen of green giants on the west side...have a post with pics in the tree forum.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 12:08PM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

Oh yes, if you have a mix of deciduous trees and spruces that provides shelter and places for the hummingbirds to make their nests!

Here are some of the foundation shrubs that I have in my tiny yard, that I just love and that seem to be doing well. Some of them attract bees but honestly, I sit right out next to them on the patio and they don't bother with me at all, they are very busy bees!

Miss Kim Lilac - smells good, relatively small compared to other lilacs, blooms much later than the big ones. Does have bees though.
Spirea - mine is called "Magic Carpet." I cannot praise this plant enough, it has hot pink flowers and lime green mature foliage and the new foliage is burgundy, quite a showy contrast. It's a plant that has 3 season interest in my yard. Also has bees. But both of these plants are a total bore in the winter, which in Michigan is a definate consideration!
I have a small yellow globe arborvitae. You could get away with some of the bigger varieties of arborvitae and juniper. They make nice combinations with deciduous shrubs for winter interest. But pay careful attention to the mature size of those arbs and junipers, they can become house-devouring beasts and are hard to remove due to the density of their woody roots and stem. There are many varieties on the market now that have been bred to grow slowly and stay to a more managable size. Make sure you get those varieties. You can get some inexpensive basic stuff at the big box stores, but for the best health and selection, find a LARGE, local nursery.

I'm partial to shrubs because to me they are the lowest maintenance. I don't mind pruning them once and a while, to me, that's better than the dividing you have to do with perrenials. That said, my folks have a big drift of blackeyed susans next to their house on one side, which is fun and easy care. I have a big clump of shasta daisies which is fun and pretty easy care.

My folks also have a mugo pine, and a large shrub rose which is spectacular when in bloom, although it gets japanese beetles, probably because it smells so good. Ask at the nursery, if you like roses there are easy care "landscape roses" which bloom continuously and are not fussy like the little hybrid tea roses. I have a shrub rose in my yard I have to beat back with a shovel it is so hardy. Another popular shrub for in front of the house are the rhododendrons. Also the shrub dogwoods like yellow twig dogwood and redtwig dogwood, which because of their colored twigs, give winter color to the yard.

I'm not suggesting you get one of each of these shrubs, since that would not look good, it would just be a mish mash and there would be nothing that the eye could focus on and so it would loose any aesthetic effect. I'm just giving you a list of some plants that I have seen around foundations and that I have grown and know to be easy care foolproof kinds of things. I'd pick a few that create a pleasing color and texture and shape combination and then repeat that pattern. I have a tiny "mixed shrub border" in my yard, and since my yard is postage stamp sized, it's right up in my face whenever I go outside. The part of my yard that I like the most has a very pleasing combination of plants with contrasting colors, shapes of leaves, and overall silhouette of the plants. In the winter, the evergreens I have planted do their duty of holding up the bones of the design.

Also, when you plant the plants next to your foundation, whatever mix you decide on, make sure you allow for the eventual mature size of the shrubs. Don't plant them too close to the house!! This is the most common mistake people make and it gets to be a real pain. That's the problem my folks have right now with the new house they bought, there is a row of sand cherries and dogwood shrubs agains the back deck that has to be constantly pruned back since they are now overtaking the deck due to being planted too close.

Oh yeah, other nice "foundation plants" that folks around here use are yews and hydrangeas. The kids might like the "snowball" appearance of the hydrangea flowers. I always did when I was a kid. Yews are very forgiving of pruning, they are the one everygreen that you can prune fairly rigourously and they will regrow. With other evergreens, you can make slight adjustments, but they have an innate shape that you had better like because if you try and train them into a different shape they will not do well. Whatever you do, no meatball shrubs, if you do that we will tell all the deer where you live, lol!

Have fun!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 12:01PM
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Thanks again pink. I've clipped your post. I'm with you about going to a large local nursey. You can't beat their selections and service.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 1:57PM
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Hi Michman,
My first thoughts when looking at the pics are:

Can you put the siding on the foundation of the porch? It will create depth as well as height. I would definetly stay away from facing down the porch with a row of shrubs. That will just make the house look shorter.

Have you thought about opening up the railing by front door with a set of wide steps. I am not sure of the view from the porch looking out but if I was sitting on that porch I would want to see an interesting shrub border with seasonal changes.

The roof's face, being so exposed contributes to making the house seem short. Trees with filtered shade, ones that are airy as opposed to being dence will off set the roof. Large trees in the back will aid in making the front of the house look like it belong. A feeling of comfort tHrough scale transition. GROUND, PEOPLE, HOUSE, TREE THEN SKY.

