Flower bed around tree?

kgibbinsAugust 16, 2009

Hi everyone! I'm new to the landscape forum.

We just purchased a house and are fixing it up. Next up, is the landscaping.

Do you have any ideas for the front beds? And do you think it would look nice to add a bed around the big tree in the front yard? What about the big space in between the two windows?

Thank you kindly!

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That's a very beautiful tree, old and stately. It does not need the kind of enhancement a "tree ring" is all too often thought to provide.

That being said, I don't know about the variety of landscaping choices you have in Texas.

But, the shrubbery all along the front seems to be a bit small to be effective. What's already there? Looking to rip it out and start over or simply add more to the mix? Looking for color, or more height here and there, or just a little more bulk?

I'm usually loathe to ask - when the post is about landscaping - but would you consider putting some color on your front door?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 5:25PM
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Thank you for your feedback. And YES!!! I just installed that new door last week and do plan to paint it, but I'm not sure what color to choose - red, black, another color?

The landscaping along the front of the house is, well, here you can see it... before we painted the house grey.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 5:36PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

I love your house-maybe because it is similar to ours-lol. Not sure about what to grow in Texas, but we painted our house the same color as yours and did the door a dark purple. It looks great and a little different from all those reds and blacks everywhere else. Then, you can play up the color in your garden with blues, purples, pinks and whites.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 7:08PM
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Dark purple is an interesting idea. Do you remember what specific color/brand it was?

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 7:50PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

How odd that your foundation beds seem to get narrow just in that gap between the windows where you might be able to accommodate a more substantial landscaping shrub. You might consider widening that; in fact it would be an idea to change the bed shape altogether - maybe swinging out to encompass what looks, in the second photo you posted, like a newer little tree.

If the tree(s?) at the far left end is as close to your foundation as it looks to be, you might want to look into the effect of its roots on your foundation. It looks also as if you have a new tree growing on the right hand side, which is a good start on replacement stock in case some of the others have to come down soon.

The biggest tree DEFINITELY does not need a bed at its base (maybe you do, but it doesn't :-)) and anything you plant there (a) would be dwarfed by the tree and (b) probably wouldn't grow well anyway. What more to put in the way of beds depends on what you want and how much of a gardening task you want to have.

There are a lot of old threads here on foundation planting - you might scan those for some input of a general nature.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 11:05PM
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Thank you, Karin. I know many of these old trees are too close the foundation, but I just can't seem to part with them yet.... I know its something we need to address at some point, but they are so beautiful!

Thanks for your ideas about expanding the beds in the front. I think that is a great idea. Any thoughts on what type of plant might work? I do like the look of a simple boxwood shrub- is that what its called - to not get into anything too fussy.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 11:40PM
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1) There is nothing inherently bad about a tree's roots being close to a foundation if in fact the foundation is structurally sound. Roots don't damage foundations unless they are already cracked or damaged. Hopefully, your home inspection would have confirmed the structural status of the foundation.

2) Whether or not the big tree needs a 'bed' around it depends on how you define a bed - if you mean just a tree ring, then I agree that it doesn't (although for newly planted trees, a generous circle of mulch is far better than bringing the lawn right up to the trunk base, allows for correct watering and goes along way to avoid mower and trimmer damage). But narrow and hard to mow strips of lawn running between the tree(s) and the existing planting areas serves no purpose either. I'd consider bringing out that foundation planting area in a large, graceful arc that includes ALL the trees. Better for the trees, easier to mow/trim and gives some needed weight and dimension to what is essentially a straight line foundation 'bed'. And serves to ground the residence to the landscape.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 10:23AM
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I agree with Karin you have lots of lawn, so take advantage of it to plant some more stuff. The drawback will be more shrub maintenace though...

Also consider looking at more shade tolerant species, as some of these look a little leggy.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 10:24AM
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I would kinda forget you have those beds all along the front for now and back up and take some photos showing wider angle and how you want to frame the house on the property and where the big tree already takes over. Don't just try to find shrubs and plants to fill up across the front--you don't need foundation-hiding plantings. I don't myself see a need for lots of green shrubbery just to have "landscaping". Think about what you would like to experience--do you want to see some cheerful color when you drive by, or is the brick enough--do the perspective photos show an imbalance in the existing landscape, do you need a place to play with flowers or is that in the backyard, and so on. Do you want to have just a few things that don't need any care at all and not a lot of mulch each year. Do you go in the front door a lot and want to see something changing and interesting, smell scented blooms, or do you prefer it to be neat and reliably the same? When driving around the neighborhood or others in your town, are there things you really like in landscapes and would like to "see" in yours? If you could have something green all year or green in 3 seasons and bloom in one (azaleas and camelias come to mind) which would you prefer? You could draw a mockup of your house's front exterior and play with placing various shapes and forms--at a corner, under window (or do this on a photoshop thing) and see what shapes and sizes complement the house and which compete with windows, doors, big tree.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 8:46PM
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deltagirl(6b Mid TN)

Lovely house! I would nix the bed around the tree. Add a bed of mulch around the tree (do not use dyed mulch) to accent and preserve moisture. Consider the line that your sidewalk already makes. It is a nice curve. You could mirror it on the right side of your house and take in the small tree and go around the corner. Wide beds are very nice. You do not have to fill them with plants. Get rid of the brick edging and use a natural beveled edge and raise the height of the bed 6 to 8 inches above the yard level. This does not help with the left side and you will like the results better if your design unifies the whole house. Find plants that grow well in your environment and classify them by shape and height in 5 years.

