Return to the Landscape Design Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Want my home to look more charming

Posted by swoodard23 7b (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 27, 11 at 1:13

Hello,
I live in an established neighborhood in zone 7b and feel our landscaping is not living up to our homes full potential. My wife and I are not particularly gifted in the creative design department and would like advice on how to make our home look charming, inviting, and attractive. Would a pergola look out of place?
Thanks for any input,
Scott

[IMG]http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v377/swoodard23/Mobile Uploads/Photo0579.jpg[/IMG]

Here is a link that might be useful: home


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Lots of unrelieved plane surfaces there--the roof, sides of the house and lawn. If you want to keep it simple, a couple of raised beds around the trees would help, along with some higher (and more interesting) foundation plantings and something flanking the walkway.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

  • Posted by catkim San Diego 10/24 (My Page) on
    Sun, Mar 27, 11 at 17:45

Hi Scott. I am not a landscaper, so don't give my comments too much weight. However when I look at your photo, I see a lot of stuff overhead already, so a pergola wouldn't address "what's missing". Your home is attractive, but could be made more attractive by adding some engaging features at ground level. Without knowing the local context, my suggestion may be out of place, but I can imagine a low wall perhaps 1/3 of the distance from the door to the street, on both sides of the walk (wide enough to encompass the first windows on each side of the door) enclosing a pretty perennial garden or simple herb garden, with bench seating along the inside of the wall. There is something about a low wall that makes you wonder what lovely garden might be behind it, beckoning.

Thinning out those heavy, bushy eyebrows over the house would also improve the view.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

I agree on the "eyebrows". The house was built in the mid 50's as were all the other houses in the neighborhood. While other homes have beautiful, established pecan trees we have a couple of young pecans, a burr oak, and an ash. My wife does not want me to cut back the tall photenias because she believes it will make our home look even less established.
I like the idea of some raised beds. I would like the cottage feel but the yard is in direct sun in zone 7b so I know I am limited in what I can plant and how much maintenance and watering would be required. I have a professional landscaper coming up with some plans and want different opinions before finalizing on his work.
Love the ideas so far. Please keep them coming.
Thanks,
Scott


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

As an afterthought, that triangle of stressed turf where the walkway meets the curb seems to be crying out for something. I might think about putting some ground cover type juniper in there, and on the other side As well. One of the blue-grey types, maybe. You can't give it too much sun, and it doesn't require much water.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Re whitecap's suggestion - that probably wouldn't work....because the home seems to have a rear entry garage and the front sidewalk is used for guests parking on the street. I've seen these areas expanded on either side of the walk. Wish I could draw it for you. Make it perhaps 6' length on either side, 3 - 4' deep and develop planting beds on the house side. Beds 5' deep - tons of choices for plant material. This would add charm for sure.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Wow, it really goes to show that landscaping is for people, not for buildings. I could never have predicted that someone would have a need for a place to look "established," or at least not to the extent that they would want those bushes to stay. The look is one thing, but I'd be concerned structurally for your eaves and roof, and eventually for your foundation and perimeter drainage.

I will say outright that I think Whitecap's advice is bad - putting raised beds around the trees will kill them, most likely, and then you'll have an even less established look. Plus, if you take the idea to suggest circles, it is an amateurish trick that does nothing but scream "I couldn't think of anything else to do here." Nothing wrong with an idea like big island beds in the lawn that incorporate the trees (although careful with cultivating too deeply around some trees' roots), but they should NOT be raised, and NOT circles. But I don't think island beds will solve this anyway.

To really solve a problem you have to understand it first. I think maybe your idea of the pergola speaks to the fact that the house lacks an overhang. I don't think adding the pergola will help because it won't match in style. What might compensate for the lack of overhand and give that inviting look is some other way of giving the place a sense of enclosure and coziness. As such I would endorse Catkim's suggestion of a low stone wall or fence, but there might be other techniques.

There is also something about that long narrow walkway that could bear a great deal of improvement, and a wall would break it up some, create a gateway, and a nice gate might be good. Myself, I think I would remake the walkway in one of those offset-block designs so that it's not a landing strip from street to door. Sometimes those designs incorporate raised planters that also create a bit of the feeling you might be after. It's not planting at the foundation that you need.

I hope your designer is able to accurately pinpoint what it is about the house that does not look friendly.

KarinL


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

catkim's "eyebrows" is a great term. They add dark weight to the dark plane of the roof and make the house frown with the effect of lowered eyebrows. I was also wondering about their effect on the foundation.

