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When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Posted by danielj_2009 NJ 6 (My Page) on
Tue, May 25, 10 at 2:34

So I sat here for about 15 minutes trying to come up with a title for this post (still not sure I got it right). In other words, I'm confused about what I'm confused about. :o)

We rebuilt a house ground up and need to redo the landscaping. I thought of doing a lot of DIY stuff, but the more I look into it, the more it seems I need professionals with the right equipment, and I do not feel qualified to get the design right.

I met with a designer/installer who has been in the business for 55 years and strikes me as extremely professional and more than qualified. Based on his description of their other jobs, he does a lot of high end work for money-no-object type people. Example - One of his clients had someone plant $12,000 worth of ivy (yes, just ivy), which was eaten by deer in 3 days. He took on the job and planted ferns. I haven't seen their work in real life, but they do have some beautiful pics on their website. Anyway, his daughter lives in my neighborhood and I asked him to look at our property and see what he recommends. Turns out he's interested in the job (1/3 acre total property), so I guess everybody needs work.

Now, over the last year or so I've had ideas in my head about what plants/grasses I liked and the fact that in my area I don't see really any landscapes that I like. The plants are either growing poorly or are just boring. So here are some concepts I'm learning from this designer (hopefully I'm paraphrasing correctly):

- If you have a beautiful house, don't allow the landscaping to compete with the house. Complement the house.
- Use large areas of the same or similar plant rather than using many different plant types.
- Don't plant gardens in the front of the house - keep it simple in front (again, if the house shows well) and use the back yard for gardens/ponds and so on if that's what you like.
- When implementing a design, don't try to do everything at once - it gets too complicated and expensive. Take a couple of seasons and do things at the right time of year.

So he did a preliminary design, and gave me prices for irrigation, regrading/ cleaning up of the entire site, and for installation of his initial design. I guess what worries me is this idea of simplicity. For the front yard and up against the front porch he's got 16 gold coast junipers that will complement the house color, 6 2.5' boxwoods, one 6' holly, one deer proof arborvitae. In the back he's putting a bunch of trees in, but that's another story.

So I've got a neighbor who is a landscaper and just redid his own property. I have to say it doesn't look half bad but my designer absolutely hates it. I asked why, and he said just too much going on - like a bunch of M&M's scattered about. This leaves me wondering if I just don't know enough about landscape design or if he just has a very simple, plain esthetic that may be neither right nor wrong. I'm all for the "less is more" outlook, but only if it pans out when it's done.

I believe this gentleman knows tasteful design, but before I trust him with my yard I'm trying to learn more about "correct" design vs just one man's opinion. I'm not sure I even asked a question in this post, but any comments are very much appreciated.



Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Based on my experience, and I'm always learning you can have the best or both worlds. Your nieghbor has the experience of doing and knowing what works for certain areas. Plus they know what they are trying to achive. He or she is also willing to do a certain amount of maintenance that they enjoy doing. The designer is also doing the same thing but giving you the curb appeal that is sustainable with choices that are not going to be eaten up by deer or rabbits etc... When I design a landscape for my clients I must take into consideration entry ways, drive ways, water accsess and electical. Also what the client wants and how they will use the property. For example I don't plant thorny plant material where guests will arrive such as along a walkway. If the bed is wide enough I put these more toward the lawn side. Snaged clothing or the potential to fall into a rose or barberry is distressing. I also do not plant large shrubs along a drive as you may not beable to see children on bikes or people walking by when pulling out of the drive. Saftey first. Your designer is not making it boring just functional. So ask if the two can't be intergrated to some point. Also your neighbor knows that diversity is a key. With diversity of plant material you won't end up with deer eating all the evergreens if that is all you have. Also you will have foliage and flowering goiong all the time to give you interest during every season. There is nothing wrong with the so called M&M's scattered if they create diversity and give all kinds of leverage for birds and insects, (the good ones) a chance to do the job for whitch they are intended. My only concern would be that the color and plan design is consistant with all the areas. I also as another example will keep planting areas depending on the size to three to five types of plants. Weather it is shrubs, perinnals or a mix of the two just for a consistant look. Seasonal changes are also a consideration. Land management is another consideration. And a very important one. You can attract all the right wild life such as birds, insects such as butterflies etc... All that are very enjoyable but will be limeted with only a few specmens. Another thing that your designer maybe thinking of is the architecture of the home. This does make a big difference and we have some preconcieved ideas as to how this should look. This is based on society. Kind of sad to me but I do work with this as well. And with good sucsess. Don't forget the hardscapes that can also set other areas off. It isn't always the plants or shrubs but a well placed and thought out hardscape goes along way with introducing another type of plant that will also not only look good but add more diversity to the whole area. When I keep things somewhat diverse the rest works! Nothing gets destroyd by preditory insects or animals. You can also take measures with evergreens like wrapping in burlap for the winter months. Perinnials will die back over the winter. Like I said you have the best of both worlds so use this to your advantage. Have some fun with this! Look forward to enjoying your lawn and gardens!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Tue, May 25, 10 at 6:28

There are many ways to skin a cat as they say. There is no right way, only what is right for you. Clearly, what the simple designer wants to do does not float your boat. The point of your landscape is to make you happy, not to accept that this guy (or me or anyone else) is an expert and knows what you want more than you do.

Simpler design is easier design and by keeping it simple, it is hard to screw up. That does not make it better, it just addresses less issues so that it solves those that it does. The idea is that the designer does not introduce complication by adding lots of color, variety of form, texture, etc,... which gives him a job that is easy to manage. It can be a problem if there are existing issues that are not being addressed OR if the client's needs or wants are more complicated than the designer wants to deal with.

There are a zillion designers out there, there is no reason to choose one who does not get you excited about your landscape. He's trying to convince you to do what he wants to do (we all do that to one degree or another), but why should you do something that you don't want?

I have yet to meet a landscaper or designer who does not describe what he does as "mostly high end". If you are questioning his work, it is an indication that you should look somewhere else. Telling someone that a landscape is best done in phases is an indication that the designer is a reactive designer rather than a planner. Do the pictures on his website reflect what he says is his design philosophy? ... how about his daughter's house?

There is no harm in talking to other designers. You can always go back to him, if you don't find anyone.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

To parrot what's already been said... if you're not happy then the designer has not met his/her goal...maybe. Or maybe you're just indecisive about what is really your style and taste? A moving target is hard for any designer to hit. Don't commit yourself yet until you know for sure what you want, because buyers remorse for a landscape layout can be difficult to correct and costly.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I am being indecisive, for sure. I had certain ideas, but I don't know if they are right for the house. He said he would give me his idea on what he would do, and what he felt was right for the house. My reaction is that it seems so simple but I don't want to dismiss what may be a classic design because I'm not educated to know the rights and wrongs.

I will see him in a couple of days and will ask him these questions and see how he responds to my few ideas.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

The thing I keep saying is that landscapes are done for people, not houses. If you were to sell your house today, and tomorrow the new owner consulted this same landscaper, the landscaper should recommend something different. The house itself does not have needs - though I think the phrase "this house needs..." has occasionally emerged from my fingertips, it is not strictly true. What happens is that humans feel different needs when looking at/living in houses. And different people will need different things.

Thus the question any landscaper should ask you is "what do YOU need in THIS house?" If he did not ask that, then he is giving you a fairly generic design that is equivalent to house staging: sucking every bit of personality out of the property and doing a planting that, like the average gas station planing, will offend no one and give some satisfaction to most. A landscape you can sell, which is not necessarily a landscape that YOU can live with.

You don't need to know how to achieve what you need, just to articulate it in terms of how the house and garden should feel to you, what it should do for you. I mean, I have a very quirky front landscape planting because I have certain plant processes that I like to watch - ferns unfurling, buds opening, bees visiting, etc - and I sit on the front steps a lot in spring and summer and watch them. So put a row of boxwoods near my steps and I'd die of boredom, yet that is exactly what someone else would want because all they care about is a tidy appearance. It can be as vague as "I want the house to look welcoming", or rich and snooty, or quirky and artistic, or what have you. Some people have, quite seriously, just the one criterion that they want their yard to look "normal" for their neighbourhood. (That reaches the pinnacle of absurdity when they come here to ask how to achieve that).

As for high end... seems to me this is almost the case by definition. Only high end people can afford designers!

Now, let me say something about age - don't slay me, I'm no spring chicken myself. 55 years in the business puts this guy in a certain category. Either he is still working by the landscape rules of many years ago (when they were rules, and everyone cared about following them), or maybe has gotten kind of habitual about how he works. In many fields and in many cases I think you find a standard of excellence in older practitioners that you don't necessarily find in younger ones. But I'm not sure that is the case in landscapers (nor in pest control, where a practitioner of 40 years recently showed me that he had no idea that there was any method of pest control besides chemical, chemical, and more chemical), or it may just not be the case for this particular landscaper.

KarinL


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

He doesn't strike me as the type stuck in the past. His son is following in the family biz and his son's name is all over their website. They do lots of beautiful ornamental grasses so I was thinking he might do something like that. He did say that the customer is primary and you have to listen to what they want. However, we haven't talked much about what I want yet - although I'm confused enough that maybe we did and I don't remember! I did say I wasn't fond of the typical landscapes in the neighborhood, and he seemed to get it.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Daniel,

For some reason the sentence that stuck out for me from your OP was "We rebuilt a house from the ground up and need to redo the landscaping."

Don't know why, but I began with the assumption that your renovation of the house itself has been done with care and that the house (I have to assume here) has been worth your time and work on it.

So ... assuming the house to now be a jewel waiting for an appropriate setting and without knowing more about the two landscape approaches you have sort of presented ... I can say that the general approach of the old designer dude kind of makes sense. But, like Laag, I'm curious about the daughter's landscape. Presumably, "Dad" has helped out or passed on some ideas. Does her home reflect the simplicity that this designer is advocating? Does it shine like a jewel in just the right setting? Or, in your estimation (which is what matters), is it boring?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

It seems to me that the old guy has it right, you don't know what you want exactly but it will slowly dawn on you. So let's put in the foundation (something really simple) that can be added to later seems to be what is suggested. If he does the kind of job I am talking about you can then DIY 'til
your heart is content. Get a map of the irrigation up front and make sure that it allows for later expansion and when that time comes you know where the lines are.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Tue, May 25, 10 at 18:56

As a guy aspiring to be an "old designer dude" some day (already there if you ask my daughter), I know that there are many ways of getting information out of a client without directly asking.I call it stealth questioning and like to get information that way because it is neither forced nor guarded (not to mention that it makes you look like a genius when you start teliing it back to them). If he seems to know what you want, he probably got it out of you in subtle ways.

But, if you want a little more funk, just tell him that. He might be responsive to that. You may be coming off very cautious making him think that you don't want funk.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I'm seeing two red flags in the theory that the old guy is a master stealth questioner and designer. One is that he has admitted to "hating" the neighbour's landscaping WHICH HIS PROSPECTIVE CLIENT LIKES. Second is that the prospective client is already bored by the preliminary design, and not surprisingly so; I am too and all I've had to do is read about it, not look at it, pay for it, or invest time in it.

What I do like is his belief that you do stuff over a couple of seasons and that you have decided to leave stuff to others that requires heavy equipment: irrigation, regrading, clean-up ... clean up (of what, by the way? Of existing mature plant material? Are you sure it should go?) This suggests that you could hire him to do some of that ground work (no pun intended!) if you like those ideas of his, and leave the plant selection to the future, for yourself or another designer to choose. But honestly, I'd hire another landscaper... say, your neighbour.

All of what I'm hearing suggests the old guy is more interested in doing what he thinks is "right" than in achieving the effect you're after. That impression is exacerbated for me by the fact that he flat-out rules out a garden in the front yard. I don't mind you not having one if you don't want one, but it should be an option for a certain kind of client in a certain kind of place. And what if you want faster results? Even the scheduling should be on your preferences, not his.

Speaking of your preferences, I keep hearing that you have been thinking about grasses, and perhaps about a grass-based landscape. I don't see any grasses in his plan. I personally don't like them in landscapes or in gardens (though they're great in drive-by boulevard plantings) but if you were paying me to design a garden FOR YOU, trust me, it would incorporate grasses. Or if it didn't, I'd have a good reason for that.

