Challenging Front Yard

valzone5(5)September 1, 2011

I'm ready to landscape the front of my new (to me) house, and I am really stumped for ideas on what to plant. The house is over 100 yrs old and I would like to keep a heritage feel. I will be adding window boxes. The space between the house and sidewalk is approximately 7 feet. The biggest challenge is that we get a ton of snow here in winter, and a huge amount of snow from the driveway gets blown into this area (common driveway between my house and the one next door). Whatever gets planted here has to stand up to a lot of abuse, particularly at the corner of the house...or die back in winter (zone 5).

There is a cedar and a weigela in place now that I would like to reuse if possible. This area gets full sun until noon.

Any suggestions?

Here is a link that might be useful:

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Very nice brickwork!

Do you know what variety the cedar is? Failing that, do you know how old it is?

Do you know the variety name or color of the wiegela?

Do you need the area around the basement window left somewhat open for ventilation or light? Are you trying to hide the window-well?

Were you thinking of windowboxes for the first floor windows, the second floor windows, or both?

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 12:08PM
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I have no idea what type, or the age, of the shrubs, as they were existing when I bought the house. The weigela has red flowers, and blooms twice (it's in bloom right now). I really quite like it, and it's a great bloomer. The cedar isn't my favorite, but I am sure that it would add winter interest, and I guess I just hate to throw away a healthy shrub. I will however offer up either/or on kajiji if they have to be removed.

Eventually I will have the window removed, and have a mason close up the hole. For now, the window is not operational, and is covered on the inside with insulation, so I do not have to let light or air in. I can't remove the window well at this point so I will have to work around it. Hiding it would be good.

I will put window boxes on the first floor only. I'm the labourer, and I am afraid of heights LOL!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 1:07PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Why, exactly, are you putting in window boxes?

Karin L

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 3:25PM
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Is this a row house? And if it is, do you want to tie in with your neighbours or stand out individually? Are there any caveats or ordinances regarding the changes you may wish to make? Let's pretend that you can do whatever you want and still be respectful to the community...

May I suggest taking out all the grass and then centring a small, ornamental fruit tree in the middle of the bed. I would recommend something multi-branched, which can be pruned to give a nice airy canopy for summer light and winter interest and does not produce leaves or flowers in a red colour. That would blend in too much with the brick - which is why I am advising against a Japanese maple, as gorgeous as it is. Perhaps a crabapple (eg Lancelot) even a mountain ash like a columnar oak leaf or Ivan's Belle?

I would then underplant the accent tree with lots of spring flowering bulbs and a ground cover like ajuga. The current weigela could almost be left where it is in the corner. Ideally, the entire perimeter would be enclosed by an ornamental fence to prevent damage from the snowblowers in winter. I believe that this design has some historical sensitivity.

To this landscaping, I would not add window boxes on the first floor - they would be too low to have any impact , either from the inside or from the sidewalk. Instead, I would first construct a simple portico or awning over the entryway to protect against the elements - then I would hang attractive hanging baskets on either side. Painting a charcoal colour on the front door and on the wood trim around the windows, and maybe changing over the front stoop to stone or stamped cement would complete the front yard.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 4:29PM
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I wish I could do that Photoshop thing and then I wouldn't need to indulge in "deathly and potentially mis-leading prose."

This is what my picture would show: huge window boxes, maybe in a manger style with nothing on the ground after the shrubs are removed. The ground could be grass or not. Big up on the window boxes with yellow and rust 'mums in the fall evergreen twigs and branches for the winter and overflowing flowering stuff all summer. I can see it now.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 6:06PM
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Karen, I like them ... that's the only good answer I can come up with :O)

Adrienne, thank you for the suggestions. In answer to your questions - it's a duplex. The entire street is lined with them. They were built as housing for employees of a former cotton mill in the neighborhood. I don't know if I want to stand out, but I want to improve curb appeal for sure. I can plant whatever I want. As for damage from snowblowers...there is no option but to put snow in this area. It's the only place to put snow that's at the front of the driveway.

