opinions wanted for landscaping corner lot front yard

escrayzeeNovember 21, 2010


I moved into my 1946 house on a corner lot 3 years ago in Toronto (Canadian hardiness zone 6, US hardiness zone 5) and between renovating the inside and outside, I've slowly managed to move forward with gutting the front yard and starting from scratch. I've posted some progress photos and included a crude painting attempt at for trying to communicate things. I understand that I'll eventually want to do a plan that is to scale.

This is spring 2009 before Mulberry tree was taken down:

Right after Mulberry tree was taken down:

Here are some spring 2010 before and after photos of hedge and fence removal, and stump grinding:

These wouldn't be my first choice of plantings but they were here when I moved so I decided to reuse them elsewhere:

Earlier this spring I decided to try something and move an emerald green arborvitae that previous owners planted too close to the fence in the backyard:

Later in the season I did this:

After seeing the photos, you can see that the first thing I did was take down the huge Mulberry tree. I then removed all the perimeter hedging, the two gate posts at the NW corner of the lot at the end of the front walkway, and chain link fence at the side of the driveway. After that, what I chose to relocate some plantings and keep some where the were.

Now that it's getting cold here, things have pretty much come to a halt. For next spring, here's a crude photo editing attempt I made of what my mind sees as a potential way of cleaning up the front yard, but notice all the ?s:

The photos don't show that I've now removed the front concrete walkway that went from my front stairs, straight to the NW corner of the lot, with plans to replace it in the spring with a curved tumbled paver walkway that goes somewhere to the west side of the lot. My plan is to have three walkways; the main one from the west sidewalk to my front stairs, and then mulch walkways flanking each side of the main walkway at the stairs. One secondary mulch walkway will allow pedestrian access to/from the driveway/backyard gate, and to the other walkway to/from the backyard gate on the other side of the house.

Since this is a corner lot which is exposed from quite a few angles, I find it fun and challenging to brainstorm potential ideas. I would like to ask for opinions on what to do with the areas that are marked with question marks. I would like to achieve some kind of privacy but at the same time not barricade the front of my house. A big negative is the fact there is an ugly power line post nearby the NW corner. The fact that the removed pin-straight concrete walkway doesn’t go directly to the NW corner anymore, I think it opens up the possibility for something a lot nicer there. I’m trying to minimize lawn too so I’m trying to devise a natural looking landscape in my front yard that will look appealing (to me anyway :p) year round with mainly rocks, grasses, conifers, maybe some small deciduous shrubs/trees with maybe some grade differences to add some interest too. I think the flat soded boulevards add a good amount of “lawn” by the street but I’m not completely opposed to a small bit of sod here or there on my property if it turns out to flow nicely with whatever ideas someone might come up with. By the way, I have to mention that my neighbour with the blue house is going to be removing the spruce close to the property line because the top part is touching his roof. All along the property line there I’d like to put grouping and mixture of tall narrowish conifers.

Additional Information:

I am just going to elaborate a little bit on what the future plans are for the front of the house to give a better vision of what the structure itself will look like. What the pictures that I posted don’t show are that all the brown fascias and eavestroughs on the house have been replaced by new white ones. The roads have been completely resurfaced and so has my driveway. Broken curbs have been repaired and all the boulevards have been resodded. A new garage door was installed. The wrought iron posts at the front of the house will be replaced by either 4” x 4” or 6” x 6” cedar posts and the railings and balusters will be replaced by horizontal cedar slats. Previous owners actually covered one of the windows in the south side of the house (grrrrr). I will be eventually removing the cover and replacing the old window with a new one to match the existing ones.

I was just messing around last night and did this:

Please feel free to ask any questions at all or comment (negatively or positively) on anything at all. I’d like to get some feedback from people other than my neighbours.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My a Buffalo friend hope me suggest my friend use her rock product,with evergreen plants,moss,maybe you select:

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 3:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I don't know about the rock product - architectural rocks are sunk well into the ground so they can't get pushed over or fall on anyone.

Keep in mind that the garden along the front will have winter sidewalk salt and that dogs will often pee on gardens when walking by you could try a mix of perennial plants and annuals for colour bursts.