KarinL


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

karin: you make some good points but remember the client Mr Daniel, doesn't know what he wants only that he needs to "redo the landscaping" so I would see the suggested plan exactly as you say "ground work". Ideally future steps would be part of the plan but there is a lot to be said for keeping it simple initially with such a client who perhaps needs to paddle a bit before diving in the deep end.

You do bring us back to the 'old designer dudes' principles though which is a good thing and we may benefit from analyzing those.

If you have a beautiful house, don't allow the landscaping to compete with the house. Complement the house.
- Use large areas of the same or similar plant rather than using many different plant types.
- Don't plant gardens in the front of the house - keep it simple in front (again, if the house shows well) and use the back yard for gardens/ponds and so on if that's what you like.
- When implementing a design, don't try to do everything at once - it gets too complicated and expensive. Take a couple of seasons and do things at the right time of year.

Care to have crack at those anyone, as karin said earlier it does seem as though the "old designer dude" sees the landscape as a house embellishment with no allowance for the families six dogs and soccer playing kids or a Chevrolet fetish.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Wed, May 26, 10 at 20:11

My gut feeling all along is that the guy only wants to do what he can handle.

I hate the fact that he thinks it should be a little design at a time. That is not master planning and working it in as your budget goes. It is more like he knows that you'll be too indecisive for what he wants to put into the design, but wants to get going on making some money.

A good landscape designer is going to facilitate and get you to where you want to be. That does not mean he does not do great garden designs, but it does ean that he is not doing the part of landscape design that you need which is to be lead through a process where he gets you to understand your needs and wants and then you feel like the design is addressing your needs. It is an additional skill set.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

This is going to sound like cautious-Frankie, but I think you are also on a learning curve--ink alluded to that--so that the actual process of consulting a designer and looking at plans and other yards has gotten you more attuned to landscapes and design. You might find that interviewing one or more other professionals gives you your "aha" moment because they are better, or you may be becoming better at knowing what you want and how to communicate it so the next person inteviewed has that advantage over the first guy, or some of both. So, your thoughts and judgement are evolving faster than you are ready to implement the first thing you've seen. I think that's a good thing. I say take a deep breath maybe, on your timetable, though that doesn't mean you have to wait until next year, but don't feel like you're pushed to jump. You will always wonder what you might have missed. That said, if you really do get more attuned to design and plants and gardening, your needs and goals may change anyway, so that anything you install may need tweaking, or you may develop a passion for something... else.. or more...that you cannot now envision. So, it won't have to be perfect forever, but needs to seem more "right" for you now than what you've seen so far.

I think you hit upon something when you talked about "what I want". It seems to me that this guy should be able to point out somewhat overtly, see, this here helps you do this, and this here gives you this experience, and these plants in this arrangement have this advantage. If it seems boring to you, the guy should be able to point out what is going to be energizing about it or what principles are sustained by his design. Or if you pointed out that you like this other yard, I think a good designer ought to be able to try to extract from you what you are responding to and how to achieve that in a good or sustainable way. Example being, I might look at a magazine photo of a cottage garden of mostly perennials in mid-May and say , I want that, when I mean is that I want to look at that all the time, but I have no time or energy to keep it up and also don't intend to look at bare ground half the year, and so someone should be able to extract that from me and point out how it won't hold up, or not without immense maintenance, and so we might then discuss how to achieve some of those elements or some of that wow in a more sustainable way.

Or, maybe that takes too much time, and we have to pay a lot for it.

The gradual or stage thing is something that a designer might present to you if it includes proposed stages for YOUR consideration in advance--not, well I'll give you this now and then you'll come back and ask for more. Now, if you yourself are feeling very cautious, you might say, I only want to know about a plan for this one area, because I just don't want to think about any more at first and I just want to "fix" this part. That can have an advantage if you pay less to get a "small" plan and that's what you want to do, though the disadvantage is that a year or so later, the installed part may then seem wrong once you think about the bigger picture--leading to, landscape re-do's or I wish I had known to do this. I don't think one can avoid all of that, since we do kind of evolve our landscape needs and our understanding even of what can be done. But if someone is specifically hired to give you an overall plan, it should be more comprehensive as a plan, even if it could be installed in stages.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Thu, May 27, 10 at 6:48

"It seems to me that this guy should be able to point out somewhat overtly, see, this here helps you do this, and this here gives you this experience, and these plants in this arrangement have this advantage. If it seems boring to you, the guy should be able to point out what is going to be energizing about it or what principles are sustained by his design. Or if you pointed out that you like this other yard, I think a good designer ought to be able to try to extract from you what you are responding to and how to achieve that in a good or sustainable way."

I think Frankie summed that up very well!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

If a person is just chasing the latest fad or trend then they will never be satisifed. If your landscape design goal wavers from "magazine cover worthy" regardless of it's functionality for you family or ultimate desire to maintain it to functionality in use and ease of maintenace, then you'll have to settle on one of them, hire a maintenace company, or start learning some new skill-sets.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Wow, lots of good information to consider. Hopefully over the holiday weekend I'll have time to carefully read and absorb what's here. I should say that some of the speculation is a bit off target as I haven't provided that much detail on our conversations. I've spent several hours with the designer on two occasions (albeit not just talking about the yard). I never told him I liked the yard next door (and I don't like it 100%). I just asked what he didn't like about it.

I'll definitely use what I've learned here in our next discussion. Maybe I can take a few pics and post them back here over the weekend in anybody is interested.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Some design elements, as mentioned, are practical; no snagging the clothes, no blocking exit views, etc.

It's possible that you over-emphasized your need/desire for simplicity and ease of maintenance.

It's possible that your house is one of the rigidly geometric modern ones that looks best with minimalist landscaping.

It's possible that you could modify his plan by adding herbaceous perennials and annuals, using his stuff as the backbone for more variety.

Repeating plant material, even repeating it in LARGE quantities, is effective. See the link below.

And, it's possible that the landscaper has a "one size fits all" set of plants that he sticks to. We have them here, and they usually want to rip out everything, lay gravel and stick a mesquite tree in the middle. One who was supposed to be making a bid on a watering system tried to "upsell" me to plastic grass and removing all my plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: 2 species = STUNNING!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

But I never really had a chance to mention what ideas I had. I see this as a first pass that he would do if it were his house. So we'll see what happens on round 2.

I never said anything about ease of maintenance or simplicity. I just said I didn't really see anything in the neighborhood I liked.

It's good to hear that simplicity is an effective style. I wonder if it works better on large properies though.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Fri, May 28, 10 at 12:51

Groupings do work well on larger houses because the masses of plants work well proportionately where fussy individual plants can tend to look spotty. It is not a yes or no answer that they work better, but this is a common effective way to address a large building or a big scale.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

OK, so I took some pics of what we're talking about. My house is the bigger green one and the landscaper is to the right with the ranch style. He put his yard in last year.

http://i876.photobucket.com/albums/ab323/danielj_2009_bucket/Front Landscaping/Landscaping006.jpg

Here are two pics of the neighbor's yard. I think it looks kind of nice, but it isn't quite for me. My designer thinks too much is going on.

http://i876.photobucket.com/albums/ab323/danielj_2009_bucket/Front Landscaping/Landscaping002.jpg
http://i876.photobucket.com/albums/ab323/danielj_2009_bucket/Front Landscaping/Landscaping003.jpg

Here's our property. It goes from the large Hickory on the left to beyond the blue spruce (?) on the right. There is a lump in the front yard where there used to be a large tulip tree and big junipers. That would be graded out.
http://i876.photobucket.com/albums/ab323/danielj_2009_bucket/Front Landscaping/Landscaping005.jpg

The plant near the street to the right of the driveway is a weeping hemlock with some overgrown weeds and juniper. The bush is at least 40 years old and has been through some disease. He said it should be sprayed. I wanted to yank it out but he said be careful before doing that. People pay big money to have plants like that moved. He want's to clean everything up and bring it back to life.

We were also ready to remove the overgrown bushes at the right corner of the house. The visible one is apparently a euonymous (sp?) and turns a beautiful bright red in the fall. He suggested pruning them way back before deciding to pull them out. One of those bushes gives off a beautiful lilac type fragrance in the spring, but will these plants fit in with a site-wide landscaping plan? I guess they could stay for now but I'm not sure for the future.


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Pics

Both Houses
Neighbor 1
Neighbor 2
Front

Back of house, FYI:
Back of House


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Wow beautiful neighborhood that's for sure... you'll have to do something to maintain the standard ;)

I won't comment on the neighbors property, as they did not post it for any comments.

If you have mature planting, I would try to keep it, as the mature sizes are a definite benefit and the price is right. But then it also depends on what you need the landscape to do for you. It seems that if everyone keeps posting their guess will be the right one.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I wasn't sure about posting someone else's property but I figured their design impacts mine to a degree, and they are in the landscaping business. Their design is like an advertisement, but I understand.

Thanks for your comments, isabella.

I did have a second look at my prospective designer's daughter's property as was suggested by some. It's a small lot on a shady street and has a lot of character - both the house and yard. There are lots of interesting colors, shrubs and some grasses I believe. It is very different from what is proposed for me. For that matter, their website is full of beautiful grasses.

I'm meeting again tomorrow morning, so I'll report back (if anybody still cares!)


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Daniel, you meet today with an old timer, His education comes from the school of mistakes and observations of plant growth over half a century. His hands and pruning shears have the ability to appreciate the value of overgrown shrubs and work them into a landscape. His is not a throwaway mentality. He has an understanding of how his landscape ideas will withstand the next 50 years. Also, he is trying to tell you that your front yard needs minimal landscaping as the house design on that site requires very little, done well. The delightful backyard is where your ideas should be worked through and dollars concentrated.

As an afterthought...sometimes I get hunches and this one may be very incorrect. Question...does the gas line run underground on your side of the street? As I look at the large street tree (maple?) in front of your neighbor's house it exhibits the same growth problems I sometimes note when there is a slow gas leak around tree roots. Not an uncommon problem but often undiagnosed. So, if there is a gas line suggest that your neighbor call gas company and have them check for a leak in the vicinity.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

nandina - interesting comments. There is a gas line running from each house to the street. The gas line for our house ran near what used to be a large maple near the street. It got old and the town removed it. Both neighbors on the right and left have maples, probably with gas lines as well. The neighbor on the left had problems with their tree, but it looks pretty good right now. The tree you look at is in rough shape. Could it just be old age?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Please do keep posting, Daniel.
I, for one, am very curious where this process will take you and what choices you will ultimately make regarding your landscape.
Hope you enjoy your conversation today with the landscape designer ...


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Daniel, It was many moons ago that I became suspicious of street tree deaths and gas leaks in older communities. Since then I have made quite a study of the situation and learned to recognize the telltale symptoms in declining trees. Also, I have worked with gas companies when testing for slow leaks. We discovered that the gas actually follows along tree roots for some distance. The gas company will test at no charge. Worth a phone call to have it checked out.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

For your home, yes a simple, naturalistic design would look beautiful.
I agree, the neighbors home has too much going on and it distracts from their house.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

For your home, yes a simple, naturalistic design would look beautiful.

Agreed.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Looking at the pictures of the two houses - when his blobby shrubs get a couple more years, he'll be floating on a cloud of green. That may be the effect he wants.

Yours - I would remove the big shrub at the end of the drive for safety reasons.

The stone facing on the porch is pretty, and doesn't need covering, but one or two low spreading plants would anchor it. If they are low-care in your area, some of the low-care roses (meidiland?) would add color without too much work.

I would widen the front walk, plant low-growing something along it to make it an emphatic entry way. Make a "landing pad" where it meets the driveway for ease in getting out.

A small flowering tree or three near the left corner, with a repeat where that shrub used to be would widen the visual weight. Whatever does well in your area. Underplantings of something low care perennial.

I think I see clover. Are you OK with planting a meadow of low-growing grasses and annuals?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

On the principle that landscape design is for people, not houses, I'm going to say your neighbour looks happy. He's clearly someone who enjoys and appreciates different kinds of plant material and (depending on how the installation ages) enjoys maintaining the type of plants and installation he has.

On a busy street near me there is a house that has only two specimen shrubs in it that are kept meticulously pruned. One is a pom-pommed juniper, and the other is a red-leaved Japanese maple pruned into a cute little table-top. We drive by often on family outings and we always admire the little maple, especially when it is newly pruned. I've never seen the owner, but to me, given how many years this maple has been carefully maintained in such a prominent location, when the maple is newly pruned, the owner looks happy. It's always done with so much precision, and it's just not a necessary task as the tree has tons of room to grow bigger, that this task wouldn't be done at all if the owner didn't want to be doing it.