I would also work towards a large mixed a shrub border near the right property line to enjoy when walking down porch from drive toward front door. It also helps define your domain. A planting from right porch cornor going straight out in a line towards right P/L will make house look longer and soften that abrupt end. Use large Holly type and concentrate on moving out from cornor with long and narrow beds. The existing bed adds to the abrupt ending of house since there isn't any substance to tie the two together.
The first step in designing is to draw a plan view of property, note exposure, traffic patterns when walking around house, where you need screening ETC. Put tracing paper on top of the plan view drawing and make large irregular circles. This will help you come up with the overall look and will define places where plants can be added over a period of time. Look at some of the pics in the garden forum for ideas.

Have fun creating your outdoor rooms a little at a time.

Good Luck

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 2:56AM
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It is a good idea to decide on plant masses, where beds should go, where you need screening , shade, wind protection, noise buffers, where future things like pool, swing set, patio, etc might go first. The last step in designing a property is choosing the INDIVIDUAL PLANTS that will be used to fulfill the needs mentioned above.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2007 at 7:50PM
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My original post might not have been too clear. I am just looking for ideas for foundation planting ideas, not a total landscape design.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 8:10PM
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Your post was clear, it's your thinking that getting a list of pretty 3 - 4 season low maint. plants for against your house (foundation definition) thats unclear. Go to your local nursery they can tell you what foundation plants will tolerate your exposure, You can get one of everything they suggest for FOUNDATION PLANTINGS and go from there since a design/plan is not necessary. Your 350' of little arbs will eventually make a hard line look assuming they all survive and/or replacements that fit in are available. With house lines, arb lines etc, you are going to need some curved beds. Also don't make large beds now unless you can plant them. Grass is cheaper then mulch if you want the low maint. thing to work. There is plenty to time to think about bees and hum. birds. How fortunate for you that a having an overall direction to go in is not necessary. Check out the shrub forums and the tree forums that might work better for you. The LANDSCAPE DESIGN FORUM usually involves LANDSCAPE DESIGN.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 3:45AM
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Is it not proper to post a question about a foundation planting design/layout in the LANDSCAPE DESIGN FORUM? I cannot find a FOUNDATION PLANTINGS FORUM on this site.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 10:42AM
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Sounds like a new forum is needed to fulful your needs. This way people who take the time to share their ideas with you won't waste their time. Try books with pictures.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 1:45PM
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No, this forum is just the right place for my questions. Much help was received here, and I am thankful for that.

The majority of posts in this forum that have NOTHING to do with landscape design, according to your definition. Do you police those too? I don't see any comments from you in those, knocking the posters proper location for design help. But you chose mine. Why?
You start out with sound advice, which is appreciated. Then you stoop to making a statement that this post should be elsewhere. If you are having a bad day, don't take it out here, grab a pick and pound some dirt to get it out of your system. Nuf said.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 3:43PM
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hey michman, you are way off base here! ... your post on friday at 20:10 was a very ungrateful put down to someone who was *trying* to give you very good advice ... not nice, my friend ..... having a bad day, are we? ...

    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 12:18AM
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I'm good. I was just trying to steer him/her into the direction of my issuesin the original post, and I just didin't take kindly to being told this was the wrong forum, when it obviously is.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 11:25AM
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maro(z8 WA)

Here's a guy who obviously thought about which was the right forum, supplied often-asked for details, and pictures, and clearly sought advice for a specific area, as responders often state is the most answerable type of question.
We then had some give-and-take posts of a most congenial nature in which he gave responses that respected the advice.

What more could you ask?

Then he is given a lot of advice he didn't ask for, and gave a most reasonable answer to remind what his question was.

Then he gets whacked with even more unasked for advice, this time in a slightly belligerent tone. This he doesn't take lying down or waste time being offended.
Speaking of wasting time, writing a lot of unasked for advice is wasting time. So, if people are concerned about wasting their time, they shouldn't waste it giving advice that wasn't asked for.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 5:17PM
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Correction: My last post should have ended with "the right forum"

Maro-Thanks. It's 1-1 now.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 7:41PM
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Go back and read Your post Mitch dated July 13th. A responce to what I had written. Did you find it necessary to repond with a negitive statement after I sincerely thought I was giving you things to think about. When someone gives you thoughts, suggestions, etc. you can listen and then take or leave the advice. There really is no reason to respond the way you did.

For your information, you were the first landscape design post that I replied to, so to answer your question, policing is not something I would ever do. Along with reading someone suggestions and then telling them that I didn't ask for all their input. I would either not respond or I would thank them. By not listening to others thoughts, I am chancing the possibility that I might miss something really great. I am sorry for my statement about what forums should cover - that is not my call. We can go on and on about forums and the rules but the bottom line is your unappreciated response to my sincere design thoughts. I am a landscape designer and love connecting a home it is surrounding, but maybe I'll keep my thoughts to myself.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 1:30PM
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yup! ... that's what i said ... phyl

