Landscape help with new construction

JMphotoAugust 24, 2011

I need help and suggestions for the first phase of landscape on our new construction. I want to landscape in front of the garage and corner of the porch in between the walkway. I want to do it very soon. The rest of the house will wait until spring. We are located in Eastern Pa (about 1 hour north west of Philadelphia). The front of the home faces mostly west, slightly southwest. I like ornamental shrubs and was thinking some evergreens since I don't like it looking so bare in the winter. You can see below the walkway has a bump out near the center of the garage, between the two windows which gives about 8' from the garage wall to the walkway and about 6' wide from the wall to the walkway near the corners of the garage. I was thinking something tall and ornamental in between the windows. Something that wont get too wide and cover the stonework. My first thought was a weeping norway spruce and training it to go to about 6 to 8'. Then on either side of the norway, under the windows, something small and compact globe shaped evergreen.

Then some perennials mixed in around the shrubs.

I already have a dwarf norway spruce I got from a friend which is a nice ball shaped about 2' round that I was thinking of putting in the area in the same area but towards the porch end. would love to hear your suggestions.

Thanks.

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

That's a great shape for a walkway, JMphoto. And a good-looking house, though I think you'll want to do something to minimize the triangle above the garage.

Can you tell us what USDA zone you're in. That will help the knowledgeable ones know what plants will do well in your area. If you don't know your zone, you can enter your zip code here and find out:
http://www.garden.org/zipzone/index.php

I know you don't want to think about anything else at this time, but nothing exists in a vacuum, and that's true for your walkway bed also. The house faces southwestish. Will you want to plant shade trees in front of the house? If so, now's the time to figure out where to put them -- and how they will interact with your foundation plantings.

In the second photo, we seem to be looking down at the house. Does it sit well below the street, or is something else going on? (I remember an old thread where the owner took photos from 20' up in the air in some sort of lift.)

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 12:14AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Your garage isn't centred in your walkway so I don't think your symmetrical plan will look right. And a norway up the middle will do something in the two eyes and a nose department...

I also really like the shape of your walkway and would almost be inclined to emphasize it by planting something along it... a row of little boxwood shrubs or a single type of grass or perennial.

I have to agree with MTO on the overall plan as well. I would look at the lot as a whole first and plan where your trees are going to be. Nothing wrong with putting a few plants in this bed, mind you, but be open to moving them once you get the overall composition together.

I should say that I'm just really not a fan of foundation planting at all, and almost wonder whether you should consider putting lawn in that "bed" and doing your gardening outside the walkway. That would leave your porch nice and open and accessible, easy for a toddler to transition from porch to grass... a pleasant place to be. With flowers close enough to admire.

KarinL

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 12:28AM
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JMphoto

Thanks everyone. We are zone 6A.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 8:12AM
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pls8xx

It looks like you have a drainage problem developing. Water will either be trapped between the house/walk/driveway or the grading will discharge water across the walk carrying soil or mulch onto the walk.

It may be possible to do a swale through this area with surface inlets. Best to get the plan done and a pipe installed across the driveway before it's poured.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 9:47AM
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inkognito

I am not a fan of the walkway especially as it seems to be dictating the whole landscape it also doesn't seem very wide. The earth tones in the house and nice stonework should be the dominating feature in my opinion, You also seem to be going at it from a 'curb appeal' angle which I think is odd because if the entire front was grass it would have more appeal than the foundation planting you have in mind.

I can understand that you want to get cracking on what is a sea of dirt at the moment but mistakes made at this stage will be the result of not having an overall plan. pls has mentioned drainage MTO mentions trees there is also what looks to be a huge drop off at the opposite end to the garage. In my opinion you should address these practical concerns and get a plan before buying any plants.

I would also advise against having a polar bear hiding in your bushes.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 12:49PM
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Yardviser

I do not see a way to post a photo here. Only a link. Can anyone advise how to post photo to show ideas?

