How to make an inviting garden?

mariana2007(6a ON Canada)August 28, 2010


I'll be moving soon in the country, and I would like to create a mixed garden with lots of perennials, using the existing trees and shrubs as the bones of the garden. I'm planning to remove and replant somewhere else the shrub bed that block the view from the house. I have lots of perennial plants to bring from my house where I live right now, but I have no idea where to plant them, or better say, how to blend them into the existing landscape. I appreciate any suggestion that would help me to start!

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It is easy,but you have to post project pics here,I match your house style.

Here is a link that might be useful: IF NEED PIC DESIGN

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 9:22AM
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Wow - that looks like a whole lot of land! In the bottom picture I see a deck or walkway behind two gorgeous birch trees (I think they are birch?)

I'd start by choosing the trees you want to emphasize & see if you can plan a bed that encompasses them, then locate your shade-loving perennials there. For the sun-lovers, I'd put them closer to the house where you can see their flowers more often.

In general, I like to keep high maintenance plants near the house (deadheading, dividing, staking, etc) and low maintenance plants farther out (hosta, bleeding heart, daylilies, etc).

The pessimist in me says that no matter what you do, you'll probably want to move everything after you've lived there a year anyways :) I know I would!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 9:31AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

You may want to entertain the notion that the garden already existing in your new place doesn't need the plants you want to bring in order to be inviting or attractive.

First off, I don't see any tree that would be improved by underplanting with a bunch of perennials. They all have fabulous trunks and look their best rising out of plain lawn. And the landscape of trunks in lawn is about as attractive and inviting as any I've seen. There is nothing that screams "put perennials here" to me at all.

So the only reason to bring your perennials would be because YOU want them there. In that case, the trick would be to find a place where they won't spoil the calm majesty of the yard you have.

The one bed that looks kind of like a mixed or perennial border is not attractive and could maybe be replaced with your perennials.


    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 1:33PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Some things to think about:

= How much sun the front yard gets, and whether it's enough to keep the perennials happy. If there's not enough sun among all those trees, perhaps there's room for your perennials in the back or side yard, ideally where there's a good view from inside the house. Or -- depending on winter snow in your area -- there might be a sunny corner by the road or driveway. (I'm with karinl about not putting the perennials under the trees.)

= It's generally recommended to live in a new place for a year or more before finalizing landscaping plans. You might even want to wait before moving the shrubs (though from the photos I can't imagine keeping them there).

I think it would be lovely to have a long view from the house. But there's the issue too of to what extent you want to be visible to people driving by. That might be something you won't know until you've lived there for a while -- but then again, you may be so far out in the country that you relish every indication you're not the only living person for miles! If you decide you need more privacy, there's plenty of room by the road for shrubs (again depending on the snow).

I find myself imagining a large, low garden somewhere in the lawn in front of the house, short enough not to impede the view. Probably 50 or 100 feet or more from the house.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 6:15PM
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mariana2007(6a ON Canada)

Pam, I think I'll go with Karinl's advice. OK, maybe a few pots/planters on the deck. Thanks for taking the time to answer!

Karinl, you just confirmed my feelings. I tried to picture my plants there and couldn't find any spot that was right for them. I don't like that mixed bed anyway, not even replaced with my own plants, and it really obstruct our view from the deck, and windows.

If I remember right, you are a plant collector too, so I trust your opinion. Well, there is plenty of room in the back for my perennials, and some fruit trees I'm planning to buy.

All the best!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 6:40PM
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That's gorgeous already!

I'd like to warn against getting too caught up in perennials. Perennial beds look nice a minority of the year. Start your design with winter. Put in good, strong bones to give your proposed beds attractiveness in winter. Only then should you think about fall, and only after you have a beautiful fall design should you consider summer. Spring is easy, in your zone, with ephemerals. Fill in the gaps with annuals.

Put together groups that bloom at one time, so that you get small, complete mini-gardens along a long border instead of the occasional lost-looking bloom. Even among perennials, make your backbone of those that bloom and exceptionally long time.