Here is a picture of what the area looks like with snow, to give you an idea.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 6:06PM
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Another view

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 6:08PM
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Wow, and here I thought it was just blown off drifts from your own private driveway and sidewalk. How can those snow barricades created by the city even be legal? Is it like that just after a heavy snowfall and do they remove everything to the ground eventually? Seriously, I'm indignant on your behalf! It's not just the potential damage to your foundations in the spring but it blocks your emergency escape routes in the front. I say withhold your taxes until something is done :)

Seriously though, snow in itself is a good insulator and won't harm the appropriate zonal plantings. The sheer weight of those banks can...

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 8:04PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

There are cities where they haul snow to a river and dump it in. There are cities where they melt the snow (takes up much less room) and haul it away in a tanker truck. [Perhaps NYC and Philly? It's been too long.]

There are places where the people who live on the side streets have to vend for themselves. But I don't live there anymore.

I'm surprised the cedar survived that assault.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 10:51PM
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Here's one more suggestion. From the left it's daylilies, annuals in a window box or wall planter, Weigela, lilac w/groundcover below (...too hot for pulmonaria?) If lilacs not good, then what about tree form burning bush or beautybush (grown in tree form)?

In the side illustration I'm showing how lilacs get the back of their head chopped off at the building. (Weigela gets same.)

Hope I understood correctly about window being sealed up. If not, oh well.

I think a wall planter/tub below the window would give you same effect as window box with less hassle. If you must use cedar, it could replace where lilacs shown. Myself, I would not use it here.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 12:44AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Yardviser, below your windowbox is a basement window which is partly below ground level. In front of it is a window-well (I grew up in California and had never heard of them until we moved to New England). The soil is held away from the window by a C-shaped piece of metal which is visible in the first linked photo. I had asked about it.

If you're not familiar with window-wells, this photo looks similar to the OP's:

It's that basement window (non-operational and covered on the inside with insulation) that will eventually be bricked-in. Until then, the window-well remains.

If there is a second basement window and window-well, it's not visible in the photo and the OP didn't mention it when I asked about the one on the left.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 3:13AM
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Thanks, Mto. I guess I read too quickly. would the next person who posts tell me what the OP is? Thanks.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 6:56AM
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OP = original post or original poster.

I'm betting the weigela variety is "Red Prince" - it's a sometimes rebloomer here in zone 4.

Wonder if the usual banking up of snow would rip the window boxes right off. I know about snow and what's it's like getting lots of it, but the shared driveway is private and not the city's concern. Public sidewalk could be another story in some jurisdictions - but often residents are charged with keeping them clear. Withholding taxes - probably not so wise.

I'd be tempted to keep the cedar and weigela (what's the other shrub in there? Lilac? There are lots of things that'll stand up to tons of snow and fare quite well with sun from sun-up till noon - sedums, daylilies, siberian iris, platycodon to mention just a few. It's a small space, even with enlarging it, and it wouldn't take much. A little backbone of perennials and a fill-in with annuals for all season color. The beauty of annuals is they can change from year to year with one's whims.

I can see your front door with some color, but I wouldn't intrude on the lovely decorative brickwork with a dinky portico or awning.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 10:45AM
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Okay, I'm still stuck on the snow removal issue on a civic level. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the jurisdictions where I've lived in Canada but, in my experience, huge banks of snows have never been allowed to obstruct reasonable access or to pile up against any structure, except on a short term basis. Of course, the smaller the street you live on, the longer it will take for the snow accumulation to be addressed. Eventually though, the banks are taken down and hauled to the designated snow disposal site, operated by the municipality
but also open to the public. It is never near a ground water source as snow contaminated by street contact is considered polluted.

Notwithstanding that, I shall let my previous suggestions stand - even my tongue-firmly-in-cheek comment about withholding taxes.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 5:15PM
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Thank you for the suggestions! Funny, I never thought of putting a tree in the space, but I like it!

As for the snow, I am the one who blows the snow into the area. It's the only place it can go - it's illegal to blow it onto the street, and I can't blow it into my neighbor's driveway or front yard.

Good point about the snow ripping the window boxes off of the house...never thought of that.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 6:06PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Thank you so much for posting the winter pictures. Funny, we talk a lot here about how things will look in winter but for all that the photos usually focus on the 30 seconds in late spring when everything is simultaneously in bloom - as if it ever will be.

