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Looking for Design Help

Posted by FinnJ 7A (My Page) on
Mon, Apr 29, 13 at 14:54

Hi Everyone,

Starting to think about hardscaping and landscaping for our property and would like to get your thoughts, suggestions and ideas. There are some plantings in place right now, but I personally don't like them and there is no curb appeal when you pull up to the house. We're thinking of taking those out and transplanting them elsewhere.

We want to change out everything so it's basically a blank slate. Plants right now include barbri, ornamental grasses, boxwoods.

Our goal is to add landscape and hardscape that will add value to the house in the future, but for us to also be able to enjoy it. Landscape ideally would be low maintenance with some pruning, etc. We do have a small deer issue, but can spray deer repellents if needed.

Would appreciate your thoughts and ideas. Any questions, please ask. I'll include a number of photos shortly.

Thanks!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Looking for Design Help

Backyard left from patio


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backyard patio right


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front bed


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driveway


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side


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back from room


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right side front entrance


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map


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RE: Looking for Design Help

There is just so much you could do in that yard. :)

Much depends on what you want out if your landscaping. Just curb appeal? Shade trees? A veggie garden? Dog run?

I would be looking around at local yards for plants that stand out as desireable focal points. I'd also be researching reliable large trees (please do not plant them too close to your house though).

Some of the most useful threads in these forums have been discussing yard plans of v1rtu0s1ty. If you search through his older posts, there is a wealth of info and ideas. He tended to focus on one section at a time. Here you have a whole yard to landscspe making it harder to get much input.

Have you done any kind of "bubble sketching"? Basically take an aerial view and think about the general features you desire in certain sections of the yard. Curb appeal, screening, wind breaks, patio, shade, etc. If you have an idea of what you want out of certain areas of you yard, it will be easier for garden web ppl to give feedback.


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RE: Looking for Design Help

Those are all good suggestions by trovesoftrilliums and first working out the functional aspects of the plan is essential if you want a quality yard. In the process, you'd take into account features adjacent to your property as well as what's within your property boundary. Once you get an idea of what elements there will be and generally where they go, then you'd start "massaging" them into an overall pleasing geometry ... dividing the lawn area from the otherwise planting bed areas. You might think of the lawn as the wall-to-wall carpeted floor area and the planted beds as architectural elements and enhancements, furnishings and decor for your outdoor rooms. Plants can be used to make privacy screens, physical barriers for a variety of uses, platform risers, shields from the sun (like an umbrella or a ceiling) and decorative ornamentation. Though I don't have knowledge of uses and features you wish to include, I've sketched a sample of planting beds to give you an idea of how a plan might incorporate shapes and dimensions that are SIZED to your overall yard. The only plants it includes are street trees. Of course, you can change the relationship between beds and lawn as it suits your needs and desires. But develop how you'd use various parts of the yard first, in order to make sure those uses are properly fit into your design scheme. If you think working it all out is too big of a challenge, you always have the option of hiring a professional to do the design. You also have the option of choosing what work of the finished design you wish to implement yourself (if any) and what you wish a professional to perform.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Wed, May 1, 13 at 9:20


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I forgot to add, for getting help with curb appeal, it would be good if you could add another photo like the first one, but where the camera is centered in line with the front door. If the right and left portions of that picture don't show much of the yard, pivot (while staying at the same location) and take additional shots that show the right and left portions of the house, but with more yard. (Don't assemble those pics into a computerized panorama as it distorts too much.)


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trovesoftrilliums - thanks for your post and ideas! First of, we do want to immediately add curb appeal to the front areas since that is very lacking at the moment. The second part would be to add shade trees to the back since the summer sun makes the backyard very hot in the summer and we don't get to make much use of it.

With regards to the curb appeal, I like symmetry, so I'm thinking of making the beds more curvier as opposed to straight lines and have a focal point tree at each end of the front viewpoint without blocking the house. I'm thinking something like a weeping cherry or dwarf plum, but not sure yet and very open to ideas. Right under the picture window, I'm thinking of the dwarf japenese maple that just umbrellas and doesn't get tall to block the window.

For shade trees, we thought about pin oak, but they grow very slow. Any suggestions of trees that will grow decently, but won't crack with the first snowstorm and/or doesn't have too shallow roots?

I am planning to lay out some landscaping via the aerial shot, but I'm still learning about trees and what would work best. It's going to be a process, but I'm all about learning from all the folks here! I will check out the other poster's prior posts as well. Thanks!


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Yardvaark - Thanks for the suggestions! Completely agree about taking a step back and figuring out how the overall plan will work.