For the most part, I like the clean look of the yard as is. Any additions should lean heavily toward green and shrubs more that trees. Hydrangeas, yews, boxwood....those would all look lovely. I'd want broad strokes to maintain the clarity and calm graciousness, not a bunch of detail to muddy the lovely sweep. I'd put in precious few perennials at all, personally.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 6:52PM
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mariana2007(6a ON Canada)

I'm glad I posted here, what a relief!
missingtheobvious, and reyesuela, I really appreciate your thought.

Privacy is not a big issue for us, neighbors are pretty far away, one across the road on the left, and one beside on the right. I like to see the road, and I don't mind to be seen. At night there are curtains in the windows.

One day I said to my husband I don't know where to put my plants, but didn't elaborate my thoughts. He will be shocked.
Before we bought the house he said: "you have a thing for gardening, let's buy you a bigger place. 10 acres would be enough?" I said: "hmmm, yeah, it will do."
Now, lets see his face when he will find out my plans not to touch the front.
He likes colors, lots of colors, I like pretty flowers too, but this time I'll do it right: everything in the back of the house. And if we get tired of them, it's so easy to make a low maintenance garden with just shrubs and trees.

Thanks a lot!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 7:30PM
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If you google for Dirt Simple, you'll find the blog of a garden designer who's done some great things with properties with a similar vibe!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2010 at 7:54PM
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I too think it looks quite stunning with the grass and the trees! Lovely.
Though I also agree that the current bed does not look very good.
I think perennials are a good idea but I suggest restraint with them to go with the elegant look of the garden. Meaning not too busy with shapes and sizes and colors.
It's hard to get a full idea of the scenery from the pics but maybe create a bed of shrubs and perennials near or next to the path/driveway close to the house.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 9:31AM
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Hi Marianna
The front bed does need work. It looks like it has run wild. I do agree that the perenials should go but keep the bushes and shrubs until spring then go from there.
If you want to keep some of your favorite perenials from the old house, start a transplant bed if you have room behind the house. Pot some of your perinials in peat pots, bed them out for the winter and then place them in the spring. Have done that a number of times and always seems to work well.
Only thing I would put under the trees at the front would be hostas, vinca and/or wild violets. Keeps the views of the road but still gives you green when the late summer draught.
Maybe even pop some bulbs in for color in the spring.
Whatever you do though, I know it will be gorgeous.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 4:52PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Maybe even pop some bulbs in for color in the spring.

Imagine a sea of scillas in that lawn: a blue carpet fading into the distance....

    Bookmark   August 29, 2010 at 11:59PM
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"How to make a garden an inviting garden?"

That is a specific question if the term "inviting" is truly the word that you wanted to use. There is absolutely nothing in this thread that addresses making the garden inviting.

There are several mechanisms to accomplish making a garden or landscape more invitingno matter what level of maintenance, no matter if you load up with perennials, no matter how much light you have, .... these things only limit what you can use to build that mechanism, but have nothing to do with making a garden more inviting.

... unless the term "inviting" only connotes looking nice. Looking nice and being inviting can co-exist, but they are not the same thing.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 7:24AM
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In my opinion looking nice and being inviting always go hand in hand in gardening. Unattractive gardens are just not inviting unless you put a huge sign somewhere that says "you're invited". Although it's true that nice looking gardens can be more or less inviting depending on how "open" the area is, for example a fenced garden might be less inviting but still attractive.
In OP's yard I don't see anything particularly uninviting as it is, of course improvements can be done(by making certain things "look better".)

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 12:21PM
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To make your garden more "inviting" you must have a baked apple pie cooling in the kitchen window. Maybe a sign by the road that says "come on in!" would be inviting. If you're not willing to do that I guess you'll have to live with it just looking nice.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 1:32PM
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There are plenty of very beautiful gardens that look very nice, but don't draw you into them. In order to meet the criteria of being "inviting", it MUST evoke a feeling for the observer to be physically drawn into it and feeling that (s)he is welcome to enter it. When you walk down a street in a well landscaped neighborhood, you'll see lots and lots of beautiful landscapes and only a few that are truly inviting.

