Seriously Confused. Need Evergreen Bed Help!

TomNorthJerseySeptember 3, 2012

I've tried really hard to do a lot of research but I still can't seem to come up with a plan that I like. Can someone save me from the constant banging my head against the wall? Also some help identifying some of the plants in my inspiration photos would help. I'm not very good at this. :( Not sure about what plants, spacing, positioning after all this time looking and reading. I'm in NJ zone 7a.

I have a small corner of the front landscape that I've been unhappy with and I'd like to convert it into a small evergreen garden bed. There are currently 2 arborvitae, about 5' tall 3.5' diameter in the space. I'd like to fill in the front (bottom in plan) and the side by the driveway with some more evergreen shrubs to fill it in and give it a nice layered look. I already have a plan on what to plant between the arborvitae. I want a multitextured/colored look that's neat but not manicured looking.

So far I've been considering azaleas, euonymus, wintercreeper, dwarf blue juniper. I like the japanese barberry but don't want an invasive plant but found Loropetalum Purple Pixie which has similar color. It seems to be low growing.

Here's what the area looks like now plus how I plan to shape/mulch the bed.

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Here are some photos from around my neighborhood and around the web that have the look I'm going for. Any help identifying them would be greatly appreciated.

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Landscaping is about the creation of space, but the project you present is instead about the creation of an object. So it's hard to understand and relate to it as there is no context of space conveyed by your plan photo. What I can say about it is get rid of that triangle of grass that I've X'd out. As well as being odd visually, it will be a maintenance difficulty. A fluid connection between the mulch areas would be better.

As far as identifying plants in your pictures, the variegated one in second row looks like variegated dogwood. the last picture looks like dwarf yaupon holly. Other than that I see miscellaneous low-growing Juniper, Barberry, blue spruce, dwarf alberta spruce, dwarf mugho pine and hydrangea. But for ID you need to provide pictures larger than postage stamp size. It would be better for you to search Google Images for "dwarf evergreens" and just hover over the pictures to find out the plant names. For submitting pictures to a Gardenweb forum for ID, there are probably better forums other than landscape design... like "evergreens" or "your state".

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 7:14AM
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Thank you for your help. I understand this is not the ideal situation. I'm just trying to make the best of the way things are. After much thought I've determined it's not a good idea to move the arborvitae for a number of reasons. It doesn't seem like a lot of thought was put into the original placement of the arborvitae. The location I think allows it to be treated as a small vignette. I'd just be happy if someone with more experience or a better eye could come up with a good arrangement so I don't wind up with a large empty mulch bed in front.

The inspiration photos I posted are thumbnails if you click on them you should see a larger one.

I've googled almost every related term I can think of I'm still stuck. This page was helpful for finding some shrubs.

The curve looks much nicer. Thank you.

Maybe we can start with what types of low growing shrubs others have used to plant around the base of small evergreens like these arborvitae? Pictures would be helpful.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:09AM
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Every time I try and do a layered look it wounds up looking reminding me of this which I don't like.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 11:30AM
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If it helps... this is front rendering of the area. I can't take a photo because of some work going on there right now.

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And this is kind of where I tend to get stuck and not liking where I'm going.

Yellow shrubs on the side are a yellow winterceeper.

Light green in the middle are green mound juniper.

On the left is a dwarf blue star juniper but looking for something like a low evergreengroundcover.

The red one is a fire nandina. Really liked the first photo in the second row and want to try and find something like that.

