Inviting comments and suggestions

shear_stupidity(9B)January 23, 2013

These are before and after shots of my house and yard in Central Coastal Florida. The "before" pics show the house the way it looked when we moved in just over 5 years ago, and the "after" shots were all taken this month. I hope you can see the direction I'm trying to go, but I've got a lot of areas that still need work, plants, ideas. See below:

This is the front of my house (no "before" pic because there was just "nothing" there) The house faces south-west. There are two Laurel Oaks on the left next to the driveway, one Live Oak on the right halfway between the house and the street, and two more Live Oaks on the right in the back corner of the yard.

This is a close-up of what we just planted last Spring on the right side of the door. I think it will be fine when it grows and fills in, but might pull out the small Robellinis and put in larger ones since they're such slow growers.

...And here's our "red-headed step-child." This is a close-up of the left side of the door. We planted two Selloum on the left, and the two "crinkle leaf" Crotons. The other two shrubs are dull and non-descript. This area gets full, hot sun for an hour or so per day at sunset. It's about 14' wide and 8' deep. Please suggest landscaping for this area!

This is a "before" shot of the back of the house. The Crotons under the Live Oaks died after a particularly bad winter here a few years ago. There used to be about 20-30 of them, only four survived.

Here is an "after" shot of the back of the house. (Sorry it's not at the same angle) We have laid a brick patio, built three brick columns, iron fencing, an in-ground pool, and landscaping has begun.

This is the "before" shot from the other direction, facing the berm.

Here is the "after" picture, taken this morning.

This is a tricksy area. The patio ends and the berm begins. We can get the riding mower through here, and it's a heavy foot traffic area. No grass or weeds grow here and it's in full shade. Any suggestions?

This is the "before" picture of the view out the side of my screened porch before installing the pool.

Here is the "after" of the same view.

The side of the house before installing a gate and a path, taken in Spring 2007.

This is the "after," taken this morning (Winter 2013). From where I'm standing all the way to the gate, I don't want to have to mow on either side of the path. On my left is the area behind the waterfall. I'd like a ground cover for the left side of the path that won't climb my pool equipment, A/C units, and trellis. (there's a MONSTER Wisteria that I've cut back that climbs all over the trellis and house, but never blooms.) Due to the direction of sunrise and sunset, the height of my house, the proximity of the neighbor's house, the two grapefruit trees on the right and the two Laurel Oaks in the background, this area stays in full to mostly shade (in a diagonal line from the junction box on the house to the closest tree on the right and cuts right between the Giant Agave and the Song of India against the fence, and it stays damp. Any suggestions for the left side ground cover? Also, any suggestions for after I remove all the grass, what to plant to have a full and lush planted area on the right?

Thanks for looking!

This post was edited by shear_stupidity on Thu, Jan 24, 13 at 9:05

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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Wow, the more pics I see of your yard, the prettier it gets! Quite a house too! Throw this stuff up against your tastes and desires and see what sticks...

Front of the house, to grow things that would be tall enough to be interesting without needing constant maintenance to not get too wide in those spots would be tricky, and uninteresting to me, that constant battle. What would be interesting to me in the area to the left of the door would be to remove the boring tall thing on the right, then augment what is there with potted plants. Semi-permanent but so much easier to change if you get bored, it gets too big, whatever reason. Some beautiful, really big pots with - I don't know, the choices there are vastly different. Maybe a couple very tall wrought iron shepherd's hooks for hanging pots for more height without bulk, would complement the light fixture too. In the ground, I'd aim for "see through flowers." Plants that make low mounds of foliage but tall wispy flowers.

Making more bed area on the yard side of the walkway would cut down on your mowing even more, and give you space to plant taller things without them being smushed against the house, blocking your views out or light coming in, but somewhat obscuring the view in without blocking any of the beautiful elements of your house. You could use something besides a straight line for a new grass border, to soften the overall appearance, but not a line that's difficult to mow/trim. ...And/or maybe something farther out in the yard, that could be appreciated from inside more as well. Some cute little understory trees, maybe a pretty arbor with a rose vine, whatever you like looking at. What is out there now probably can't be seen from inside so your views are only of what your neighbors have planted. IMO, whatever windows you look out of often should have as great of a view as you can create, especially if you plan to grow old there.

I love the beautiful plants on the right side of the door, but it seems small overall compared to the size of the wall it's against. With the big window there, it's hard to do much more right against the wall. I'm sure you didn't buy a house with a beautiful window like that to cover it up with a giant green meatball. This area would be included in the expansion I mentioned above.