That is why I am saying that nothing in this thread specifically deals with making it more inviting. It is true that ugly gardens, gardens with struggling plants, poorly maintained plants, ..... detract from being inviting. But it is also true that the opposite effects do not create a feeling of "invitation". The plants and other landscape features are the media to work with, but not the mechanism.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 1:38PM
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If you mean draw-you-in inviting, I think many of the elements are there:

borrowed views
curving paths

If you want to do more, then playing with scale and color will do it. Warm colors near the front,cool colors coaxing you in.

But I really think she just meant basic curb appeal.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 8:39PM
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Inviting versus nice. Nice maybe be subjective to your own particular taste, but inviting will be a bit more universal.

Having some place to go to, as opposed to just looking at from afar. Having some place that you would want to be in or near - I like to look at ponds or have some place to sit down and rest or a focal point that needs to be observed up-close.

Some of this may be more cultural training - like a bench is a welcoming feature that says you are allowed to be sitting here and hey look at what the bench is pointed towards. A similar area without it probably wouldn't be a draw for me. A path to a focal point is also another cultural item that says you are allowed to be in this area.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 10:20PM
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mariana2007(6a ON Canada)

Thank you everyone for all the great comments!
I was looking for some general opinions on how to improve the existing overall look...Now that I decided most of my plants will go at the back, I was wondering about flowering bushes, I don't know if they are visible in the pictures, there are Rose of Sharon bushes, lined up in between the birch trees on the left side, around the area where the well is. I don't know if they should be there or not.

Reyesuela, the Dirt Simple link, it was enlightening, it seems that white flowering shrubs will be the only color aside from all the greenery. There is a great amount of ground covers there, and still lots of room for my hostas, ferns, and grasses I will bring with me. Oh, and I have 2 small birch trees I can take with me, they will fit perfect at the new place.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 10:34PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Good point, Laag. That was floating around at the back of my head but I went with the basic nice=inviting. But in bringing the point to the fore, I too am reminded of the thread with the recessed front door in which you talked about seeing a place in the landscape where you can see yourself, as in, that's the place for me. In a front yard, this can just be a clear path to the door for a visitor, and a place for a visitor to park. I often feel like I'm intruding when I visit someone where I am parking in their driveway.

Mariana - This may be as much about ages and stages as it is about a different setting for your perennials. There used to be a thread on GW about altering the garden as one ages, to accommodate different gardening abilities and needs (both personal and plant maturity I think), and finding one's taste changing to match. And as it happens, I'm going through the transition from rabid plant collector to a calmer state. So that may be impacting my advice for your space - so you might want to filter accordingly!


    Bookmark   August 30, 2010 at 11:17PM
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KarinL--want to see people feel hesitant? :-) Buy a house with no path to the front door!!!! Before we put in the stepping stones (which will one day be a walk, but not today), we had people walk around to the back door because it's accessible while stepping on less grass.

THAT'S uninviting!

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 11:41AM
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Perhaps your starting point should be your initial, first view of the property as you drove up to it. Can you recall what your thoughts were? Did the landscape invite you to explore further or did something hit your eye right away that made you want to change this or that?

As I viewed your pictures my first thought was that the front yard will require lots of leaf raking and I would want to leave it open as it is now in order to use a riding mower to blow leaves into rows for easier pick up. Aside from that what encourages you to think the front yard is not inviting? Here again, think about your very first impression of the land. Looks fine to me with a bit of cleaning up of the bed near the front of the house and removal of the wishing well which has no purpose unless it covers a well or something else. Suggest you live with this for awhile, develop your backyard plantings and those close to the house. Do you plan to remove the ramp in front of the house? If so this gives you space for interesting plantings. Take your time. Nice piece of property.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 1:55PM
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