Front Yard Landscaping

bordercolliesrule83(NC - 7B)August 9, 2014

I would appreciate some help with landscaping the front of my house. Here is the front of the house
And the pivot to show the rest of the left side

In order to take those photos, I am standing in the woods, so that is not what you see when approaching the house. This is what you see from the street

And as you come down the driveway

As you can tell, the house sits below the street. The house is 2 1/2 years old. Grading was done so the rain is diverted around the house. It works well, but we have had to tweak it a bit. The driveway has a "circle" in front of the house. The garden in the middle of it is a pollinator garden. It is a work in progress, but it functions well to deal with the rainwater. What you see in front of the house, between the cedar wall and the driveway is a rain garden. That works well too. The water that collects there is only from parts of the driveway and the front yard. The downspouts do not go to the rain garden.

I am interested in landscaping the area to the left of the walk where the woodchips are located. The woodchips were placed there as a temporary step to keep down the weeds and keep the soil from washing away. You probably noticed that some of the woodchips washed onto the walkway. This happened three months ago when there was a problem with the downspout on the left. That issue has been solved. Also, a slight swale has now been made in the woodchip area because we recently experienced some settling in that area.
Here are some closer photos of the area. It is difficult to photo this area because of the lighting. The front of the house faces due north.

My goal is to make this area look like it was landscaped and not just a bunch of plants stuck in the ground. We had a landscape design done by a landscape architect when we built, but it was not followed for a number of reasons, mainly inappropriate plants due to size or not being deer resistant. We do not want any grass in the front yard. We are okay with moving some of the plants that are currently there. The ones we really do not want to move are the Japanese maple and the cryptomeria. I also think the trellis needs to be replaced with a taller one. That was put in because we needed something there in front of the drop off (there is a walkout basement on that side).

The prostrate yew has always struggled there (might need more shade). The compact Japanese pieris look nice when blooming, but they aren't doing super well either. The ilex crennat 'Hoogendorn' look very small because the deer pruned them - the one on the other side of the walkway is doing much better. My mom moved the ferns from the woods and they are doing really well. They are braken and lady fern. The yellow twig dogwood appears to be doing well as does the fringe tree and the barberry. The witch hazel tree is relatively new.

Here is the layout of the current plants. Obviously, they are drawn at their mature size rather than how big they are currently.

I realize the plan comes first and then the plants. But I thought I would include this information anyway. We live in central NC. The soil has a lot of clay in it. And we get rain. It is not that we get outrageous amounts of rain, but it is not unusual to for it to fall at the rate of 3-4 inches per hour for 15-20 minutes. We prefer plants that need little maintenance. We do get deer, so any plants need to be deer resistant. I also have the following shrubs that can be included in any plan - seven Sugartina 'Crystalina' Clethra alnifolia, three Limemound spirea and two Emerald Heights distylium.

I thank you if you have made it to the bottom of this posting. I know it was long, but I wanted to be able to give you a sense of the area and what we are hoping to achieve. If you need more information or photos just ask. I know I should probably post a photo of the front of the house standing in line with the fringe tree. I thought I had that shot, but I don't so I will try to take one.

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It's a very nice introduction with photos. I feel like I have a good, basic understanding of how the house fits into its surroundings. Like the approach sequence, too. I put the pictures together. The comment, "Don't you wish you could see ..." is intended more as a reminder for the "general public," not so much for the OP. However, for the OP, who I think already mentioned this, there is a need for a closer view of the area of focus.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 11:51AM
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The first thing to be concerned about is how the blank space between the windows is proposed to be treated. I've attempted to show the cryptomeria as a young adult, and it appears that it's going to become unmanageable, obliterating the left half of the house. It will be more interesting to place a large, 3-D fan of trunks in front of this blank wall space, providing a bold pattern display against the plain background. If the trunks hold aloft a dome-shaped canopy of a SMALL tree, it would hide enough of the roof to create interest and not get out of control in the future.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 11:54AM
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bordercolliesrule83(NC - 7B)

Thank you Yardvaark. I am actually laughing at the "Don't you wish you could see ..." because you really don't. That is an area in progress. There will be a shed, greenhouse and vegetable garden over there, but it is a mess right now.