I did a similar thing at my last house only a little further back from the road (we had no sidewalk). I used things like coneflowers which grow to a tall height - I planted them in two rows like a zigzag (you can save money by starting a seed packet inside this winter if you have enough light and plant in spring. Keep in mind that they will not be full height until the second year. I planted shrubs in both bright and dark colours. Burning bush adds beautiful foilage in the fall. Lime green shrubs contrast. Continuity in planting along the garden helps to tie the garden together for a professional look. Plant in groupings of odd numbers. I also planted a fair amount of spring bulbs in big groupings for a spring 'punch'. You can start with a gross bag of daffodils and plant in smaller groupings of 5 all along the garden and add to the spring bulbs each fall. I tried to plant with stuff that bloomed in spring, early summer, mid-late summer and then into fall. I did this over a period of time no all in one go.

I don't know what your budget is. You could start thinking about this winter what type of shrubs or perennials you want to purchase as plants next spring. I used annuals to fill in until the garden eventually was full of perennials with room for annuals for quick colour.

Lupins you can grow from seed over the summer, plant in fall and they will mature the following summer - a packet of seeds will give you a lot of plants, cheaply.

Seeds that grow fast and you can collect seeds for the following year:

Calendula (can deadhead to keep it flowering)

Cosmos (deadhead)

4 o'clocks (super easy to grow into small bushes of flowers.) I grown them a lot and the bushes grow almost 2 feet in diameter and height. Big bang for a packet of seeds. Start indoors in early spring if you can.

batchelor buttons

nasturiums (plant in poor soil for more flowers)

I'm not sure if I'm making any sense. If not just email me separately. I'm now planning my new gardens from scratch too.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 10:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

One of my pet peeves is paths with needless squiggles in them :-) May I suggest that, since we are not too far off from the first snowfall of the season, that you use footsteps in the snow to help you plan your paths? When there's a light snow on the ground and while it's still a pristine blanket, walk from the front door to the driveway; to the man-door of the garage; to the backyard (I assume there's a gate to the backyard on both sides of the house? If so, go in both directions...); and to both streets. Make note on your plan view of where your feet took you - that's where the paths should go! I think you'll find that the lines of the paths are simplier than those you've drawn - no squiggles. The curves will likely occur naturally when you round corners, including at T intersections where you'll likely find your steps making a rounded curve rather than a 90 degree angle (think of how many T intersections of sidewalks have muddy spots where everybody cuts across the grass instead of following the intersecting lines of concrete...) If you make the paths comfortably wide enough, straight edges can be softened by overhanging perennials when there are garden beds abutting the paths.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 8:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bernd ny zone5

I always like it when people renovate an older house. You probably considered that removing the tree would also remove the shading of the house by the tree in summer. Since I just replaced a porch support on my house, cedar will also rot, but pressure treated wood would not. At the bottom of the wooden support where it meets the concrete, there should be a metal bracket, providing an air gap. My wooden supports are clad in white aluminum.

The previous owners probably tried to isolate themselves from the noise on the West corner using that privet hedge. Some plantings at this West corner will also prevent that kids will simply march over the lawn. In my experience, everybody using the mulched paths will track the mulch into the house, will become a home maintenance issue. You can place concrete pavers on a sandbed instead of the mulch on your paths.

In respect to planting trees and bushes, the height and width on the plant tags usually are for at 10 years. Conifers usually are not easy to prune and will continue growing at their annual rate after they reach the 10-year size.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2010 at 8:00PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks to everyone for posting a reply! :) I've been really busy with work all week.

ideasshare, thanks for taking time to edit and post the photo. I've included another photo showing a pile of rocks that I have salvaged from my property when I moved here. I'm intending on using them somewhere...some in the frontyard and some in the backyard. It'd be neat if I can have some moss too like you suggested.

gardendoll, i too realized that I have to consider that the areas around the sidewalk would have to withstand winter salt and doggy waste. I don't want to rely much on perennials as they won't be around all year long. I wouldn't mind few but I'm mainly aiming for evergreens. Do you have a thread going for your new garden plan?

woodyoak, I really thought hard about your suggestion and you really made me realize that my squiggly paths are pretty silly! I tried again and posted an updated plan below. It hasn't snowed here yet but I did some walking around and found out that you were correct about only curving when going around corners. Yes, your assumption is correct in that there will be gates on each side of the house...as shown on the updated plan.