To the extent, however, that landscapes are installed at houses and should work with them, I also am going to say your neighbour did a pretty good job of matching landscape to house. I like where the canopy of the trees will end up in several years, for example, plus he can cull some things as others grow in or things grow too big. And the bistro set and patio in the front yard is practical as well as nifty, given that the house has no porch.

Now you have an element in your landscape design that your neighbour either doesn't have or has less of: the trees in back. Your house is effectively a house in the woods. It's lovely, but it's something that reduces your flexibility a bit in terms of suiting the house. If you put this house on a wide vacant lot you could landscape almost any way you want, but in this setting you might want to make some sort of connection/natural transition to the front landscape. Ironically, the house actually looks great with just lawn in front, trees behind.

I think anything you install should have something to offer - to you, or to the house - that plain lawn doesn't.

KarinL


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

A carpet of 16 (or more) creeping junipers would IMHO look great with your house. Together with the arborvitae, holly and boxwoods, they would make quite a sober, "masculine" design that you can later add variety to with container plantings. Maybe I'd add a carpet of periwinkle, or some yellow-leaf barberries, or variegated euonymus, but not much else.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

isabella - re keeping older plants. The weeping hemlock is apparently not a cheap plant so we won't rip it out without some thought first. It does block the view of the street somewhat when you back the car out, but not completely. The overgrown bush on the right of the house is a euonymus and turns a bright red in the fall. One of the bushes behind it has a lilac smelling flower in the spring that is really nice. If they can be cut back then we'll keep them for awhile.

nandina - This designer is, without doubt, a real expert. The more I talk to him the more I see that he knows his trade inside and out, and he cares about doing things the right way. Due to my inexperience with design, I was surprised when he came back with something so plain and simple. So, I came here to see if I was crazy, or what! I asked him what he thought of the maple that was in poor shape and he just said it had blight. We didn't dwell on the subject, but he expounded on his frustration that the street was lined with maples. There are some older, Victorian era neighborhoods not far away, and he said how they planned things correctly back then. They would line a whole street with one type of tree like oak. He said maples tend to grow roots along the ground and then die in 50 years, which is about how old these maples are. So the builder probably got a good deal on a bunch of maples and stuck one in at each house!

wellspring - thanks for your interest. I'm learning a lot by keeping this thread going.

lazygardens - the designer was suggesting to put a specimen tree in the left part of the property. Funny, because there used to be one there many years ago. Also, I don't think the town would let me get away with too many annuals in the front yard. The yard was torn up as a construction site for over a year, and even then I was hauled in to court TWICE for letting the grass grow more than 6 inches high in a few spots here and there.

karinl - good point about all the trees around the house. There used to be quite a few more, but age and other factors have caused some to be taken down. You kind of imply that if the homeowner is happy, then the job was done well. To use an analogy, if I never had beef before and I went to McDonald's I might have a Big Mac and say, "Hey, that was really good." But then take me to a great steakhouse and give me a juicy t-bone or tenderloin and then I'd know good beef. I just didn't want to be the guy sitting at McDonald's with my burger not knowing what good beef really is. I know I'm over simplifying your point, but that was my rationale for coming here.

timbu and others - "masculine" might be a better word than "boring" which is what I was worried about.

Thanks!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

So we had our meeting with the designer last Saturday and went over some things. We got some new figures on sodding the front and putting in irrigation for the front of the property only. The first thing we will need to do is regrade the front and back and plant some rye for quick ground cover. The designer will supervise that work so that everything is graded the way he wants it. I want to be able to trust that he will have it done correctly, instead of just having a landscaper come in with heavy equipment and push dirt around whichever way he wants.

So we sat down and I told him of my concern that his design just looked "too simple" and I was worried that it wasn't going to look right. I commented that his website had so many beautiful designs with grasses and I didn't see anything like the design he suggested for us. (email me if you would like to see his website). He was very nice and kind of laughed. He had already laid some photos out on the table that showed a beautiful grass garden in full sunlight. He said the customer had a backyard with a nice view of the Manhattan skyline. However, they had a grove of old cherry trees blocking the view. In this case, it made sense to get rid of the trees and plant something lower growing that revealed the view of the city. In our case he wanted to keep the focus on the house. He chose gold coast juniper because it would match the color of the house. He wanted the landscaping to be clean and neat, hence the boxwood and so on. He assured me that it would be a striking effect and he would bring a juniper out next week so we could get a better idea. I'm still not 100% on board yet, but the idea is growing on me and the comments in this forum help me to ask better questions of him. He did recommend going for a lot more color in the back yard, and be more bold with the design there.

He's saying that other designers do things differently, but their signature design makes use of large swaths of plantings. He mentioned another customer of his with a similar concern as mine. She had a Victorian house and had put a new iron fence up at the street. She needed to soften the fence and had a couple of designers bid. They proposed 50+ hydrangeas for the area. She was surprised and said the other designer used a lot more variety of plants. Were they really that confident as to propose one plant for the entire area? They said of course they were, and she said, "Let's do it."

My house is nice but it isn't some kind of historic mansion or anything like that by any stretch, so I was surprised to hear that he wanted the landscaping to complement and show off the house rather than distract your eye... so that's still causing me to scratch my head a bit.

I've included a crude drawing of the planting proposed. The brown area is where the juniper would go. I found some pics of gold coast juniper and the color seems to vary by variety, or maybe photographer. It is supposed to match the color of the house. He was initially proposing just to curve the planting bed from the front of the house, along the driveway, and curve to the front street to keep costs down. He originally, and I think still, would like to make an oval island of sod surrounded by the juniper. He would put a specimen tree toward the left side. Would this look too much like a putting green? I also put some boxwood up against the house. I didn't bother putting in the holly on the left corner.

Front Yard Bob 1


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

in your revision of the LDs design, I think you're missing the point of some of the design elements he/she was trying to capture. For example, you need the holly in the mock up to fully appreciate the design.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I'm sceptical that the tree next door is exposed to a gas leak. I'm thinking it was never planted well to begin with. The lawn isn't dying out as far as I can see. The tree across the street looks to be healthy. So with that said I also see that the drive next door is also lower than yours hence the retaining wall. Whitch I do like and you can do this to a point also. I'm not crazy about the putting green affect that you mentioned. I do see what your designer is going for however. You do have enough elevation to do a tree in sort of the center and under plant, while carefully, to fill the area. Just don't lose the view of the street. One thing I see that kind of bugs me also is where is the flow to the side of the left side of the house? What is the plan to accsess this? Is there a path or walkway? Is the mowing considered here? Are you planning on losing all of the front lawn? Tarracing is an option.

I don't want to undermine the designer as I have not really seen what is the final plan. One thing that I do see from your postings is that you do like what is happening next door but that you are concerned that you will be copying the nieghbor? Rest assured you will not. The architechture of your nieghbors house is not the same as yours. The grade of your property is also not the same.

Don't compare the two. Look at what is going on in the whole area. Take what you like from the whole area. For exapmle: I have a client who really liked the idea of a berm. While I was all for it, the city said NO! Ok so I looked at the berm they were interested in. I agreed with the city. The berm in question was placed as an entry to the nieghborhood and was used to screen a county road. Ok so I get why. The berm would have possibly caused a drainage problem. The niehgbors got savey and used raised long beds instead. No one gets flooded basements and they get the look they want in the long run. My client was able to still get a waterless pond and the privacey they wanted without losing the tree and shrub plantings. We just did it with a little less build.

Your designer does seem to know what is going on. The experince is there. Just keep an open mind but trust your instincts too. If something doesn't jive don't go with it. It is your dollar so to speak. Trust that.

Now ask yourself since you are so far into this. When your project started what did you envision and now what do you see? Is your nieghbors landscape really that boring? From what I can see of the pics the design is very good. It follows the natural lines of the property and does justice to the architecture of the home. Your home is also very beautiful in a differnent way and can incorperate the same elements without looking boring. Don't get too hung up on the plant material. Look at the hardscapes and the exsiting trees and shrubs. The slopes or lack of slopes. Remember curb appeal. Once a client told me, "I just want to pull up in my drive and know I'm home." It's yours make it what you want. Your designer knows this. But, if not move on to the one that does. You may have to shop around for a designer. All designers see things differently. A good one knows what will give thier clients a functional and working landscape. We must always know how plants and climents work in the space and area we are dealing with. I'm looking forward to your future posts and future pictures as your plan comes to fruition. My advice is to not get hung up on the small stuff. (unless someone plants shade loving where the sun only shines!) LOL! Make sure what goes in works for you and how you intend to use the space. Remember a good designer will also do this. Any landscape design pays attention the foundational aspects... The rest just comes.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I might be a little cautious about a street-side planting, if your streets get salted and plowed often.... grass can recover quite nicely, but tattered shrubs not so nice looking.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

He was initially proposing just to curve the planting bed from the front of the house, along the driveway, and curve to the front street to keep costs down. He originally, and I think still, would like to make an oval island of sod surrounded by the juniper.

I don't think that an oval island of sod, surrounded by juniper ... is a superior idea. Sounds just like what you said ... a putting green.

The junipers lining the drive ... and curving across the planting area ... sounds a lot better.

And I grow Gold Coast juniper. It's basically a medium green ... with a gold affect ... like frosted hair.

I can see that the color combination would complement your house, but (16) of them sounds excessive. These aren't creeping junipers ... they can get 2-3 ft. tall and many more feet across. Also, I'd prefer a little more variety in my border, ... but that's just me.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

isabella - I know but it was almost 2 am and I couldn't find a holly the right size to stick next to the house! I don't think there is a way to edit a post and I don't want to keep posting too many large photos so I think it might have to leave it as is for now.

stormz -
I don't want to undermine the designer as I have not really seen what is the final plan. One thing that I do see from your postings is that you do like what is happening next door but that you are concerned that you will be copying the nieghbor?

I kind of like his design but I'm trying to figure out whether he's serving a Big Mac or filet mignon, to use the analogy I posted above. I generally see few landscapes around that I would plant at my place and I'm not sure why that is. Do most people landscape improperly? Would I like other landscapes better if people actually maintained their yards and had them looking at their peak?

To digress slightly for a moment: I've come to the conclusion that in any field of business, whether it be contractors, lawyers, landscapers or restauranteurs, MOST people in their respective fields don't do things the right way. Maybe it's 90% take shortcuts or just don't know any better, maybe it's 75%. Certainly it is not 50%. I'd rather spend my whole budget on a great design done by a real expert, even if it meant I could only afford to put in 1 plant a month as opposed to getting the whole job done cheaply and incorrectly.

The sketch he presented to me had the juniper arching from the front steps, down the border of the driveway, and arching down to the street. If you extend the line of the front steps down to the street, this is about where he originally had the juniper ending.

Thanks for the words of advice. I'll try to keep those things in mind.

rhodium - good point about street side plantings. I do have juniper at the street right now, on the right side of the driveway. They do amazingly well given that they've been essentially neglected for at least 20 years. One positive I see is that I don't have to worry about dogs doing their business on the lawn near the street.

Thanks aegis - he's supposed to bring a plant with him this weekend so I'll be sure to ask about the size. I was wondering whether they were going to creep together and form a mat, or whether they will stay separate and continue to be mulched.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 3, 10 at 12:55

I'll step up an say that I think it is boring from what you are saying and showing. Your house is nice, but it is not so awe inspiring that will be ruined by a design that is more than mass plantings. It looks and sounds like a landscape designed to fill the space rather than affect the house or address any other aspect of design other than being so basic that it won't screw anything up.

Your house blends in with the trees and what is being proposed will blend in with the house. If going un-noticed is your goal, it will work. There is nothing wrong with that. If you are looking for something else, I don't think you'll be happy.

That is my opinion which is just that, an opinion.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I think it is interesting you talk more about your neighbors house than your own and your own goals for this place.