In the back, where the patio ends, if it's a path, maybe it needs to be "officialized." It looks too dark there for good grass anyway. Where do you usually go when you leave the patio this way? ...a path to...?

Are Caladiums too tall for the area by the heat pump/pool equipment? I wouldn't want to mow that either. I can't get enough of these shade-loving leaves. Since there's plenty of grass elsewhere, I don't know that I would try to emulate grass on the other side of the path. I would probably mulch it and put in various shrubs, perennials. If it's handy to the kitchen and there's a spot there with enough light, I'd probably have some...

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 4:11PM
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Purple, thanks so much for taking the time to put some thought into this!

I love the idea of having potted plants on the left side of the door. That would be great for the "other" problem with this area: as the sun's trajectory changes, and as the two types of Oaks lose their leaves (Laurels in the Fall, Live Oak in Spring), I'd be able to move the pots so they were getting the optimal amount of light. I can't get Shepherd's hooks to stay in the ground upright. The "dirt" in that area is like gray beach sand, which is ANOTHER issue that pots would resolve.

The windows on the side of the house (where the path is) are the huge window in my master bath behind the tub, the small window in the water closet, and the side door to the garage. We never look out the windows there� but you CAN see almost all the way to the gate from the pool if you're in the right area.

The plants on the right side of the door are Ixora, Shell Ginger, double Pygmy Date Palms (Robellinis), and Crotons. Aside from the Palms, the rest grow fairly quickly� and I bought the largest size offered in my area. I tried to stick with things that grow very easily in poor soil conditions with little light. The right side of the door never gets ANY sunlight� ever. I wish they were grown up already, too. Alas�

When we leave the patio on the non-pool side (by the Staghorn), we are either going left to access that side of the yard, plus there's a tire swing there by the berm� or we're going right, to access that side of the house� I didn't even take pictures of that for you yet! But we have to go there to turn on the hose. access the irrigation pump and timers, etc.

The only reason I wouldn't put Caladiums by the pool equipment is because I'm in the process of laying the bricks from the edge of the pool deck to the new path, which needs to wrap past the pool equipment so I can access the junction boxes. (Quick pat on my own back: Hubby graded the other brick patio area, and my 43-year-old self laid every single one of those bricks on my own!) Once that's done, that area where the A/C units are will be almost completely invisible. We'll only see it to take the trash out the gate. I am a bit concerned that just ground cover will be boring, but I'm really looking for careless and carefree on that side of the path. Your perennials and shrubs with mulch idea might really work for me!

As for access to the kitchen, the only access is through the screened porch. I have started a lasagna garden section last summer directly behind the waterfall (or directly to my right when looking at the path and the new gate) It's in full sun and I was thinking about trying veggies and herbs for the first time ever! (Will need advice for what's easy for newbies trying to grow food)

Compost pile� another "someday" thing. We're in an HOA, directly across the street from the president of the HOA and next door to the vice president of the HOA. I couldn't have compost on either side of my house due to neighbor proximity. I can't put anything "permanent" (like three sides of brick wall) along the back fence. I also can't put anything permanent in the lowest part of my yard (drainage easement) unless it's a living plant/tree. I am struggling with where I can even legally put a shed. The struggle continues�

It IS hard to find time away from the pool, but I am determined to have my "zen/spa/resort" feeling out there. I don't even really see all we've done so far because I'm always coming up with more I want to do. (Wrap lights on one of the low boughs of one of the Live Oaks over the patio, filling the entire fence line with plants we can mow up to and not have to weed whack around every fence and tree, etc�

I'll be checking out the landscaping forum. I love verbal tennis, arcane details, and unvarnished critiques!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2013 at 7:23PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

That's amazing you laid those bricks yourself! Hope your fingernails are recovering! An HOA - ugh, not something I'd want to deal with, but for that beautiful property, it might be worth it. From reading on these forums, they seem to be universally against composting, which I don't understand, but you probably know that up front.

You obviously have great taste, I'm sure you'll figure the rest of this out in a beautiful way.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 9:07AM
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Thanks! Yes, my fingernails took a hit, but I wore gloves. (Wore a hole right through my gloves, actually!)
The HOA here isn't very strict. It's just the combination of city easements, drainage easements, and "what you can see from the street." Maybe if I hid the compost with a "hedge row" of shrubs!
See? Sometimes ya' just gotta talk things through and the solution presents itself.
Thanks again!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2013 at 9:15AM
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