Looking at your house again, I am struck by your beautiful entrance which could be even more welcoming with the right plants. You might also consider whether you want an enclosed feeling to the front yard and that would effect where you put your beds and the size of your plants.

I am sure I have not clarified anything for you, but perhaps something in here will give you a place to start.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 9:52PM
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Delta Girl - When you say a "natural beveled edge", what specifically are you referring to? I realize the existing grey bricks that came with the house aren't working!!!!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 10:36PM
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deltagirl(6b Mid TN)

My landscaper had a push tool with a sharp edge that cut a v-shape, going through the sod and forming a trench. The angle of the bed sloping into the trench is about 45 degrees. A weekly run by with a weed=eater (string perpendicular to ground) keeps the grass from jumping into the bed and the edge looks very neat for the whole growing season. I have tried to do it with a hoe and shovel and it does not look as groomed so I will get him to come back and edge for me until I can find a tool I can use myself. It is neat, works and "it's one less thing."

Gardengal48 has a good idea about using one continous gracious curve to incorporate all the trees and beds. If you need a reference for a beautiful curve, you can think about the shape of a shell (Fabiocci? rule).

I agree with one

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 11:24PM
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One thing I can picture would be beautiful daylillies all the way along that entry walkway. just a thought.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 9:27PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Without reading all the previous posts to see if this is redundant...

what hits me is that the bed across the right side of the house needs to curve out at about the point where the window is to incorporate the shrub on the right, and give the lawn on that side more of a sweeping appearance.

The tree is big enough that it should have grass around it instead of bed. If a bed were to be added it should reach all the way to the walk and be designed to give the lawn an attractive shape. The curving of the walk is in keeping with the kind of flowing appearance the lawn and beds should have.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 12:12AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

My husband usually buys the exterior paint at Duron. Our house color is "Woodcut" (I picked that, so I do remember), but DH doesn't remember the name of what he picked. I did remember, though, that he painted directly over the black that was there which would have darkened the color. Our shutters are teal. Sounds odd, but actually works since the shutters are not right next to the door. I have found that our BM dealer (Ace Hardware) has the most amazing fellow with a fabulous eye for color. If you can find someone like that, describe what you want, he/she/ amy be able to find/mix just the color you want.

Also, I would agree that you don't want to plant just around the tree. It is always better to have mulch around a tree as deltagirl said. I also like the idea of playing up the walkway and having a bed that leads into the other beds. It's hard for me to recommend plants because we are in such different areas, but if you know the look you like, go check out some pics on other forums (hosta, cottage, perennial, etc.). Be sure to post pics as you go! Can't wait to see what you decide to do. Cynthia

    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 12:17PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

There are a couple of conversations happening here at once, and I'm posting to continue the one about trees close to the foundation. My understanding is that tree roots don't cause trouble only by invading the foundation, but also by sucking the soil dry around it, causing the soil to pull away and leave the foundation unsupported. It may be that a solid foundation could withstand this, but it still doesn't seem like a really good idea to me - even if all it does is create openings for critters to burrow in.

Anyway, I do agree with Gardengal that altering the curve on the bed would make an awkward strip of grass between the bed and the tree on the left. Deepening the bed to include the tree would go with Bboy's suggestion about the right hand side. But that would give you some serious gardening space to plant up and take care of - is that what you want? If your taste in plants leans towards boxwoods - which have their place - then I don't see the point of having more space for them. Green blobs are good for hiding things and filling space that is unavoidably empty, but why create planting space only to fill it with green blobs?

On the whole, the question of how to shape the beds leads to the eternal question of why your landscaping is bound and determined to be just foundation planting rather than a plan that looks at how best to integrate and enhance the house on the lot AS A WHOLE. Again - and I think I'm just going to stay out of foundation planting discussions because I am as tired of saying this as people must be of reading it - unless you're a really keen gardener who desperately needs every square inch of your property for your plant collection, why does this house need foundation planting?

It seems far more important to me at least to put your tree succession plan in place. I'd plan where the new trees will be, and design beds incorporating them around their ideal locations, with a view to you or a future homeowner being able to remove those current huge trees within twenty years without a complete loss of shade.


    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 2:00PM
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hollyhockdoll(z5 IN)

You have a beautiful house - you did a great job picking paint colors! When I was struggling with how I wanted the front of my house to look (I had tried several things and was not happy with any of them), I took a picture of the front of my house and printed several copies off in black and white. Then I took a pen and started drawing in shapes. I didn't try to figure out what the plants would be, I just concentrated on the scale and shape - something round here, something more upright or arching there. When I did that, everything started making sense really fast. When I knew what shapes I wanted where, and about what size they needed to be, then I went back and figured out which plants would meet my criteria. Just thought you might want to give it a try since you already have a good picture to do it with!

By the way, I agree that the big tree doesn't need anything around it, but I would expand the foundation bed out around the large tree on the corner more, and maybe incorporate that little one too. Just remember that you don't want to add onto the bed on one side of the sidewalk and then leave the other side skimpy - it needs to look balanced in the end. And if the blank space between the windows bothers you, you can do a piece of art, or a modern looking trellis (painted to match your shutters) to balance it out, instead of a plant. I kinda like the height of your existing plantings (what I don't like is that they haven't grown together and they're little "balls" with space in between)- ranch houses are not tall by nature and sometimes I think the landscape plants look like they've been "squashed" in there because they take up what little height the house has. Just squint and imagine large "mounds" of 18" high plants instead of 18" balls!

Hope I'm making some kind of sense - I tend to ramble on!!


    Bookmark   August 23, 2009 at 8:54PM
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