Open Canvas - Now What?

eldemilaNovember 3, 2010

We purchased this house (I wonder why now) and it is in desperate need of landscaping, there is none. There was one big pine tree in the front which we had removed yesterday, did nothing for the yard, was almost 45yrs old and was not benefiting the large yard in any which way.

So I have a large yard and not a clue what to do with it.

House is in upstate SC. Would love to put in a tree between the two windows on left of picture, put a few trees in the front, though I'm not sure where.

Would like to have less grass, lots of colors but plants that don't need a lot of upkeep as I'm not good with plants, though I really want to learn.

We are thinking about removing the left part of the deck to give the house more "depth" I think this will be a good idea to have some plants against the house to brighten it up.

The house looks so naked, it's depressing when you drive up and I know it could look better. I've named this "The Potential House? because everyone says it has so much potential - just no one knows how to tap in to it.

Any help and suggestions would be greatly appreciated and welcomed!

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I worry the root of the tree hurt the house,if put in a tree between the two windows on left of picture, put a few trees in the could plant some juniper,conifer and evergreen tree,shrub,add your property privacy.these are some suggests:


    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 4:27AM
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Disclaimer - the above "renderings" are not representative of normal replies to threads.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and proffer that an initial stab in fulfilling the house's potential might be attention to the house itself rather than filling a large yard with colorful plants, trees and shrubs that you (admittedly) have yet to learn about and care for.

Have you considered paint? There are a bazillion to choose from so it does take thought - a green with olive tones, a light tan or sandy color, soft yellow? Then you could have definition with window trim color and a bright front door.

I don't think I'd cut down the left of the deck; it just looks new/raw right now probably because it's the only color on the whole house. Hard to tell on the picture, but is there a step/walk down the slope to the drive? A handrail might be in order.

Colorful plants, trees and shrubs do a lot, but sometimes they're not the miracle workers we think or hope they are. Many times they have to be showcased, too, to have any kind of real impact.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 12:00PM
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Thanks Ideasshare for taking the time to do that for me!!

I too am afraid of having a tree too close to the house but many people have suggested that. Maybe a tree that the roots don't go out too much, though I have no clue what that may be. Nothing big, nothing that would grow too tall, just a little above the house line, I guess.

I tend to like the second picture a bit more. The tree you put is where the pine was.

There use to be a free website that you could use to do landscaping as you did above, I no longer can find it though. Do you know if it still exists? I used it to put plants in front of the deck. Now that I'm thinking about removing part of the deck, and now that the sole tree is gone, would like to try my hand at it again, but can't find if it's still available.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 12:01PM
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Since you admit to having no experience in this area and are unfamiliar with plants, this is an excellent opportunity to enlist some professional help. A landscape designer or consultant in business in your area would be an ideal place to start. Not only would they be familiar with locally popular and hardy plants and the types of maintenance they require, they can help you develop a cohesive design plan that suits the property and your needs. Many homeowners are unaware that the design portion of a planned landscape is the least expensive portion to get help with and arguably the most important. With an overall design plan in hand, you can plant and develop the garden as time and budget permits and yet avoid the costly trial and errors of the uninformed DIY'er. Many designers also offer advice on curb appeal to spice up the exterior of the residence to create greater impact or a more welcoming approach and entry.

There are various versions of downloadable landscape design software on the market, many of which are free, but they are not a substitution for professional input. Like a designer's drafting paper and pencils, they are only tools that can help with visualization but need to be utilized in conjunction with with design principles and plant knowledge. And an understanding of the site and its potential limitations. Without that background, all you will have are some 'pretty' pictures such as those displayed above that have no basis in reality.

Fall and winter is an ideal time for planning. Get some professional assistance now and you'll be ready to roll in the spring.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 2:17PM
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Duluth, thanks for the reply and suggestions. Yes, there is a walk way, large wide stairs, actually, going from the drive to the front door. Deck is straight across the front, PO built it a few years ago, painted it yellow, like the house. I've had trouble trying to figure out what or how to plantin the front, between the deck and the stairs. Since the deck is so long, removing 27ft still leaves a lot of deck in the front, and there's also deck on the right side of the house, but it will also give me the opportunity to have some nice plants in a good size area in the front of the house. Having plants in the front, in front of the left side and then to the right of the front door seems like a good balance. I also worry a bit that someone can be on the deck and just pop up on me.

Gardengal, thanks for the suggestion, I've thought about just the same thing of having someone professioncal come out. I have to find someone who's work I like, I don't want to have someone come out and pay them only to find out that their ideas wouldn't mesh with mine. I need to find someone that can work with a budget minded person like myself. Some ideas are just way above what I could afford. I need to find someone more down to earth, a fancy home and a deep pocket I have not. I do have a new friend that knows all about plants who would like to help I'm sure, again, just have to make sure we'd be on the same wave length. She's a plunk gardner, I want something more planned out in the front. I'm sure in time, it will come. I definitely don't want to spend money without having a plan - been there, done that and they died!!!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 5:39PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Designer yes or no; that's definitely your first question if the option is on the table at all.