berndnyz5, you are correct. Before removing the Mulberry tree, I knew there'd be a trade-off with loosing shade but the trade-off was easy considering that the tree was a female and the mess that the fruit made was unbearable. The tree was also an eyesore in my eyes as it was stumpy and hacked by previous owners. It also had a split in one of its trunks which was an accident waiting to happen. Since the house faces west though, when I walk out the front door at about 6 PM in the summertime, I get practically blinded by the sun :S

I am aware of the metal brackets that you are referring to and those are what I intend on using for my wood posts. As far as I thought cedar or pressure treated wood will eventually rot. I have until the spring to decide on which type of wood regardless :)

There is an old lady who has lived across the street for the past 50-some years and told me that the hedges that I removed had been there for around 40 years. She also told me other neat things like how the driveway used to be by the south-west corner of the property. Anyway, the hedge did provide some privacy and noise barrier but at the expense of being ugly (especially in winter) and super high maintenance in the summer. It was too linear for me and I just couldn't take it any longer. I was surprised after I took it down that I haven't caught one person cutting across the front but regardless, I agree with you and am planning on having something near the NW corner. I was thinking about possibly a small berm/rock garden near the corner but I am unsure how I could link that to the bed beside the driveway. I'm thinking about having taller matter on the NW side and lower matter on the SW side as technically my house address is for the street on the SW side (i.e. the side that I'm planning on putting the new main walkway).

Thanks for pointing out about a mulch walkway would be a never ending cycle of tracking it inside the house. I'm going to have to rethink the material for the secondary walkways. I'm planning for the main one to be 4 feet wide and the secondary ones to be 3 feet wide. I'm okay with spending more money on the main one (i.e. tumbled pavers) but need the secondary walkways to be a complementing less expensive material because the walkway are going to be so long.

As for the conifers, I'm planning on choosing ones that are appropriate scale for the property and that are slow growing. Since they will grow slowly, if any pruning is eventually necessary, it don't see it as being nuisance at all.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 9:22PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I know others are likely to disagree, but I like those paths better. They will also be much easier to clear of snow in winter if you're using a snow-blower. One change I would make is to round the intersections where the cross-paths meet the front door path. Think of putting an open C in that right-angle - people naturally cut the corner so give them a path to walk across when they do, to avoid ending up with a muddy mess in the corner. It's sort of the same thing as the flare at the end of a driveway - or the curve you have where the front path meets the sidewalk.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 9:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks woodyoak :) Good point you made. I took it a bit further and slightly tweaked the other ends of the walkways too (see below).

I have to catch a flight to Jamaica in a few hours so I won't be back for a week. :P Feel free to critique more and/or suggest anything. Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 10:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

That's looking better I think. One additional suggestion after looking at that version. I'm not sure of the scale - how deep are the beds between the path and the front of the house? They should be at least 4' to take them beyond the dry zone of the roof overhang and allow room for reasonable sized plants at maturity. I suspect that would mean moving the path further out from the front of the house. If that's the case, I'd try to make the line of the path one continuous smooth C that comes off from the rounded corner near the garage, goes fairly straight across the front of the house and then curves down along the front path to incorporate the flare where the path meets the sidewalk. Do the same thing on the right, although the C will be smaller/tighter. Flare the ends of the cross-paths (that would now be further away from the front of the house) to meet the bottom step of the front stairs (i.e. round the end of the wider beds at the front of the house) I think that will give you one continuous smooth, curving line on either side that should 'read' as one space rather than three separate paths that intersect. I'm not sure if you can folloow the verbal description easily or not, but play with it a bit and I think you'll be able to see what I'm trying to describe. I think it will give you a nice 'curvy' space but all the curves are logical ones that are 'natural' because they follow were your feet would naturally lead you.

Have fun in the sun!

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 11:47AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

You have liberated that house and yard; kudos for your ability to look beyond what was there before.

I agree with woodyoak about deepening the beds in front of the porch. Another reason to move the path away from the porch is to allow space between any shrubs you plant there and the porch, for future porch-railing maintenance/painting. On the other hand, if all you're going to have there is some smallish shrubs, you don't need a deeper bed. And it sounds like you'll have plenty of other places in the yard to put the flowers that are typically planted in front of the foundation shrubs.

I'm not sure exactly where the old mulberry was in relationship to the new front walk. As the old tree roots decay over the years, that area will sink considerably. How will that affect the new paver walk? (I'm not an expert on this subject, just worrying.)