And that is the primary basis on which I would caution you against window boxes. We so often visualize them overflowing with annuals, which they will do on three days in late July, when they get big enough to overflow, until you forget to water them for a weekend, and then, poof, you have a box of overflowing brown yard waste, maybe with a few desperate blooms clinging to the ends. And without re-grooming four times per year, they will look like that most of the time.

But maybe you don't forget - and you will groom them - and even then they are a problem, as the attachment points likely create access routes for water into the building envelope of your home, and not only do you create those access routes, but also you deliver water to them daily. And even THEN, if water doesn't penetrate when it runs down, having snow piled up is another direction of water input altogether. Honestly, even if Ink was sincere in recommending them here, I think they are pretty much the dumbest idea bar none in "landscaping." OK, rant off.

I do like Adrienne's idea of columnar trees. There is actually a planting similar to that in front of a commercial building near me, crabapples underplanted with a groundcover I won't mention because I hate it, and with a row of rhodos closer to the actual wall. The tree trunks are close to the sidewalk so they use that airspace as well. It succeeds in not looking like the trees are crammed at the foundation because their canopy has the necessary space. Do pay attention, however, to what windows you will be obstructing view and sun from. Perhaps you want the rooms shaded, perhaps not.

I'm guessing that shrubs survive the onslaught of snow because the snow is deep enough that the whole shrub is supported (also known as "buried") by snow on the ground before the blown-on stuff gets added. As the shrubs get bigger, therefore, I think they would be more vulnerable to snowload damage. But what do I know, I live in the PNW :-)

Karin L

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 7:07PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Some entertaining comments on differences in snow removal policies in different municipalities ... here in the high elevation mountain areas, homeowners are completely responsible for snow clearing on private property, and at the ski resort areas the snow accumulated over 30 feet deep this past winter, and it even snowed a foot or so in mid June.

If this were my own home and garden, I'd look into adding street tree(s) and stick with mostly ornamental grasses and perennials in the front that could be chopped to ground level with the first snows. I don't have personal experience to know whether clipped Boxwood hedges hold up under these winter conditions, but could be a nice feature in the warmer/non snow buried months.

Makes me thankful to live in a location with no snow and lots of green and winter flowers...

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 1:41AM
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Due to my goof-up on the windows, let's scrap that prior scheme I submitted and look at another. From left it's Potentilla, daylilies, annuals in window boxes/wall planters & lilacs with tall groundcover (Solomon's seal or something like that.) Before, I didn't see the cedar fitting into the scheme. Now, I also don't see the Weigela fitting in either (unless you were to move it to the driveway side of building just around the corner and let it spill out over the drive. You'd just chop it back hard every year as bloom diminishes.)

When it comes to window boxes, any ready-made plastic box from a big-box store is a worthless piece of junk. They're too small to hold enough soil. They can dry out in 1/2 day. One is more likely to find a wall planter that will hold at least 10-12" depth of soil. "Manger style" as per Ink sounds excellent to me. I'm suggesting the wood riser platform to set the planters on because it's easier than attaching something to brick, it's removable for whatever reason and it's easy and cheap to make with rudimentary carpentry skills. Also, daylilies (or whatever) planted in front covers it up. See detail.

The second scheme is meant to be inspirational in case you later had thoughts about architectural adornments. It's a fabric canopy supported by chamfered corner painted wood posts at the out side...and louvered half-shutters. Canopy could look nice at night lighted with simple uplight.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 1:54PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Re. the issue of adding a porch canopy without endangering the brick facade:

Twenty-some years ago I used to visit an old Chicago building occasionally. The entrance had no overhang, which was annoying in wet weather, particularly after the building manager put in a security buzzer (security guards rarely at their post).

Eventually a separate portico was built in front of the door. It was freestanding: a curved roof supported by corner columns of painted metal piping. (Unfortunately I can't post a photo, as the building has been renovated and there are no pics online which show the old portico.)

If the gap between valzone5's and the neighbor's porches is wide enough, valzone5 could do something similar. The curve of the roof would echo the masonry arch over the door. This sort of solution might also be considered when the time comes to replace the porch; the posts that support the porch and its railings would also support the canopy (metal pipes/posts would support a heavier snowload on the roof).