I guess I would like to see more done with the front yard from a emphasis on the main focal point of a house viewed fromf the curb. This is probably the main contrast between your house and the other one, and maybe that is what needs to be addressed.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

laag - I reread your original post here. What is the procedure in dealing with a designer? If I call a designer and I say I want the whole property planned out up front, I can't expect them to spend all that time coming up with something for no fee. On the other hand, if I don't know their work that well up front, I don't necessarily want to put down a deposit and not be confident I'm going to get something I like and can afford. At what point does a designer start talking $$?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 3, 10 at 19:32

Every designer has his (I use his to mean his or her, I hate using "their" with a singular subject) way of doing things. Many will come out and talk to you and try to show you that they are the people to hire over the next - many don't charge for this (I don't). I think of it as an audition for the prospect and a script read for the designer. If you don't like the audition by the designer, I'd expect you to try the next. If the designer does not like the script (the job does not float his boat) he'll look for another play (or see that the compensation makes up for it).

I don't expect to get every job because I am not the right match for everyone (and vice versa). Do my audition and send a proposal. I either get it back signed with a retainer, or I'll get a call or email with a question or two to clarify, or I hear nothing. That's it. I'm not going to work someone over who does not feel compelled. It might be that we don't connect, or the price was not riht - either way it is good reason for the prospect to find what will work best for him. I'm totally cool with that either way.

Your designer is working overtime to get you to buy into something that you are reluctant to buy into. You are working just as hard to get others to convince you to buy into it. Go with your gut. You are obviously not excited about it, but are less excited about going out and finding another designer. Could it be that it is just easier to go with this guy whose work is not exciting you than to make the effort to find and meet with others?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

rhodium:
I guess I would like to see more done with the front yard from a emphasis on the main focal point of a house viewed fromf the curb. This is probably the main contrast between your house and the other one, and maybe that is what needs to be addressed.

I'm not quite sure what you are saying here. Could you reword your point?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

laag:
Your designer is working overtime to get you to buy into something that you are reluctant to buy into. You are working just as hard to get others to convince you to buy into it. Go with your gut. You are obviously not excited about it, but are less excited about going out and finding another designer. Could it be that it is just easier to go with this guy whose work is not exciting you than to make the effort to find and meet with others?

Hey, don't beat around the bush so much! :)

Yes, of course it is easier to find the right guy and not have to shop around. I am not avoiding doing that, and I definitely will get another opinion. In this discussion though, I'm trying to educate myself as long as people are continuing to give their opinions. Maybe I need to go buy a book on the principles of good design, or something. Like I've said before, I don't care for nearly any of the landscapes I see around - often too cookie cutter, same plants over and over, and so on. This guy seems to have a different take on design and has been around awhile so I'm intrigued with what he comes up with. Like you kind of say, though, that doesn't mean I'll like his design. I need to visualize the end result better. I need to see the plant and ask how big it will really get, and so on.

At this point (forgetting the money for a moment) if you said I could have my neighbor's design, I wouldn't put it in. I'm repeating myself now but I'd like something different... I just don't know exactly what that means yet. There were some suggestions to collect pictures of things I did like, so maybe that's a good way to start.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Is buying a garden design different from buying anything else I wonder? Say I need a pair of shoes, are they for wearing to the office or for running a marathon, hiking or to match a handbag? Where would I go to find these shoes, how do I know my size etc? If I have a handle on these basics I am less likely to be standing in the middle of a shopping mall muttering "Shoes, gotta have shoes". I think you need to stop wasting this old guys time and figure out first what you want him to do for you. "Design me a garden" is the same as "Shoes, gotta have shoes" isn't it?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I hope this makes some sense. 8-)

danielj, your neighbor's landscaping screams for attention. But so does his house, with that prominent, one-of-a-kind porch jutting out into the yard. To me (utter amateur) the landscaping matches the house: "Notice me! Notice me!" And you live next door and you do notice it. And we look at your photos and we notice also. [Although I'm not fond of either landscaping or house, I can appreciate that the landscaping will look better when the shrubs aren't so young, and that overall it's a great ad for his business. And I'd happily steal his stonework ... though I'm not quite sure where I'd put it....]

When you renovated your house, however, you went for a very different look. Traditional? Classic? Understated? laag's "blends in with the trees"? Or maybe you were just doing what seemed do-able with a house which wasn't your ideal, and couldn't be changed into your ideal (BTDT)? Or something else entirely? What were you thinking when you decided how the house should look? Does that tell you anything about the style of landscaping you'd prefer?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 3, 10 at 22:09

I need to visualize the end result better.

My belief is that your designer needs to get you to visualize better. That can be from verbal explanation, waving his hands around, drawings, pictures of past work, mock ups of your house, .... Not all of those options are available without a retainer, but there ought to be enough to get you comfortable enough to sign on the dotted line.

This person wants you to just plain trust him.

I've said over and over again to other designers, that people hire designers for one reason and one reason only. That is to remove doubt from the outcome of the completed job. We designers all need to learn our best ways to do that very early on because only one designer is going to get hired and it will be that one who removes the most doubt prior to being hired. When you as a prospective client meet that person, you will know. Maybe it is the guy you have, but I think you'd have more confidence by now if it was. It should be in the first meeting.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

"He's saying that other designers do things differently, but their signature design makes use of large swaths of plantings."

What I read here is "regardless of client preferences." We've now heard you tell of three examples where his approach has been basically to choose one plant for a site and do swaths of it, I understand this to be a talent, and perhaps even a genius of a sort, but it is not always going to be the genius you need.

He seems to have approached your property with the question not "how can I do the best design for this homeowner" but "how can I put my signature style into this spot?" Ink, I think this is more like buying a painting than a pair of shoes (except where shoes are art, which they can be). You wouldn't ask Picasso for a piece of art for your wall if you wanted something more like a Vermeer.

Laag worded it well to describe what is happening with your relationship with this guy. The more time you spend with him, the harder it is going to be to edge out gracefully. Maybe you do want a touch of his genius on your property. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe you feel obligated due to his daughter or something. But it's your property, it should be on your terms. So what you might do is ask him how he can amend his design to better fit with the needs of your property.

Before I saw his design, with just the list of plants, I wondered where his planting was going to be. For practicality, I envisioned sort of an elliptical triangle (no, I'm not a mathematician, why do you ask??) on the outside corner of the lot, hoping it wasn't going to be a (yawn) foundation planting. Or maybe a diagonal swath from corner of porch to curb edge of driveway; in either case punctuated strategically with the other shrubs. That was the only way I could see that 16 junipers weren't going to get in your way.

His circle disappointed me, although I don't mind the design from a strictly visual "curb appeal" point of view. I also kind of like the concept of a river of junipers. I'm not sure he does have the gold colour right for matching the house, and I'm not sure that's the most rivery of junipers, but some juniper or another would likely work (I love junipers).

The thing is that you don't enjoy your home from the curb. You live there. You don't look at it once driving by. You see it thousands of times, and it has to give you something every time. Plus you have to live IN the space.

What I see is a row of knee-high junipers to step into when you get out of your car. Think about this for when you have snow (or for your wife if she ever wears nylons). I see something that will give you zero up-close plant interest. No seasonal change. And a nasty pruning task with an unimpressive outcome. And how do you get into the circle to mow that lawn?

The other terms that matter are those of the plant. Junipers do best in full sun, especially gold ones. They look their best when they are NOT pruned, thus NEVER at the side of a driveway or roadway or walkway, in my opinion. Think about how a row of junipers will look from the driveway once mature and pruned a few times: a row of trunks and branches (and how that will feel to brush against).

If you want him to work for you, then make him work FOR YOU. Tell him what you like and don't like and want more of. Ask questions like: could you amend this idea so it doesn't obstruct my driveway and sidewalk use? Can you add some more plants of X sort? Must there be plants concealing my beautiful foundation?

If he's inflexible, then he's not the designer for you. Thank him for his time, even pay him for it if it will make you feel better, and tell him you're not ready to commit to a plan yet.

KarinL
PS well said each time, Laag :-)


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Another issue to consider in your future landscape plans is the wisdom of making your front-yard border out of only one type of plant material. Unfortunately, plants dont grow uniformly most of the time and the line of soldiers plan your landscaper is suggesting will
undoubtably suffer from differences in how your junipers grow.

Junipers are very sensitive to their growing conditions. Any difference in soil, sun receieved, and water will result in different sized plants, which can ruin the effect of your planting. Mixing a border with different types of plant material will mitigate this effect, because noone expects different plants to be the same size. Another approach, which may be preferable in your case, is to have some planned breaks in the border. Maybe only place (3) junipers together in the border, followed by a break, then (3) more.
This will also mitigate the need for all of the junipers to grow identically.

Ive photo-shopped an example of what Im talking about below.

Also, forget about plants along the front edge of your lawn discouraging dog droppings. For one thing, you wont be able to plant that close to the edge ... as youve got to make allowance for root growth. Once the junipers mature, there may be some repellant effect,
but thats a good 3-4 years out at best. Believe me ... I know from experience.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

rhodium:
I guess I would like to see more done with the front yard from a emphasis on the main focal point of a house viewed from the curb. This is probably the main contrast between your house and the other one, and maybe that is what needs to be addressed.
I'm not quite sure what you are saying here. Could you reword your point?

I think Aegis500 mock up shows my point more clearly that planting can be used to emphasis the front door as a focal point instead of the putting green. One approach is to chose a focal point for the design, which for a house can be the front door. Very simply and formalistically, the major framing elements start with larger trees at the outside and away from the house with small trees/shrubs tapering into the main focal point. Also the citing of the trees/shrubs is used to downplay distracting elements that compete with your focal point.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by tibs 5/6 OH (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 5, 10 at 18:00

Late to the game, but, all I can see when I look at your house is the garage and driveway. I would want a plan that woulld de-emphasize the garage as a focal point as much as possible.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 6, 10 at 8:16

Tibs is right on the money.Design can be organizing plants to make the plants look good, but landscape design should, in my opinion, look at everything, understand the visual and site issues, the use issues, and apply knowledge to affect those issues in a positive manner. Different people do this to a different extent.

I'm not going to go so far to say that everyone needs to go to the farthest extents to address every issue, but you may want to understand to what extent your designer is addressing other issues and whether you are satisfied with that.

All we have to critique your designer is your description of him, so I don't feel comfortable saying that he is simplistic. But, you are describing a design and philosophy that is very elementary and avoids all design complication - partly by not introducing complication and partly by avoiding dealing with surroundings including ignoring the 800 pound gorilla (your house). Maybe it is just your description that builds that impression, I don't know.

It is up to you to understand what your designer is and is not addressing and whether or not you want more out of your landscape than he's offering.

Again, it is not wrong to be simple just as long as it meets YOUR needs.

I disagree with some who say all designers should change what they do to meet the needs of the client. Some are adept and like to do that, but there is nothing wrong with owning your own style and methods and selling only those as long as that is understood. The client either decides that they want to buy it or moves on to someone who does adjust or is selling the brand that they want to buy.

It is a diverse business both on the client side and on the designer side. Individuals of each don't always mix, but each can find those that match perfectly.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I don't see the circular lawn thing as an improvement at all it is not bad as a cookie cutter but a cookie cutter for another house in another area. It is not connected to the surroundings or to the total frontage, what happens on the other side of the drive? Perhaps we should go back to square one.

I notice that the drive is not finished, is it possible to change its trajectory? I also notice in your drawing that there is no substantial connection between the drive and your front door. What if, for starters, before we talk about plants, there is a stronger and more flowing shape to the ground plan? What if the drive and walkway to steps was surfaced in a similar material coloured to match the house and reshaped? Then the lawn on both sides of the drive is domed slightly for its 3D effect and then we have another look at planting.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by tibs 5/6 OH (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 6, 10 at 21:34

Make the front steps and walk as wide as the door. Take off the little bitty rail to the right of the steps, (next to garage), it cuts off the door. Swing the walk around to the drive. Probably no need to take it to the street, no public sidewalk, do people park on the street? In the mock up you have a tree planted that will block the view of front door, detracts from the house. And as has been said many times on this forum before, that is my two cents worth.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

If you're not a gardener, keep it simple. I like your house a lot. It has a kind of elegance and character.

I'm with your designer. I don't care for your neighbor's yard at all (there I said it). Kitschy.

And did I say I HATE lawns? In your case keep it simple.

Keep it flat...back towards the house. Keep it monotone...white flowering. Something between the garage and the stairs. White hydrangea, white lavender? Something like that. White Dogwood maybe, but away from the house but back toward the house on the other side. And then a white flowering vine of some sort woven through the bottom part of the porch railing. Leave the front of the yard near the street as it is.

Lot of lawn to mow huh?

Here is a link that might be useful: Yes, I'm pimping for votes


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RE2: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I'm getting old...LILAC not lavender.