I should have been more clear in my map, but the big circles in the backyard are what we would like to keep relatively open and clear because that is our general play and entertainment areas especially with kids running around, etc.

At some point, the lots to the right, left and back of me will get developed and I'm a bit hesitant to put too much up just yet since I don't know what the neighbor's plan may be, i.e. would they put up privacy screens (saves me money), etc.

So, we figured we would try to work from the inside out since its likely that this won't all occur in 1 season but likely over 2-3 seasons.

Primary goal right now is to add curb appeal. Ideally, when someone pulls up to the front of the house, i'm looking for the wow effect. Not sure how that translates into plants, specimens, trees, etc. but I figured I would ask.

I will go out tomorrow morning and take the pictures you asked for and post. Hopefully that will help.

As I mentioned in my prior post, we are looking to add shade trees for the backyard and possibly some trees along the driveway. I do like the street lined trees, but without knowing what happens with the other lots, I'm a bit hesitant to plant those trees just yet. The other idea for the front was to have a small island with some nice plantings. This would sort of be in the between the two trees on the left side of the map (without having the trees).

In any case, we are thinking of hiring someone to do a full design but will need to give it some more thought.

I'll post the other pics in the am and always appreciate your thoughts. Thanks!


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I guess I wouldn't do the privacy thing last if you will care about your privacy once something is built there. Although you may have to spend some money you could at this point get smaller sizes (read cheaper) and allow them to establish so when the time comes you don't even have to worry about it as they've then grown to the right size and also provides a nice view and backdrop from your house.


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My thoughts exactly on the couple of comments about "waiting to see what the neighbors do." It's a pretty sure bet that even if they "save you money," they're not going to solve your landscape problems to your satisfaction. In fact, they may create situations that "demand" you implement screening asap and you'll wish you already had it started. Unless you expect your back yard to be little more than a sports field, it would be better, as lyfia says, to start sooner and buy smaller plants. Take advantage of the fact that plants grow exponentially. Ditto on the front. Beyond the original builder-installed landscaping, much of what is installed later by homeowners is what they copy off of others. In the case of street trees, It's preferable to lead the way in the hope that others follow, which they will. People copy whatever they think works well and looks nice. Small, less expensive trees now would be better than larger, more expensive trees later.


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lyfia / Yardvaark - Thanks for the input on the screening. I hadn't thought about it that way, but I think what you folks are saying makes sense.

What do you suggest for initial screening? On the end of the border of the backyard, I was thinking of putting 4 shade trees to provide some backdrop and then some partial privacy. Any suggestions on good shade trees that grow decently well without shallow roots?

Or would you put up something like evergreens or green giants at this point? Issue with that is limited ability to block the sun in the late afternoon.

Appreciate your suggestions and thoughts - it gets me out my way of thinking which is great thing!


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Again, whatever trees/screening you place at the back border needs to be done in the context of all the landscaping that's around it. It can't be said whether 4 trees placed such-and-such will be a great thing if one does not know how this fits with what's around it. 4 trees by themselves seems a little uninteresting as if it's something you might find on a public school lot. It does not seem like it would be maximizing the potential of your back yard. Maybe you're talking about is only as "a start." But that's why you need a comprehensive plan worked out. It will tell you WHERE those things you "start" with should actually go so that they'll fit with what's to come later. If you have the interest, will and ability (which can be developed to some degree) and can decipher good advice from less good, then you can draw your own landscape plan. But if you are lacking any of those necessaries, then it would be better for you to hire a professional. As I already said, you have a nice house, a nice lot and it would be a shame to put effort into a landscape that neither increases in magnificence, or worse, actually works against your long term goals. (I see this happen all the time. People spend a lot of effort creating something worth nothing or LESS than nothing! ... something that any reasonable person would wish to have gone. This is throwing away good money that could have otherwise been spent on good, professional advice. While landscape designers cost money, relative to the actual landscape work, the amount is relatively small. in the long run, if they do their job well, they save the homeowners a great deal of money.) Regardless of who does it, you need a landscape plan in order to know what goes where. Here, you can get help on the direction your plan might take.


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Hi Guys,

So, I took your recommendations and tried to overlay them on the map I had uploaded previously. I've made some slight notes to better explain things.

When you look at the backyard, I now have 4 shade trees on the back edge of the property - partly for sun shade and party for privacy.

Along the side of the backyard, I have 2 shade trees that are designed to be lined up - 1 over the play set area and the other on the opposite side for symmetry purposes.

On the front side, I have added 4 trees (not sure if that is too much) along the driveway. I am planning to redo the mailbox bed to have some small bushes, but a central tree and plant annuals each year for color. Not sure what kind of tree to put there, but I'm thinking of extending that back to the end of the driveway. Thoughts?