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 3:25PM
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I think those are the most realistic and helpful 'mock ups' ever to appear on this forum, well done Ya. I also like the fact that you have insisted that you are not presenting the Holy Grail but only a helpful suggestion, once again bravo. Plus I appreciate that you have straightened that '3' in '43' the kind of detail that ruined my digestion. Having said all that I get to say that the shutters and canopy idea is carp but seriously it gets people thinking about possibilities so another job well done.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 4:58PM
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I don't know where some posters are, but here in snow country one pass of the city plow going 15-20 mph would have that canopy and it's less than flying buttress-like supports in smithereens somewhere up the block never to be seen again until melting eventually uncovers it.

The facade of valzone's home is really nice; detailing in brick you just don't get today - doesn't need shutters and all the kind of tarting up we (generic) think we have to do to it.

No one's mentioned a trellis yet... one of the triumverate with window boxes and something else - I dunno, changing the roofline to add a gable or something?

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 5:55PM
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Ink, thanks for the kind words. If I draw something, I am not necessarily able to evaluate it myself until the drawing is more or less finished. Sometimes it reflects what's in my mind and sometimes I cannot make it be exactly what I want it to be (or don't want to spend the time redoing it.) My skill is not honed yet. Having recently discovered it, I'm just learning how to use "paint."

Is "carp" crap?? If this were my house, I imagine that the canopy awning over the entrance is more ambitious than I would want. Especially after getting the price! Maybe I'd want to coordinate something with my next door neighbor or have a different style. And I'm not sure about those 1/2 shutters either. Maybe something much less would be much better. But you're correct, it's just to get someone thinking and inspired about possibilities.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 5:56PM
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What happened to the OP's original request for a few suggestions re. appealing and sturdy plantings?

Potentilla fruticosa "Pink Beauty" is a nice small shrub that seems to be able to take whatever can be thrown at it. Covers itself with little pink blooms from June till hard frost. Would go well with the weigela. So would Crimson Pygmy barberry - but that could be considered an invasive and not be generally available.

Peonies have a heritage appeal, and are an all around nice plant even when not in bloom - which is most of the time. And with being cut down after a hard frost, no worries for snow loads.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 6:36PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Consider salt tolerance when choosing plants for this area. That stuff flies and gets slung at least that far by snowplow trucks. I forget what those frozen chunks of salty slush that grow behind the tires are called, but after your car drops a few of those in the driveway, you probably have nowhere else to sling them but that area.

Also plants that say "needs well drained soil" will probably not do as well there. Have you walked around your neighborhood specifically to look at what others do with their space?

It's such a small space, perennials seem like a waste to me, although I thought the peony suggestion was good. I don't know how they feel about salt, though. Generally, you'll have lumps of green. I would put mostly annuals (in your area) there - focused on foliage so it's interesting from day 1 until that killing frost. Coleus, Alternantheras, ornamental peppers, Tradescantias. You can also get a lot of bang for your buck in a spot like that with canna, Caladium, and/or elephant ears tubers/bulbs. Some long-bloomers like petunias, celosia, and even some shade-loving wax begonias under the taller plants.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 12:40PM
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Not sure why I am bothering, because all the fantasy of canopies and window boxes is so appealing...

But snow and winter exposure is a huge issue for a site like this. Before there is the snow that is pictured by the OP, there may be a month or two of intense cold exposure. Then after 5-6 months of winter, all of the accumulated sand mixed with salt (standard for climates like this - there is always salt - you can even see it melting the snow in the pic that was posted) all of the additives melt down and lay on the ground. Properties I have worked with regularly in my area can have 6 plus inches of the stuff in a bad snow year. Then you condense all of that in the 7 feet between the house and the sidewalk...

The solution is to pick the most hardy, enduring plants you can come up with. The crape myrtle that ya painted in - not gonna do it. oh or is that burning bush? On the invasive species list here up north and requires intense maintenance to keep at a reasonable size in a 7 foot wide bed.

You could consider some extremely flexible shrubs in the back (closest to the house) three feet of the bed. (not potentilla - have you ever seen that after a winter with snow fall?). I have had success with spirea(i prefer the mounding types - little princess or goldmound) - because its so easy to prune, red twig dogwood, because its so flexible, but it does require pretty regular pruning.