The area inside catkim's low wall could include a paved area to either side of the current front walk. Since your porch is so small, you might like to have a larger space to welcome arriving guests. This could be at the level of the front walk, or you could replace the existing stoop with a much larger one.

If you end up replacing or altering the front walk, you might consider flaring the new walk slightly at the street for a more welcoming look, as well as to lessen the unforgiving linearity of the current walk.

The reason it's a bad idea to put raised beds around trees is that it's important not to cover the root flare above the soil level; the root flare is where the trunk widens above the roots. Even mulch touching the trunk can be bad for the tree's health.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

This is a traditional house in a traditional neighborhood and, from the perspective of your traditional, "established" neighbors, a front yard is expected to make a proper contribution to the overall attractiveness of the neighborhood. In this context, it makes little sense to reject "the traditional" just because it is traditional. I would beware of going "off key" just for the sake of novelty. You have ample scope for originality within the limits of the aesthetic sensitivities of your neighbors.

About those photinias: They seem to me to be relieving what would otherwise be a rather monotonous roof. If you are of a mind to do something with them, however, I wouldn't remove them altogether. Before they were trees, they were bushy shrubs. I would cut them back to a foot or so from the ground, and train them into shrubs. To keep them from turning into trees again, you will need to make some low cuts every other year or so. Photinias respond well to pruning, even severe pruning.

As for the beds, just drive around some and observe how many you see around healthy trees. I put a hopelessly unimaginative octagonal bed around a live oak about 15 years ago, and it has doubled in size. I didn't put more than about 8 inches of soil inside the bed, and put a sturdy collar around the trunk, to prevent the dirt from contacting the bark. I've no reason to doubt that soil would otherwise have caused the bark to rot.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Has anyone thought about removing the "middle" one on the left hand side? I think they have the potential to look nice, but are too heavy right now.
By removing a little of the weight on the left and adding a lower evergreen shrub in it's place, I imagine it would create a more balanced effect. Then the rest could be looked at with fresh eyes.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

For the benefit of street-parking guests, you might think about flanking the curb with large, flat pavers connecting to each side of the path. That would free up the triangles between the pavers and walkway for ground cover or whatnot.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Thanks for the responses. I am a little concerned the roof may look plain without the photenias but it may be worth trying. If I do raised beds it will not be around trees. Thanks for the advice.
Here is a photo of my original plan. It incorporates red tip photenia, indian hawthorn, liriope, encore azaleas, and burford holly. I really like the idea of expanding the entrance landing and doing something with the sidewalk.


Does this appear organized at all? The trees are Pecan, Bur Oak, and arizona ash and all are being pruned for height.
Does anyone have pictures of the wall flanking a sidewalk? I am having a hard time visualizing.
Thanks again,
Scott

Here is a link that might be useful: plan idea


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Here is a revised plan incorporating some of the recommendations. Link attached below. Is this getting closer? I removed the middle large photenia. Still interested in a raised bed somewhere but am still unclear where everyone thinks it would have the largest impact.

Here is a link that might be useful: plan idea 2


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Further refinement. Opinions? Too busy?


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

My computer won't show me your initial images but it does show the last one. It is interesting in the context of a conversation we've had about photoshopping to note that the mock-up is a useful tool for assessing an idea, even if it is not a perfect representation of what will be done - and above all, since we are communicating by computer, the photoshop is more useful than a paper sketch for communicating ideas. Easier than having to scan every adjustment you might make to a drawing.

So yes, it's a little busy for my taste, and I think the pots at the curb will be perpetually in someone's way, although playing with the sidewalk shape is a definite positive. Also, I am one of those who would put all this plant material further from the house, creating a little enclave lawn in front of the house, rather than cramming plants in at the foundation.

The other interesting opportunity provided by your draft is that of comparing the effect of eyebrows with no eyebrows. To my eye the left side, with no eyebrows, looks cozy but welcoming, while the right, with eyebrow in place, looks reclusive. Depends on what your idea of "charming" is, I suppose. But certainly, the plantings on the ground seem to offset the roofline quite nicely; I don't think you will need the photinias to break that up once you have more plants in. Of course, the beauty of DIY is that you can do a bit at a time and assess as you go.

