Brand New home - Landscaping ideas

blakeas(6 OH)August 26, 2011

I have a brand new home that a builder just built for me. He is only doing landscaping in the front. It is a 2600 sf home with a porch that spans the whole front. the front gets india hawthorne's and cleria's. but the sides are just getting pine straw beds. You can see the right side from the street due to the way it sits on the lot. it is about 21 feet long on the side. I was thinking about buying 12 or so 1 gallon azeleas. is that a good plan? or should I mix in gardenia's every 2 or so? any suggestions would be great!

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karinl(BC Z8)

With the qualifier that anyone's opinion who hasn't seen it is bound to be a guess, both the front and the side sound unbelievably boring to me with or without the gardenias - but if it works for you, it's a good plan.

Builders aren't known for their quality landscaping, be it plant selection, plant arrangement, or the creation of a setting for the plants.

For the side of the house, think in terms of what kind of environment or space you want to create there, as well as how it will look.


    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 8:50PM
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blakeas(6 OH)

Sorry - I should not have posed the question without putting in a couple of pictures. As you see my front has landscaping - Just dont know what to do about the sides. The house faces Northwest and I am in atlanta, ga. I dont have a irrigation system. as you see my carport and the right side of the house need "something" . Any suggestions would be welcome

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 6:43AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

So the side of the house faces SW. How much sun does it receive?

More important than the pot size of the azaleas is what type of azalea they are and how large they'll grow. If you're thinking of planting 12 in a 21' space, are they the tiny gumpo azaleas, or will you have more than one row of plants?

How deep is the front bed at the W corner?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 10:27AM
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blakeas(6 OH)

I would space the appropriate the distance btwn plants. I was just making a guees - probably just some medium ht size azaleas. the front bed is 3 to 4 feet deep. here are some other pictures.

it receives alot of afternoon sun.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 10:52AM
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I think your plan of azaleas and gardenias does little to address the tall blank wall space on the side of the house. A pollarded crape myrtle (think monster sized bouquet) would be an easy way to add a lot of interest and flowering. Put it in a solid bed of 'Big Blue' Liriope and you can minimize the mowing while adding bloom and more interest. I think the pair of windows needs a low-growing shrub below. My choice would be bigleaf hydrangea ('Nikko' is a favorite, but there are many nice ones) for long-lasting summer interest.
(I show the sketches to illustrate scheme, not specifics.)

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 11:29AM
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blakeas(6 OH)

Wow! Interesting sketches! I cant afford a huge crepe mytle like that but interesting nonetheless. Any other shrub suggestions other than the hydrandgea?

instead of lirope I can just do other perennial shrubs - right?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 12:03PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Yes, the photo definitely is useful.

So keeping in mind that this is a landscape design forum and not just a plant selection forum (something that annoys any number of people posting questions), I'm going to question two things.

The first is whether something really is "needed" on the side. There isn't really anything wrong with bare walls, and there is no foundation there to hide (even if there were, I'm not a fan of foundation planting anyway). Seems to me that Yardvisor has fallen right into that trap and the result is, in my opinion, horrendous, sorry to say. S/he has done you the favour of illustrating that anything you put there will be three dimensional, and the resulting theft of space makes it look kind of claustrophobic over there. It would be even worse if the shrub were not on stilts. Unless there is a distinct purpose for shrubbery there (say to block views into the back yard) I don't see a need. Especially if that is where you or visitors would get out of your car.

The second thing I'll question is whether plants squished into the foundation of this house at the front on this lot flatters either one, house or lot. If you're open to other ideas for the front yard, there seem to me to be many other options, depending on what your tastes and maintenance preferences are. It's a gorgeous big house and deserves landscaping of a similar scale and interest, and the property is commodious enough that plants don't need to be wedged in at the foundation - that just makes it seem like the house has been shoehorned into too small a property, and it hasn't.

One thing I see done right is that I think the trees are well-placed for future shade. I hope the street-side one is a large-growing variety that can eventually replace what you'll lose when the monster on the left comes down, as it likely must some day. Please at least tell us that it's not a Bradford Pear :-)

The trees, in time, will also screen that bare side wall for you, as seen from the street.


