Which plan looks better?

forensicmomSeptember 14, 2011

I volunteered to re-do the overgrown landscaping at the park near my house. I came up with the plan in the first picture and applied for a grant, which was approved. I will get the money next week so I started clearing out the spot this week. Because of a few reasons, we had to remove a lot more plants then originally planned and now I need to come up with another plan for this spot. I want something as low maintenance as possible since it might get attention once a year. I also had 3 knockout roses and 2 zebra grasses to use from another spot, so I tried to work them in.

Here is the original plan so you know what this spot looks like

Next is the area that we cleared yesterday (the small dogwood is being removed today) so the bed will be completely bare.

Here are some ideas I came up with. First has lavender

Next has mostly grasses and a few drought tolerant perennials

Next has barberry and goldmound spirea

Laslty, there are barberry and pennisetum

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

The "before" photo doesn't look deep enough for all that.... What are the dimensions of the area? Have you plotted it out on graph paper?

Presumably barberry is not on your state's invasive plants list.

I'm assuming you only have the one side of the fence. I'm also assuming the fence is still there, and you simply pasted over it in the mock-up, for convenience.

It looks like there's a tree behind the fence (in the area of the soon-to-be-gone dogwood). There may be a shrub halfway between that tree and the corner (I can't tell if it's on the othe side of the fence or in the yard across the street). Are those still there? If so, I have two concerns: roots that will make digging difficult, and competition with your plantings for moisture. You don't say where your 7a is, so we don't know how much rainfall....

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 11:16AM
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Are you looking to highlight and beautify the entrance to the park or screen the parallel street behind the main road from the increased public traffic?

Where do you live and what are the native plants that do well in your area with a minimum of attention?

I totally agree with mto. From the first untouched photo it appears as if you have less than 4' depth with which to work. The plans as they are, although attractive on paper, will never be able to fit in the area.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 11:36AM
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karinl(BC Z8)

First of all, I think your primary criteria will have to be the "attention once a year" and "drought-tolerant" part, so I would go with all the plants that meet those qualifiers and arrange them nicely.

It's interesting that one of the skill sets increasingly required of people who discuss projects here is the ability to analyze photo manipulations and discern how, if at all, they fail to reflect site realities.

I think it is possible you have the depth if the fence is either removed or planted on both sides of, but what I don't think you've incorporated in your plans is the slope of the section. You've shown it as flat, but in fact your back plants will be considerably lower.

Finally, this corner strikes me a lot the way an exit from a driveway does: visibility an asset. I think I would use shorter plants nearer the corner.

Karin L

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 11:58AM
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Like the others that have posted, my first thoughts were how deep is the bed and is the fence still there. The other one was what is that big concrete thing and does it need access?

Are you landscaping from the park sign to the street sign or just the little bit you're showing?

The only thing I have to say about your mock-ups is that they look too busy. I like the use of the goldmound spirea as it's bright and the area looks shady.

Also, what are those brown tortoises in the mock-ups? Some seem to have migrated across the street.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:03PM
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Thanks for the questions. Yes, I have sketched the area to scale and I agree, the picture is deceiving. The bed is actually 11' deep from the road to the chainlink fence. The fence is staying and seperates the neighbors property. The existing plants are on THEIR property, however we are trying to work with them on trimming and/or removing some of them since they are in really bad shape anyway.

I am in central Maryland, Zone 7a. Most, if not all of the plants I selected are drought tolerant, with the exception of the knockout roses, however the ones in my yard have NEVER been watered, even during the heat of the summer and still thrive like crazy. My house is only 2 houses away.

The barberry is tricky. It IS listed as invasive in Maryland but I'm not sure if that includes the cultivars, like 'Crimson Pygmy' or not. There are other shrubs that are similiar that I can consider, like Ninebark, but the 'crimson pygmy' has done amazing in my yard and have never shown ANY signs of being invasive in the 13 years they've been planted.

As far as the entrance goes, the long bed is on the driveway to the park and meets the main road. There used to be a 20' tall holly right on the corner, so I assumed that a knockout road somewhat close wouldn't block the view any more then that. The idea is to keep things fairly low (6' or under) so that you can see the entrance sign from the main road.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 1:17PM
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Here's my quick vote: I would limit plants to 2 or 3 types...4 at the most. And have the first 15' from corner be low...a lawn substitute/groundcover/tough perennial that didn't get any higher than 12"...maybe 18" w/bloom, no more.

I don't care for the samples where plants are alternated. Someone else said it looks "busy" and I agree. I think it's visually stronger if same type plants are consolidated in simply-shaped masses. I could see the space even being only one type plant.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 3:02PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I think I've just figured out why I don't like roses in this kind of application. They have no form as plants.

That's one reason grasses work so well in roadside plantings. They have such strong shape, in fact, it's all they've got. I used to use them in my garden until I decided that up close they are mostly deadly boring, as they do almost nothing on a day-to-day basis, but I love them in a drive-by.

I have seen effective plantings of roadside roses where the border is based on colour, and the form/shape is one continuous bank of that colour. Usually it has some huge structural foliage plant sticking up out of it periodically or something.

As Yardvisor says, it's really all about shape in this kind of a planting. Colour is both fleeting, and maybe distracting, unless it is arranged so as to contribute to form.

