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Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy... pics

Posted by lindsroc none (My Page) on
Mon, Mar 5, 12 at 8:54

Hello all,
I have posted here before with similar questions but I am just really at a loss what to do with my front (and even backyard but i will save that for later.) We are on the corner of a busy road and would like some privacy from the passing cars. Also, need to block headlights at night although most of the cars are during rush hour. As you can see we have ZERO landscaping. I am a complete gardening amateur. Right now the only plan we have is next month we are having about 6 inches of top soil put down in front and back and then having a company come to hydroseed. Once that is done- we have about 3 weeks till we can start planting.
We obviously need some curb appeal. I am thinking (at the suggestion of others on the new england forum) of trying to create a 3 foot berm at the front left corner, on a diagonal. Semi circle shape back from the road a few feet. then planting some tall shrubs on top of the berm (need suggestions- shaded area) and some small on the ground, maybe hostas? Behind the berm I am going to try to create a little garden area with a bench etc. At the front right corner of the yard I would like to plant a flowering tree or one with colorful leaves- Japanese Maple or Dogwood? It would have to be able to survive next to that large tree. We may end up having to remove that but for now its staying.
Honestly, any ideas are welcome and if you could provide a visual that would be great. I dont know really anything about plants although I have been trying to learn. FYI I am in Massachusetts, zome 7a according to the maps. I would like some evergreens for the privacy so we can keep that going year round. I am attaching pics, the last one is to give an idea of the shade- this is before the fence. Thank you all so much for your help.

Front of house, corner
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Front of house, from right side
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View from inside, as you can see- we need some privacy and something to look at!
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This was over the summer, when we 1st started looking at the house
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Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

I didn't respond when you posted earlier for several reasons. It's hard (time consuming) to give meaningful design advice for an entire yard. One cannot get as detailed as is necessary to do all the design work. You included some "We're going to..." that I didn't necessarily agree with, so thought I'd avoid any potential conflict. Also, your pictures, because of the stark shadows, make them difficult to work with. I'd change that.

Because you use the word "gardening," I have to be a little careful about jumping in here. To me, that frame of reference allows pretty much whatever artistic garden creativity a person wants to conjure up as long as they can justify it. And anything is justifiable if you can figure out how to word it correctly. Whereas "landscaping" does not invite the use of elements unless they contribute positively, purposefully and with strength (even as it applies to art) to each picture and the overall goals. (As I can't say much on this forum that doesn't invite disagreement, let's expect that even this statement will invite some.) If the discussion goes in a way that is not helpful to you, I'd jump in and re-direct it so it can stay focused on your goals.

With the suggestion of a berm, I have to inquire if your budget has extra money in it. There's nothing necessarily good or bad about a berm. If it's needed so be it. But if it's not needed, why pay for it? Additional earthwork costs more money. Looking at your picture, I don't see a need.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

I think you've nicely identified and expressed your needs in "we need some privacy and something to look at." But this project is a bit like painting - figuring out the plantings is a piece of cake. Getting ready for them is where all the work is.

I am a very experienced gardener and I would not undertake to grow the plants you have in mind in the situation you have. There are two aspects of your situation that I would first address if you want your plantings to be successful.

The first is that your property falls away to the front corners, the retaining wall either not having been built high enough or having fallen down. This creates a sort of amorphous contour - berm or no berm - in the wrong direction that will undermine how everything looks, how much privacy it gives, and how well you are able to water it and tend it (weed, deadhead, prune, rake...).

I would suggest you address the retaining wall first, augmenting or replacing it, except that you also have to factor in your treescape. If you've ever seen a tree being removed, you'll know it creates a bit of a wasteland beneath it from people tramping, stuff landing, and branches being dragged out. If you want the stump ground, heavy machinery will have to roll up to it. So if you do intend to get that front tree removed any time in the next five years anyway, I would do that first if you can.

There appears to be another tree on the corner that is smaller but also in the wrong place. I'd suggest taking that down too and planting new trees where they will actually be attractive and useful for the objectives you have in mind.

These trees are the primary barrier to growing the plants you want. And that is why I would in fact recommend you remove them first. It isn't their shade - shade can be an amenity, it may even be needed, and there are many plants that grow well in shade. But the ground looks to me like the tree roots are on the surface and have sucked every bit of nutrition and moisture from the soil. If you put down new topsoil, inside of three years the tree roots will have taken it over.

I have to say that I think your topsoil/hydroseeding plan is a complete waste of time IN THE LONG RUN. It will do you OK for a year or two.