Purple is the purple pixie. Not sure if it fits.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 2:55PM
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Well, Tomjersey, the goal you're after doesn't jive with my ideas about landscaping so I'm limited in the suggestions I can make. Maybe someone else will jump in. Looking at some pictures of Buchart Gardens--which is renowned for the Candyland garden style--I notice that most beds are comprised of widely spaced, larger mound or cone shaped plants surrounded by beds of lower level, interconnecting plant masses. The masses are a patchwork quilt comprised of small curving groups of like plants. Everything is curving. There don't seem to be any straight lines. Neither are there "gateways"... where two matching plants flank a space (let's stretch it... or a singular object. I'm not talking about gateways for a PATH, but for their beds.) In your proposal, you're violating these two... I can't call them rules, as they're based on the whim of a certain garden style, so you're violating the Buchart code of arranging. Rather than relying on primarily pairs of matching plants, you might try working with three like plants that "encircle" adjacent plants. You don't have much room, so there's just not going to be so much variety in this little space. As it is things seem quite jammed together.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 5:40PM
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Thank you for continuing to respond. Your replies are helping me to narrow down what I'm going for.

The Buchart picture you posted is what I'm going after in terms of variety of size, texture and color except I'm looking for more muted colors. The problem is trying to replicate that in such a small space doesn't translate well.

Trying to surround the trees with the same type of plant is what gave me the candles in a wreath feeling I didn't like. Here's an example.

I found a Kaleidoscope Abelia that I think will work well in terms of color texture and size. Here's a picture of it in an arrangement like I'm dealing with.

I know this is unusual. Not a lot of thought seemed to go into the placement of the trees and I'm trying to find a way to make them work a little better in the space. Right now there's just grass around the trees which makes mowing a pain.

So far I've figured this out.

I want the shrubs to grow jagged and natural so they have a soft feel and don't require trimming to keep them in specific shapes but I do want a general flow that moves towards the ground around the perimeter.

I need a selection of shrubs that grow about 2' tall to go up against the base of the trees.

Then some smaller 8-16" shrubs to go outside of those and then possibly some ground cover.

Does that sound about right?

I'd like a mix of colors and textures that work together and I want them to be evergreen and hopefully non toxic to pets.

I'll try asking in the conifer forum as well but can you think of any shrubs that fit these criteria that neither you or I have mentioned?

By the way. If I don't make a decision and get the plants by this weekend I'm going to have to wait about a month before I can plant them. Is waiting that long good or bad as far as plant selection and timing for planting.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 7:39PM
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I don't know if this is a help or not. What rubs me the wrong way to begin with are the larger plants so close to the driveway. Just toying around with your photo, I ditched those two and it looks better to me on account of it. (Promise not to tell I did this...)

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 8:32PM
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It looks nice but I don't want to get rid of any of the trees. This all started months ago when I planned on transplanting them to another location where I could start fresh but for various reasons I can't put that much effort into removing them right now.

It won't look perfect but it will hopefully look better than what it looks like now.

Let's try this... Forget about the shape, the location. What are some plants that are less than 3' tall that you think go well planted along with arborvitae in general?

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 9:33PM
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It would be better for you to take photos that show the ideas you are considering to the garden center and let them show you what would work and is AVAILABLE now. If you fall in love with something in an online picture, it may require a long, hard hunt in order to find it in real life. See what's at the garden center ready to go home now.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 9:51PM
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I've had mixed results with my garden center so I like to research plants before I go there. This week is going to be hectic and I'm hoping to get the plants this weekend and do my research this week.

If you or others could throw out a list of shrub varieties I can look into I'd really appreciate it.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2012 at 10:23PM
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In case any one's still reading this.

I also posted in the Shrubs forum trying to get more help.

I'm having a hard time describing the look I want. A mixture of textures colors and sizes.

These two pictures have that feel I'm looking for.



    Bookmark   September 6, 2012 at 9:26PM
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I'm thinking you'd be wise to take your inspiration pics to a local nursery that is known for their expertise and plant selection.

If you provide the dimensions and sun exposure this area gets, I'm thinking they would be able to assist you in specific plant selection for your area.

If NJ is like it is here, even the best nurseries are fairly picked over for selection at this time of year. You might want to wait till spring and not be limited to what they have on hand late in the year.

Plantings in a planting bed are not my strength so I'll refrain from giving advice. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 10:48PM
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