Here is a link that might be useful: Yes, I'm pimping for votes


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Wow. Thanks for all the great input! Here are some comments:

inkognito: I think you need to stop wasting this old guys time and figure out first what you want him to do for you. "Design me a garden" is the same as "Shoes, gotta have shoes" isn't it?

It isn't quite like that. When the house was completed there was a large pile of dirt in the back yard that the contractor kinda sorta spread around in the back yard. The town required me to post a bond until the property was regraded and seeded. So my original intent was to regrade the back yard and the front yard, and get some seed down...that's it. I actually made another post on this forum about that. I had a landscaper give me a verbal estimate and he never came back with a written one as he said he would (go figure). So I contacted this designer because a year ago he said he'd be happy to look at the property without obligation when it was ready. So he came over and made the recommendation on grading, but suggested that he give us his ideas on landscaping as well. So much of what we have been discussing has been about property grading, installing automatic sprinklers, what time of year to plant this and that, and so on.

Also, regarding your comments on the driveway: The driveway actually is paved asphalt. The guy who paved it must've been a genius, because it was done probably in 1970 and it is still there. There is a walkway (the original one) between the drive and the steps. You just can't see it from the street. Our thought was to do pavers in the driveway and walk to the stairs that would complement the stone work on the house. We'll have to wait a bit on that, since it can be quite expensive. There is a dip from the lawn to the drive now. You can see it better on the grass to the right of the drive.

missingtheobvious: When you renovated your house, however, you went for a very different look. Traditional? Classic? Understated? laag's "blends in with the trees"? Or maybe you were just doing what seemed do-able with a house which wasn't your ideal, and couldn't be changed into your ideal (BTDT)? Or something else entirely? What were you thinking when you decided how the house should look? Does that tell you anything about the style of landscaping you'd prefer?

When we designed the house I thought whatever my wife thought. :) It was a split level that was demoed on the left side and taken down to framing on the right. So we had complete freedom on some things, but had to work with the garage side of the house as is. We did not redo the foundation. My wife is from Boston and I think some of the color schemes reflect some of that. You make a good point that I'll relay to here: trying to extend the design ideas for the house into the landscape.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

laag, karinl, aegis: I'm reading and trying to absorb all of your respective comments. Let me reply by giving an update to yesterday's (and our last) design meeting. The point was to go over some revised pricing for sprinkler and sod and so on, as well as to go over the design again.

He said he was back at the house earlier in the week to think some more about the design. He's changed his mind about the putting green look. He felt it would be just too much. So he wants to go with the original 16 juniper (as per his drawing) that would kind or arch down to the street.

I think we are trying to tackle several completely distinct issues in this thread (which is fine). Maybe I'll take a stab a couple of them:

1. Does this designer know what he is doing?
Clearly, yes. It isn't even debatable in my mind. I believe you can do something for 55 years, and do it wrong for 55 years. So I'm not impressed by length of service alone. As far as credentials, I said early on that he does a lot of high end work. I know the towns he covers, and the town his office is in, and these are very wealthy areas.

This is not a person who is trying to put something quick and dirty in and collect a fast buck. You can see how passionate he is about what he does. Of course he has 100 stories about every aspect of design and landscaping. There are several ways that landscapers put down mulch, but only one right way. You have to lay it down thick and by hand only - natural mulch of course. When grading the property you have to walk the property with a rake and finish the job by hand. You can only really tell the grade by walking and raking. He said you should be able to roll a golf ball like on a putting green (funny given our discussion above). You must take the time to get the grade right, then sod, and roll the sod flat. You never put anything in that isn't natural. No plastic or metal borders to separate the grass from the planting beds. NEVER rip out existing plants without a good reason. He wants to clean up and prune everything on the right side of the property before making any decisions there. He seems to respect the plants that were put there years ago.

He's mentioned many of the things people have said here, such as how garage doors can be distracting, and so on, so from what I can tell he isn't missing some key bit of knowledge about general design concepts.

2.Does his sense of design appeal to me?
Well of course this is the big question for me. I agree with the idea that not every designer has to give the customer anything he/she wants. I also get the impression that he's confident that he's doing the "right" design and that we will like the final product.

I asked again why he is keeping things simple. He said he wants the house to be the focal point, not the landscaping. He said the back yard is where we can do lots of "fun" things with water, lots of color, grasses and so on. But for the front, keep it simple. He really is adamant about this. If you recall, he is recommending six boxwoods across the front of the stone porch. My wife said, "Can we put one of those nice little plants with purple flowers in between each boxwood bush?" She was talking about something that kind of looks like flowering purple sage. I had to laugh because I knew what was coming. "Oh, God no!!" She hasn't spent as much time with him as I have. Seriously, though, he said you could do something like put a row of white or maybe pink petunias from one end of the bed to the other in front of the boxwood.

We also asked if boxwood was the only choice. He said a taxus yew would give a little softer look, but would be fine. I have a thing against yews because we used to have them in the yard, were completely overgrown and boring.

I mentioned the concern about the gold coast juniper being too big. He said they will not get big enough to be an issue with the driveway or with being hacked up from pruning. He said they are a small variety. However, when I went to the nursery the ones they had got 2-3 ft high and 4-5 ft wide. So at this point I don't know if these are what he intends or not, but my impression was that he is putting in something that is lower to the ground than that. He also does not want a carpet to be formed. He wants each juniper to be mulched and separate from the next. One reason he doesn't like carpets is it can lead to problems with disease transmission. In any case, he sees enough room for 16 of these whatever sized junipers that won't touch each other.

He wants to put in a flowering specimen tree on the left side of the property. The neighbor on that side has one as well but he said it would work out OK. He said not to plant flowering trees until the spring.

I asked him if he were designing for a small ranch house would he recommend the same simple, monotone look? He said no, he would do something completely different in that case.

After our meeting the wife and I went to the nursery he recommended and looked around. We saw several different types of boxwood, one or two of which the wife really liked (still undecided on the overall idea of boxwood).

We also saw a holly that was just beautiful. I have to check the variety he recommended again to see if it is anything like it.

Well, it is late so I have to wrap this up. Today we drove around several neighborhoods with a camera to look more closely what is out there. We also looked at one of his designs from about 10 years ago - nice. I have to say briefly that I remember one of the things I don't like. Our town has some older houses like mine was bordering newer developments with mansions. The "Tony Soprano" house is a mile or so away, and that isn't even a big property compared to the others. Practically every house had the same plantings. I seriously think the developer had everybody in the area use the same designer. Does this happen often??? Everybody had pretty much the same mix of plants. Something red, something blue, something yellow, then greens, and all mixed up. Expensive and immaculate, yes, but when you see one after the next it gets boring.

More when it's not so late. Thanks.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

My wife said, "Can we put one of those nice little plants with purple flowers in between each boxwood bush?" She was talking about something that kind of looks like flowering purple sage. I had to laugh because I knew what was coming ...

No disrespect to your wife, ... but earlier you had alluded to all of the examples of unattractive landscaping you see around. Alternating plantings (i.e. one of these, then one of these, etc.) is one of those seemingly cutesy mistakes that a number of do it yourself gardeners will tend to make.

I agree that bloom color for front of your house should tend to white.

Yews would give a softer look than boxwood, but the reality is that whatever you use, you will have to work a bit and do some shaping to maintain this look.

Recently, I saw some boxwood that was variegated in color (i.e. with some white mixed into the leaf color) ... so that it gave sort of a lighter affect. This would give the front of your home a little more lightness, and might be something your designer would consider.

Keep on top of the juniper choice ... I've got a 5-year Gold Coast juniper out my back window that is over 2 foot tall and 5 foot across this year.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

"Everybody had pretty much the same mix of plants. Something red, something blue, something yellow, then greens, and all mixed up. Expensive and immaculate, yes, but when you see one after the next it gets boring"

This multi-color shrub phenomena is becoming like a new standard... just because nurseries have every color under the sun doesn't mean you need them all. Understated elegance is quite nice and quite traditional and cleverly simple enough to be mistaken for boring in comparison.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Yeah, when will they start marketing shades of GREEN? (future millionaires, please react quickly :))

Not sure how those junipers will work when separated by mulch. Can you ask for a mockup drawing?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

tibs: That second photo was done by aegis, not me. He was illustrating the idea of breaking up the juniper into groupings.

It isn't possible to remove the railing as the handrail is needed for the stairs, unless you are talking about leaving the rail on the stairs and just removing the part to the right (but that doesn't sound right). The alignment between door and stairs is a little funky and I don't know why the architect/builder did it that way. In any case you can't see it unless you are standing square in front of the property. I do need to stain the door still.

How do you deemphasize garage doors? My designer mentioned that early on, but said the porch helped pull your eye away from the garage. We didn't talk much about the garage since.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring??

aegis: lol re the wife. She has a better sense of design than I do, but she's new to landscaping. She's also reading this thread so that's all I'm gonna say about that.

I am going to follow up on the gold coast size thing. Thanks.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring???

fouquieria:

I find your post very, very interesting, and here's why: I went to your website and looked at your amazing property. You could charge admission. You have a stunning array of specimens of all shapes and colors. Given that, and if I had known nothing about you other than your yard photos, I would have guessed you would recommend a much busier design for my house.

I'm trying to really understand that concept that if you have an attractive house, that the landscaping can take away from it if you make too busy a design. Do I have that right? I never would have guessed that that could happen unless of course you screen the view of the house with trees. Or, is it really more about keeping things low maintenance so they will continue to look their best?
My designer said basically the same thing you did. If you feel a need to add something to the boxwood, put a long row of white flowers in front, but keep it simple.

There are much more beautiful houses in the area with much busier landscape designs. Do you suppose most of them are done wrong?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Im continuing to enjoy this thread. Maybe Im slow but it occurred to me that I didnt really know what you meant by "boring".

There are hosta enthusiasts who swoon over every new variation on a hosta leaf. And, there are those who will say that there are only three types of hostagreen ones, blue ones, and variegated onesand theyre all boring. Thats heresy over on the hosta forum and, for the record, I like hostas, but I have heard others dismiss them as common or pass. They are, in fact, reliable workhorses and, when used well, can create drama and surprise. But for some people they are boring.

When I went sluthing through the posts for your use of the term "boring", one clue seemed to be that certain plants seem to trigger this response for you. In your first post you told us, "Now, over the last year or so I've had ideas in my head about what plants/grasses I liked and the fact that in my area I don't see really any landscapes that I like. The plants are either growing poorly or are just boring."

What do you mean? What makes them boring? I havent met any plants that do the can-can, tell great jokes, or spellbind an audience with their scintillating conversation. What makes a plant boring to you? That it cant flower? That it is green? That it looks the same all the time?

Many plants are like that. Its where they are planted, how they are grouped, what relationships are created between plant and perceptions of space that creates something.

Later on you wrote: "We also asked if boxwood was the only choice. He said a taxus yew would give a little softer look, but would be fine. I have a thing against yews because we used to have them in the yard, were completely overgrown and boring."

I recommend spending some time on the conifer forum. Talk about fanatics! Those guys know their stuff. But the thing is, for certain tasks in a design you choose a workhorse that can achieve what you want. The plant all by itself may not be very exciting, and Im no judge of the draft you are currently considering, but the point of the design is greater (or should be) than the sum of its parts (or particular plants).

Which brings me to a memory that only comes vaguely to mind. A few times around here there have been threads about a kind of mind evolution for those who begin to get interested in gardening and maybe, along the way, the broader subject of landscape design. Most of us fall in love with dirt, pots, plants and gardens one day when somehow a six pack of petunias jumps in our hands. We fall in love with flowers. Specifically with annuals. Arent they cute!

Then one day, were minding our own business at the local nursery, planning to purchase a flat of coral pink impatiens when suddenly across a crowded room we see a beautiful siren. Shes stately. She looks like she knows how to grow. Gorgeous foliage. And oh! Oh, shes in bud! And shes a perennial! Which really means that our love affair with flowers continues

But now we are dealing with something that, in most cases, blooms for two weeks. So we begin to pay attention to foliage We fall in love with textures, shapes, shades of green and, OMG, variegation.

All along this journey we know that shrubs are around, but we sort of take them for granted. Theyre "boring". But then, as its happened before, we fall in love all over again. Shrubs are sooo dependable. They come in so many sizes. Flowers, yes! Foliage, yes! Sometimes it even changes color in the fall And some of these beautiful babies are EVERGREEN!