So I would go to the issue of bones first. Plant later.

Karin L


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Mon, Mar 5, 12 at 12:46

A couple of comments on some of the issues you've raised. Privacy from the street doesn't look like it is the approach of the neighboring properties, this can be provided by pushing the typical foundation style plantings out to the street edge with sufficient height to give some privacy and plant interest as viewed from inside the house. The area to the inside could then be treated as additional more private areas for either hardscape terrace/patio,etc or perhaps a pathway through a garden area. Taller evergreen shrubs could be concentrated to block headlight glare from the intersection, it wouldn't require doing the whole frontage the same way as only certain portions get the glare into your windows. You'll also need to balance screening for privacy against keeping safe sightlines for cars at the corner; if tall plants at the corner keep drivers from safely seeing pedestrians and other approaching cars, you've created a hazard.

I wonder if such an approach is in character with the neighborhood, and whether you would require more usuable private space in the front. On corner lots here in California, with relatively small backyards, carving out more private front yard space while also screening headlight glare and giving yourself a view of plantings as a perimeter border rather than asphalt and parked cars can be a win/win. On the other hand, it isn't breaking with traditional landscaping design to do so here in California.

Another approach might include some sort of medium height(3 to 4 foot tall) open fence back of that existing stone wall in combination with screening plantings. You might also consider that one smaller arching tree or large shrub placed near that existing tree trunk might be all you need to screen headlight glare into that front window from cars turning the corner.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Karin,
Could you please tell me why you think hydroseeding is a waste of time? Also...we had planned on removing that random skinny tree on the front left corner. We need to have a tree service come in to look at the one in the middle of the yard- I would like to keep it for shade if we can. When the contractor was working on the house- he removed a bunch of trees from the front yard, you couldnt even see the house. So im thinking not all of the roots are from that one tree...but i could be wrong.

I appreciate the positive advice


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

I didn't see your previous thread until after I posted, so I hadn't seen that so many trees had been removed. There is a possibility then that the one big tree is not responsible for the condition of the whole yard, and that the soil and grass you install may remain in good condition. Still, it is at that size where you want to be deciding whether this is the tree you want to live with, or whether you want to live with the next generation.

With respect to tree scape, I always say, ask yourself where you want to be with respect to trees in 5 or ten years. If what you want is the existing tree but bigger and in its current location, then leave it. But if you visualize a pretty yard that is not dominated by this particular tree, then cut it now and get an early start on the trees you'd like to be living with, or selling the house with, in ten years.

The elements of living with trees that you want to consider are debris, root, canopy, and danger - ie, if it falls, how will that feel. Roots and canopy don't look to be huge issues here - roots can damage foundations, and canopy can eat rooflines - but debris might be an issue depending on what kind of tree it is. What kind it is can also tell you whether it is likely to survive having its roots covered... mind you it looks like it's survived a good bit so far.

I also note that you have a photo mock-up that does show the wall built up and the yard leveled inside it. That is what I was trying to explain. Even if you just do it with extra rocks for now and rebuild the wall later, at the least you will have the ground level right before you begin berming or hydroseeding.

Because landscaping uses plants, people often think that plants are the be-all and end all. But other elements often determine how good the plants will look. In your case, I think a good wall is key to the yard looking as you visualize that it will. I really would start there.

Karin L


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Lindsroc, it would be great to jump in here and give us some general ideas about what you envision the finished product to look like. You'd think you could go to a "landscape design" forum and people would lead you generally in the same direction. But that's not necessarily the case. There are people standing by willing to help you go in radically different directions. So it will be doing yourself and everyone a favor if you make some declarations about it. As you're doing so much space, you may be interested in various flavors in various places. But no one here is going to read your mind well on that.

Karin, almost every time you say "Off with their heads!" about the big trees, I have a mini personal heart attack. (I've been suffering in silence!) I know in some cases it's necessary, but (and who's surprised) my inclination leans the other direction. Valuing trees much, I'm always trying to save and work with them if I can, thinking that the older and larger they get, the better they are. I view a lot of tree problems as tree management problems. I'm not trying to impose my view on you but just make it known that there are other views. However, I'm usually pretty content to get rid of the "weakling" trees if there's any competition from them or they're just plain unnecessary. Granddaddy oak does not look so fine with all his grandchildren at his feet and growing up in his armpits. (And, actually, I recognize this as a difference of degree, not substance. We're not on OPPOSITE ends of the spectrum.)