Karin L

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 4:00PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

My guess would have been 4' deep also. It's a major relief to know it's 11'; I'd figured you'd need at least 10' for what you were planning. How wide is the part you're landscaping?

Of the various plans, I prefer the sections that have fewer different plants. Definitely don't alternate different varieties. I wouldn't go as far as Yardviser's recommendation of perhaps as few as 2-3 varieties, but I'd make it less than the 7 in most of your plans. [Part of that is because it seems to me that the "tortoise" rocks function as an extra variety of plant.]

If I had to choose one plan, it would be the original plan ... but with much less variety in the front. Have the front plantings be a series of larger groups rather than the current symmetry. There's no reason to draw attention to the middle of the plantings: it's the park sign that's important. The tall grass to the right of the sign works well to draw the eye there.

I wouldn't use more than one goldmound spirea unless they were planted together; to me, the color breaks up the bed too much to use them in different places in this sort of bed.

As for the height of the plants, that would depend on what allows visibility of the lower part of the sign from various angles.

Are the "turtle" rocks used to prevent someone driving through the bed, or just for interest?

karinl makes an interesting point about the roses. I like the roses along the fence in the individual plan: they don't look like much there, but I assumed that was more because of the rose picture you used. I'm familiar with some red Knockouts (perhaps 5 years old?) that would make a much stronger statement. [And about drought resistance: my neighbors planted some this spring, several hundred feet from their house. I know they haven't been watered, but they're still healthy and happy despite our 90 degree Dog Days and 6-8 weeks without rain. I am really impressed.]

If you're doing the maintenance, keep an eye out for Rose Rosette Disease. We have it here.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 4:48PM
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Another practical consideration in a planting of this nature is to avoid what we used call 'litter catchers'. When bits of paper and stuff blow around the journey will end on any plant with thorns: roses and berberis for instance. Not a pretty site.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 4:51PM
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Suggest you check with your town re ordinances limiting height of plantings at an intersection. Ours would rule out mature miscanthus or Knockouts - these ordinances deal with 'line of sight' or something to that affect.

Happy you got the grant. The park entrance will be really nice.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 6:10PM
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Add my vote for a plan containing mostly grasses, informally planted.

Some native flowers could also be incorporated for a little more colour eg iris - spring, veronica speedwell - early summer, joe pye weed - summer. I would also be tempted to train a trumpet honeysuckle vine through the chain link fence, creating a backdrop for both the public and private sides of the median. In the forefront near the curb, I'd opt for a ground cover like partridge berry or wild ginger. Personally,
I would not add shrubs into this small area. That way, it could all be easily be cut down to the ground, either in the late fall (to keep the area tidy over the winter) or wait until spring (so that the local wildlife can enjoy the seedpods and flower heads during the cold weather).
The knockout roses, I'd arrange them under the one formal sign itself where the bright colours would draw attention to the information.

Enjoy whatever planting with which you end up!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2011 at 7:53PM
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THanks for all the suggestions.

I had planned to stay away from any groundcover b/c it will eventually spread into the neighbors yard or throught he entire bed without constant clipping. Also, the fence has been covered un kudzu and another weed/vine, which I just spent days removing. I don't want to add ANY type of vines.

I chose black eyed susans for the sign area because they add color, are a native plant, are low maintenance and will not grow too tall that they will block the sign. Knockout roses would eventually block the sign without pruning.

This area is 21' long and 11' deep. I really wanted to use the 3 knockout roses and 2 zebra grasses in here somewhere b/c they are already in the other end of the bed and need to be moved. If I can reuse them in this spot, it will save money and the plants.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 6:31AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Controlling weeds is going to be the big challenge. Pretty much all the other maintenance chores can be minimized, but that one is hard to get around. A big pile of mulch will help, but even that only lasts so long. Planting thickly will help. Groundcovers will help. A monthly maintenance session will help A LOT! Otherwise, I really don't know how to keep the area looking halfway decent.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 6:59AM
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Thanks again. Luckily, there are neighbors who walk by and are willing to pull the occasional weed. I also am NOT a fan of weed cloth but in this case, I might be willing to give it a try to cut down on the weeds. We will be mulching when the planting is complete.

After reading the many ideas and suggestions, I played with the plan again (on paper too to make sure they will fit). I took out the knockout roses (I can use them somewhere else) and added a few more grasses. Someone suggested only using 1 or 2 plants in the entire area but to me, it looked extremely boring (sorry). I did keep it to a minimum but continued the sedum, black eyed susans and feather reed grass from the other end of the plan for some fall color. I added a lavender near the rock for some spring color and plan to have spring bulbs for spring color. Oh, and I did not alternate plants like a few people commented on. I opted for NO shrubs since I didn't want to deal with pruning.

Does this look more pleasing to the eye?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 7:58AM
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I also did this "rough" sketch of the whole area. One note, those bright yellow shrubs in the picture are NOT bright yellow, but are more green. I was just limited with the program I'm using. I just wanted to show the overall area.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 8:34AM
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Putting together a few comments above I think you should have a look at the portfolio of work in the attached link. Oehme and van Sweden's signature style is no more than three different plants but writ large, as you will see the effect is staggering in its simplicity and impact.

Here is a link that might be useful: OandvS

    Bookmark   September 15, 2011 at 9:08AM
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