Perennials are probably the best choice. In the part of the bed closest to the house you could probably do peonies. Otherwise, daylilies - look for long blooming or reblooming cultivars, sedums, salvia, hosta, heuchera, echinacea, leucanthemum.

You will need to place protection on the beds after a hard frost but before snowfall then rake both the mulch and debris up as early as possible in the spring. I usually use pine branches and hay for winter protection and in my climate we put it down just before christmas. Annuals are not a bad idea either, but you will probably need to treat the soil first.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 1:55PM
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The awning is speculative play with inspiration, not details. I should have brought it to the street and parked a stretch limo at front.

drtygrl, those "crapes myrtles" I painted in I suggested to be lilacs. Snow is not that big a deal. It can weigh down the boughs of large evergreens--it looks like past their breaking point--but they somehow snap out of it. If it had lasting devastating effect, the northern U.S. would be decimated to the point of no return. The effect of salt on plants in the typical residential area is negligible. Most people notice nothing on their plants. The vast majority of people do nothing to protect plants. They just grow plants that don't mind the conditions (and that's a lot of choices.)

    Bookmark   September 6, 2011 at 10:09PM
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"Snow is not that big a deal.
The effect of salt on plants in negligible.

I use "my paint" to draw up bouquets of shrubs next to every foundation.

And you should follow my yard advice. "

In my mind, yardviser is in the same category as design share, but as adrienne said "the sand box is big enough for all of us" especially if you dont care what kind of advice people receive on this forum.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 3:49PM
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Yup, I said that and I mean it. We are all different people with different backgrounds and outlooks and personal aesthetics.
We all have a unique viewpoint, whether it is appreciated or not. We can only be held responsible for our own comments.

I believe that anyone should be free to use this or any public forum as they choose, whether it is to ask for suggestions or to give opinions.
But it is up to the OP - and no one else - to decide if the feedback that they receive is valid and credible.
Just as it is the OP's choice to accept, decline or modify the feedback as they see fit.

I am disturbed by what I see as a recurrent tinge of bullying by some members here. Is that really the intention?
A little more lively respectful discussion and a little more tolerance in the playground please...

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 7:16PM
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drtygrl, instead of intelligent critique, you offer personal attacks.

You try to extrapolate your southern 6" snow experience to same as big snow. Those of us who've lived in it see plants survive, grow and thrive. Salt in residential areas...little goes into private yards. Most goes down storm drains. Do you really think that taxpayers are brain-dead idiots who stand by while cities decimate their yards every year? Very little damage to plants, actually, in residential areas. Freak out about it if you want. Valzone can look around her town and see for herself that there's lots of plants thriving past last year's snow. The alarmism about it is over the top.

You can disparage my taste instead of critique all you want. What does that say for you? Why not build...construct...teach...instead of tear down, attack and destroy?

It seems like there are a few people who think they own this forum and want to use these threads for personal vendettas. Why not send a personal email instead of trying to hijack a thread? Maybe you just enjoy making a scene.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 7:33PM
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Forget the popcorn.. pass the Kevlar bullet-proof!

Yardviser you put your stuff out there for discussion and consideration, which makes you a leader, and leaders can be targets, especially with this type of non-personal communication medium.

I agree with adrienmembs viewpoint.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 8:03PM
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Yard, I live in NEW HAMPSHIRE. We get six inches of snow in september.

There is no responsible landscaper who could say "snow is not an issue, salt damage is negligible" and if you think that is helpful advice, you deserve someone to call you out. Others think that it is acceptable to allow everyone to express their opinions, without responding to them, whether they are completely unrealistic or not--- ESPECIALLY when most of the posters believe they are receiving professional advice.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 8:33PM
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Ok, drtygrl...snow and and salt will kill everything. Let's all slit our wrists and not suffer anymore.