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

I wouldnt mind driving up to something like this everyday. The front left corner, i figure the evergreen type bushes would give us some year round privacy. I would like a low colorful tree in the front towards right corner like the picture. I am thinking hostas would be good by the everygreen because they do well in shade. Some hedges like boxwood to line the walkway in front of the house. I would also like a curved stone path through the yard but i couldnt do that on the software. And then some mixed perennials for color. I feel like even having a small ornamental tree in front will give us some sense of privacy as well as something nice to look at from inside. Again, this is using what i could choose from on the software... and I am new to this.

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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

A couple of thoughts about your drawing. To me, the wall seems too tall and too dominating and to construct it in real life you'd be having to add a lot of soil... while receiving no visual (or other) advantage for any of this effort. $$$ If it read as about 2/3 that height, I think it would be more becoming. I could see it as a reconstruction of your existing wall turning it into a real wall (mas $$) or as a feaux wall that was really more like a rock "mulch" where the rocks were carefully set into a slope. (menos $) The maintenance would be different.

The evergreens on L. seem very bunched up onto the house... like you're landscaping half a yard, not a whole yard. The left side of yard seems oddly separated from the rest as a result. I don't yet understand where the headlight need to be blocked from. Somehow describe or show where lights are going and where they're coming from.

The big tree is the central dominating plant feature. I'd play this up by keeping things clear of it...and creating circularly framed "white space". Which probably means a large, circular bed of groundcover ...maybe half a yard's worth.

Why do you want to line a walk with plants?


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

The shape of the main tree in the front yard is not pleasing. What would removing the lowest limb do for it? What kind is it?


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 6, 12 at 1:17

I'm assuming that the headlight glare is a problem for the windows on the left side of your entry, from cars making the turn onto your street from the intersection . I'd also agree with Yard that your revised wall height looks visually too tall, and would also require fill around that large existing tree, which could be problematic for its health(in general it is not healthy for tree roots to raise grades with fill more than a few inches). I also think that Karin raises a valid point that it isn't the easiest thing to do adding new plants close to large trees because of root competition with the tree. At the very least, there may be a lot of roots making it difficult to even dig holes, but then again you may be lucky having a tree without surface roots, and the main factor may only be selecting for shade tolerance. I'd see an opportunity to create a more gracious entry by locating an attractive enlarged landing of 8x8' or so of nice bluestone pavers and a bench in combination with a small flowering accent tree such as your sketch shows. Something simple like a small pop out section of picket fence reinforcing the enlarged entry landing could also be a nice feature at the entry side of that large tree, possibly transitioning to a 3 foot tall box hedge wrapping around the rest of the front garden street frontage including the
side street to your new fence. Perhaps a grouping of 3 or 4 more
rounded broadleaf evergreen or flowering shrubs to 6 feet tall could be
spaced a bit further apart in the relative location you show them, but
extending from a point useful to cut headlight glare at that window, but
extending further left against that new fence so that it looks more
balanced.

Personally I'm not a fan of typical conifer evergreen shrubs such as yews for screening in tight situations as yours, because they ultimately get too
large for the space, but can be very satisfying over the short to midterm, and conifers may give you better options for all year screening than suitable broadleaf evergreens, but there are always a good selection of hollies that might work well, or other winter hardy flowering evergreen shrubs.


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front yard scheme

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 6, 12 at 1:20

I'm assuming that the headlight glare is a problem for the windows on the left side of your entry, from cars making the turn onto your street from the intersection . I'd also agree with Yard that your revised wall height looks visually too tall, and would also require fill around that large existing tree, which could be problematic for its health(in general it is not healthy for tree roots to raise grades with fill more than a few inches). I also think that Karin raises a valid point that it isn't the easiest thing to do adding new plants close to large trees because of root competition with the tree. At the very least, there may be a lot of roots making it difficult to even dig holes, but then again you may be lucky having a tree without surface roots, and the main factor may only be selecting for shade tolerance. I'd see an opportunity to create a more gracious entry by locating an attractive enlarged landing of 8x8' or so of nice bluestone pavers and a bench in combination with a small flowering accent tree such as your sketch shows. Something simple like a small pop out section of picket fence reinforcing the enlarged entry landing could also be a nice feature at the entry side of that large tree, possibly transitioning to a 3 foot tall box hedge wrapping around the rest of the front garden street frontage including the
side street to your new fence. Perhaps a grouping of 3 or 4 more
rounded broadleaf evergreen or flowering shrubs to 6 feet tall could be
spaced a bit further apart in the relative location you show them, but
extending from a point useful to cut headlight glare at that window, but
extending further left against that new fence so that it looks more
balanced.

