Bare Acre Front Yard - Design Help Needed

jlbartley(4)August 3, 2012

We just built a house last year and I'm in need of help figuring out where to plant trees, mainly. I am struggling with what you do with a space this big. It used to be a corn field so there's nothing on it. I'm trying to tackle the front yard to start with and we'll get to the back yard later. Essentially I have a 1 acre blank slate. This is a picture of the north side/front of our house.


1 - I'd like to plant some decorative trees/bushes along the sides of the front yard to define the property a bit. This would also help block the views of a house across the street to the right and one to the left of the house as you look at it from this photo. Do I just place single trees here? I have 2 candymint crabapples that I was debating on using either to break up the view of the neighbors houses (knowing they will not fully block the view but just give something more interesting to look at)or to plant on either side of the entrance to the driveway. Thoughts?

2 - There's a telephone pole at the front of the yard that I'd like to plant a maple or some other sort of larger hardwood in front of to break up the view of.

3 - I'm thinking of planting 2 decorative trees in the garden beds near the house. 1 in front of the larger windows to the right where the roof peak is and the other in front of the double windows to the left of the front porch.

Question: I would love to plant a dwarf weeping cherry somewhere. I was thinking of doing it in the space to the right where the roof peak is. I have approx 18-19 feet of garden bed here. Is this tree too dense that it will block this window too much? I am ok with pruning and don't want a tree that is taller than the house here.

Question: I was thinking of planting a smaller magnolia (maybe Magnolia Stellata Rosea) in front of the double windows to the left of the front porch. I have around 14' of width to this space. It is surrounded by a sidewalk but I've read that this version's roots are typically safe around a sidewalk. Thoughts?

I'm going to add some additional posts with pictures so you can see additional views. I would love your thoughts on the ideas above.

Thanks for any advice you can give around what to do with this space. Good thing is there are so many options. Bad thing is there are so many options. Please help!

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Here is a close up of the area I was considering planting a dwarf weeping cherry in.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 8:49AM
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Sorry, picture didn't show up in last post.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 8:50AM
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Here's the area I was considering using a magnolia in.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 8:51AM
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Other than adding definition to the lot (which would happen anyway as a by-product of landscaping) and some miscellaneous screening, what are the overall goals that your are trying to accomplish with landscaping? ...Accentuate and enhance the architecture? ...Connect the house to earth and have it look "nestled in" at some point in the future? ...Add shade or protection from wind? ...Create an attractive scene? Etc. Define your overall goals before moving on to what plant goes where.

The word "decorative" doesn't help to define a plant as all plants used in landscaping would qualify (to someone.)

As your house is viewed from the street, what features, if any, are you trying to cover up? ... or don't mind if they're covered?

Additional views that would be helpful:
like your first picture, but looking left and right (still showing a little of the house so that each view can be understood.)
From standing at the front door looking left, center and right.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 9:59AM
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I'll take some more pics tonight to show the views of what I'm trying to screen/what the side views are of the house, etc.

I would say that what I'm trying to accomplish is to make the house look nestled in although I don't want the house to be in a forest (good thing since we're far from it).

Would like to get some protection from the wind on the west side. I'm planning to plant some evergreens along the west side of the house to both block wind and the view of a house further away on that side.

Do not need shade in the front yard, need this in the back so I'll hit that later with back yard design.

When I say decorative tree I'm meaning a flowering tree with interesting lookinng branches in the winter after the leaves have dropped. This is key because of how much of the time we spend without leaves in Wisconsin.

There really isn't anything that I would say I would like to cover up except the air conditioner out front where I was looking to plant a magnolia. I know this won't "screen" the magnolia but it will provide a break so you have something more interesting to look at than the air conditioner and I believe the AC will fall more to the background then.

I would also like to cover up the well cap that you can see near the right of the house. I'm planning to do that with perennials though due to the placement of it.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 11:00AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

The things that strike me most to start with are that the garage side dominates the scene, making the house side look small, and that the house looks lost and lonely in the vast space behind it. That would lead me to do two things to begin with. First, plant at least one tree behind the house; a tree that will eventually grow taller than the house, which will help bring the background forward, making the house look less 'lost'. Second, I'd visually extend the house to the right with layers of shrubs and ornamental smallish trees, keeping them as an extension of the 'footprint' of the house. Then, any plantings for windbreaks/screening would begin and run forward from that wider base, not from the house itself.