You do not "call out." You slam. Your vision is limited. You're highly opinionated, but not highly correct. You quote changing context. You turn landscape discussion into dogfights. I mean, come on...? Find a better way.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 9:18PM
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Do you really believe that most posters think that they are actually receiving free professional landscaping advice from an internet site? And that, only on this particular forum, of all of the dozens listed on the GardenWeb home page, the responses are offered solely
by elitist experts, never by enthusiasts? Or maybe you think that that is the way it should be, drtygrl? (shakes head sadly)

Sorry for the hijack, val...

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 9:24PM
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I disagree, yard. I contradicted your view and I feel that you are the one who is instigating problems. You and adrienne joined this forum within the last month - 5 weeks. I have actually offered honest good advice to the OP, and, I could debate what you have offered but I am concerned that by disagreeing with your ideas I will be called opinionated, incorrect and dogfighting. Maybe since you are having trouble here, you should find a better way?

Sorry to correct you adrienneemb, but the landscape design forum is one of several listed under the "professional topics". So if someone actually takes the time to look, they may believe they are getting professional advice. I dont have a problem with active gardeners advice either. Most active gardeners have excellent advice which I would include in the professional category. One would think if you were truly from zone 3-4 you would not be defending someone who says snow salt is not an issue???

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 9:42PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

At the risk of trying and failing to inject some sense into this thread....

Salt use is highly regional. How much an area uses tends to depends on how effective it is (how is that for a concept!) How effective it is depend on things like solar gain, and isn't simply a function of temperature or snow amount. So where I grew up, on the edge of Ohio, used a great deal of salt because it worked, and cut down tremendously on the amount of plowing that had to be done. Here, the highway departments tend to use a cinder-salt mix because the salt alone doesn't do that good a job of clearing. I've heard that salt isn't used at all in colder places like zone 3.

Given that most people in this thread are reluctant to deactivate their cloaking devices for fear we may come to their area and put up attack billboards, or some other form of mass media harassment, it's impossible to even make intelligent guesses as to what is a reasonable course of action.

Since I've gone so far out on a limb, I'll go a bit further and opine that the OP is from suburban Boston (Lowell?), and that snow picture was taken to record the abnormally high snow totals from last year.

Thus ends this performance of this performing flea.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 10:12PM
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Salt is used here in the prairies much less often than sand and snow removal, ski-doos and four wheel drive trucks, studded tires and kamik boots. I have also lived in big cities where, in Canada at least, there is a big environmental movement limiting the application of salt. Nonetheless, you can still tell when an old vehicle comes from the east coast - because they're the ones with the corroded door panels.

Yes, I "truly" live currently in zone 3/4, drtygrl. And I work in the near Arctic. You could say that I too am comfortable with "snow" :)

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 10:40PM
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Hee, I want to go have a beer with mad_gallica, eat popcorn and watch the fleas perform...

Sorry again, val, for the hijack. I'm done now too. And good luck in whatever you decide to do.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2011 at 10:52PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Wow! Are you kiddin me? I had to check and yes, I mentioned salt first. My exact words, "Consider salt tolerance when choosing plants for this area."

Then, "The effect of salt on plants in the typical residential area is negligible." Yardviser had to know when you said this that people would disagree. The phrase "typical residential area" is unfortunate because no such thing exists. Sounds like you would consider the location from the picture to be such but to me it looks like a city street with residential buildings. Not a housing development with many dead-end cul-de-sacs, and a strip of grass between the street and sidewalk. With such disparity, it's a pointless thing to discuss. Debatable generalities about an ambiguous concept such as "typical residential area" are meaningless and inflammatory. Confining the discussion to the particular location in question would be better.

I trust OP can decide if it's a concern or not. I was just putting it out there for her consideration. Most plants could care less about the amount of salt likely to find its' way to the OP's planting space, but there are plants known to be extremely sensitive to salt. It's a well-known fact. So it would be wise to avoid those few plants when it is time to get in the wallet and hand over some hard-earned cash.

Then there was this, "The crape myrtle that ya painted in - not gonna do it. oh or is that burning bush?" Sounds like you're trying to start a fight to me, drtygrl. There is no reason given for saying this. Were you still talking about salt at that point? Or just the amount of snow? It sounds like you have some valid anecdotal experience to share but may have forgotten to include it.