On the beds, I wanted to put 2 very nice specimen flowering trees on each end of the bed to frame the house. Wife loves cherry trees, but open to suggestions or thoughts, etc.

For the front part of the front yard (if that makes sense), we 're looking at 2 options. As Yardvaark suggested, having trees line up the front, but with a slight twist. We would only put 2 trees - 1 at each end to frame the entire property when you pull up. Not crazy about blocking the center view of the house. The other idea is to put a small amoeba shaped island to block traffic from looking through out picture window.

I tried to take the advice I received and think about the design and see what the utility would be to us and that's how I put this very rough draft/idea together.

Please let me know what you guys think or if I'm missing something or if the idea just sucks!

Thanks!


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I'd like to make a plug for choosing some shrubs/trees/perennials that will attract/feed/provide egg laying spaces for your local birds, bees, and butterflies.
Your local extension should have a list of plants that will help with that.
Getting local species that support wildlife and are suited for the climate are a win/win.


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Yard's post made me chuckle as what he describes is why we have decided WE need to hire a landscspe designer. I have a huge garden on a suburban half acre lot and zero landscaping. Most "reasonable" people would not want this. I love it and plan to continue with the gardening but we definitely need a comprehensive yard plan for paths, patios, retaining walls and larger tree plantings.

As far as curb appeal goes for Finn, for the size of your house, I think you will need some significantly sized shrub/tree borders to stay in scale and provide a real eye popping wow factor. Small foundation plantings probably are not going to provide that.


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I'm OK with where you have placed trees, but must say that it looks like you are trying to meet government ideals for landscaping an army base. In other words, it's pretty plain and unimaginative looking. If you only envision a few trees in the lawn as the basis of your landscaping, I guess you're achieving your vision. I'm not saying this to hurt your feelings as nothing is to be gained by that. I'm trying to let you know that your yard could be SO MUCH MORE than that. I guess it boils down to whether you can/will appreciate quality landscaping, or not. Some people just don't. (I know because I'm related to some of them!)

It's one thing to "go plain and uninteresting" and altogether another to "go horrible and unappealing." FinnJ, I'm sorry to say that the foundation planting bed line you drew around the house qualifies to fit into the latter category. The pointless, unnecessary wiggles seem like only a confusing gimmick. They bring not positive attributes to your property, but add a look that takes the mystery out of whether a professional designed the property, or it was done by an inexperienced amateur. Again, I'm not saying this to be hurtful, but in hopes that you will open your eyes to better solutions. I don't think you grasped the message of my first illustration. Bed lines should fit the scale of the yard. They shouldn't emulate a snail's path while it dines.

"We would only put 2 trees [at the street].... Not crazy about blocking the center view of the house." A street tree is a large tree with a canopy raised sufficiently that it does not block ANY view. It is a high ceiling over one's head. Hopefully, WELL OVER one's head. That people chronically--through ignorance or laziness--refuse to remove the lower limbs of their trees at the street in a timely manner and permit the view to be maximized is not the fault of the tree. It is AGAINST the purpose of having street trees. Some on this forum chronically argue against raising the canopy of street trees. (However, none have yet developed, defended and presented their arguments. They simply claim them as personal preferences.) It seems that they are using tree canopies for the purpose of SCREENING. To my thinking this is an inferior approach. Screening could be achieved in a much better way than by using street trees.

Not a perfect example, but sufficient to get the general idea


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@Trovesof, if a person INTENDS a yard use that most reasonable people would not wish, then who's to say anything against it? Not me. I'm all for people reaching after their desires. IF THEIR GOALS ARE LANDSCAPING, then many of the so-called attempts at it, which end up creating results contrary to it, are which I oppose. Sometimes, there is a blend that works sufficiently well that landscaping can occur in spite of other desires. :-)


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Yard - Thanks for the post. I understand what you are saying and I don't take it personally.

The plan does appear to be somewhat rigid given that this is the first time I'm even doing something like this.

If you were in my situation, what would you be looking to do?

I'm not looking to do a ton of maintenance each year beyond pruning, mulching, updating beds, planting new annuals, etc.