To clarify the earlier suggestion about the wall, it would run across your walkway (obviously with an opening) just where you might expect a picket fence to run in a more cottage-y place. The plants could be on either side of such a wall or fence, and I would put the plants there rather than at the foundation whether you put in a fence or wall or not. But then, automatically burying a house in foundation plantings because that's what everyone does is a pet peeve of mine.

By the way handling the big photinias is a bit of a query for me. I hope you wouldn't have to dig to remove them, as that would be a nasty job. Someone else can probably tell you if they will sprout from the stumps if you simply cut them.

KarinL


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

I've no doubt the Bright Young Things of HGTV would adore a gated wall, but any such structure would fall afoul of the deed restrictions of my subdivision. You might want to take a look at yours, or any like restrictions on architectural fancy.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

whitecap, three of us have liked the idea of a low wall, and only one mentioned a gate in the wall.

Since the house was built in the mid-50s, I doubt there are subdivision restrictions concerning landscaping or fences. More recent municipal codes are a possibility, I suppose.

===

Re. pics for swoodard: There was a poster a few years ago who had a large expanse of open lawn (the yard was probably well over an acre) that was slightly higher than the floor level of the house (probably 8-12" or so). I don't remember if it was the front, back or side yard -- it definitely wasn't the main entrance to the house but might have been elsewhere in the front yard. They wanted a patio, but didn't want it to be higher than the ground floor of the house.

They eventually built a patio (stone, IIRC) with an adjacent rose garden. A low wall -- no more than 2' -- separated the patio from the lawn and enabled them to have the lower patio they wanted. The wall was low enough to provide a view of the lawn but hid the ground level change.

While that was not exactly the same as swoodard's situation, I thought the pictures might show the sort of wall catkim had in mind, as well as show how it would be to have such a patio in front of the house. I know there were pictures taken from the house wall, looking out at the patio; there may have been pictures taken from the lawn as well. Unfortunately I haven't been successful in finding that thread. Can anyone remember any details that might help me search, or the name of that poster?


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Having something I really wanted to avoid doing today (:-)), I spent a few minutes doing my primitive version of photoshopping a little wall into your picture - that is to say, I printed your photo, tore off a strip of paper and cross-hatched it with a felt pen to mimic a rustic stone wall, and glued it to the picture. And scanned the picture.

Plants could be superimposed on this picture, but I know my artistic limits. Did I mention I'm not a landscaping professional?? I wouldn't want to give the genre a bad name.

The exact placement of the wall is up for debate. I might use a sandstone rather than a grey stone in retrospect, and all the plants you want to put at the house, put inside or outside the wall. Obviously though any redesign you do of the landing pad and sidewalk should precede this. And finally, I'll say that I think your roofline's plainness (it does have less overhang than the norm in this kind of house) will become irrelevant when you have something attractive at ground level to look at.

MTO, I don't remember that thread so have no idea what search terms to use. If you can recall even a couple of the words anyone used to describe the situation, a search should work.

But speaking of searches of this forum, Scott you should do one for "ranch" and you might get some good photos and discussion too of landscaping for similar houses.

KarinL

Photobucket


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Karin, I ran a few different searches earlier with no luck (terms too general, too many results, etc.). But you inspired me to try again, and the magic word turned out to be "flagstone."

Unfortunately, the wall in question is much more of a retaining wall than I had remembered, so it's not at all relevant to swoodard's situation. But for anyone who's interested, here is spazzycat_1's gorgeous patio and wall:
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/design/msg1213584124714.html


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Karin,maybe Ideasshare teach you 3dsmax,maya,cad,photoshop...software.here is designing.many people tired,or don't believe,don't trust THAT DESIGNING WHITHOUT ANY PICS.designing key and most important ,MOST USEFUL is blue print.
Ideasshare don't have any problem what you said.such as scale.a same tree.far,it small.no far it big.you don't know 3d pics well.sometime friends need detail plants pics.allow her different scale.


 o
RE: 2Want my home to look more charming

Karin,may be you agree Ideasshare post her this thread design pics?


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Ideasshare/Designshare, you're very sweet to respond to my concerns about your (too) many pictures. I appreciate that!

It is not up to me (although I have voiced my opinion!) but I think your contributions could be welcome if you:
a) don't always post first,
b) pick your best design - post only one, or maybe two, pictures,
c) don't use "my buffalo friend evergreen rock," and
d) be consistent with plant size.

Maybe other people will ask you to photoshop their ideas too.

Thank you for asking!