Bummer about that cryptomeria, I didn't think it was going to get that big. It certainly is not growing very fast. But I definitely do not want it to overwhelm the house. And I do like it off to the side where you have placed it. The multi-trunk small tree looks much better between the windows. I will need help finding the right tree. Although lovely, I do not want a crape myrtle as it is just too common. Perhaps a multi-trunk viburnum.

Here is the straight on close-up of the area being redesigned. I forgot to mention earlier that the rain garden plants were only planted last fall, so they will fill out quite a bit. In the photo you can see the new swale right behind the rain garden. It rained all day yesterday and it performed well. (The colors are also off in the photo due to how dreary it is today.)

If needed, I can take a photo of the area to the right side of the walk. We will be making a few changes to that side but if it will help with the design, I'll go take one.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 1:46PM
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bordercolliesrule83(NC - 7B)

Here is the area to the right of the front walk.

I don't have a layout of that area.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 2:13PM
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"I am actually laughing at the "Don't you wish ..." What I figured ... another embarrassing mess someone doesn't want us to see! :D

"Although lovely, I do not want a crape myrtle as it is just too common." ... Hmmmmm ... another unashamed plant snob! :-(

Consider making a multi-trunk tree of any of the large shrubs capable of achieving 12' to 15' ht. and that have qualities you appreciate. Many Viburnums would work ... as would many other species. Explore what does that well in your area. Be careful, though, as many of what people trim and keep as "bushes" can get VERY large.

If you explore Google Images of Cryptomeria, you'll see easily what they are capable of.

I would consider having fewer separate "bushes" at the area in question. (You'll note that I commonly link shrubs to windows as I think the window box effect works well, but without the maintenance bother of the actual window box. Of course, I would do the same here.) And I would use "groundcover" that links things together. If you have the skill to make groundcover out of a mix of many different kinds of plants and that appeals, give it a shot. But I think a stronger appearing scene will arise out of simplicity.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 2:20PM
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bordercolliesrule83(NC - 7B)

If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting mass planting one shrub under each window. The windows sill is 3 feet off the ground. The Sugartina 'Crystalina' Clethra alnifolia are suppose to get 28-36" tall. Is that the right height? All the other characteristics are good for the site. How many would you suggest and how should they be arranged? Some places say they get 28-36" wide and others say 3-4' wide. That always confuses me because I have a hard time figuring out the spacing. I have seven right now and would need to run out to get them tomorrow while they are still available.

Would you suggest I also get a couple more of the yellow twig dogwoods so they can be a grouping too?

I would prefer just one ground cover. It will be tough to find the correct one though. The planting, weeding and waiting while it fills in is one problem, but the other issue will be removing all the leaves that get caught in it. The one thing I can say about the wood chips is that falling leaves blend right in.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 7:14PM
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Below the window, for me it would be one shrub allowed allowed to grow the full width, or two squeezed a little tight so that they don't end up being too wide. See pic.

I don't know where yt dogwoods are so cannot comment, but these can grow to a good size so I probably wouldn't want in the foreground of view to home.

At right of the walk, I think a main problem is that the mulch looks like the end product. Too much desert for me. I'd be looking to find some low groundcover in order to make some green. Of course, this applies to left side of walk, too.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 9:43PM
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bordercolliesrule83(NC - 7B)

I agree, yellow twig dogwoods get larger than I would want in front of the house. The one is currently located behind the Japanese maple (see the above layout plan). I would put the additional ones next to it, near the swale on the left side.

Yes, too many wood chips. I have plans for the left side that will reduce the amount of wood chips you see. Also, once the plants get bigger, the wood chips will not be so overpowering.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 10:16PM
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