Yardviser, I notice that you do not indicate what state or zone you are in, and not 1 sentence about your experience, location, or philosophy on your member page. The fact that you recently registered to this site has no bearing regarding the validity of your advice. But I don't understand anyone's reticence in regard to qualifying what they say by letting people know something about their experience and region. But if you are happy being "some guy... somewhere" then don't be surprised if you are taken less seriously.

I mean, really, it's a discussion about what someone might do with a piece of earth in front of their house. It's perplexing to see such an innocuous thing turn into - something I don't even know how to describe. If u ask me, several people posting around here need to take a chill pill. One can't go through life expecting everyone to constantly agree with you. When questioned, if one can't offer any supporting evidence for statements offered as facts, they will likely be disregarded.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 11:19AM
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crape myrtle is not hardy in Zone 5. The burning bush reference was to another thread, where yard suggested it - but it is invasive in many areas and whether it is on a restricted list or not, anyone who has experience with it would probably agree that its a pretty poor choice for a foundation planting, particularly one in the limited space that the op described. It actually isn't anecdotal experience- its fact.
When people post from arizona, california, florida, etc, I dont pretend to have advice for them. I may follow through with reading the thread, but if I dont know, I dont offer advice to confuse posters. I think my mistake was assuming a certain level of knowledge from someone offering advice in this situation.

The OP said "As for damage from snowblowers...there is no option but to put snow in this area. It's the only place to put snow that's at the front of the driveway." He/she posted a photo of snow up to the windows. Perhaps one could ask and see if salt is an issue - but its not a" negligible issue". Unquestionably snow is an issue. I may have come across as sarcastic about the issue, because I was, but I dont understand how we can have a reasonably serious discussion about this property without considering snow as an issue.

I started my posts on this thread with "Not sure why I am bothering, because all the fantasy of canopies and window boxes is so appealing..." and this discussion has once again confirmed my feeling that it really isnt worth my time to bother -- because aggressive people with unrealistic ideas but really pretty pictures of everything in bloom at one time will be listened to before someone who presents the realism that no one wants to face. And thats fine, because I am a professional with a very successful business, and I would rather get paid for my advice.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 4:41PM
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drtygrl, What in blazes are you misquoting now? Yard never recommmended crape myrtle for z5! Read the post. Snow IS an issue. Snow PROTECTS plants.

I hate to be taking up space on someone else's thread having to defend myself, but drtygrl, you are the master of twisting things out of context. The first time you slammed my post, I turned the other cheek. But it's coming every time I turn around. Though I disagree with you, I haven't instigated a single negative comment on any advice you've given, figuring that the OP will recognize it. Then you label me as "aggressive"!!!--WOW!--while you are stalking me with fight-picking comments on every thread now (exposing your own lack of knowledge along the way, I might ad.)

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 8:06PM
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dogridge(7b nc)

Wow! I haven't been on this forum in over a year. I can see that things haven't changed much...

    Bookmark   September 8, 2011 at 9:06PM
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dogridge(7b nc)

Sorry- That was rather snipey.
In my experience, this forum is more about landscape and garden design philosophy.
I think many readers post here with the idea that the regulars on this forum will give them a landscape planting plan, plant suggestions, mock-ups, etc. This forum doesn't really seem to be the place for those types of questions.
I'm not implying that there is anything wrong with the way regulars on this forum handle questions, I'm simply saying that I don't think a philosophical discussion is what most people have in mind when they post pictures of their yards.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 9:38AM
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dogridge(7b nc)

Okay, now that I have gotten that little rant out, I have a few ideas for your house.

How about planting english ivy on the front of the house? It would be trimmed so that it would only cover the first floor.

For the yard, have a nice lawn extending from the sidewalk all the way to the building. In the center of the little lawn, make a gravel circle or square which would hold a huge pot full of annuals. In the summer, you have lush plantings, in the winter, you will have a decorative pot.
It is important that the pot be large and of high quality. It is going to be the focal point of your landscape and should look good with or without plants in it. It will probably cost at least $200. While that seems like a lot (to me anyway), remember that your other landscape costs are going to be minimal and this pot will last a very long time.

Some other changes I suggest for the front of your home include a new front door, or painting the door a more dramatic color (black, bright or navy blue), a new mailbox, paint your landing/stairs black (or if you can afford it, get stone steps with black iron handrails) and moving the house numbers.