Personally I'm not a fan of typical conifer evergreen shrubs such as yews for screening in tight situations as yours, because they ultimately get too
large for the space, but can be very satisfying over the short to midterm, and conifers may give you better options for all year screening than suitable broadleaf evergreens, but there are always a good selection of hollies that might work well, or other winter hardy flowering evergreen shrubs.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Bahia,
Can you explain what you mean by "I'd see an opportunity to create a more gracious entry by locating an attractive enlarged landing of 8x8' or so of nice bluestone pavers and a bench in combination with a small flowering accent tree such as your sketch shows. Something simple like a small pop out section of picket fence reinforcing the enlarged entry landing could also be a nice feature at the entry side of that large tree, possibly transitioning to a 3 foot tall box hedge wrapping around the rest of the front garden street frontage including the
side street to your new fence."
Sorry.... Im a very visual person, I just cant picture what you mean by this. I appreciate all your advice, I just cant picture what you are suggesting.

Yardvaark, yes Im sure the wall is not correct in size or height, it was a generic wall and only one of like 4 to choose from on the software. I personally would rather rebuild the wall we have. We have a ton of the same large rocks in the back that we could use. You asked "Why do you want to line a walk with plants?"... if you look in the pics i posted, i dont like how you can see the foundation of the house. So I figure we can block that view with hedges.

Frankielynn, I agree- i really dislike the tree. I dont know what it is. I do know that everytime the wind blows it loses about 5 branches though, even though it doesnt seem to be dead. The only concern I have about removing it is that it does provide some nice shade in the summer against the heat.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Those computer design programs can be frustrating when you have limited choices and none quite right. That's one reason I like Paint. Just draw whatever you want wherever, though it takes a little work and discovery.

If you rebuilt the stones in a way as shown in the sketch below, it could be done by anyone. No particular skill needed. No mortar. Just the ability to prepare the area and organize with a little care. I'm envisioning something that has a vertical elevation of 18" and a horizontal run of about 36". It would require a precise, straight, uniform top and bottom edge and surface to look really good. Sloppiness in construction would show up readily. The general idea such that it appears similar to the surface shown in the inset photo. Something like this would be subject to weeds growing between rocks. The easy way to deal with it would be occasional herbicide. Usually, after weeds are taken care of for a while, they will simmer down and become less demanding. Just touch-ups. I see nothing at all unfavorable about building a regular mortared wall (about 18" ht.) but it would be more expensive and require someone with some skill to build it. Putting some batter (back- leaning slope) on that would make it look better, too.

By "lining the walk" if you mean there are just foundation plants on the house side of the walk, no complaint here. If you mean that plants confine the walk between them and the house or plants on the other side of it, then complaint here. I find that barricaded in feeling to be unnecessary and unpleasant. I think if one thought of lawn and paved areas as various forms of floor coverings--but it's all pathway--then the propensity to separate one floor area from another floor area with barricades would be seen differently.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

We've lived on our 25'x122' property for nearly 20 years. When we came, there were three already large trees: a big conifer belonging to neighbour but close to the lot line and closer to our house than theirs. And two willows at the back of the property, one on top of the sewer line. Naturally, they kept getting bigger over time, but we were very slow to act on what it should have been clear from the outset had to be done.

We had to auger out the sewer at least once every two years, then every year until we finally cut the small willow tree down after about 12 years. The neighbour's tree began to eat our house, and made gardening on my side increasingly difficult, caused a massive battle with the neighbours, and finally got taken down when they sold the place in 2007. My husband was very attached to the last one, the bigger of the two willows, although as the gardener under it and person who has always pruned it, I have wanted to take it down for a long time. Hi finally capitulated when I made him do the pruning once, and it went I think two years ago. (The discs in my neck went at about the same time).

What is remarkable is how with each removal, we have been happier, able to do some things we had been prevented from doing by the tree in question, and how much nicer the space below the tree has become in every single case. No one has missed any of those trees for one second. What is also remarkable is how fast a new tree will grow in to provide nearly as much shade, and how much nicer it is to live with a teenage tree than with an old one.

Lesson: we should have done this a long, long time ago. We relandscaped endlessly to accommodate those trees, I can't tell you how many ways I tried to make the yard pleasant under the neighbours' conifer (the discs in my back can, though). And oh, if I had the hours back I spent pruning and cleaning up after them... if we'd just taken the darn things down right away, we would have a much nicer yard, and life overall, today.

