Front Yard Landscaping Help

JCJ1976(7)September 27, 2013


I overhauled the front yard to what it is now (shown in the picture) this past spring. It was my first ever gardening project. For some reason it just doesn't feel right to me. I like where the three bunches of grasses are. I actually moved a threesome by the window a couple of days ago, and now I really like the back area. But, I need help with the rest. In my plant stock I have five Danica Arborvitae shrubs and three Pigmy Grimson Barberry shrubs that aren't planted right now. I also have 10 Green Spice Coral Bells that actually have been doing well in the full-sun area. Also, the tree is a Japanese Maple, and the spreading shrub in the front circle I can't remember.

I would like to have one or two areas for annuals that I can change out with the season. I don't have too much time to garden; maybe a total of 1-2 hours per week. Though there are a lot of plantless patches I haven't had too much problems with weeds.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Just want something that will make the house seem less bland, and something that is somewhat easy to take care of, and something that is nice to look at and makes sense to the eye.

If you need any further information please let me know.

Thank you so much (in advance) for the help.

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While the plants are small and the bed is near empty, it cannot be told so much that the end effect is that the walkway will be a confined feeling space ... being more or less narrow and hemmed in on both sides. In addition, having a tree smack in front of the window, ultimately blocking a huge portion of the face of your house is not an ideal either. It would be better to reconfigure the bed layout to solve those two inequities and then move the tree. The illustration shows a way it could be done. The tree could move even farther left if the bed was expanded correspondingly.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2013 at 9:12PM
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Thank you for your suggestions. I like your idea. I do feel as if I have made the bed a bit too big. The white picket fence actually is the beginning of our neighbor's property, so I won't be able to expand the bed in that direction.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2013 at 9:27PM
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That undulating line of the border looks confusing. I like what borders Yardvark suggested. Can you name the plants?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 5:59PM
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Thank you emmarene for replying to my post.

The grasses in the back are Red Bunny Tails, the Japanese Maple is a Beni Otake, the Coral Bells are Green Spice, the plant in the circle is a spreading conifer (I haven't been able to remember the name). I have three Grimson Pigmy Barberries and five Danica Arborvitae that haven't been planted yet (they're sitting on the side).

I have felt that I may have curved the bed wrong. Maybe that is why things to feel right.

Since I can't expend into my neighbor's yard, which begins by the white picket fence, and other suggestions on how to shape my garden bed?

And, any other suggestions on where I should move the JM to?

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 7:09PM
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Your photo doesn't show enough of what's toward the right so I'm speculating, but here's an alternate way of handling the zero lot line. I would consider the "A" bed the necessary bed and the "B" bed, the optional bed. A main objective is not to hem in the walk its entire length so that it feels like the cattle path at the slaughterhouse. It should be inviting ... not capture and entrap.

The tree would be better to the side, but since not possible, it's better to pull it farther away from the house so it doesn't seem like a wall where your window used to be.

In the "B" bed, I would not put anything that obstructs the view to the door. That means low things OK. If a small tree is incorporated, it would be important to limb it up sufficiently that the view below and through is maintained. (I'm not advising a tree there as I can't see the the portion of the front of your house that would be affected by a tree canopy. I'm just saying "if.")

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 9:09PM
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Where were you wanting to plant the Arborvitae and the Barberry? I leave room near the front of a bed for annuals.
I also leave room for exposed soil next to the grass.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 11:10PM
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I'm a little worried about moving the tree further to my neighbor's property line so I'm considering taking it out entirely. I've drawn up a plan which includes some of your suggestions.Actually looking at your drawing again, I will probably make the bed by the window look more like your drawing, but not plant the tree there, as I stated earlier. And I will more than likely, incorporate an annual boarder in the front of [window] bed (as emmarene suggested).

Would you take a look at my drawing and tell me what you think about it, and also what you think about placing the tree close to the street.

I think the spreading conifer may be a good candidate for your Bed B. Then I could surround it on one side with annuals.

I really appreciate all the great suggestions.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 10:26AM
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I'm not saying to keep or get rid of, but to clarify, you wouldn't actually move the tree to the lot line. You'd move it near the lot line, but on your side. It's common for one neighbor's plants to spread into the adjacent neighbor's yard. It happens everywhere, all the time, especially in back yards. But whatever part of one's plant enters the neighbor's yard, he/they have the right to cut it off, so sometimes one might end up with only the front face of their plant. (It's rare.) But it doesn't matter too much as that's the side one sees. Sometimes neighbors are pleased that another person (their neighbor) is providing the plant that provides additional screening. How it works out depends on the people and the situation.