I like the changes in the path (especially the relocation of the front walk away from the corner!), but would like to propose more things to consider:

= The new path which goes north to the garage: consider delaying the split in the path by a few feet. Try to avoid having a thin triangle between the branches of the path: even if you don't widen the angle between the paths, consider filling in the thinnest part of that triangle with hardscape.

Also, will anyone ever want to cross from one branch of the path to the other? Will it be awkward?

= Aim the western branch of that new path not to the existing concrete along the side of the garage, but to where that concrete joins the corner of the driveway. The idea is for the lawn-side of the new path to join the curve of the bed with the arborvitae and euonymus, so that you have a smooth curve there -- also no odd bits of lawn that are awkward to mow.

= Rather than having the eastern branch of the split path join the old concrete next to the garage, aim it more directly toward the gate to the back yard. In fact, I'd consider removing the old concrete entirely (you could cut it up and use it for stepping stones). How often do you need to go from the driveway to that gate? What would you do -- in the way of paths and landscaping -- if the old concrete wasn't there? Consider placing the eastern path so that it's midway between the house and garage.

Another way to think of this is to start with a sketch -- using straight lines -- where the path from the front corner of the house, the path from the corner of the driveway, and the path from the gate to the backyard all meet to the north of the house. [The meeting-point is roughly midway between the tiny shrub on the north side of the house and the corner of the driveway.] Start with that sketch and play with it.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 2:52PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

So it's been over a month since I last posted. Got tied up with going to Jamaica for a wedding, a new job, christmas, etc. 2011 is here and I'm looking to get some improvement accomplished.

Woodyoak, I'm planning to keep plantings to a minimum between the front of the house and the path(s). I was thinking about some sort of low growing (~1-2' high) ornamental gasses or something. I want to avoid having the walkway too far out from the front because there's a stepping stone path currently that feels like a detour everytime I use it. I think I was able to understand your advice about making the paths blend more and how they will curve naturally when they turn coners. Thank you. Feel free to give other feedback too if you want for my updated layout.

missingtheobvious, thank you. I had no problem seeing past the depressing mess that I inherited when I bought this property. After being here for a couple of years now, I'm pretty confident about what I don't want heheh.

Good point about the Mulberry tree roots decaying. I'll have to inquire about that because I'm not sure myself how much sinkage I should expect, if any at all.

About the walkways by the garage, this is how I literally use the area as it is. The little triangular island isn't there yet. I don't want it to be sod or even flat for that matter so I was going to do something with rocks, evergreens and maybe some grasses.

I did as you suggested and got rid of that little sliver of grass by the corner of the driveway by the bird's nest spruce.

Since the concrete walkway beside the garage is already there, I don't have it in me to remove it, considering how much energy i've already exhausted in getting to this point. Thanks for your advise. Feel free to comment on my new proposals.

Here's my proposal taken a little bit further...but wifey wasn't too impressed with the amount of sod that I took away so I did a 2nd one, leaving a bit more sod:

    Bookmark   January 10, 2011 at 11:08PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

It sounds like you're off to an interesting start to the year :-)

The second version is closer to what I would envision, although I'd make a few changes. I took the first picture and scribbled on it:

I think a deliberately shaped lawn stands out so nicely and helps impose a sense of order on everything else. I'd reshape the bed in the corner by the driveway to make the lawn have a nice smooth line on that side. I'd widen the end by the front walk to match the lawn on the other side, which I'd bring around to incorporate the curve of the walk. Put the rocks (?) that were planned for that bed in the (presumed) bed in the corner. I'd round out that pointy V of where the path splits by the garage. That would make it easier to step from one path to the other and make the shape of the space more sympathetic to the rest of the spaces. I think you're getting pretty close to a nice-looking gaarden space.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 5:46PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Overwhelmed by new homes
I bought a new home just over a year ago in Northwest...
tall hedge or tress for privacy screen.
I have posted this before in older forums. Not able...
Landscape Advice Needed | New Homeowners
We just purchased our first home in the southeast and...
Sarah Bain
Landscaping ideas - Need help with suggestions of plants please
We would like to seek help in filling our concrete...
Feedback on my design/plans?
In a previous thread I asked for general suggestions...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™