    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 1:25PM
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I'm going to agree and disagree with Karinl.

To the question of "bare walls" I say "Yes, there is something wrong with them." They are less interesting than they might otherwise be! Inside a house, they are rarely even tolerated! The larger part of landscaping is a balancing act. In this case I'm not claiming that the blank wall is so horrible that it must be covered at all costs. I'm claiming that a giant floral bouquet permanently parked next to it adds interest and beauty while not in any other way injuring it (such as by hiding a beneficial architectural element.) If this is "theft of space" then the two shade trees will ultimately become an armed assault on this property. (Properly pruned throughout their life, I don't this this is a danger!) "Claustrophobic"...? Limbs and foliage in your face is claustrophobic. Flowering branches well above your head is not. (Across the street from this house...that's claustrophobic.) On the inside of any house every blank wall will receive some ornament to reduce its "blankness". On the outside of a house, that's exactly what landscaping is for.

In my mind it is almost a sacrilege to refer to a crape myrtle as a "shrub on stilts." A well grown one (which is ENTIRELY within the control of its owner) is a year-round object of beauty rivaling a fine sculpture. The nice ones can nearly take your breath away.

Though I'm not a fan of "rules" of landscaping I agree that "foundation planting" is way overused. I believe in covering up/screening things that are unattractive, whether they are at the foundation or anywhere else. At the front of the house, my first reaction to the second group of photos was that the lattice grate under the porch was rather attractive. I would not be rushing to cover it. And I would certainly not be mixing unlike shrubs together in the same planting group.

Blakeas, your reaction "I cant afford a huge crepe mytle like that" surprises me. Buy a $25 crape. In three years, you'll have it. As far as other shrubs besides hydrangea...go to Pike's and tell them that you are looking for something that will be happy kept at a 36-42" height x similar spread and then add whatever other qualities you're looking for...evergreen, deciduous, flowering, etc. There will probably be a few choices that tolerate the light conditions you'll have.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 3:22PM
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So what we have here is a very nice new house in a period style but you want to Walmart on the landscape? A lawn with a couple of trees and mulch volcanoes is what you have now. I suggest you live there for a bit and magically stuff will fall into place unless you want to design the landscape in advance.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 6:24PM
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blakeas(6 OH)

I want to design it now - I only will able to afford it now. Plus I want things to start growing.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 6:26PM
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I have crape myrtles the size yardviser illustrated that started three years ago with three seedling crapes about 12" tall, which I've grown as one multi-trunked specimen. Agree that it has interest in all seasons. Also, Pikes and others sell humongo crepes for about $100. Late fall in Atlanta would be the best time to plant.

Great looking house. I'm having a major case of big, mature trees envy.

Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 7:12PM
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If you want to make the SW wall less plain, how about constructing an attractive white upright trellis between the corner and the front window, then training an evergreen vine or climbing hydrangea suitable to your zone to clamber up it? They grow quickly, often have a wonderful scent and you could easily access them from the driveway to prune them as needed. I've seen very handsome examples too where, once they reached the height desired by the homeowners, the vines were then trained laterally with brackets affixed to the building, so that the vines draped over windows and porches. The height of the visual impact will far exceed the actual ground footprint, if you wish to also use an underplanting of the shrubs you like.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 7:14PM
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blakeas(6 OH)

I appreciate all of the suggestions! this is quite good. I appreciate the different viewpoints.

adriennemb - I think a lattice like that is too much. I was just hoping for some tree/shrub suggestions plus beds

I have also a small backyard - any suggestions?

Here are some pictures - hopefully u can get an idea. There are large trees overhanging it. alot of shade. I was thinking hostas lining the fence at the top of the hill and maybe just some shade shrubs along the house and garage. But as you have seen my imagination is not there!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 6:45AM
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Blake - be really careful watering those trees in the front yard. That type of planting, referred to as mulch volcanoes, makes water shed from the root ball of the trees.