KarinL


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Sir:

First issue I would address is clearing up the plants overhanging the front corners of the home. I would have someone prune up the parts that are touching you roof or making contact with the house.
Second would be to add some balance to the front, you seem to have a lot of plant material on the left side of the house, and having more interest on the right side would help
Finally, the sidewalk is good b/c you can see the front door pretty well and the walk appears to be in good shape, but I would consider some simple elements that could make the walk not just concrete but a fun place to travel down to get to your home.

What do you think?


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

I think the point should be made, by the way, that a rock wall is a lot easier to suggest or draw than it is to build! So the point is not to have a rock wall, but to do something at about that point in the yard to create a sense of enclosure.

The faster way to do it would be with hedging - say a low boxwood hedge. And if you wanted a fence, a picket fence wouldn't go with this type of house, but maybe a rail fence, not rustic though. Then there's brick, but like stone, that's a major investment.

More foundation planting does not provide that sense of enclosure.

KarinL


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Could someone please provide a definition/interpretation of the word "charming' as it relates to landscape planning and...once explained, how is it incorporated into a design?


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

My lot size is .5 acres so a fence would be very expensive. I like the idea but, unfortunately, it is out of my budget. However, I did incorporate a railing to the entrance that curves with the porch shape to increase the sense of enclosure. I also tried to make the plan a little less busy and extend the planting area. I used asian jasmine to bring out the bed around the front door. Am I moving in the right direction? I also plan on installing crown style trim above all of the windows. Input and criticism appreciated.
Thanks,
Scott


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

Those eyebrows still need plucking!

I'm not too keen on the arbour at the entrance although I can't exactly say why.... It looks out of place with the roofline to me. I think the evergreen trees/shrubs would eventually turn into something that will be in danger of looking overgrown. I'd probably go for broadleafed evergreens instead - something that can be pruned to control size and shape while retaining a natural look.

As a fellow owner of a yellow, white and black house, I find them inherently charming :-) I think they coexist happiest with greens and simple, cool colors in flowering trees, shrubs and perennials.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

For my taste it's not the right direction, but it's your house, so inherently you win :-)

For me the sense of enclosure needs to be around the property, not around the house. The house's problem at the moment is that it is not sufficiently exposed due to the eyebrows, and that isn't mitigated by hiding it instead at ground level. Well, there's no question anything that removes those eyebrows will be an improvement, but in terms of landscaping, bulking up the foundation plantings is pretty knee-jerk to me and doesn't change up the game much.

You could just take all those plants and make a bed where a fence or wall might go. Make it a living fence, so to speak. To me the house needs freedom from encroachment, not a different form of it. You've got .5 of an acre?? Use it!

The pergola at the entrance is like adding a new eyebrow; it closes things in. Now, we all get bees in our bonnets and I remember that was your opening idea. When I get ideas like that I often need to try them before I can let them go, or sometimes, I have reasons for going with them even if they seem wrong to others. Your personal choices will not always be, nor do they need to be, the best design choice.

Nandina above asked for a definition of charming. That is an interesting question. I often find charm in things that are not necessarily fabulous design when they express personality and caring within the context of the style of the home. Also, creative thinking. So if it's a "I want it to look like the rest of the neighbourhood," that to me never qualifies - with the rare exception where the norm is the perfect design solution for a house and is done very well. Since you have no foundation, a foundation planting is not the perfect design solution here.

Your garden at the moment does not express any personality beyond that of the previous owners or whoever planted those badly placed photinias many years ago. As such, your home looks kind of submissive to the old owners' vision, not like an expression of yours. That, to me, is why it has no charm.

If the pergola is something you really want to do, I would suggest a bit of a "go big or go home" approach. Why just do a little thing by the door where neither the door nor the pergola can benefit? Check out the thread linked below, and think about something like a pergola of v1rtu0s1ty's scale, done on the property away from the house.

Recrafting the front sidewalk should be, I think, a cornerstone of your design, and with something like an alternating-rectangles approach you could put pergola sections that are offset from one another... or something. Not to design for you, but to get you out of what to me, as I watch you sketch out your ideas, feels like a rut that defines "landscape design" and "charming" in very limited and limiting ways.

Not that there's anything wrong with that - it's what the majority of American homeowners do. But they don't come here for input. If you come to a landscape design forum for feedback, rut-busting is part of the program :-)

KarinL

Here is a link that might be useful: Virtuosity's pergola and yard


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

The front stoop is teeny-tiny. The front door is set in a teeny-tiny recess. Adding a teeny-tiny pergola boxes in -- chokes -- the entry even more. No. Please, no. Even tall plants beside the door are a bad idea. [And I agree with karinl that the pergola does nothing positive for the roofline.]