Commenting on your plan ... keep in mind that while you are not literally inviting every passerby into your home, you (well, most people) wish their home to "look inviting." This means that it would always look as though you are happy to have someone enter through the front door. This means that physical space is made available for the entering process. (Keep in mind that people do not actually prefer to have the minimum space around them to accomplish their movement, but prefer to have EXTRA space so they don't have the feeling they will be bumping into things ... especially wet or dirty plants. They don't want things crowding them, but prefer spaciousness. They'd rather experience "the beach" than the inside of a torpedo tube.) One way of reinforcing this concept is to add front-to-back depth to the planting bed where that bed is farther away from the walk and steps, and to diminish front-to-back depth of the bed as it nears the walk and steps. If you imagined a giant "funnel" guiding your entry to the front door (where the tip of the funnel terminated at the door) the space within the funnel is what would be kept more-or-less clear to serve as a physical and visual path to the door. Outside of the funnel is where obstructions could be placed to guide keep one on the right path. As one nears the sides of the house, there is much more room for big bushy things to be placed. As one nears the center of the path, there is little room for big bushy things without impeding the most direct path to the entrance (which underlies my continual preaching against barricading a walk-to-the-front-door with corral-like obstructions.) Landscaping can become complex so I'm not implying that this basic approach cannot be manipulated with skill. But in this case, that's probably not going to apply. It would be best to reconfigure the front foundation bed so as to seem inviting.

For the other two small beds, make their outside circumferences actually circular so as to prevent a sloppy, triangular looking result. It's always safe to have the bed edge terminate at a line (driveway, walk, wall, lot line, etc.) at 90*... not some unhandsome acute angle.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Sun, Sep 29, 13 at 22:16

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 11:47AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

There are all sorts of Japanese maples. They grow at different rates and have different shapes. We can see from the photo that yours is an upright variety, and apparently fairly narrow.

Do you happen to know its variety name? (Of course, it might not be a named variety, simply a seedling, in which case it's unique and we can only guess about it from what we see.)

Can you tell us how much it's grown in height in the past year?

Unless it's very slow-growing, I wouldn't plant it close to any hardscape (driveway, sidewalk, street), since large root systems tend to damage hardscape, if only many years in the future.

I'd probably put the tree in a small circle of its own in the lawn, maybe 5-8' from the property line, and about 1/4 of the way from the street to the house. But I say that without having any idea what the neighbor has done in the front of his yard or what's on the other side of your driveway. Perhaps the maple would be more suitably placed on the other side of your driveway or in your backyard.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 12:31PM
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Thank you for trying to make me understand. The Beni Otake is not supposed to grow too big--- I read 6-8 feet and spread 5-7 feet---so maybe it will be okay where you placed it. I hope to make the changes this week, so I can seed the empty space before it gets too cold. I will post a picture, or two, for you to look at. I think your suggestions would make for a more inviting path. Thank you again.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 12:36PM
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Thanks for your post, missingtheobvious. The JM is a Beni Otake. I bought it this past spring and it may have grown a foot. Placing the tree in a big pot on our backyard patios was my second/third option. I have a very narrow grassy area on the other side of the driveway so I won't be able to plant it there. Our backyard is on the small side so I do not want to take up space with it there. Until I figure out what to do with it, I may just put it in a pot.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 1:03PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Thank you for the information, JCJ1976.

The 6-8' height and 5-7' width are "mature size." Mature size is an estimate of the tree's size at 10 years.

However, the tree will not maintain that size for the rest of its life: it will continue to grow at the same rate.

So divide the 6-8' 10-year height by 10, and that means it grows an average of 7-10" in height each year of its life.

Divide the 5-7' 10-year height by 10, and the tree will grow an average of 6-8" in width each year of its life.

If you're thinking of putting it in a large pot, you might want to post on the Trees forum (the last i knew, the Maples forum wasn't too busy). They can give you good advice about what growing medium to use (not dirt), how to prune the roots, what size pot to use, and the extent to which planting in a pot will slow the growth rate.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2013 at 2:11PM
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Question for Yardvaark, how far should the far side extend from the house? I was thinking two-thirds of the walkway.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 7:44PM
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What is the "far side"? The far side of what?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2013 at 8:02PM
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Sorry for responding so late. I should have stated the side close to my neighbor's property.

I have implemented the two beds you suggested, though bed A is not as long as in your drawing since I did not place the tree in it (it is currently in a large pot on our patio). Once the grass grows back, making the beds more noticeable, I will post a follow- up.

I've placed the spreading conifer in Bed B along with the three landscaping rocks. The bunches of grasses are in Bed B with the Danicas. In the spring I will move the grasses making room for annuals in between them and the Danicas. I think the beds already look much better thanks to your suggestions. And, once the grass grows back and plant annuals in Spring will look even better.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 9:12AM
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Sure, post pics whenever ready.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 10:27AM
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