Layout of walk is fine and while walk may be sufficient, it would APPEAR more fitting to the house if it were wider...especially as it makes its final approach to the porch.

If I can figure out how to post photo, I can show planting ideas.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 1:05PM
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Yardviser

I found out in another forum how to post a picture (basically, get the html code for a specific picture off of whatever photo-hosting website one uses. For me, it's Flickr.) Let's see if this works...

For the multi-trunk tree form shrubs, there's probably dozens of choices...depending on the specifics. I'd start by thinking how tall I want the plant to ultimately be. Then think about flowering, evergreen, etc.

For a low evergreen groundcover, if flowering is desired, consider one of the evergreen dianthus. In the following picture are two different ones (not shown blooming.) The bluest one in foreground is 'Firewitch'. Lost track of name of other variety. (it's greener and taller.)

Shown in bloom it looks like this:

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 2:04PM
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adriennemb2(z3/4)

Just a few quick suggestions -

Would it be possible to widen that attractively shaped walkway before you go any further? I think that the usual rule of thumb is that two people should be able to walk abreast comfortably. Perhaps add a border on either side of the current one, made either of stamped cement or of stone similar to what you have is already on the foundation.

To my eye, that bump-out in the prospective bed closest to the front door seems like an ideal spot for a significant and architectural garden fountain, providing the pleasant sound of water to enjoy from the porch in the summer, a focal point in the bare winter.

Have you considered shingling the large stucco triangle on the garage to bring it down to earth? Or painting it a darker shade of the body of the house?

And your property calls out for a Japanese maple and viburnum somewhere in its treescape. Just saying. Have fun with your designs!

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 2:31PM
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JMphoto

Thanks for the suggestions so far. To answer a few questions: the final grading was not done yet when this photo was taken, that should happen this weekend. I took the photo from the top of the excavator which was parked in front of the home so I could give more of a birds-eye-view of the walkway. The drainage concerns are because you are looking at a rough grade and not final. I am definitely planning on a Japanese cut leaf maple, but I was thinking on the right side of the house in a bed that goes from the walkway, down around the right side of the house.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 3:42PM
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marcinde(7)

It's probably worth mentioning that it the photo manipulation someone responded with, it looks like the bed is totally big enough for two trees. In the OP's photo standing at the walk and shooting back towards the garage... I'm thinking that's going to be tight.

Folks need to recognize that the hardscape and the plantings should be designed concurrently. Every time a client tells me "I just had a walk/retaining wall/patio put in, let's plant it!" I know I'm in for a treat.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 5:59PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I'm not a pro, and I'm not always sure what to do about situations like the garage triangle. Like adriennemb, I thought maybe vertical siding close to the color of the shingles. So I did a little MS Paint:

[Pardon me while I stare dumbfounded: never had a Photobucket account or uploaded from Paint before -- and not at all sure I could do it a second time.]

I like Yardviser's multi-trunked tree in front of the triangle also, though I'm not sure what effect its roots would have on the foundation and the walkway.

===

I would also advise against having a polar bear hiding in your bushes.

Thanks for pointing out the polar bear designshare put in the shrubbery, ink! I didn't look carefully enough, and had missed it. There's a podocarpus, too (or some relative); I must admit I'm a bigger fan of those than of polar bears.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 9:14PM
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adriennemb2(z3/4)

That looks better, MTO.

And geez, NOW I get that polar bear comment (knocks self on forehead). Here I just thought that Ink was prone to non sequitors -
no cure for that, you know...

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 9:38PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

... so maybe he's used to seeing polar bears in the shrubbery....

