starting garden from scratch

azr2dOctober 28, 2013

Hello all,
We recently renovated a small ranch including waterproofing the entire foundation. This meant the removal of all the plants around the house. At first I was excited about planning out my new garden as there were so many possibilities. I now find it daunting as there are too many possibilities. Would anybody care to add their thoughts to what I should do with the front garden?

About us and house. Young family with 3 small kids - I love working in the garden but don't always have the time I would like - ie a garden that is low maintenance and not too delicate as I'm sure the kids will dig in it / hide in it / swing from it. Zone 7. If you are looking from the front left corner of the house to the rear right corner of the house you are looking almost due north.

Here are some photos:

Front looking north. The slope is pretty severe. I love the idea of a weeping maple in that spot in the mulch but this red one won't take the full sun it is getting. I've got a green variety of weeping maple with yellow fall color that I'm going to put there instead and then find another home for the red weeping maple. There are 3 small blue rug junipers on the worst part of the hill. I think I would like something trailing over the wooden retaining wall and am intrigued by weeping rosemary.

front view - dogwood in middle

front view from other angle

nasty slope with the red Japanese maple that will be relocated along with 3 blue rug junipers

View as you come up the front steps. I would like to plant something between the corner of the house and the Norway Maple (I think that is what that large maple is) to hide the neighbor's AC unit. I was thinking this might be a place for the relocated red Japanese maple and some oakleaf hydrangeas.

Close up of the right side of the house. There are 2 large window wells that let in lots of light to the basement that I don't want to obstruct.

closeup of the left side of the front door.

We just moved to Virginia from Ohio and I am enamored with the wonderful variety of plants that grow here. Crape Myrtles are beautiful and I've already planted 3 along the west side of the house. Huge azaleas that knock your socks off with their spring displays. I have my favorites too. White hydrangeas, be them little lamb or Annabelle. Oakleaf hydrangeas. Heck any type of hydrangeas. Smoke Bush. Some of the beautiful shapes and colors of junipers. See, I get carried away and don't know where to start. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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With the pronounced slope, the front yard looks like a candidate for groundcover so that mowing can eliminated or reduced. A taller groundcover would be useful below the large tree.

The third picture illustrates the need for raising the tree canopies. They're hiding a lot of the house. Too bad that someone didn't pay more attention to developing a well shaped trunk structure to the dogwood years ago. Now, it's very lopsided. It can probably be improved, but maybe not cured.

I don't grasp your thinking on the Jap maple position. Seems like when it gets big it will be obstructive.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2013 at 11:56PM
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Hi Yardvaark, I was hoping you would chime in. Reading through other threads you often have some interesting ideas.

There is a considerable slope at the front, but I think the photo is deceptive. It is not so bad that it can't be mowed. The tough slope is the one by the drive that has been mulched.

The dogwood is a beautiful tree. It does hide the house, but really the house is no stunner (outside that is, I love it inside!). It also obscures our view of the less than picturesque duplexes across the street.

I was looking for something distinct on the slope to the driveway. I settled on a weeping Japanese Maple after wandering around our neighborhood and admiring a neighbor's. It is interesting with leaves and without. This one is supposed to slowly reach a spread of 6 to 9 feet with an equal height, Putting it one day almost to the walkway.

I've been thinking about the space to the right of the house between the maple and the corner. I think I would like a hedge of white hydrangeas like Annabelle, with some kind of deep green evergreen hedge behind (is there a laurel that would fit the bill?) with a green/white variegated hosta in front, with a creeping phlox at the very front, even falling into the right most window well. Sprinkle in daffodils clumps to add some spring color. Then place a couple of adirondack chairs in the grass in front of it painted the same red as my front door. It would hide the neighbor's AC unit as you were walking into the house and the red would give a pop of fun year round color against a pretty white / green background. At least that was what I was dreaming of last night.

I don't know what to do as I go to the left across the house. I don't feel the need for foundation plants around the house, but I would like something tall and interesting between the two rightmost windows. And I'm at a complete loss as I go the left of the front door towards the garage and then down to the drive. A lady at the garden center was musing about dwarf lilacs in there.

I'll continue thinking about to and would love some other thoughts.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2013 at 2:23PM
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I agree with Yardvaark about the turf and that slope. Why would you want to have grass there, it's not like the kids are going to be playing soccer on that slope. I would have large beds of ground cover in that front bed.

I think the weeping Japanese maple would be fine there as long as it does not get too tall.

I also think a grouping of oakleaf hydrangea would be an effective and attractive screening element there. I would suggest one of the dwarf cultivars though. I would plant a couple more in different spots near the house to tie them all together and into the house.

I would also include a continuous evergreen ground cover tying all of them together. I think I would pass on the juniper myself and would go with a herbaceous plant.

I would also probably try to get some broad leaf evergreen shrubs to add some variety and evergreen shrubbery. I would see what your neighbors have that grow well maybe Shamrock inkberry holly, Rhododendron, you have so many choices in zone 7 that I can't even imagine here in Chicago.

Here is a link that might be useful: Oakleaf hydrangeas incl. dwarf cultivars

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 10:16PM
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"...It [the dogwood] does hide the house, but really the house is no stunner ..." It's your task to change that. Make the picture into something people want to look at.

" It [the lawn] is not so bad that it can't be mowed." While something (mowing on a slope) CAN be done, doesn't mean that one will enjoy it. I'd rather cultivate a nice groundcover than mow on a slope and have lower maintenance in the long run ... providing one commits to the upfront work of keeping out weeds.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 2:33AM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I would think about continuing that retaining wall all the way to the base of the steps. As it is now, that slope will creep no matter what kind of groundcover you plant. Get the hardscape done first before you start thinking about what plants to use.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 6:19PM
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