Need decorative evergreens to replace outgrown junipers

HVjuniperApril 7, 2014

My first post, although I've been lurking on GW for some time... :)

When moving into my house 15 years ago, the first thing we naively planted was a small juniper on each side of the stone staircase that is the entry gate to the house from the driveway (see photos). Since then the junipers have naturally grown very big (with pruning, held to 8' by 8'), such that they are now totally out of scale for the location, and frankly they have become ugly in my view.

I am looking to replace them with shrubs with the following characteristics: 1) evergreen in Zone 6 (NY Hudson Valley); 2) decorative/specimen, as they will serve as the entry gate to a front patio that leads to the house; 3) full sun; 4) limited maintenance, but held to 6' by 6' with annual pruning; and 5) attractive from below, as they would be seen from below while ascending the front steps.

I guess I am open to suggestions about broadleaf evergreens, as for the most part I have always planted conifers. For example, directly opposite the staircase across from the driveway (see photo), along the driveway is an area already densely filled with conifers, including: 1) blue atlas cedar (tree); 2) various types/colors of juniper and arborvitae shrubs; 3) boulevard cypress; 4) canadian hemlock shrub; and also 5) sandcherry, cherry laurel, endless summer hydrangeas, barberry et al.

I was thinking about rhododendrons, but the planting area is subject to punishing high winds in the winter, thus probably not appropriate.

Your suggestions of the appropriate and decorative evergreen shrubs that will serve as the gateway to the house, in place of the 2 big junipers, will be highly appreciated, thanks!

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Here is the photo from the other direction

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 7:11PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

If deer are not a problem and if your soil is acid enough, azaleas or rhododendrons would be lovely. There are literally hundreds of choices of cultivars that won't get too big. Check out the offerings of Rare Find nursery--a very fine nursery that specializes in those plants.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 6:54AM
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Thanks, Laceyvail, for the quick response. As I mentioned in the post, I have been thinking about rhododendrons, but we get a lot of punishing wind in the winter in that spot and everything I have ready so far says that rhododendrons need to be sheltered from such wind. Are there some rhodies/azaleas that are more resilient than others in such circumstances? Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 9:45AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

remove them.. then pop us some more pix ...

i can not conceptualize a plan .. without seeing the blank canvas ...

if you wish to stay within conifers... i suggest you visit the conifer forum.. as most of those peeps dont hang in this forum ...

is that the driveway or a road.. is snow load an issue???? salt???

the ones by the porch steps are as overgrown as the ones by the road steps ...

in my world.. they would all be removed at once ...

think about it.. and good luck


    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:23AM
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Thanks, Ken. I don't think I was asking for someone to conceptualize a plan, but merely for ideas of evergreens that meet the criteria I listed in the original post. Also I did not say I wished to stay with conifers, in fact I specifically stated that I am open to suggestions about broadleaf evergreens (as I already have so many conifers).

As stated in the original post, it is a driveway, not a road. (Snow load and salt not an issue).

I do agree that the overgrown shrubs by the porch steps also have to go. Any suggestions you have would be appreciated, thanks!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 3:27PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Before you get much further, double check the soil pH. There are places where the few billion tons of limestone that used to be in the Taconics and the Shawangunks ended up, and the pH is much higher than people expect. The official soil survey for Dutchess Co. describes a normal, local pH as somewhere between 4.8 and 7.8. Anywhere near the upper end of that throws a real monkey wrench into a lot of broadleaf evergreens. Though the mountain laurel growing in the limestone cliffs near West Point have made me wonder.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 4:38PM
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First, hello to a fellow lurker. Your house and stone entry are really lovely. My suggestion is a dwarf oak leaf hydrangea, Pee Wee. They get about 5 or 6 feet wide and about 4 feet tall and stay in that general size for many years with NO pruning. They leaf out early in the spring, have large white flowers, leaves that turn reddish in the fall and are not picky about soil ph. Their branch structure and peeling bark are attractive in the winter too. Would LOVE to see your finished project, whatever you ultimately decide.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 5:08PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Shrubs that flower on overwintering buds at stem ends in the manner of rhododendrons and azaleas will become a problem when you start wanting to prune the outsides off at frequent intervals, in order to control size.

If site conditions (including winter climate) are suitable and you are not averse to the foliage odor and other traits the obvious candidate for this situation is Buxus sempervirens 'Suffruticosa'.

It is true that you can shear evergreen azaleas and have them still bloom heavily just inside the zone of shearing. So if you wouldn't mind have a flowerless outermost layer of growth on these they might work for you.

The problem is liable to be worse with larger parted kinds of rhododendrons. This will also still flower to some extent inside where not being sheared, but you will not be able to cut new growth off each year and get a full bud set.

This post was edited by bboy on Wed, Apr 9, 14 at 17:17

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 5:13PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

As for myself, a couple of Picea pungens 'St. Mary's Broom' would go good with your house. In 20 years or so they might start biting people as they encroach on the walk, but it would be a good run.

Picea pungens 'St. Mary's Broom'

The oak leaf hydrangea idea is another good one, but you want evergreen and I'm not sure zone 6 NY would let it, so you might want to look at a number of different evergreen Daphnes. I'm assuming the drainage is impeccable there, but the soil test mentioned above is a good idea.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 7:38PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Daphnes are much too problematic to be used as an architectural feature.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 10:40PM
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mary4b(4b WI)

I'm no expert at design, but your home is very lovely and you have evergreens from every direction...up closer to the house, and then across that street (or drive?). How about something non-evergreen that won't stop the eye there. Obviously, your shrubs are so overgrown that they are stopping the eye, and smaller ones would not. But still, something deciduous might be more "airy" and offer a contrast to all that lovely evergreen. I liked the hydrangea suggestion. What about Japanese Maples combined, perhaps with something that would flow over your stone on one of the those evergreen juniper carpets? Finally, I don't think you have to have matching sides. It is lucky that those two did stay lovely together, but sometimes matching sides ends up looking worse as one side fails while the other thrives.
Just another set of ideas...I'm struggling with some ideas on my property, too!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 6:02PM
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Thanks, for all the suggestions. I will look into the Pee Wee hydrangea, St. Mary's Broom and other suggestions. Food for thought is also whether I can live with something deciduous (bare deciduous branches make me melancholy in winter... :) ) -- but the point is well taken and thinking outside the "evergreen" box could open up many options. Also thanks for the compliments about the house and stonework!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 5:42AM
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There are a few spruces that might work well; birds nest which is green and montgomery which is blue. Both hold up well to winter winds and harsh conditions. You also will not have to prune them to maintain size. You could underplant with some annuals or a few perennials for added interest.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 4:14AM
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