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 9:46PM
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JMphoto

OK...not real big on polar bears, only at the zoo. I am not the expert here, but here is what I was thinking. This is after playing in photoshop. We do not want to change anything about the peak above the garage right now., but I appreciate your input.
This was after playing in photoshop a little:


I have the weeping norway in the center, I have irish juniper on the corners, some sort of dwarf mugo pine under the windows and the dwarf norway close to the porch/walkway. I would plan on filling in with perennials.
For the right side, in the spring I will develop that side and I wanted to use a japanese cut leaf maple, probably more towards the corner of the porch. The right side does not drop off as it looks, that was before final grading, it now slopes down gently.
Thanks for your thoughts and feedback

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 10:49PM
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adriennemb2(z3/4)

...you can only be sure that he is truly Canadian if he smirks when someone says that they smell burnt toast. Nobody south of the border can possibly know what we find so funny about THAT...

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 10:52PM
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adriennemb2(z3/4)

Sorry JMphoto, we cross-posted. No disrespect intended.

I like your plant selection but I can't get past karin1's previous comment about the illusion of two eyes and a nose on the garage facade. With the latest sketch, it now looks as if you have added verdant cheeks, long green ears and a big lop-sided cement smile under a big hat.

I can certainly understand your preference for formality but perhaps if the plant placement was less symmetrical?...

    Bookmark   August 25, 2011 at 11:30PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

So I totally missed that the walkway is on the narrow side... I was so relieved to see one that wasn't rectilinear and a foot from the house! I would totally widen that walkway if I could manage it without my significant other having me committed, and I would use that opportunity to integrate the colour scheme as Ink suggests.

And speaking of knocking oneself on forehead, besides not knowing the burnt toast joke, the only mock-up I like on the thread so far is designshare's! And that is because it keeps the plants in that foundation bed low. That is simply the only look that is truly going to allow that beautiful foundation to shine, the only way that the house can be truly nestled into the site (which is the point of foundation planting, usually), and the only approach that will harmonize with and thus showcase the walkway shape. Not that you can see the walkway in the mock-up, but you can see that in the other mock-ups, the planting distracts you completely from the walkway shape so you overlook it, or it is so completely divorced from it that you sit there and wonder "why?" The vertical plants do absolutely nothing to make the house look like it belongs on that piece of ground.

Just a warning, here, JMPhoto, in case you don't know the forum that well. Many people who post questions are looking for plant selection advice rather than design advice. But we are pretty focussed on discussing overall landscape design, which is more about creating a setting for plants than it is about plants. Or they have an idea that they are already fairly attached to and aren't really interested in much of a different direction. I think the latter may be true in your case, and that can make the discussion a bit disjointed. But the truth is that we enjoy the discussion for discussion's sake, whether the OP is paying attention or not :-) We're all fascinated by design and enjoy every opportunity to learn about it, and we also know that many people seeking ideas for their own sites are lurking and reading, so our discussion is not wasted even if you do not feel it is helping you.

I can see why your idea appeals to you, because there is airspace and wallspace and it seems like you should use it for tall plants. But the design task is not really just fitting plants into the available space, but rather enhancing the building and creating a pleasing space. Spreading plants (maybe microbiota) would do so much more to achieve this than would the verticals and the meatballs.

Finally, while I love the idea of climbing onto the excavator to take a picture, I'd be curious how things look from ground level both from the approach to the house and from the door, as these will be your two usual viewpoints.

KarinL

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 2:14AM
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inkognito

You see, this is the difference between designing and dabbling, unless we know more about the OP/client than a photograph of their house there is no way anyone can sensibly say that a patio is needed.

It does seem evident that JM has good taste, the house design (apart from the Klingon forehead perhaps) and colouring works well but then we step out into the garden and are weighed down by cliche. So I will reiterate what I said above GET A PLAN that takes into account who you are, where you are and what you want to do there oh and budget. To quote Tommy Church "the important thing is that you end up with a functional plan and an artistic composition" that leads to a functional and artistic landscape.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 8:18AM
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deeje

...you can only be sure that he is truly Canadian if he smirks when someone says that they smell burnt toast.

Hee! Doctor Penfield!