Big trees are thugs. They don't compromise, they don't share, and they are relentless. My current nightmare is the hundreds of norway maple seedlings coming my way every year from the other neighbour. I just get the last one pulled up and then the fallout starts all over again. When I die they can put loppers and a maple seedling on my headstone - it will represent all I ever accomplished in life.

Tree idolatry has gotten worse in the past twenty years, and people are so reluctant to take big trees down. Having suffered for too long under tree abuse, I freely encourage people to liberate themselves from it sooner, rather than later. Big trees are great in big spaces, but the outgrow small urban lots pretty quickly.

Lindsroc, this tree sounds like it may be pretty junky - many trees are simply weeds that someone forgot to pull (see Norway Maple, above). It's also ugly and in a bad spot. Take it down, have a couple of sunny years now as some new trees grow in in the right places, and enjoy your yard from the beginning. Honestly, you can trust me on this.

If you want someone to draw something for you, it might be an idea to post a plan view of your front yard - bird's eye view. You might find too that if you draw that and reread Bahia's description, you may be bale to make better sense of it.

Karin L


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Yardvaark.... I think that may be a good option. Its something we could do and we could reuse the stones we have. Thanks.
Karin, here is an overhead view of the property. The lot is 10,000 sq ft And its basically 100x100. This is the best i could do, the black line around the house is the fence and then of course the circle is the tree that is currently there. The red line is our property line. The driveway and walkway are in gray. Is this good enough to give you an idea of what i am working with?

Photobucket


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Laying the stone like that is going to be a maintenance nightmare. The weeds will get into the cracks, and will either have to be pulled or herbicided regularly. It's a dry-laid wall, IIRC, and those are pretty DIY if not too tall. I've done a couple, and may very well end up rebuilding part of a 4 ft one this spring. The worst issue is if you have to redo it again.

The problem with the shrubs against the walk is that it doesn't leave anywhere to put the snow. You'll need somewhere to put the snow both from the walk and the driveway. Perennials and groundcovers can get smashed, but taller things are problematic.

It looks like shade is going to be a massive issue. The next question is going to be are deer an equally massive issue. Realize that about the only places they aren't huge pests are where people turn them into sausage. Since that is frowned upon in most suburban neighborhoods, I'm still trying to teach the cats to chase deer.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 6, 12 at 18:47

Feelings about mature existing trees vary tremendously, and I personally am more inclined to keep them where possible and they aren't a problematic weed species/safety hazard/poorly placed. I suspect Karin's attitudes toward big trees is a reaction to her PNW location, lack of sun in winter and cool summers, in combination with having lived with species that are so messy, have invasive roots and get so large, in combination with small lot size and preference for less shade and beds without tree root competition. I
don't think her perspective necessarily
translates across the country where big
mature trees may represent big benefits for
outdoor and indoor comfort, and full sun may
be a burden in summer. I'm not saying this particular tree is better saved or removed, but I've also felt Karin's anti tree viewpoint needs to be considered objectively on a case by case basis. It isn't impossible to create a nice garden in full shade with tree root competition, but it needs careful selection of the right sorts of plants for the conditions.

I'd also question the rational for redoing that rock wall with such a wide layout. Nothing particularly wrong with such a wall detail in itself, but I'd agree it will be a weed magnet and doesn't seem to present any aesthetic benefits over a more vertical wall of perhaps 2' maximum height with just a slight batter off the vertical. I'd be interested to hear why the more inclined wall was suggested here.

As to my suggestion for an enlarged landing at the base of the entry steps, I was under the impression the walk would connect out to the street rather than the walk hugging the house wall as it does now. In either case, creating a square landing of some larger size provides an opportunity to accentuate the importance of
the entry visually and could also serve as the "traditional front porch" sort of function to hang out in the front garden and socialize with passing neighbors, as well as providing a location for chairs, a bench, and/or accent containers for seasonal color. It shouldn't be that difficult to play with different entry walk
schemes in combination with more typical walkway widths that might connect both to the driveway and out to the street. Accommodating snow clearance is definitely a factor in planting type and location, and it isn't just walkways but also snow and ice coming off the roof and potentially damaging plantings that don't tolerate this, that needs to be considered.