There is no good reason to have shrubs that block the lower parts of the windows, and many good reasons not to. The only way I could see doing that is what karinl proposed: a fairly deep but low garden adjacent to the house, the plants in front of the windows below the level of the windows so the view of the garden from inside is unimpeded, with slightly taller shrubs (maybe 2' tall) at the perimeter of the garden that act as a fence around the garden (a living version of the low wall catkim proposed early in this thread).

On another note: this won't solve the landscaping problem, but would you consider painting the front door a bright/cheerful color? Red, coral, pink, turquoise, mid-blue: just not anything dark, black, white, yellow, or green. (I love green, but you want a door color that will stand out from the house and the landscaping.)


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

I disagree, mto, re painting the door a different color. I think yellow and black houses look best if you keep the colors to the yellow/white/black theme. White for the door disappears but black stands out against the yellow. (People tried to convince me to leave the house door and garage doors white. That was the color they were when they were installed - it looked terrible. They just disappeared against the house. The black really stood out while still looking quietly classic. I think introducing another color would look like adding gaudy jewelry to an otherwise classic ensemble!

I don't have as much problem as some of you with the idea of shrubs close to the house, even when they cover the bottom of the windows a bit. I deliberately plant so that my view out some of the windows is through shrubs. It makes me feel IN the garden even when I'm indoors! But I'm weird I know... :-)

I have a question for you folks from more southern areas... The no-basement/flat-to-the-ground look is not something you see often up here. I gather it is not uncommon there. I've heard/read about unfriendly critters of various types and sizes, risks related to giving then hiding places too close to the house, and risk of them entering the house. Plus molds and such-like in a warm, humid climate. How much of a concern is all that and does it affect how you design gardens? To me, I would still prefer plants near the house (as well as ones further away to provide a bit of psychological separation of the house from the street...) but, if there are 'health and safety' reasons to keep them away, how do you make that flat-to-the-ground house look less squashed?! Maybe it's just that it's an unfamiliar vernacular and it doesn't look odd to those of you who live in the warmer parts of the continent...? Do you perhaps put a 3' or so clear zone against the house and then start your plantings beyond that?


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

I live in a house build on a slab in the south, So far we have had some surprising 'visitors' A little brown snake, a blue tailed skink, a gray pine lizard, 2 anoles, and many scorpions. They glued down the framing of the house but I guess it must not keep creatures from squeezing in. I love creatures and many a chase has ensued--especially after lizards--they can really move when motivated. The only ones that got dead were the scorpions. Their stings are as serious as a bee sting but they hurt bad and look wicked. We do keep our shrubs and mulch pulled away from the slab for creature deterrent and termite prevention but leaves can build up over the winter and that's where most of the problems come from. Especially in spring when you clean up the leaves.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

woody, I do understand the whole classic color scheme thing ... and am a bit appalled at myself for suggesting a fourth color! But it's just too much black for me: all that roof, the dark eyebrows (technically not black, but so dark they might as well be), the door, four sets of tall shutters.... Note that I didn't suggest painting the door white, or even a dark yellow tone. I understand that the door must stand out from the walls. But for me, the black's a liability.


 o
RE: Want my home to look more charming

When I think of the word 'charming' in a garden context Cottage Gardens come to mind, less formal and more colorful and chaotic. If it were my house I would create a courtyard type area close to the house and have most of the plants further away, about halfway between the entrance of the house and the street. So there would be a swath of lawn for the first half of the yard and a garden for the half closer to the house. I would put a low wall, fence, or hedge as a border to the courtyard, just like has been suggested before, that is a very good look. I would plant a bit on the outside and a bit more on the inside, giving a different view from the road than from the house. If I added an arbor I would put it over the pathway at the entrance to the courtyard, so about halfway between the house and the street. I would want it to look less like a long pathway through grass and more of a garden, that would look charming to me.

Before giving up on rock I would at least call a few landscape suppliers and see how much is costs for whatever rock is most local. Even if you can't do a whole wall, a few accent rocks or a pair of short pillars to define the entrance to the courtyard will make a big impact.

And lastly, I have to agree about the 'eyebrows' needing to be trimmed or removed. They just don't look welcoming to me, and unwelcoming is not very charming.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Landscape Design Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here