This response to the plants may, or may not, have a counterpoint in the landscape design learning curve.

Finally, you wrote that "I remember one of the things I don't like. Our town has some older houses like mine was bordering newer developments with mansions. Practically every house had the same plantings. I seriously think the developer had everybody in the area use the same designer. Does this happen often??? Everybody had pretty much the same mix of plants. Something red, something blue, something yellow, then greens, and all mixed up. Expensive and immaculate, yes, but when you see one after the next it gets boring."

So my best guess is that you are wanting a landscape that stands out somehow, that doesnt look like everyone elses. Is that right?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

As always, Wellspring is bang on and has zeroed in quite wisely on the word "boring?" but another word (or set of words) just jumped out at me: "my designer."

Daniel, I think you better bite the bullet and hire this guy - you're in whether you know it or not Your own words betray you! You must be driving him nuts :-) You're certainly driving yourself nuts. I think you (and maybe we all) want to see this vision take form. You BETTER post "after" photos!

The way I see it is still as I said a while upthread: I think you want him doing your grading, sodding, etc. I also think you are dying to see what he does with the junipers. And it may look fabulous! At least, now that he's abandoned the circle idea, I'm willing to think it very well may.

But the real draw is that the worst case scenario is no big deal. His plan only entails about $200 worth of plants (if he starts 'em small). You give it a year or two to grow on you, and if you hate it, you rip it out and put your preferred plants (alternating blue and white Hebes or whatever pleases you) on the graded, sodded, irrigated lot.

This is not like a design proposition that asks you to spend thousands on hardscape and bring in boulders that you won't ever be able to move without a backhoe. These are just 16 junipers, in addition to the ground work that you really want him doing too.

KarinL


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

What I see is a contrast between these two designs like a Tale of Two Cities. One a subtle approach and another a kinda loud approach. It just depends on your tastes.

Look at the next Hollywood red-carpet event and you'll see the same thing - tacky, tasteful, call for attention, and elegant- but all in the eye of the observer.

Okay I'm done with my speech!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Regarding Experienced/Ancient Landscaper Dude's Design Principles:

- If you have a beautiful house, don't allow the landscaping to compete with the house. Complement the house.

Where is it written that having an attractive and enjoyable garden detracts from the appearance of the house? Example: all the historic and grand homes in Great Britain known for their fabulous gardens. By Landscaper Dude's logic, Christopher Lloyd should have stuck to gold coast junipers and boxwoods rather than having varied and exciting plantings (as I recall, his home looked pretty snazzy despite his zeal for gardening).

- Use large areas of the same or similar plant rather than using many different plant types.

This goes with Principle #1. It may reflect a preference for simplicity, but on the other hand it could well mean that Landscaper Dude has never bothered to learn much about plants and feels intimidated by those who have such knowledge. Or maybe his brother-in-law gives him a good wholesale deal on gold coast junipers.

- Don't plant gardens in the front of the house - keep it simple in front (again, if the house shows well) and use the back yard for gardens/ponds and so on if that's what you like.

Traditional but not necessarily good advice. I personally favor keeping the really good stuff in back if only to prevent it from being stolen. Plus you don't want passersby falling into the pond and scaring the fish.

- When implementing a design, don't try to do everything at once - it gets too complicated and expensive. Take a couple of seasons and do things at the right time of year.

Sounds OK - but I'd say you could throw caution to the winds and put in those gold coast junipers all at once. :)

"'Tis a sin to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to plant just what we want to see,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the garden of love and delight.

(with apologies to the Shakers)


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Talking of ancient dudes, do you still have that Creedence tee shirt eric? If your box brownie is digital post some pics of the victor/victoria to blow simplicity out of the water.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Ancient Designer Dude ...

Can't you just picture the poster to go with that? Like "The Nerd" poster of the seventies, with helpful text and lines drawn to indicate the pocket protecters, slide rule, and mecanical pencil. That's on The Nerd. Wonder what the classic garb of an identifiable "Ancient Designer Dude" would be.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Can't you just picture the poster to go with that? Like "The Nerd" poster of the seventies...

Yes I can:

Steve Wozniak


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RE2: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Daniel, trust your designer. I think he's got his stuff
together.

Lot's of families today can't afford (as in time) a high-maintenance yard. Absolutely nothing wrong with simple and elegant.

-Ron-


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Another common theme here in this post and others seems to be desire to be unique... Everybody wants to be unique and stand out from the crowd. Therein lies a design spiral for the more complexity, color, and crazy vigenttes. But if everyone in the neighborhood has a red, green, yellow, blue, black, and white shrub then is your's really that unique, as you have pointed out.

Maintenance as a design constraint should not be under-estimated. Biting off more than you can chew on and watching the area go downhill will ruin any design very quickly.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 9, 10 at 7:14

... so we end where we began. Trust your designer, but if you are discussing whether or not you trust your designer for two weeks, how is that possible?

Is the design boring? How could it be boring if we can talk about it for two weeks and nothing has changed? It's rather funny when you think about it.

Anyone who thinks being a professional designer is all about being good at putting plants together needs to read this thread and realize that maybe 20% of it is putting the design together while 30% is selling yourself to the client, 20% is analyzing the client and site, 20% is getting them to understand what you are trying to do, and 10% is adjusting what you are trying to do to the client's personal details. Whenever you are not thorough in that other 80%, you leave the client in doubt. The whole reason anyone hires a designer is to remove doubt. When you leave a client in doubt, you are either not an effective professional designer, or you just don't have chemistry with your client, or your client is a PITA (not likely, but always possible).

Is Danielj in doubt? If so, why?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

After days of enjoying this discussion in silence I've decided I have to weigh in.

I think that gardens composed entirely of evergreen shrubs that always look good but never look great are boring. They are good for people who don't want to spend time gardening and for businesses, but not for me. I love seasonal displays and I'm willing to put more time and work into the garden for them. I happen to enjoy puttering around in my garden deadheading roses and looking for disease and pest problems, most people probably wouldn't.

It's already been said but bears saying again, the most important thing is just that your garden makes you happy. So try to figure out what would make you most happy to see and do and go with that. And you can always start with what your designer does and just put some annuals in pots for splashes of color. That way you can move them around and experiment with different colors and shapes.

Lastly I must second the request for pictures of the finished product. Please!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by mjsee Zone 7b, NC (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 9, 10 at 15:10

WHOAH! An Eric from Oh sighting...suWHEET! Seriously...very pleased you popped in.

THREADJACK--

Eric...I'd love to see what you've been planting lately. Start a thread? Pretty please?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

wellspring said:
I havent met any plants that do the can-can, tell great jokes, or spellbind an audience with their scintillating conversation. What makes a plant boring to you? That it cant flower? That it is green? That it looks the same all the time?

LOL. Funny. At least the venus fly trap and pitcher plant can eat stuff... nothing boring about carniverous flora. Your description of the evolution of plant appreciation is excellent and really goes to the heart of this thread. Do I have a designer who is boring and/or stuck in the past and/or isn't putting any effort into the job, or am I missing something? I've said it before, but I don't want to make an uneducated decision.

I've experienced much of what you describe. Just a brief story of my own: When I was in college and 20 something I used to travel out to the the Rockies and to the west coast a couple of times a year. I'd always marvel at places like Muir woods. The forests seemed so primitive and foreign to the deciduous forests in the east where I grew up. But then I met a guy from San Diego who talked so much about how he loved New England architecture and the fall colors. It got me realizing that maybe I was overlooking the beauty of what we have in the east, and so I started to take more notice of things I took for granted in the past. So, really, I've grown plants and gardened off and on for much of my life. However, I've never paid much attention to design and so I end up in this thread. :)

What do I mean by boring? Good question actually. You and others make a very good point that you have to look at the overall design and not just the individual plants. If we take the yew for example, off the top of my head, "boring" means: a plant used by everybody for the last 50 years (and usually not kept in the condition it should be, hence not showing itself well); to use an analogy, if you look up the word "car" in the dictionary you'd see a picture of a K car. Look up bush and there's a picture of a yew. There's nothing particularly remarkable about the shape or color of the bush, nor the individual leaves. So in my mind the beauty in the yew must be in how it is used in the overall design.

As far as your comment about all the other colorful landscapes becoming boring because they are all the same... yes, I suppose I'd like something different from what everybody else has. If everybody were driving the exact same car and that's all I saw all day, I'd probably want to drive something different (unless everybody was driving a Ferrari, or course). However, I don't want to make a design mistake just to be different. If there is a good reason to be simple in the front and more crazy in the back, then I want to learn and be able to appreciate the concept.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring??

karinl said:
Daniel, I think you better bite the bullet and hire this guy - you're in whether you know it or not Your own words betray you! You must be driving him nuts :-) You're certainly driving yourself nuts.

I was wondering if someone would accuse me of a Freudian slip by saying "my" designer. It is just a simple way to refer to this designer, rather than saying "the designer who I am considering to use for this job." I wouldn't read too much into it. As for driving anybody nuts, I'm probably doing it to you guys more than anyone else! I enjoy discussing this stuff because I have time before I have to decide anything, and it is a really good way for me to learn, as long as you guys keep writing I'll keep listening and get a better idea of what I like.

The rest of your post is pretty much right on. The complication is that the grading and irrigation requires a pretty good idea of what the design will be up front. Also, as most of the plants are going to be pretty big (2.5' boxwood and 6' holly) we're talking considerably more than $200 for plants. It is a bit of an investment, but nothing outrageous. The real money is in cleaning up/grading/irrigation and sod.

QUESTION: Does anybody know why I can only post one time with the same Subject? I have to add another question mark to make the Subject a little different each time I post. Is there some kind of time limit on the number of posts?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring???

eric wrote:
Where is it written that having an attractive and enjoyable garden detracts from the appearance of the house? Example: all the historic and grand homes in Great Britain known for their fabulous gardens...

... it could well mean that Landscaper Dude has never bothered to learn much about plants and feels intimidated by those who have such knowledge. Or maybe his brother-in-law gives him a good wholesale deal on gold coast junipers.

I believe in our first meeting he used the example of houses in England. Things are kept simple and traditional in the front, and all the gardens are in the back yard. I don't know if that is a universal thing, but that's what he said.

I should probably reiterate that he's mentioned maintenance more than once. He says every homeowner is gung-ho about their yard in the spring when the weather turns nice, but by August they are all inside or on vacation while the landscape continues to need maintenance. In my case, I'm south-facing. That may be weighing in more on his design than I give credit. He said on the north side of the house I can do a lot more "fun" things.

Also, I know you're probably being tongue-in-cheek but if you met this guy you'd know it isn't possible that he doesn't know enough about plants and is intimidated.

What kind of design do you like for a yard like mine? Do you like the neighbor's with a blend of evergreen and perennials?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring????

isabella wrote:
Maintenance as a design constraint should not be under-estimated. Biting off more than you can chew on and watching the area go downhill will ruin any design very quickly.

Early on I said I see few landscapes that I really like. I'm starting to believe a big part of that is that most landscapes are not well maintained. I see yews that are bare branches from the ground to half way up the bush, with a green top like a crew cut, for instance. I see rows of arborvitae that are chewed up from the ground to the upper reach of a deer's mouth, and so on.

Also, "my designer" (take note, karinl) talked about many of the plantings on the block being traditional 1950's and 60's designs. I see the yew being part of that and I didn't want a 1950 design on a new house. But then I looked at all the new designs down the street and got an equal dose of boring repetition there, too. :)


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?????

laag wrote:
Is the design boring? How could it be boring if we can talk about it for two weeks and nothing has changed? It's rather funny when you think about it.

LOL. That is funny. You have to realize the time frame of all this, too. I've met with him I think 3 times, maybe 4 on Saturdays only. We spoke about subjects other than design, such as grading, irrigation, timing coordination of what gets done when and so on. I would characterize his style mostly like "trust me" (maybe you said that earlier in the thread). So I don't know anything about your percentages but I can say the following: he has established in my mind that he is an expert, he has established that he will produce a high quality product that will be done correctly, and he has established that he will be around for any problems/needs in the future. He has not established that his design is the one I will like best. I can't say why, but I also don't know what else he could have done (actually, showing me more similar work he has done would have been helpful).

