suggestions for new shrubs to fill in holes

coengApril 17, 2012

I'm looking for suggestions on filling in some gaps with new shrubery to compliment the existing shrubs. These gaps were from the previous homeowner so I don't know what was growing there before. I basically need at least three spots filled: in front of the electric meter, in the middle of the four shrubs, and to the right of the four shrubs near the back corner of my house.

As you can tell I'm still in the process of mulching that whole area. There was just too much soil and mulch in that whole area. I already removed a good amount of soil and applied two inches of fresh mulch near the electrical panel so that it is just about flush with the pavers.

See photos below. Here are my questions:

1) What kinds of shrubs do I have now?

2) What is that green plant growing low to the ground?

3) When would it be considered too late to plant shrubs this spring? We are in the early stages of a drought here in NJ.

4) Is it more advisable to wait until Autumn (when shrubs go on sale)?

5) What species of shrubs thrive best in NJ, are the easiest to find in nurseries, and are the most economical?

6) On the far right you'll notice a tall shrub I cut down in the fall. It was some sort of spruce but it was growing way to close to the corner of the house and I didn't like it. Should I remove the stump now or is it okay to wait for a year or so when I have more time?

7) Should I just plant annuals instead for some contrast?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the two lime ones look like spirea ...

the middle one ... carp!! .. i just blanked.. lol ..

let me be very clear ... DO NOT PLANT NOR DIG IN FRONT OF THE UTILITIES ... if you insist on something... some small shallow annuals ...

the reason for the failure there.. is the 18 inch wide bed due to the sidewalk.. and the reflected heat and sun off the white house .... try to stay within the families of the plants you see there now.. as they can cope ...

a wise gardener.. would have had the bricklayer ... bring the walkway out about 3 feet .. so you actually had a bed to plant in ... [i am hoping that was the prior owner .. lol]

the vine kinda looks like a clematis .. lacking a trellis ...

ok.. i tried to dawdle until that other ones name popped into my head.. but apparently.. that will come as soon as i power down the computer.. lol


ps: i want to say potentillia.. but i dont know...

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 5:03PM
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If it was me I'd do one of two things- and both involve removing what you have. You are going to be fighting high pH there forever because of the ratio of concrete to soil, so may as well put something in that likes it.

First choice- I'd get three or four tall decorative trellises and train some lovely clematis on them to help mitigate that enormous expanse of siding. Clematis want roots in the shade, so a border of liriope would do just fine.
Second choice would be liriope alone- it would fill the space, live happily, need no maintenance, and look nice.

Ok- third idea :)
Put down river rock and set large, gorgeous pots there with trellises in them for climbing vines and some trailing plants around the edges. That would be lovely, like so:

There may certainly be other ways to deal with it, but I'd want fuller shots of the house from farther back to get into that- it is impossible to determine scale and balance from such close up photos.

Not what you wanted to hear, but that is a hellstrip.
You can fight it for ten years before you give in or surrender now and save your time and money for an area with more possibilities.

I had a similar hellstrip in my previous home and fought it for decades until I figured out how to go with it instead of fighting it.

I don't mean to totally disregard what you asked about in your post- just tossing out an idea and ignoring it is OK :)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 7:27PM
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MollyDog(6 PA)

Ken, is the shrub a potentilla (sp)?

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 9:17PM
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Both yellow-leaved spirea and potentilla take part-shade to full sun. They will both tolerate and actually look better with at least one good trim every spring, or summer. I would add at least one of each to what you have. Odd numbers of plants look better than even numbers. These plants won't outgrow the limited space you have, and don't require much water once established (but they do appreciate a drink in the hottest weather). I don't know what the groundcover is, it could be a vine (vinca?) It looks herbaceous. Take a tip from cearbhill~I love your pool, what great pics! You could have a lot of fun growing vines on trellises in larger (colorful?) pots. Maybe pot up the groundcover until you find out what it is. Funny what happened to what looks like arborvitae, I thought that was a mature vine at first. LOL To answer more of your questions, you will save money, and have to water less in fall to get other shrubs established. On the other hand, you could buy each for $20 to $30 at any big hardware store, and water all summer,but, you are done with that job and can check it off the list. Are you in zone 6? I love caryopteris (common name bluebeard). First Choice has true-blue late summer blooms, and would look great with the potentilla. I think that your spirea would make a nice contrast (it has hot pink summer flowers)in foliage and flower. They just need a good haircut. You can plant shrubs as long as you can dig a hole, there's no time limit. Ditto for cutting down a stump, it's whenever you get to it. The trick is to get to it, finally.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 11:46PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

I would say the first yellow shrub is a Philadelphus, possibly P coronarius 'Aureus', in which case the space there is far too small for it. Then you have 2 Potentilla fruticosa and a Spiraea. The vine is definitely a Clematis and needs something to climb up. The small yellow flowers between the Potentillas are Oxalis corniculata which you might like to remove if you have an aversion to invasive plants, or you may just prefer to let it alone.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 4:41PM
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i guess i'll keep it as is now and just add some annuals.

what's the best way to trim these up? shears?

also need suggestions for something simple that will work in that area for the clematis to climb up

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:32AM
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"Shearing" i.e. passing over with hedge shears (either manual or mechanical) to produce a round shape causes overgrowth on the inside of the plant and in time a woody, brittle mess.
"Pruning" is removing selected growth with pruning shears to encourage an aesthetically pleasing form and simultaneously keeping the plant healthy by providing good air flow and light.