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"If you were in my situation, what would you be looking to do?" As lyfia said in the first sentence of (her?) first post, "There is just so much [wonderful stuff] you could do in that yard. :)" ... and that's how I see it, too. Naturally, when I see someone leaning to go in a direction that will probably cut themselves off from some of the potential that their yard has, it inclines me toward offering up warnings, hoping they--the homeowner--can be inspired to see the light. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. So far, about all we know that you want out of the yard is curb appeal for the front and some shade and open lawn for the back. You already have a small play area which I presume you're keeping for a while longer. Given that you already have a house, there's some need for plantings that enhance it. Other than that, what needs and desires do you have for the yard? Is there an expectation of privacy at the back yard, or for the patio area? Are there any recreation features to be installed? Permanent BBQ or outdoor kitchen features? Pool? Spa? Vegetable or Flower garden? Stormwater management features? Big outdoor games? Future buildings ... a shed or workshop? Decorative objects or art? Decorative or utility fencing? Utilities run? Since there are children and they will grow, are there any yard features that would be necessary for teens that could be incorporated now in a long range plan? My list is not comprehensive, but just a brainstorming session to help give you an idea of the types of things that you could be thinking to incorporate into the yard at some future date. Anything outdoor, the planning for it would be now. Like your home, your yard is a reflection of you, your family and lifestyle. I'm not suggesting that you add more to your yard than you want or need. I'm suggesting that you determine what you want and need and make sure that it gets incorporated into the plan.

"The plan does appear to be somewhat rigid given that this is the first time I'm even doing something like this." If a family member needed brain surgery, I don't think you would say, "Well, we're hoping the best. This is the first time I've ever performed surgery (let alone on a brain!) but it should turn out well enough." Of course, you'd consult with someone more experienced than yourself. The same for legal issues or any specialized problem. If one is willing to accept much lower standards on their yard than they would accept on their house (by poorly designing it themselves) makes me think that they have not yet developed an appreciation for what outdoor spaces are capable of becoming. If one sets out precluding all possibilities except average, humdrum, amateurish outcomes for their yard ... if that's their intentions, then no one can get them to see differently. I'm not trying to say don't try to plan your own yard, because many people take enough interest in it that doing something somewhat exceptional (or at least very nice) is a workable possibility. (And it's not brain surgery!) While you can save a small amount of money (up front maybe) on the design, it will be false savings or no savings at all if you make mistakes that deliver a less handsome product, create work that must undone, or incorporate unforeseen high maintenance into the finished product. (How many hundred dollars is the cost of taking out one big, wrong tree?) I wish I could say that most any professional designer could solve your problems, but unfortunately, many of them create yards with faults. (The pointlessly wiggly bed lines that I criticized earlier ... how many of those do we see done by professional designers? Plenty.) But without experience, be prepared to study and learn and be open to good advice and learn how to weed out the other. Ask yourself what you want out of your yard ... and then, if you can, will and want to do do your own design work. If you can't or don't want to do the actual design work, be prepared to settle for an "oh hum" finished product ... or do what's necessary to find a good professional and let them help you. Keep in mind, too, that a landscape plan allows you to implement the actual work or a very long period of time (helpful for budgeting labor and cash flow resources) and still things end up in the right place.

I've personally maintained a couple of good sized yards over the years and at one time, worked for a large university at the supervisory level in the landscape maintenance department. It is easily possible for a single individual to maintain a well landscaped acre of ground if low maintenance is designed into the scheme and said owner performs work in a sensible, logical way. A yard does not need to be boring in order to be low maintenance. Yet one must be careful as to what is included if a yard is to be a pleasure to maintain.

FinnJ, where in the U.S. are you?


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I'm in NY area. Let's touch base offline.


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This is reminder to post the additional photo(s) square with and facing the front entrance (as taken from the street.)


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Adding front center picture


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from right side


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FinnJ, keep in mind that with drawing at this small, tight scale, it's very hard to show detail. And it's hard to show something that looks finished while also showing what's underneath. The compromise between those two doesn't look as good to me as it did before I added plants to the trellis structures near the garage. The pictorial is a conglomerate of ideas that go about making a "look," but shouldn't be taken too literally. Instead of intending to convey specific plants, it's intended to show how shapes and forms of plants might be fit together into a cohesive picture. The foliage overhead is street tree canopy that works to help frame the overall view, as part of islands which also include groundcover. The overall objective is to create desire in the mind of the viewer ... making them wish to enter the house or know more about it ... or who lives there. I didn't draw an abbreviated, flowering vine laden pergola-like structure extending slightly from entrance canopy ... so the entrance looks a bit more protective and inviting. But I think the house could use it. It still seems to be lacking a little foliage warmth at it's face. An architectural alternate might work as well. (In other words, if the entrance doors were an eye, they need a better eyelash.)


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I've played with the picture, trying to "unsmother" the trellises at the garage. Their structure is still a little bulky looking, but that is a product of the tiny scale and the line choices offered by MSPaint. I also added a shade structure at the entrance. An alternative to that might be a fabric canopy with a valance, if one didn't want to bother with a vine.


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