I should say that the landscape design was not an immediate priority. Getting the property graded was the priority, but now the design has gotten wrapped up in that. I have a lot of irons in the fire and will continue as such for most of the summer as we finish up issues with the house. Anyway we have left things that I would contact him for any further questions and whether/when we would like to proceed. He has been quite low pressure on this, as he has always said he'd give me his ideas to consider.

peachymomo:

Thank you for your perspective. I do have about 1/3 acre to landscape, much of which is in the back yard. I often go to public gardens in the state and see things that I like. Using some of those experiences I was sort of dreaming to have a rather large pond in the back with maybe a 16'x8' designer greenhouse near the pond. There would be lots of flowering "wildflowers" and so on. Now, money is an issue as lots of it would be needed, but as long as I have a good plan, things could be done in stages. I don't really know if the pond would work (I'd have to fence in the property somehow), but I could make my own back yard plan and bring it to this or another designer when I am ready and get better ideas.

So, I'm not overly concerned about the front yard lacking color as long as it looks nice on its own or maybe with a little "garnish" here and there. I just don't want to pay good money for a boring landscape. :o)


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

"I enjoy discussing this stuff because I have time before I have to decide anything, and it is a really good way for me to learn, as long as you guys keep writing I'll keep listening and get a better idea of what I like."

Yes Maulder the truth is out there! And, I think Eric-Oh needs to quote another song for us!

Daniel when you make your choice, please post a pic of it and why it was chosen.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 10, 10 at 7:17

What is the grading issue out front?

When you leave a client in doubt, you are either not an effective professional designer, or you just don't have chemistry with your client, or your client is a PITA (not likely, but always possible).

"So I don't know anything about your percentages but I can say the following: he has established in my mind that he is an expert, he has established that he will produce a high quality product that will be done correctly, and he has established that he will be around for any problems/needs in the future. He has not established that his design is the one I will like best. I can't say why, but I also don't know what else he could have done (actually, showing me more similar work he has done would have been helpful).
"

....that leaves what possibility?

He has met with you four times without being hired?

I'll retract my earlier recommendation. Don't call any other designers.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by mjsee Zone 7b, NC (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 10, 10 at 8:30

I see the yew being part of that and I didn't want a 1950 design on a new house. But then I looked at all the new designs down the street and got an equal dose of boring repetition there, too. :)

Dear goddess. Yews were part of 1950 design. They were also part of 1850 design. It's not the material, it's how it's USED. Yews are tough, slow-growing, dense, dark...and nigh on deer-proof. I get having a personal prejudice against a particular plant (I'm not fond of gladiolas, for instance) but I'd never think to say they were "too 60's".


yeesh.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I wouldn't necessarily discount simple. We were just at a winery last weekend that was designed by a pretty impressive landscape architect. The palette was dead simple- bearberry, yucca (!), and kousa dogwoods in the open areas, sweetbay magnolias and rhododendrons closer to the building. Simple palette, monochromatic, but the use of texture and the movement and flow of the space was downright brilliant. I developed an immediate man-crush on the LA and I've never met him.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

laag said:
He has met with you four times without being hired?

I'll retract my earlier recommendation. Don't call any other designers.

Laag- I appreciate your comments in this thread. You've been a good devil's advocate. However, your hostility is misplaced in this case. You should know by now that forum communication can be misleading. It isn't possible for me to recap every possible aspect of this process with the designer. I've already described how these meetings started. I'll humor you and give you an example of why we had another meeting. He gave me a price from his landscaper to grade and put down rye grass everywhere. I asked about if we could sod just the front yard, what would that do to the price? He took a note and we talked about putting sprinklers in the front only instead of the whole property as he had estimated. To me, a phone call saying the new price would have been just fine. But, he wanted to come back the following Saturday. That is a day when I'm out of work early, and he has time. His daughter also lives around the corner with the grandkids, so maybe that's part of it.

I come here to quibble about minutae so I can learn from people like you. That doesn't mean I am a high maintenance customer. I'm also a business owner and I interact with about 150 customers not to mention my employees every day. Believe me, I know high maintenance customers and I ain't one.

The other conclusion you are jumping to is that I am wasting his time. I've pretty much decided to use him for the grading and sod since I believe he will supervise things meticulously and it will get done correctly. I have not decided on his final design, however. He'll probably make as much money off of me with the other work being done as the design, so you don't have to worry about him too much.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

mjsee:

Around here a lot of houses are from the 50's to 70's, and they basically all have yews. I didn't mean to imply that Man unearthed the yew in 1950. I'm just saying it comes off looking like a plant you put in when you just want "something" in front of the house because you have to have something.

I realize this isn't being fair to the yew. If I saw them used properly around stately mansions then maybe I'd appreciate how they could be used. You have to forgive my view on some of these things as I'm learning as I go along.

marcinde:

Sounds interesting. You don't have any photos, do you?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

So now the question is how to design around plant stereotypes and/or prejuidices?

That simply, once again, comes down to what is your style - do you know?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

rhodium:

If I feel like the whole design works then I'd go with it. I know my wife does not like certain shrubs, so if we go ahead with the project we might suggest some comparable plants and see if they will work.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring??

I spoke to the designer today about the size of the gold coast junpers, voicing concern that the ones at the nursery he sent us to showed 2-3' high by 4-5' wide. He reiterated that he was not putting that variety in. He said that the one I saw is the one most people use when they speak of "gold coast" juniper. The ones he wants are lower growing and won't impede the driveway. He said the key was for him to match the juniper to the color of the house. He said the common names of the plants are often used loosely.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

The decision-making process can be either assisted or handicapped by an internet forum, and sometimes both - and I sense a bit of a problem here, Daniel. It is almost as if you are trying to sell the designer to us, or trying to get the forum as a whole to endorse your interest in him. We can only round out the information you use to make your decision; we can't make it for you! And even if we could, we rarely all say the same thing.

Alternatively, you are maybe hoping that someone will propose an alternative design for your site that you can compare with what he has proposed.

Knowing the forum fairly well I can tell you that's probably not gonna happen, and it shouldn't, and wouldn't be comparable if it did. If you need something to compare with this guy's offer, then get it from another local designer. But on the whole, I second Laag in saying that it isn't fair to call another designer, but in my case mainly because I think you are committed to this guy (I appreciate your assurance that you aren't the determinant of how much time's been spent, and he's old enough to know how he wants to spend his time).

I do stand by my previous advice, which is that I think you have little to lose by letting the guy do his thing, even if the plant cost is higher than I estimated. The junipers won't be expensive, and the boxwoods may well be placed in a spot that will work whether you end up changing, culling, or augmenting the junipers or not. It's good he's not going to remove your mature plant material, it's good you'll get a layout that works for your house. You can go from there if you find it boring. That's the good thing about boring - you can always ramp up the variety or dress it up (maybe you will have the landscape equivalent of the little black dress). Plants are really only temporary installations anyway, as they grow and sometimes fail, and they can be replaced (even if they cost a lot - the plant often doesn't know it's expensive and fails to behave accordingly).

KarinL


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

karinl said:
and I sense a bit of a problem here, Daniel. It is almost as if you are trying to sell the designer to us, or trying to get the forum as a whole to endorse your interest in him.
I don't really see any problem. I think what happens is that I post a couple of paragraphs and ask for opinions. Then people post back and naturally have to do some speculation since they only have a paragraph or so to go on about the designer. You get the impression that I am defending him because I am responding where the speculation seems off the mark, or factually wrong. For instance, if someone says it appears he may be doing a simple design because he is lacks knowledge and is intimidated, I reply that that comment is off the mark, clearly. That looks like a defense but it really isn't.
Alternatively, you are maybe hoping that someone will propose an alternative design for your site that you can compare with what he has proposed
I hope I didn't give that impression. Is it even possible to do a proper design without being at the property? On the other hand, if someone says this is too simple then I might ask what elements should be pumped up and how.

FWIW, the whole thing about me taking up all this designer's time is a red herring. It isn't an issue, trust me. I understand many of you folks are designers so I understand your point of view. Let me give you a story the other way: I needed the property to be graded and seeded. I had a landscaper who did some tree work for a neighbor come by and look things over. I waited a week for the appointment, and then they called the day before and rescheduled for another week out because it was raining. OK, fine. It's a busy time of year. The guy shows up and we walk the property and talk for maybe 45 minutes. He gives me a verbal estimate for two options and says he'll have time over the weekend to give a written estimate, which he'll drop off at my business on Monday. Great! So a week goes by and nothing. I figure I'm not going to call just to see what happens. Two and three weeks go by with no call. I bump into a guy wearing their company tee shirt and it is his brother. I mention the situation and he apologizes, laughs and says he'll get his brother to call me. Meanwhile I've moved on to the designer we've been discussing here. The guy never did call. We're not talking nickel and dime prices, either. So he wasted a month of my time. If I was in a hurry to get grass down before the warm weather, I'd have been in trouble. I call that a complete disrespect of the customer. What's gone on between this designer and me is nothing of the sort.

I think your comments about being able to ramp the design up later makes good sense, and that whatever I end up with won't be the end of the world if it isn't quite what we envisioned. I don't want to spend thousands on an elaborate design at this point anyway. So I appreciate that perspective.

I think what I really wanted to find out by posting here was whether this designer was doing things right, or if there was some glaring problem with his approach. I thought someone might say something like, "Oh, yes, I see what he is proposing for you. That kind of design was big in the 70's and went out with disco. Here's why it is an outdated design, and here's why you might want to do this and that instead."

What I've seen some 90 posts later is that his approach is not off base. Some here like the design, others don't. Some like the "plan everything up front" and others find no problem with manicuring what you have first, and working those parts of the yard into your design as you go along.

I think I've gotten all I can reasonably expect out of this thread, and I thank everyone who participated.

I might add that I've been posting in newsgroups and forums since about 1995 and probably have more experience with this form of communication than most. Every forum has its cast of characters, or I should say every forum has the "same" cast of characters, interestingly. Long discussion threads tend to stray, and the thread evolves into something it wasn't intended to be. So let's cap it off here, if you don't mind.

I'll post pics when the job is done and we'll see who I ended up using! It probably won't happen until late in the summer, however.

Thanks for all the advice, it really helped me sort things out!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I'm curious to see the finished product, and I'm unearthing an old post to ask for finished pictures...if the project is indeed finished.

I will add that an interesting landscape contains a variety of textures, shapes, colors and seasonal interest. Your house is nice, but it is pretty basic. It's light green, light brown and really needs some oomph and curb appeal. I just don't think 16 homogenous junipers will give you that. Sixteen of anything mass planted in a front yard is just blah. Have you ever tried to weed around/between a huge mass planting of junipers? It's not easy to do.

I don't like monocultured landscapes for several reasons, not the least of which is disease/pest issues. If you plant an entire yard full of one thing and one gets a disease or pest that wipes it out, what happens when they all die, you have to rip them out, and then you're back to square one?

What I do like about your neighbor's landscaping is the variety of texture and colors he's incorporated. For it just to be shrubs and a few ornamental grasses and perennials, it's not bad. I'm partial to wild cottage type gardens, so even his "busy" lanscape is a bit too boring for me.

What he does have is a nice sweep of varying texture up to the front door and a perennial garden next to the house. Even though he's using ubiquitous plant material that seems to be really popular right now (I'm so sick of seeing Russian Sage and KO Roses together), it could be worse. At least there isn't an entire row of mondo grass lined up with Stella d'Oro lilies behind it. It looks like a typical landscape installed by a grass mower turned landscaper. The material he used is familiar and fairly inexpensive, as well as easy to procure because it's popular. Even with the varying textures and half-hearted attempt at a perennial bed, it's still rather uninteresting (to me).

I digress. I seriously hope you didn't go with the mass planted junipers. I think that will be a regrettable decision in a few years.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Hi. Thanks for your interest. Unfortunately, I still haven't done anything with the landscaping, and it's too late in the season to do the job now. I would have done it by now if I could, but other projects requiring $$ took precedence. I'm sure we'll be getting it done in the spring. The nice thing about the internet is that the spring will just look like one more post below this one!

I think what I've learned is that there isn't a right or wrong when it comes to a "mono" landscape vs a varied "cottage type" one. Each seems to have it's pluses and minuses as well. I'm leaning toward doing the simpler design with sod and irrigation in the front, and leaving the back yard to more of a cottage type feel since I'd rather spend more time in the back than front.