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 3:20PM
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Marco, obviously you are a person who comments without reading ALL that was written or just picks and chooses what you want to comment about. I thought this web site was going to be fun and informative. One where people make suggestions to one other only trying to be helpful. I did not expect that sharing my thoughts would result in a comment like "I wasn't looking for a total landscape design" So I shared my thoughts and then was DISMISSED. The forum issue is so not the point here. Also thoughts were given by others that went beyond the FOUNDATION. Actually what others talked about dosen't matter, what matters is common courtesy.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 5:16PM
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ally, what you are saying about considering the whole rather than just a part is valid but it is aggressive to capitalize your point of view because some others don't see it that way. I would not fault one word of what you have offered with a passion but the way you present it will annoy people. Read through some old threads to get a feel for what goes on. I welcome your raw enthusiasm but this is not generally what is appreciated.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 6:09PM
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maro(z8 WA)


I'm sorry, your assumption is wrong. I read every single word and always do, if I'm going to respond.

This all boils down to the interpretation of a single sentence, and the reader's inclination to read offence into what at worst was an ambiguous statement.

That sentence could have been directed to all the responders in order to save them some time. The fact is, you don't really know, and in my opinion your reaction wasn't warranted.

Please read ALL that I have written (and more important, what Inkognito has written above) and try to consider the possibility that it could be true, which consideration I gave to you but formed another conclusion.

That's all I have to say, which should be welcome words to everyone.

Maro, with no CÂ

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 6:22PM
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But it is OK to be rude when given advice if you don't like the advice or need the advice? It is OK to assume that I spend my time reading posts and critizing them. Well guess what, you couldn't be more wrong about me. Read Phy1 post.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 7:45PM
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I think this whole discussion has really gotten out of hand. I am not sure why MACO and Inkogito jumped in with their opinions when it wasn't asked for, (kind of sounds like me giving design suggestions when that wasn't asked for).

I would like to apologize for my part. I was excited to share some of my thoughts and then my feelings were hurt by the response. I would like to move on with the hopes that everyone has learned something.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 10:05PM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

My original post might not have been too clear. I am just looking for ideas for foundation planting ideas, not a total landscape design.

Gosh. I do not find this rude nor dismissive. The OP simply apologized for perhaps wording the original post poorly (which he did not) and restated his desires.

I find it amazing that someone could belong to GW for less than a month and feel it appropriate to comment on the suitability of a post for a given forum. As it is, you have probably driven away a poster who was gaining insight from the kind people on this forum who chose to respond.

I personally have learned a lot from the people willing to give their time to help those of us who have no idea what we are doing. Many of us have posted questions that are not "landscape design", yet the mainstays of this forum have taken their time to answer our questions, address our concerns, and carry us into the next (perhaps incremental) stage of our development. Many of us now mostly lurk, but we are learning with each thread that occurs (well, maybe not with every one, but with many). It seems to me that perhaps you, as a landscaper yourself, could take the time to read some previous threads, learn the culture of this forum, then find a way to offer your insight such that it will be appreciated. Ink offered you the same advice.

And, it might not hurt to take care with posters screen names. You still (probably deliberately) have maro's wrong, and inkognito's as well. If you want to talk about courtesy, then show the people on this forum some as well.

ducking back into hiding now

    Bookmark   July 17, 2007 at 10:32PM
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    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 1:46AM
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surf_grrl(coastal Van Isl)

ally, I was going to email you privately as per your request, but I can't figure out how to do that, so here goes a public reply.

If you're familiar with bulletin board protocols, forgive me, but in case you're not: USING CAPITALS IS CONSIDERED TO BE SHOUTING. When you write in this way, the reader will consider you not just to be emphatic, but aggressively so. So the reader can easily take offense to your message, however benign you may have intended that message to be.

Intentions are often sooooo hard to read from a typed message - tone is difficult to assess. Snippiness is often interpreted where none existed, and then bang, you've got yourself an interminably escalating internet squabble when all someone wanted was advice and all someone offered was what they thought was a good answer.

Hopefully everyone can just chill, stop being boring, and get back to helping michman with his query... about which I have absolutely no expertise or advice, and so will now quietly exit.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 3:09AM
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lpinkmountain(5b/6a border PA)

I think Ally is right, you do have to think about the overall design first, the uses of areas in your yard, the style and appearance of your house and how to enhance that, the shapes of the plants, (where to put trees, what form) and shapes of the beds and plan out walking areas. Plant choice is only tangentally related to that. If you just plant this or that, here or there depending on what appeals to you about that particular plant or that particular space, you may end up regretting it, tearing things out and redoing. But I respectfully disagree that plant choice is not part of landscaping. If landscaping is like painting a picture, then layout and shape is the sketch, but plant choice is the oil paint. I don't know if all artists start out with a sketch of their paintings, but lot of them do since you can see the sketches in museums, so I wouldn't knock that process. You can't ignore soil type, sun, wind and water issues either. Some people just have a natural knack for figuring these things out and proceed to create a perfect landscape without even thinking about the process, but others, like me, need a lot of advice in every direction!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 1:40PM
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