If you choose to do a very simple landscape design as I have suggested, make sure the facade of your home is perfect. With an historic home such as yours, you want the landscape to compliment the home, not try to cover it up or distract the eye from it.

Some examples of how to unify the front of your house include having all of the window treatments look the same from the outside and making sure there aren't any furniture backs, lamps, or other things blocking the windows.

This is an example of the type of planter and plants I have in mind.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 9:56AM
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Wow - I had a personal emergency that took me away from my computer for a few days. When I logged on today and saw 43 replies, I just about choked on my toast. Who knew salt could be so controversial ;O)

I want to say a HUGE thank you to those who have offered suggestions and pictures. I am a very visual person, and it helps so much to get a visual. And peonies happen to be my alltime favorite flower.

LOVE the idea of shutters, and have hummed and hawed about adding them. Interesting thought. The canopy would be destroyed in one season, LOL! But it was fun to imagine. The more I think about window boxes, the more I am sure that they would come right off of the house, or get destroyed by flying snow, so I am loving the idea of planters under the windows, that I can put in the basement for the winter.

I can't tell you how excited I am at the thought of planting a tree. This area has so much potential, which is why I bought this house. Unfortunately, it's up and coming....either that or I have made a bad investment, but time will tell. There have been a few people buy one of these houses and fix it up nice, but nothing that's really got a WOW factor, and I am going to be the first one to get that WOW factor. I think that the addition of a tree is going to help with that. Not one single house has a tree in the front yard, and it never even occured to me until I saw that mockup. I have spent the past year and a half since buying this house renovating the interior - gutting, rewiring, re-building, etc etc etc, - and have neglected the exterior completely (obviously, since the house numbers are just sort of leaning there, after being removed when the front door was replaced last year). I will be honest, I lost my enthusiasm about the exterior. When I posted my original request for suggestions, I wasn't excited about it.... I just wanted to get rid of the shrubs before the next snowfall starts. But I am excited now.

I have 75% of the front dug up, and there is beautiful soil under the grass. I am going shopping for a tree!!! I have access to peonies - I still have digging rights at my old house, which has a huge garden yipee!

As for salt, to be honest, the only time I think about salt is when I get fries at McDonalds and wonder what the heck kind of great deal they must get on salt. I have never planted anything this close to the street, so I have no idea if plants will be affected or not. The wiegela and spruce or cedar or whatever it is are not the least bit affected by it, or by that much snow believe it or not...surprised me too.

I live in New Brunswick, Canada. Last year we had a LOT of snow, and it was my first winter here, so I don't know what this year holds ... but the front yard is still my only option for a place to blow driveway snow, and pile front walk snow. So it's still going to be a tough spot for plants. The good thing about perennials is that they will die back before the heavy snows come.

Thank you again for the great input, ideas, and drawings!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 10:32AM
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I hope your "personal emergency" has been resolve Val and that the responses here didn't cause a relapse! It is always a good thing when people come back to review and offer thanks. Incidentally I understand Harper has guaranteed that there will be no snow this year except in Quebec.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 11:47AM
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lol @ ink. And that guarantee will be worth what?

Val, as long as you're married to the idea of window boxes, what about using hayracks instead? They're lightweight, durable and easily removable. Or you could just take out the cocoa liner and leave the wire frame up - it shouldn't be affected be snow collection at all.

I'm attaching some pictures from last year of the hayracks at my current house. Sadly, I live in a new cookie cutter now that I'm slowly personalizing, but they have traveled with me from an old farmhouse and a cabin as well, seamlessly adapting to whatever style they encounter. It is kind of fun though to restart in a new place, eh?

I still like the idea of referencing the basket type hayracks from hangers on either side of your front entry door, and maybe teaming them with a 3' perimeter iron ornamental fence around the front bed. You could install the posts so that the panels are removable in the winter as well, if you wish.

Could you come back and post pictures of whatever you end up doing? Cheers.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2011 at 12:44PM
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Well Quebec is special so we'll see what happens.

Adrienne, one of the homes that has been fixed up has those. They look nice.

I will post pics of my progress.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2011 at 9:11AM
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