I can't do the pretty pictures as well as Yaardvaark does, but this is sort of what I see as the starting point to define the space before windbreak/screening.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 11:02AM
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A trick to reduce the garage's dominance (when viewed from the street) would be changing the course of the driveway: curving left when coming from the garage, passing in front of the house (some distance away), and meeting the road on the right side of lot; then planting a grove of trees on the outer side of driveway so they hide the garage. Impractical budget-wise, I know.. just playing around with ideas.
I think the magnolia would be too big for the proposed spot. I'd prefer nothing taller than a daylily next to the house.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 4:53PM
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Hmm, an acreage in the plains definitely needs a windbreak of lilacs trees...

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 6:11PM
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Thanks for all of the suggestions so far. Woodyoak - where you've got the tree behind the house is exactly where we're planning to put one. We need some shade back there for sure.

Here's a picture facing west. Need some windbreak in this direction during the winter so I was thinking to plant a black hills spruce or grouping just to the right of where this picture cuts off. Then plant possibly some sort of narrower juniper as a hedge(we have a septic along this side of the house and have approx 10 ft of space that we can plant something in to not interfere).

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 9:35AM
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Here's a picture of the front porch looking out.

Thinking that I will plant a maple to block off some of the view of the telephone pole and possibly a birch tree or a spruce near the front left corner of the yard to give a break to the neighbors house. Also thinking about 75 feet or so from the street in that I will plant a spruce along the property line to break up the view to the house across the street.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 9:39AM
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"A Maple" because of "the telephone pole" seems underwhelming for the space. Why not a row of street trees?... and a flowering tree grouping that forms a gateway entry of sorts?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 11:15AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I would start with defining the space I want for a lawn and then plant a mix of tall deciduous trees, smaller ornamental (flowering) trees, various heights and sizes of evergreen trees, and good sized evergreen and deciduous shrubs around the perimeter of the lawn, keeping in mind the views you want to block(or preserve) and the windbreak requirements when placing the specific trees and shrubs. I'd consider both sides of the driveway so the shelterbelt runs all around the front (and back too..?) as a continuous planting. Think of a pasture or cultivated piece of ground with trees and shrubs on the periphery - a common scene in a rural area, so the 'look' should fit in well with the surrounding area. I would put most of my planting effort to the shelterbelt first, as it's going to take awhile to establish that, so the sooner you get started, the better :-)

The relative weight of the garage bothers me - we need laag back on the forum to give good advice on how to minimize/balance that :-) It occurred to me to use color to downplay the garage - I 'painted' the doors the same color as the siding and the white trim a shade of two darker than the siding. I think that helps a bit as the white trim on the house side draws your eyes to the house. Something to consider perhaps....

It would be good to have a picture from across the road that shows the house beside you - it looked pretty close. How much room do you have between the side of the house and the property line?

Have you checked with your local Extension service to find out what trees they recommend for shelterbelts in your area?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 3:01PM
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The houses are not overly close. To the left of the house as you see it from the picture we have approx. 60-65 ft of property that we own then the neighbors have a fence right on the property line and their house is another 60 or so ft from that. On the right as you look at this picture we have approx 35 ft of land on the side of the house then there is a vacant lot approx 180 ft wide before you hit the next house.

Here's a picture that shows a bit of a wider view but because of the size of the lot I can't get a good picture to show the actual location of the neighbors house even from across the road.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 3:56PM
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What's your height/width expectation for the star magnolia and weeping cherry at maturity?

There are several questions with no response.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2012 at 9:06PM
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yardvaark, your picture is very similar to what I was thinking of doing. Was just trying to figure out what types of trees to use. If you look at the picture that you modified I want to plant spruce trees on the right corner of the property to block out a house that is not well kept over that way. On the left I wanted to do a maple to block the telephone pole and a second tree to the left of that and was trying to decide what type of tree that should be. I was leaning toward another spruce to block it more of the view of the neighbors house during the winter.

Your question on the height of the star magnolia, the type I was looking at magnolia Stellata rosea says 8-10 ft high and 6-8 wide. The dwarf weeping cherry I've had a hard time finding good info on. I've seen anywhere from 10-20 ft tall and dont know what to expect. I am concerned that it might block the window too much if I plant it in front of the far right window as you look at the house. Was also considering something like a Tina crab. Advice?

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 10:03AM
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Zone 4? One tree that comes to mind is Salix fragilis "Bullata" - great when you have lots of space.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 10:48AM
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I've never seen a really large magnolia stellata here - they're readily available and popular because they're good early bloomers.