Personally, I find it easier to rough out a design thinking in plan view rather than working from an elevation view imposed over a photo. The reason being that it is more accurate for estimating eventual plant sizes and layout. The elevation views have their place as well to help sort out vertical height relationships and massing. Sorry I can't offer up Photoshop graphics or plan views via the web, but I'm not set up to work that way. Hope these further comments clear up the confusion.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Thank you, I would love a more traditional front porch. I also would have loved a huge victorian house but I need to work with what i have. lol. Long term plans are to create a long covered porch that would extend to the driveway and also create a covered entry where the 2nd door is at the head of the driveway, that one is the door we use most often.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 6, 12 at 20:08

The idea of an enlarged landing/patio at grade is an attempt to provide a functional equivalent of the more traditional front porch, but I guess the idea is getting lost in the translation. It is quite common to give an entry this sort of treatment here on the west coast when the actual front porch is so tiny and purely functional as is yours. It also looks like your house's position wouldn't have sufficient room to actually add an extended larger porch without impinging on required setbacks or closing off sun light to the windows along the entry walk.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

"I'd also question the rational for redoing that rock wall with such a wide layout. Nothing particularly wrong with such a wall detail in itself, but I'd agree it will be a weed magnet and doesn't seem to present any aesthetic benefits over a more vertical wall of perhaps 2' maximum height with just a slight batter off the vertical."

From what I can tell, it looks like there's about an 18" grade differential from top and bottom of present wall. I would vote to maintain this as it is. It looks pleasant and there's no need to add a complication to the project. In the most general artistic terms, I believe that a wide frame (think picture frame as an example) has a greater "richness" over a narrow frame. The frame itself can become part of the art that it frames, not just its edge. The slope could be a dramatic element that gives the whole yard greater importance. I don't think I would actually call this a wall. A stone slope. In order to achieve the 18" grade differential, the slope would need to lay back at double that distance. Shortening the distance invites gravity to work against it instead of for. What's the greatest advantage besides being a dramatic frame? That it's a DIY project instead of several thousand dollars worth of professionally built masonry wall. (As I study this I'm rapidly convincing myself that it could be mortared in by a non-pro after being laid, if such were desired. I would not lock into such a plan without sampling it first, but I believe it's do-able.) As far as weeds, I mentioned it would need attention, but think this is a manageable problem. Initial treatment plus pre-emergent would have good effect. There are other herbicides with longer lasting effect than Round-up. Periodic treatments would be required. As well, I repeat, no objection here to a mortared stone wall. It's an owner budget/desire issue. Because of cost, just exploring alternatives.

On the mature tree issue. I can see Karin's point, though generally, I tend to lean toward David's. I think much depends on how one intends to use the space in the vicinity. If one needs light & less cleaning, getting rid of it might be the best answer. If one needs shade/shelter and has no particular need of growing special plants, then keeping the tree might be best. Also, I like the character and stature that mature trees have. (It's a revelation finding out that Karin is into teens!)


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Here's a couple of samples I found that are like the cobblestone character I'm envisioning. Not hard to imagine on a slope.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Having tried to help a non-gardening friend clean-up and maintain a rocky slope that the previous owner of their house cursed them with :-), I would strongly advise against a slope of rocks! A reasonably vertical rock wall - especially as that one appears to be short - is FAR less work to maintain. Weeds are a nighmare to remove on a rocky slope. My friend (and I) gave up and is now hoping to find someone who will cart away the rocks for free for their own use. Quite a few old estate-type homes near the lake here have short, mortared, rocky walls along the road. They look quite nice but would be a fair bit of work to do I think, given a need to cope with frost heave.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

What is this 'mortar' of which you speak? It must be some sort of regional concoction. In this part of the world, walls (and walks) tend to be dry-laid because it does a sort of end-run around the frost heave issue. Even foundation walls used to be dry-laid.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

I personally would prefer an upright (or slightly leaned in) wall for this space, whether mortared or not, but I have a feeling that Lindsroc is looking to make it look nice in a hurry - to get that topsoil/hydroseed done. Nothing wrong with that. Understanding exactly what the objective is helps us focus our advice.

I suggested something similar to what Yardvaark is saying; just pile up the rocks at the corners to get the soil level right BEFORE you set your ground level. You can always, later, pry those rocks out, chisel the soil to the shape you want, and build a proper wall later. If your soil level is already right. There is a recent thread around where someone showed how they did just that (The Wall, I think it was called).

If you hydroseed now with your soil level too low, when you do a proper wall you will have to add soil, so you'd have to hydroseed again. Maybe no big deal; just depends what your priorities and preferences are.

The slope of stone has the added advantage that if you do want the tree removed, there will not be a problem with either damage to the area, or with heavy machinery - you can just roll the rocks aside or run a stumpgrinder over them. Yes, they will be a weed trap. I'm a hand-puller, not a sprayer, so I would actually mulch over top of the gaps to keep weeds down, and handpull anything that does show up.