Crepe myrtles are truly beautiful shrubs, it looks like Blake already has one one the other side of the drive? I think it is worth the investment because I agree that some height is needed in that corner of the house. The mock up isn't the best, but I think it is on target design wise.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 8:52AM
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One tangential question; is it common to install sod in squares in your area? Seems to me that squares increase the amount of edges over rolls of sod which makes it more vulnerable to drying out.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 8:57AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Blake, I don't know plants for your area at all (I don't think I've ever even seen a crepe myrtle) so I'm not the best person to suggest plants, but I do suggest you avoid letting your builder make any landscaping decisions for you, either about plant selection or bed placement... if those are supposed to be beds in the backyard, combined with the job in the front, that is some of the worst builder-installed landscaping I've ever seen!

Yet the house is fabulous. Like, he's apparently a genius as a builder but simply isn't aware that there are other people as good or better at landscaping that he should maybe consult???????????????????? I'm just baffled by the contrast; it's like seeing a Ferrari painted with a roller.

The front yard is often about curb appeal but the back yard is more often about what you plan to do in the space. It looks like it is destined to be slopey partly to keep water away from the house, which strikes me as a good thing. Another important thing in the back is often what you think you'd like to be seeing out the windows. For that, and for other reasons, I think a bed of plants AWAY from the fence would be better than one crammed along it. We call the urge to plant only along and around things and buildings "perimeteritis." But even at that, those beds are WAY too narrow to be useful.

Moving back to the area you first asked about, what kinds of plants do you like? Are you after garish flowers, or do you like form, foliage, fragrance? It might be the best approach for you to go to a good local nursery and see what plants appeal to you and then shape a bed to put them in. Personally, I think in that space I would consider some specialty conifers like a norway spruce type. There are others, and conifers can be found in shades of blue and gold as well as green, so you can make a remarkably colourful display if you put some thought into it. Check around on the conifers forum to get an idea if you like.

Karin L

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 1:29AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

adriennemb's vine suggestion is a good way to get some height in that corner without losing all the side lawn to a deeper bed -- though there's nothing that requires the entire bed to be the same width from the house. (Mind you, I agree with whoever said the front beds are way too shallow -- and the backyard beds are even narrower.)

Remember, you can buy a trellis and paint it to match your siding; that would make it much less intrusive -- even before the vine covers it.


About the backyard: It looks like the backyard is sloped to handle a considerable amount of drainage out to the street while keeping it away from the foundation (do you get a lot of run-off from the neighbors behind you?). You'll want to check out how the water moves during heavy rain -- and how much water there is.

Before planting anything, think about where you would put a seating area. The contours of the yard make this an interesting question. The more obvious choice would be a deck along the back of the house; I assume that either the deck would have to be open underneath to allow water to pass around the house, or you'd have to build something to handle the water another way.

The other possibility for the seating area would be the left back corner: add a low, curving retaining wall and fill in behind it to create a level area there. As you seem to be concerned about your landscaping costs: rather than paving the seating area, plant grass (you might be able to remove and re-use the existing grass).

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 2:25AM
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You need on-site consultation that really "gets" where you are coming from in what you want from your "landscaping" and what you can put into it (not just money but maintenance adn/or interaction with your landscaping. You could give some thought to how much you value really fine landscaping (it's okay not to, much) and that might determine where you shop for services. You said "I want to design it now," which I interpret to mean you want it designed now, and that's fine. But this type of random interaction with posters is not the same as the design process that you need when you are just starting out with your first thoughts about landscaping AND you want a soon result.

You're "in the weeds" here, and because of the combination of where you're starting from and the way random postings and replies work, it isn't likely that this process will work for you, and I think you don't realize that. Your builder has put you in a box with all the "beds" and mulch lined up around the house and I think it will take an on-site re-design to help you break out of that.

I'm not intending to put off those who have offered specific suggestions and pictures--I think they know the limitations of their suggestions and are just giving you food for thought. So of course it is fine to have a fun back and forth of suggestions and reactions, and for some people it gets creative processes going and new ideas. But that is not getting your landscape designed.

So, find professionals in your area, look at some of what they have done, and try to pick one.

The threads that I think will be most helpful to you on this forum are the ones on what types of persons/qualifications to look for, how to find a professional, and the different ways they tend to charge, how you can interact with professional, e.g., turnkey jobs vs. pay for design jobs and install yourself, install in stages etc. So you can decide on both a budget and how much you want to be involved in the process.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 2:30PM
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