Container grown to avoid as much root disturbance as possible is recommended - as is planting in a somewhat protected, out of the wind location. But I wouldn't put one in your proposed spot in front of the AC unit. It would definitely block the window and pruning it down to keep it shrub sized takes away the beauty you originally planted it for. JMHO

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 9:26AM
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JL, in many cases, plants ultimately get larger than the stated size so I'd be prepared for that. In the case of the star mag., I'd consider a more forward position (toward the street) just to the other side of the walk and then grow it as a tree (which would make the plant's getting larger an attribute instead of a fault) so the window does not seem completely blocked. As a tree it would be easier to maintain. Also, having some portion of the roof obscured helps to make the house look "nestled in." The weeping cherry I'd set off to the side and forward of end of house for basically the same reasons... so as not to obscure the window, and to have the house look "nestled in." Maintenance would be improved as well.

As far as street trees go, I'd be thinking along the lines of creating a bold statement with some unity to it. A scattered mixture will look weak. You could stand to post a picture that shows the frontage as a whole from the street side, an aerial view, or both.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 9:50AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

I'd definitely put a hedge up to block the neighbor's used car lot from sight.

You are lucky you have a blank canvas! We almost bought 3 acres with huge Eucalyptus trees on one border, and you could see the neighbor's junk cars through the tree trunks, because their canopy was so high.

The thought of the expense and trouble of replacing those trees with denser hedging was a deal killer on that property.

Good luck to you! Following this thread because we will likely be in the same boat very soon!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 11:22AM
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desertdance - funny but it's not a "used car lot" just happened to be they were havning a bunch of people over the day I took the pic. Typically there's only 1-2 vehicles there although I still would like to block just about everyone from sight. I really like my privacy!

tibu - I'll check that tree out a bit. I'm a little nervous about it being in the weeping willow tree family which my husband is extremely opposed to. I'm pushing it to think about putting in a dwarf weeping cherry!

I agree with the suggestions that I would prefer to grow the magnoila as a tree instead of a bush. One thing about that window. I'm not opposed to blocking it because it's a window to a laundry/bathroom and it would be nice to have some privacy in there. While I can put up blinds, I thought that it wouldn't be bad to block the window with a tree a bit although I would not want it fully blocked.

What would be your suggestions for what I should plant in front of the double windows on the far right of the house? This is a north facing bedroom. The area of the garden there is so big that it feels like it needs a tree but I don't want it to totally block the window. I was considering something like a tina crabapple if the weeping cherry would be too big which it sounds like it would. Am I wrong to consider putting a tree here? If I don't, what would I do with all of this space? I believe it's about 19' between the house and the garden edging and it's about the same width.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 9:22AM
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Growing the magnolia as a shrub would work out well over the short term, but not the long. From the exterior landscape perspective, no one knows what rooms your windows go to, just that they are windows. Hiding one with a shrub either makes the shrub appear "overgrown" for it's position in the landscape or that the designer wasn't thinking when they put it there. Whatever the interior use of the room, it's better to treat the window from the interior rather than make your landscape look flawed. I'd move the Magnolia well away from the window... maybe to the outside of the walk. It seems some sort of a hedge is needed to screen engineering concerns, but I would not jam it up on those things. There'e room for plants to breath. A single shrub is not going to do the job very well.

The tree in front of windows issue applies elsewhere. Why not put these plants to the side or "out from" the windows. The picture shows some ideas for tree placement. Obviously, is very generalized at the sides and back.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 12:44PM
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Thanks Yardvaark on the pic and tips. Your point makes a lot of sense to me and I think that the idea of moving the magnolia to the front of the sidewalk instead, or I have a place in back that it could possibly go instead.

I'm still struggling though with ideas for what to do with this huge garden space. Plants seem too small for it but not blocking the window would not allow a tree to go here. How do you fill a space this big and make it look right, or should this be shaped different?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 8:31AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I still think that your main efforts at this point should be directed towards creating the shelterbelt of trees and shrubs. That will enclose the space and make it more intimate and less overwhelming.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 9:49AM
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"...How do you fill a space this big and make it look right...?"

To a large extent, TREES are what is needed to make the house look nestled-in and for the yard to look less empty. When roofs show 100% it's hard for the house not to look like it's waiting for landscaping. I like that a Magnolia would screen some of the roof. I like it on the outside of the walk, away from the window; there would never be a conflict. Just 4' from the walk would do the trick. It would probably require reconfiguration of the outside bed edging. Then, some trees AROUND your house, and the drive and street would go a long way toward fixing the emptiness of the yard. As far as the bed looking empty, you've got to wait for some of your existing plants to grow bigger. If you filled the spaces that will remain empty as the existing plants grow--with some low-growing (6" ht.) groundcover type plant--it would also help reduce the feeling of "emptiness" at the ground level. 2 or 3 plants would do a better job of screening the AC... something that would not get over 3' tall.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2012 at 10:21AM
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