David, I am sure you are correct that there is a regional and species bias to my tree view, although our summers are fairly hot and I hate the heat - I really treasure shade (love gardening in it too). But clearly trees do grow quite readily in your more challenging weather states, and in those areas predisposed to tornadoes and hurricanes, it seems to me even more logical to remove a big tree that you hate (that is near the house) with a smaller one that you love (and can put a little further away).

Lindsroc, going back to your initial planting proposal, I actually like the semi-circle of shrubs idea; I just don't see the need for a berm if you prop up the wall. I would do a mix of upright and spreading, deciduous and evergreen, broadleaf and needled, plants - spend some time at your local nurseries, not just now but through the planting season as they get new stock in, and pick plants that you like and that contrast and compliment each other. Buy a couple of big sizes so you get some blockage in a hurry, and then as those age out/grow too large and once the smaller plants have grown in, replace the biggest ones with new, smaller specimens.

I wouldn't cram it all into one space as your last mock-up shows.

Karin L


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Thank you all so much. We dont have the $$ right now to remove and put in a new wall. We were given a quote of $10k to level out yard, remove and replace retaining wall and add topsoil. Thats just not in the budget. But... we will take the advice and repair the wall by adding stones from our backyard to level it out.
I really truly appreciate all the advice, thank you!!!


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

As long as you're re-building the front wall...

It's kind of driving me crazy that the left side of your home doesn't relate to the right side, just as there is no marriage between the front and side yards. I think eventually you will need to tie things together to make a coherent landscape.

As the first steps, staining the new fence a colour sympathetic to the house, and extending the rock effect alongside the public sidewalk, even if it's just random local boulders, would help to tie things together inexpensively.

I would then be tempted to balance whatever two colourful small trees you prefer equidistant from the tall tree but closer to the rock corners. Besides JM or pagoda dogwood, have you considered crabapples? amur maples? spindle eunonymous? At a later date, as the soil has been amended and all the grading completed, I can see loose but deep groupings of shorter mixed shrubs and conifers underplanted with shade tolerant perennials. If you do it little by little, haunting the local sales, taking your time, it can ultimately be very affordable. The planting can probably be done wherever you can dig. Think eclectic! Just remember the mulch to unify the beds.

Planting a lawn would be the last thing on my list. As Karin said, grass would struggle to thrive in that location. I'd instead celebrate that big old tree (unless the arborist says it's unhealthy) by making it a focus. Create an enclosed courtyard feel by building a circular bench around the bottom of the trunk,and then connect it to the house in a flattened semi-circular pattern (from the left side corner in the front to the drive) with gravel or ideally, with flat local stone slabs or pavers or whatever you can afford. In fact, forget the grass entirely. Leave it in the back yard where the kids and the dogs play...


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Adrienne... I agree on just about all points you made. I loooove the inside of the house, the outside is just so deceiving. Everyone who comes in is surprised at how great and big it is inside, the exterior does not do justice.
What would you recommend for a stain color? Also, today I painted the exterior doors a deep red "pinot noir" to be exact. Looks really nice and adds some color. Also, I do plan on extending the rock wall to wrap around the side and meet up with the fence. I have thought of crabapple, and was thinking when we cut down that tall skinny tree maybe putting a crabapple front left corner and either a JM or dogwood front right corner. Do you have the ability to draw something so i can visualize the rest of what you are suggesting?


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

I personally would go with a mid-tone semi-translucent stain on the fence to tie in the house and rocks. The doors - and the plant material you ultimately choose - will pop, especially the rich red tones.

Yard is the go-to guy for mock-ups :)


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? berm

Hee, I should have added the word "gray" as the stain colour. I need to eat some chocolate...


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

WoodyO, what was the method of weed maintenance you and your friend were using on their rocky slope and gave up on?

MadG, regular mortar. I'm from cold country, but we had mortared flatwork.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

So got a quote today to remove the ugly tree. I was thinking of maybe planting a new tree in the dead center of yard that we can landscape around. Any suggestions? We want something that will not dwarf our house in the long run, something that will grow to be a good height for the house and will have really nice foliage. And still thinking of 2 smalls trees/large shrubs in each corner.


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Trees

Or what about a large tree on the left side of yard and maybe 2 small trees that grow only to be about 15 feet lining the walkway in front of the house? Then we could plant some small shrubs under them?


