Designing front landscape around ground-level windows

zaphod42November 1, 2013

Hello! My sister recently bought a house with no front landscaping and I've volunteered to help design something for implementation to begin in spring. Design to be done in increments as they are able. My main issue is with the lower level windows. How should they be treated? Should I step the design out away from the house? Keep everything close to the house low? House faces east. Lots of sun first half of day. Gets shaded by the house for the second half. Thanks!

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yardvaark

While you wouldn't want to cover the door or windows with plants, circled in yellow is a lot of blank wall space that wouldn't be harmed -- or might be improved -- if it was obscured with foliage to some degree. Included is an example of one way it could be done.

Hopefully, all the raised edgings are going away. They don't contribute anything positive to the picture.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Sat, Nov 2, 13 at 11:01

    Bookmark   November 1, 2013 at 9:53PM
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zaphod42

So you think tall and symmetrical is the way to go? I struggle with symmetry. I was hoping to bring some asymmetry into it because the house was so square.

Raised edgings are definitely gone.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 8:50AM
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kelly922

I do like the rendition/drawing Yardvark made. The house is very symmetrical tho. Think it could be broken up a little. MAYBE u could start by planting clump of River Birch to to start to the diagonal left of door...dig out a curved bed to include this birch and lower growing shrubs...same bed could curve from birch in toward the house and then back out again to include white birch all the way to left. Fill with evergreens and deciduous shrubs/perennials...maybe add some up lights afterwards as well if budget allows. Good luck! :-)

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 10:26AM
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yardvaark

I'm showing you one solution in order to convey the concept of adding foliage without blocking the important architectural features. It doesn't preclude you from exploring possibilities that don't include symmetry, if you wish. (Not sure what squareness-- if that's what you really mean -- has to do with symmetry ... or what you're referring to as "tall.")

The house could be helped immensely if there was a roof or awning over the entrance area.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 10:57AM
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nandina(8b)

The architect and builder will never win any awards for this house design. This is a split level building with the sleeping rooms on the lower level? If so, why can't foliage exceed the lower window heights leaving enough egress space in case of fire? Such as an irregular patio along front of house enclosed by hedging and some flower gardens?

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 4:36PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

This property requires both architectural and landscape architectural remediation. Planting alone is not going to solve its aesthetic needs.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2013 at 11:23PM
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yardvaark

"...why can't foliage exceed the lower window heights leaving enough egress space in case of fire? Such as an irregular patio along front of house enclosed by hedging and some flower gardens?" The main reasons are so as not to block a feature or detail that already adds interest to the architecture, to prevent the view from interior to exterior, or diminish the light coming into the window. That's addressing plantings that are in close proximity to the wall. But if there is a patio separating the plantings from the wall, then it would be other rules that apply as one would be landscaping a new outdoor room. Then, a patio and flower gardens couldn't be slapped in unless there was need or desire for it.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 12:50AM
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laag(z6CapeCod)

"This property requires both architectural and landscape architectural remediation. Planting alone is not going to solve its aesthetic needs." DD

I agree.

Usually, the house is the 800 pound gorilla that is complete so as designers we are left to respond to it. The solutions above are doing just that - responding to the hand that is dealt.

Obviously, not everyone can afford to totally renovate the architecture especially just after buying the property. There are lots of "remediation" possibilities that can be done to the building without breaking the bank.

If the context sucks, change the context. Right now the context is a flat building with a row of windows on grade. Usually the house is what it is and we have no problem with it, so we make the plants respond to the building because it is the strongest element in the view. One way to mitigate that is to make changes directly to the architecture. Another is to introduce other strong elements that reduce the strength of the flat building in that landscape. That can be done with a sledgehammer (figuratively) or with several nudges.

Plantings are not only elements on their own but are support material for other elements. Much like plantings on the building shown above are to affect the building, plantings on introduced elements other than the building can strengthen those as well.

The key here is that if you can't change the 800 pound gorilla, you can overcome it with a combination of things that weigh more than 800 pounds.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 8:08AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Rather strange front facade, and if blending in with the neighborhood isn't critical, and you'd consider making some drama with the design, there's quite a bit one could do. I'd suggest broad brush low plantings adjacent the house,(perhaps just mass ground cover or massed low ferns), with one grove of multi-trunked interesting trees near the entry, and an
entry courtyard circumscribed by a low sweeping wall, maybe a giant curve, with more groups of trees closer to the street, that significantly screen the view of that facade. The front garden could still be a beautiful space if all focus on that facade is redirected to the garden. The bonus of keeping the house wall mostly free of vegetation is that each window has a garden view as well as maximum light. Essentially the view from the street would be a forest glade with a wall directing you to the entry, where it would open up on an enclosed terrace/patio area which would orient to any orientation other than that front wall, which unfortunately is so totally lacking in charm.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 5:17PM
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mjlb

Maybe an arbor over roughly 3/5 of the front facade. It could be mounted to the ground, rather than the house. It's sort of a porch, but not attached to the house, and could grow grapes, or any vine, or train other climbing plant.

There are many ways to construct - see link below with examples of wood, metal, wire, etc. Some have a central spine rather than two legs. Under the arbor, I would use gravel or stone.

Window boxes below two of the high windows on the second floor, to even the window line. Then a curved walkway to the road, accented by large shrubs.

Here is a link that might be useful: arbors

    Bookmark   November 5, 2013 at 3:51PM
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jane__ny(9-10)

Heres a shot of a square, unattractive building (motel). I took shots of the landscaping because I was impressed how it took your eye away from the building.

We bought a house with windows to the ground. Couldn't figure out how to landscape it either. So I would drive around looking at commercial landscaping and residential.

I carved a large bed in front of my house the entire length and planted it with various sized buses and flowers. I think the house looks so much better.

Jane

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 12:03AM
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