Sorry, off-topic. I agree with several others that if you can do something to widen that walkway, and then focus the plantings outside of it, as in designshare's last mockup, you'll do much more to complement the look of your beautiful house.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 2:04PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

if you can do something to widen that walkway, and then focus the plantings outside of it, as in designshare's last mockup

Um ... has anyone else noticed that designshare significantly changed the proportions of the house? In JMphoto's original pics, the height of the garage is 82% of the width (much shorter than it is wide), while in ds's mockup the height is 106% of the width (taller than it is wide).

Plus the progressive darkening of each photo (some artifact of ds's software?) makes the mockups all about designshare's photo-manip ability and increasingly less about the actual property. It's like photographing at midnight with the plants tightly spotlighted and no light on anything else.

How could the mockup be useful to JMphoto when the house isn't even the same shape or color?

===

designshare, can you produce a design where the house is the same shape and color as JMphoto's? I challenge you to show us you can work within the limits of the Real World. That means no orange patio either.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 6:43PM
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inkognito

MTO I am starting to realise that the house in the background is only there as a kind of side note and the stuff in front of it is not meant to be seen as in scale or relating to the house at all. In this case the original has been squeezed from a matchbox format to a square format so we are not meant to see this picture as a true representative, we are meant to see it as....and this is where I come unstuck.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 10:12PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Yes. What ds sees is beyond our understanding.

For myself, I think I'll try regarding the pics as nonrepresentative art. The medium is unusual: neon-colorized plant photos. The background is recycled prints of early-21st century suburbia, with multiple coats of a dark wash. Clearly a new sub-genre -- but will it catch on?

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 12:52AM
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isabella__MA(z5_MA)

off topic again, but see here for more examples of garden/plant collage art (however, at the referenced website used for commercial purposes).

http://www.tytyga.com/

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 6:54AM
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deeje

ds's proportions and color manipulation aside, I still stand by the basic thought that the plantings between house and walkway should be low-growing and simple, so as not to compete with the beautiful stonework, with the bulk of the eye-catching garden bed on the opposite side. That's the idea in the last ds image that I was paying attention to, not all the silliness.

And I REALLY would like to see the walkway widened, especially that last approach to the front porch. The edging that others have suggested would be an easy way to accomplish it along the rest of the path, but I'd bring that last bit... perhaps out to the columns on each side. Sort of an open-arms "welcome!" implied in the walkway that way.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 9:51AM
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inkognito

Thanks for engaging ideashare. What you are calling an "observation point" is what I wanted to talk to yo about on that other thread about perspective. I take your point about how different something could appear from a photograph taken from an excavator bucket and how it might look on the ground. What I was trying to convey to you was the fact that unlike this internet situation there is no fixed "observation point" in a real garden and it is a mistake to design as if there were.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 4:40PM
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inkognito

Thank dog you are still there Andrew too much vacation is not good for the soul you know.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2011 at 10:03PM
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isabella__MA(z5_MA)

Well if you're like most N. Americans you approach your house by the driveway, park in the driveway/garage, and enter the house through a door from the garage. Basically most people use the most direct and utilitarian entrance to their house, as opposed to the more formal and grand entrance. That one being only saved for the FEDex or pizza guy. You should be focusing on making your approach to the house welcoming... not just for the deliverly folks.

Can't tell, but it appears you must drive past the front of the house to get to the driveway. However, all of your pics/discussion are centered around mitigating the triangle above the garage, which could be as simple as a small window, partial change of siding, to simply being ignored, but what about right side of the house or your most common approach to the house up the driveway? What's being done there that ties in with an overall utilization and enhancement plan?

A pic from the driveway to the house and from the driveway to the frontwalk would presnet a different aspect to consider as well.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 6:33AM
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drtygrl

Just to reiterate and keep this thread based in some type of reality, the bed in front of the garage is not wide enough for any of the plantings in these mock ups. As marcinde pointed out much earlier, the bed is not large enough for two trees, much less three in which one is a weeping Norway spruce. Those are huge trees, and will eventually dwarf the garage.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 9:17AM
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