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Yard - hand-weeding was what we gave up on. Ontario has banned the cosmetic use of most pesticides - there are a couple of exception coditions, the main one being 'Pesticides can be used to control plants that are poisonous to the touch, such as poison ivy; insects that bite, sting, are venomous or are disease carrying, like mosquitoes; and animals, insects or plants that may cause damage to a structure or infrastructure, such as termites.'

Glyphosate is on the banned list for cosmetic use, although it is the only chemical approved for use on plants poisonous to the touch. The mess of rocks that came with my friend's house was a serious PITA for hand-weeding. Far easier to remove them and make an easier-to-maintain bed there instead.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

woodyo, no doubt hand weeding would be impossible once weeds get a foothold. It's true for umpteen situations, such as weeds that invade groundcover. What does landscape maintenance industry use for weed control in Ontario? Not trying to spark a debate and hijack this thread, but I once heard a very informed chemist speak at length on the subject of pesticide use in the landscape industry. The upshot being that what drives regulation is not reason and knowledge of chemistry, but politics, emotional reaction and pressure groups. To each his own, I guess, as to what one chooses to believe. I'm stunned , though, that glysophate is prohibited.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

I have no idea what the lawn care industry uses now - we've never used a lawn service (not much lawn left here now anyway...!) so I don't particularly care about it much.


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Tree decisions are really best done from a "felt" perspective on the site, not from a picture taken from outside (and looked at by people who have never been there). So with respect to removal, only do it now if you really want to, not because someone on the internet has said so, even if it is me :-) And I think you still haven't told us what kind of tree it is? It's still possible that it is something really wonderful with deep roots, and if the shade is in exactly the right place, ignoring me IS an option!

For new tree placement, start with thinking about where and what time of day you want shade (I don't think you've told us yet which way the house faces). And then, from looking out the windows, which views do you want to block/enjoy? And then, what do you want arriving guests or the pizza delivery guy to be able to see?

Imagine the canopy starting at about 8' high. Have once person stand inside and look out while the other goes outside holding something - an upside-down rake or an umbrella - to help imagine what it would look like from inside to have a tree in certain spots. Compare this to the existing tree. Looking out from the house, or from your side door, if you could wave a magic wand, where would you move its canopy to... right, the left, or lower?

Sometimes we have certain ideas in our heads that we have to work through or see before we can let go of them, and I detect you have a certain adherence to plantings lining the walkway! The sidewalk does make a handy edge, and it is nice to have growing things to enjoy as you walk to the front door (although you more often use the other door, you say). And it gives you a place to start - it can be scary to let go of the edge and plunge a shovel somewhere in the middle of the yard.

The downside of these edge plantings is that they are constraining. Hard to have a fridge delivered, or to bring Aunt Mabel in for Christmas dinner with her walker, or along the driveway, hard to open a car door and step out. I am showing below a doodled idea that expands the sidewalk a bit, but whether you plant along a sidewalk or driveway that is narrow or wide, going tall along it - with trees - is not a good idea. Constraining your feet with low plants is one thing, constraining your shoulders or head is another.

Near my parents' place, some idiot planted a weeping birch right by the public sidewalk. Someone shorter than me prunes the canopy to a height that is comfortable for them :-) On a rainy night, this is... annoying!

Karin L

PS Bearing in mind that I am neither artist nor professional designer, here is one idea sketched onto your plan view. If you print out a few more copies of the blank that you posted, you can doodle your way to a design that suits you. This expands a bit on your sidewalk slab, and then plants adjacent to it, in a curve that mirrors the curved bed of shrubs you might put at the corner. You can place new trees into the shrubbery bed or in the central grass area however it best suits you. Whether you extend the beds along the straight parts or just have the curved parts depends on just how much planting area you want.

On the outside of your semicircular shrub bed, something like carpet junipers might be the best thing - that way people won't walk over it but it will be both low and attractive.

Photobucket


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RE: Help! Front corner of house, create a berm? Need privacy...

Karin, that is kind of what i was envisioning as far as the plantings along the walkway. I figured maybe a foot and a half of mulch between the plants and the concrete to give plenty of space. I like the way you did it with the curve and matching the curve planter on the front left corner. I was also thinking of making a path from the gate and curving over to the driveway, so that would work on the outside part of the curve you drew.
As far as the tree, I have no idea what it is. Also...the house faces south.
I appreciate the shade this tree will provide but if I think long term... I would much rather have something more attractive in front of the house. I was looking at trees native to this area that would be more exciting visually. Some options were red maple, cimmaron green Ash, northern red oak, and sugar maple. Maybe something like ones of those flanked by a couple of smaller trees like crabapple or dogwood?


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