Some plants prefer one, other plants prefer the other.
IMO the ones you have require pruning.

Familiarize yourself with the basics at the link I included below and get some good pruning shears.
Everything you need to know is on this page.

Here is a link that might be useful: Proper pruning tools and techniques

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:47AM
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I am relatively sure that you have two spirea (the lime colored ones) and two potentilla. It is a vining clematis on the very end and will need a trellis. The easiest thing to do is go to a nursery or big box store and look at the metal trellises they have since clematis can't wrap around the larger diameter of a wood trellis unless you cover them with wire. Something like what cearbhaill used for the mandevilla vines would be fine, but might need to be bigger if the clematis is one of the larger ones. (and despite the often repeated idea that clems like shaded roots, they don't need shade on their roots, just adequate moisture and some mulch to keep the moisture even. They prefer not to have root competition, so I'd keep groundcovers away from them.

Spirea take well to hard pruning. I have two that are close enough to the house that they often get squashed during the winter by globs of snow falling from the eaves. I prune them down to a few inches and within a week they are putting out new growth that looks clean and symmetrical. I don't have potentilla, so I can't help with advice on those.

Good choice to remove the spruce that was too close to the house. I'd put in a perennial or two there. In the area of the electric meter, you want to leave the meter reader room to see the meter. I might well plant a large pot and place it there, rather like cearbhaill did along the wall behind the pool with some bushy and draping plants in it. You could also add a trellis near the front corner to let your vine (honeysuckle?) grow around the corner.

I'd probably plant a groundcover as well to help fill in some of the area between the shrubs. I can see something low with yellow flowers in your photo, but don't know if that was planted there on purpose.

As at least one other person mentioned, you may at some point want to take up the sidewalk and move it farther from the house so that you have a more reasonably sized planting bed. Five feet is wide enough so that plants won't encroach on the walkway and will leave you room to paint behind them, but I like beds wider than that so I can plant several layers of plants and have something of interest going on most of the year. Alternatively, you add a wide bed on the far side of the walkway so that the walk goes through a garden rather than defining your garden bed.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 2:24PM
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I would plant dark leafed barberries, such as the Concorde Barberry. The color and texture of their foligae would match-up well with the lighter foliage of your Spirea, Nandina, and Yew.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 5:57PM
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Nandina and Yew? I'm fairly certain the existing plants are spirea and potentilla. You can use hand-held secateurs or power tools to shape the plants, they will grow back! So you will have to continue this routine once or twice every spring or summer.

Others have identified the vine as clematis. You can still pot that one up and place a tall trellis in the pot until you decide where you want it. It could even go in front of the meter if you keep it in the pot. You will want to plant a few flowering annuals with something trailing down the pot sides as well. Then you have to water it regularly.

IMO Barberry would look good, but would be a poor choice since barberries have thorns that snag clothes and tear flesh. Ouch! If you like the idea of dark leafed plants, small weigela like Fine Wine would work better.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 2:16PM
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Regarding the potentilla and spirea...I already trimmed them back...are you saying its not enough? How much is enough? I need a visual.

Regarding the clematis...I want to leave it where it is now. Should I just buy a trellis and lean it against the house? What kind of trellis would work best without damaging the siding of my house and won't topple over in a storm?

What about planting annuals like petunias, begonias, and impatiens to fill the spaces (for this season) and see how it turns out? I'm still in the first year of the ownership of my home so I'll be experimenting a lot. I'm also on a tight budget.

Thanks again for all the advice.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:19AM
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by the way...the stump at the back corner of the house was just removed now I have even more space to fill

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:21AM
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One more thing....No offense taken but I don't see how its considered a hellstrip, as some have referred to it. There are shrubs growing there, which look fine to me, so I don't see how others can't grow there as well as long as I make the right choices. I'm just looking to fill in the gaps. I'd rather have nothing there to begin with, but since I already do, I think it is certainly possible to make it look a little more pleasant than it is right now.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:31AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

The clematis would work on a free standing obelisk.

Regarding the shrubs - it's not that they're not trimmed enough - it's the way they're cut not just how much which is important. They really need pruning rather than trimming. Trimming over the outside of the shrubs, ie shearing, causes them to produce a lot of twiggy growth at the ends of the branches and gradually to get an empty twiggy centre with no foliage as can be seen on your first shrub. By removing a proportion of the stems right down to the ground each year the bushes will rejuvenate and not become bare in the centres. This is what cearbhaill explained above. It's described at his/her link under 'Pruning Shrubs'.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2012 at 9:40AM
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Okay, so I've made some inexpensive improvements for the time being.

Any better now?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 10:45AM
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you should be able to get away with daylilies, especially in front of that fugly meter. Various artemisias are tolerant of just about everything & will provide contrast... maybe Powys Castle?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 9:28PM
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coeng, why don't you check with your electric company, ask if they use electronic readers for the meter. Mine does and I have my box completely covered with nandina domestica now. Also ask about planting a fairly shallow rooted selection. I was given my plant, very large. I scooped out maybe 8" deep, planted, then mounded soil around the rootball that was still above ground. If you use nandina, you have the width to let it spread nicely.

HTH, Rosie, Sugar Hill, GA

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 2:12PM
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