I don't have time for much right now, but let's just scotch that "lots of colour, little upkeep" rumour right now. Not gonna happen; doesn't exist. If you're a beginning gardener with a bare yard, what you need to think about is stuff with shape, structure, and ultimately size. Briefly, woody stock. In the first place, that requires little upkeep; in the second, it gives you the bones of a landscape.

You can get shrubs with colour, or at least with colour sometimes - Rhodos for spring colour, shrubs with coloured foliage for summer colour, and some like Disanthus for fall colour - so it's not a world of green blobs by any means. Again, look at a plant's overall shape, foliage, character, and it will have enough presence in your landscape to make a difference.

Not that plant selection is what you start with, but just to line your expectations up with reality!


    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 8:13PM
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I think the idea of a professional landscape designer is a good one. However, I found it costly. I hired a well known and highly recommended professional, I had several pictures of gardens I liked and in general what I would want. He came out for $75 and we talked. The design plan would be $500 to 800 depending on how much was roughed in vs exact measurements and numbers of plants. I'm sure he was worth it, and I wonder now if I should have spent the money. But it was right after Hurr. Katrina, I had just gotten relocated. I was a pretty knowledgeable and experienced gardener in zone 9, but I was now in zone 7. So you might want to consider it if you have little knowledge. On the other hand, you are wanting and willing to learn. Of course, any new place is going to be a blank slate. If you can go to the library and get some SC gardening books or Southern Living and/or Carolina native plants (shrubs and trees). If you find a book that is helpful you might want to purchase it at a home improvement/garden center or bookstore. Reading some general garden design and landscaping books will help too. Still, only a professional will be qualified to evaluate soil, site, drainage etc which are all very important issues. Good luck. It is only natural to be anxious to get going, but my advice is take it slow.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 10:33PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I'd also suggest that hiring a landscape designer would help you out a lot, and hopefully prevent you from going off on tangents. Several ways to scout for one that you might like; drive the neighborhood and look for gardens you find interesting and similar in scope to what you want/can budget, ask for suggestions from garden owners you like by leaving a note with your phone number and requesting info on the designer, asking for referrals from your local retail nursery and looking them up on-line if they have a web site, visiting your local botanic garden and researching what you like/does well in your area.

In general I would agree that lots of color from annuals and perennials isn't likely to be low maintenance, but can be cheap if you are willing to grow from seed or small starter plants. Here in mild winter California, it is entirely possible to have a very colorful year round garden using shrubs and woody perennials entirely; and I select them for varied foliage color and texture more so than flowers, the effects last much longer. For large properties such as yours, I'd suggest investigating what easy care shrubs of different foliage texture and color would work in your full sun situation. If you intend to plant lots of shade creating trees, then your design will need to plan for sun tolerant plants initially that can also handle future shade, or know that you will be revamping these areas as you lose sun.

Small groups of trees as a grove planted out at least 8 feet from the deck would help scale it down, and aren't necessarily going to be a foundation problem. Lots of Hollies, Dogwoods, Hawthorns are all likely candidates for your area, as are larger growing Camellias, Osmanthus, deciduous Magnolias, etc.

A landscape design consultation isn't likely to break the bank, and if you have done some pre-consult research and culled magazine photos of what you like, and given more thought to what you want in the garden spacially and aesthetically, a general consult, even if it doesn't lead to hiring them for an actual plan can still give you a better starting point. Landscape designers are selling you their time and information, and it isn't realistic to think you can get good advice for free, and they can certainly keep you on track to prioritize how to design your garden based on your local micro-climate/soil/sun/shade conditions, and give you general ideas of what things will cost, and suggestions from your needs as to how to phase construction.

If you prefer to skip this step, I'd suggest at a minimum that you go to your local library and get up to speed on landscaping books of the how-to nature and also check out prices of materials and equipment at landscape supply businesses in your area.

As a landscape designer here in northern California, most new clients are already well aware of the value a professional designer brings to the table, so I seldom have to convince people that my knowledge is worth paying for. Even though I work in an area where landscaping can easily cost more than an entire house back east, I still take on new clients with tight budgets and smaller jobs, but that still ends up costing $10,000 or more in most cases, of which half or more is usually labor. It only becomes tough to accommodate clients when they have a small budget, but aren't willing to add their own labor to keep costs down. In this case the only way to proceed is drastically scale back on materials and scope, or suggest they work from a master plan and phase the work as they can afford to do it. It is rare anymore that clients are willing to finance a new garden on credit from an equity line, it seems everyone prefers to spend from budgeted savings only, even my higher end clients!

Good luck with your garden project, hope this has given you some food for thought and some direction of what you need to do to get started.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2010 at 4:12PM
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