Regards!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 25, 10 at 19:57

If you make the front more private and appealing to yourself then you can make full use of that space also. The street and neighbors could be fenced out and hidden by tree and shrub plantings.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Interesting (if very long) thread. What I 'hear' is Daniel's concern that his front yard pales in comparison to his neighbor's. The neighbor's house has bright white trim to set in apart from its green surroundings, whereas Daniel's green and brown house repeats the colors in his existing natural landscape. Maybe part of the solution lies in jazzing up the trim on the house, or maybe replacing asphalt driveway with attractive pavers. I don't have a grand vision for the plants in front yard, but I do see the need for a flowering small tree in the left front yard. I'll be interested to see more postings from Daniel when more work is done!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

bboy: I think I'd have to do a lot of work to make the front more private. There is a 3 or 4 foot slope down from the house to the street, so I'd be working against that to create privacy. I'm not really concerned with privacy for the front space, though. If I want to sit outside in my speedos then there is plenty of private space in the back yard. :)

gwbr54: My wife would kill me if I made the house trim white. We intentionally wanted a darker trim. She's from New England, so maybe that has something to do with it. My goal with this thread really was to educate myself on "rights and wrongs" with landscape design. I see a lot of expensive landscapes that I do not care for and was trying to figure out why they weren't appealing to me.

Putting a specimen tree at the left part of the front yard was suggested by the designer. I really like magnolias, whch seem to grow OK in our area. But, that decision is down the road a bit.

Thanks!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by laag z6CapeCod (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 26, 10 at 13:27

Speedos and a privacy fence would be a conflict of personality, I should think.

If you are not groping for usable outdoor space, the landscape on the street side of the house would best serve to enhance the presentation of the house. You can do that by keeping it really simple, as it sounds like you want to do. Simplicity in itself does not equal enhancement, nor does dressing it out. Anything that is done will affect it, either supporting it or conflicting with it.

It is easier to control effects using simple concepts, but they still need to be the right effects to support what you are trying to do.

The more design principles that are introduced, the more tools there are to influence the effects whether they are introduced intentionally or not. When they are introduced, there are lots of dynamics that are in play that can over power other parts of the design. In other words, a general layout that works very well can be totally unrecognizable if the introduction of certain colors or form, or what have you over powers it.

Sometimes we have people who will read a book about using one design element such as color as the key to successful design. They follow all the rules about color (or whatever the book keyed on)that they learned in the book and then are confused why the project failed. Typically, it is because they only pay attention to working with the color and have neither a recognition or understanding of all the other things influencing their landscape. They fail to realize that in order to rely on one element, you have to minimize the influence of all the others.

In other words, the landscape is dynamic whether or not you want it to be. In order to make it simple, you still have to be aware of everything that is going on in and around it to insure that they are also simple enough to let you get away with it. Ignorance is not bliss unless it is done in total isolation (with or without speedos).

Your existing landscape allows for this much more than most. It will accept a landscape that is uses minimal tools. Keep in mind that all plants have form, mass, color, texture, size, density, and line to them. Paying attention to only one or two of these things is not the same as the other being absent. Keeping the others relatively the same allows you to successfully use only one as your design tool simply because the others will be out performed (over powered). Conversely, you can have a great color plan that is completely overcome by conflicting form, for example.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Before you spend all this money on landscape design, I might add that yours and the house next door would look a lot better if you added wooden shutters on each side of the windows. It would really dress up yours and the house next door. It's like a woman not wearing a jewelry with that plain black dress. Just my observation! Maybe shutters are a thing of the past but it sure can dress up a house's exterior. Now days, most shutters come into plastic/vinyl.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

laag: Very interesting. I hadn't realized all those things, but hopefully the designer has! Maybe you're explaining why I see a lot of expensive landscapes but don't care much for them. I'll definitely keep that in mind.

pippi: The wife isn't much for shutters. Maybe it's just what you grow up with and are used to. I don't miss them myself, but thanks for the comment!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

First, I have to say from the first post, the designer gave you really good advice in the concepts you mentioned. I've watched my neighbors once professional landscaped property (previous owner) turned into a mix mox of cottagy plants in the front with trellises, water fountain, other garden junk, and it looks like a total mess and amateur (new owner). Each year she adds more, and each year it looks worse. So, I say this because everything my neighbor has done thus far goes against those concepts.

Don't equate "simple" with "boring". My biggest concern would be that it doesn't look cookie cutter, but I'm biased because when we purchased our home it seemed that everyone on the street had the same foundation plantings with the same variegated hostas. That's what I call boring.

I'm also surprised that a lot of people seem to be throwing this designer under the bus, stating that he wants to do what HE wants. I don't get that at all. I'd be leary of any designer who was easily swayed to do what I want him to do especially if I were an absolute amateur. He knows what he's talking about.

What I found was helpful for me was to view other properties that I liked and ones I didn't like - and soon enough you'll be able to decipher your likes and dislikes, or perhaps your designer will.

I didn't read every detail of this very long thread, but I'm interested to hear your final decision?


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

  • Posted by botann z8 SEof Seattle (My Page) on
    Thu, Jan 6, 11 at 16:55

I have yet to see a successful row of mature, spreading, Junipers next to a driveway that hasn't been cut back to dead wood. Design wise, I don't think that shape of Juniper looks good in a straight row. A drift of them anchored by a specimen conifer would look nicer for starters.

Mike


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

So it's been about 3 years or so and we finally did something about the landscaping. Yeah!! Just to recap the situation:

We knocked down most of our split level house and rebuilt with an additional level. The back of the house was extended back, but the dirt was never properly leveled. Stones and junk were scattered throughout the property and I needed to both regrade the property for drainage and add new landscaping for aesthetics.

I came to this forum for advice because most of the landscaping I saw seemed kind of boring or not well maintained. I wanted to know if I was missing something and whether the designer I had been meeting with knew his stuff, or might be too old fashioned.

Looking back on things I can make a few conclusions:

1. I didn't like a lot of landscaping designs I saw around the neighborhood because they generally weren't well maintained. An impeccable landscape is much more appealing than one with overgrown or poorly growing plants and shrubs. I did see some expensive neighborhoods that I didn't like because the builder used the same plants on every property -- it just got boring to look at.

2. I think the concept that front yard design should complement the house and not be something in and of itself makes sense. The backyard can be used for things like a nice pond, greenhouse or whatever.

3. I satisfied myself that my designer did know his stuff and that whatever he recommended would probably be appropriate for our house.

We had the job done in late September, just a little over 2 months ago. We had everything graded properly and then sodded the front (with underground sprinklers) and seeded the back.

So for those who are still interested, here's what we ended up with:

First, here's the original before landscaping.

 photo Landscaping005_zpsc2c81e36.jpg

Front of house. We removed a large oak directly behind the house that was just too close for comfort. Also, a large Hickory to the back right came down and nearly destroyed the house. I was in the bedroom when it crashed down and barely missed the house.

It was late in the day so sorry for the shadows. Much to the advise of several here, we did end up with a row of junipers along the driveway. The original design had more of an arc along the driveway, which I talked to the designer about. He agreed that we should consider making more of a curvature in the sod at the street, adding a couple more junipers and leading up to the house in a more sweeping way.

 photo 20131027_145454_zps733e3dfc.jpg

We had a walkway put in first. I like how everything came out.

Here's the "before" walkway:

Front Walk

And after:

 photo 20131027_145754_zps70b0e4a0.jpg

 photo 20131027_150248_zps11d5e24b.jpg

The designer originally had 6 boxwoods going in but realized that wasn't going to work. He ended up putting in 14 instead (no additional charge). The holly was supposed to be further away from the boxwood but he had issues with underground piping. He put the holly in the ground because the weather was starting to deteriorate and so the plan is to relocate it in the spring. He was supposed to put in 35 variegated liriope but couldn't get good ones. Those will go in around the holly in the spring. He recommends keeping the boxwood the exact same size and keeping them round. We might also add some mono colored annuals in front of the boxwood and possibly also as hanging baskets on the porch.

 photo 20131027_145819_zps3ec32b69.jpg

The weeping hemlock and atlas cedar stand out much better now with a manicured lawn. The hemlock was cleaned out of it's dead underbrush and it's really a nice specimen. It is a little close to the street, but with the underbrush gone, there is no problem seeing traffic.

 photo 20131027_145524_zpsc57edbde.jpg

The hemlock has been neglected and will get an oil spray in the spring as well as fertilizer. This concept of not removing older bushes prematurely is interesting. Since we redid the property I have had a number of people tell me how beautiful that tree is. Before the cleanup, not a word.

Very old weeping hemlock photo 20131027_150154_zpsf539385a.jpg

I have really enjoyed learning about lawn care since it always seemed to be a subject with such conflicting opinions.

Unfortunately one side of the atlas cedar had been crowded out many years ago by an overgrown hemlock, but it is still a nice specimen.

 photo 20131027_150102_zps50b44abb.jpg

 photo 20131027_150207_zps2a87bc9e.jpg

Here's another example of not getting rid of existing foliage too quickly. This is the back/side of the yard and it looks nice manicured.

 photo 20131027_150048_zps1c584331.jpg

The backyard is now a template for us to do something with down the road. We added 6 Norway spruces and 3 blue spruce. The blues seem to have been damaged by rope or whatever, and we may have new ones put in depending on what they see in the spring.

 photo 20131027_145906_zps5ab473d3.jpg

The border trees will be pruned as needed to make sure the spruces have enough sunlight/room to grow.

 photo 20131027_145841_zps705222a6.jpg

Interestingly to me, the large tree in the neighbor's yard behind the blue spruces is also a Norway spruce. I guess they get that "weepy" look after they have a chance to grow out a bit.

 photo 20131027_145845_zpse2f505c3.jpg

This is a 180 degree panoramic view of the back yard. I have thoughts of putting in a large pond toward the right side. We'll see...

 photo 20131027_150015_zps38944d94.jpg

We designed the kitchen to have a nice view of the back yard.
(photo taken before landscaping was done).

 photo Kitchen-Final003_zps0cced354.jpg

So that about covers it! I'm generally happy with what we ended up with. My designer turned out to be a good guy, and very fair. He is a bit absent minded on a few issues, but he keeps the important things on the front burner. Only time will tell how we might tweak things, and whether we will regret junipers in the front. I've been assured they won't be a problem over and over, so I went with it.

Thanks for everybody's input -- it really helped me sort things out! I also hope that by documenting things in some detail that this thread might help other people in similar situations.

Regards,
Dan

This post was edited by danielj_2009 on Sat, Dec 7, 13 at 18:01


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Wow. Thank you for coming back and sharing. Looks good.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I missed this thread as it began before my coming here, but it's been interesting to peruse it. (I've not read the entire exchange, but mostly the beginning and end posts.) One important recurring point that you make, Dan, is the importance of good landscape maintenance. A mediocre landscape can look pretty good if it's well maintained. A good landscape can't look anything but nasty if it becomes rangey & unkempt.

I think it's far better to focus on the basics and get them well organized. Tweaking for extra pizazz is pretty easy to add later as many of those things can be worked alongside or in front of basic plantings. And it usually doesn't take much, if the basic plantings are correct.

IMO (FWIW) the next-door neighbor's plantings seem "busy" & contrived. Since foliage and bloom are usually acceptable to anyone, it seems OK now. But I think it will need plenty of reorganization as it grows. To some people, that's the way it should be ... never ending reorganization. To my thinking, that's more like gardening instead of landscaping.

Sorry to say, the thing I'm "choking" on in your new landscape is the strip of juniper along the drive. To return to the point about maintenance, I think it will look OK and bother no one if it is well maintained. While it would be too much for me, the good thing is that it wouldn't be difficult to change any time later (if you decide you don't like it.) The other things, I think, are an improvement over the "before" picture. The good grass really makes a difference.

I like that you provided the follow-up pictures. Many forget or don't think to do it!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Thanks for the comments. I don't suppose many of the people here 3 years ago are still active. What's a good alternative to the row of junipers? I can't imagine they will be a problem for a number of years, but we'll see. My designer said they won't grow very fast and he can keep them more compact. I guess we'll find out eventually. Like you and others have said, it's not a great expense if I have to pull them out and do something else. The real money was in regrading, irrigating and sodding.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I meant to mention earlier what a handsome kitchen that is ... extra nice!

The front yard (lawn and drive) is a visual and physical path leading to the entire house. It's mostly a large "carpeted" and hard surface "floor." The hard surfacing of the drive and walk is necessary because turf would not be durable enough to hold up to ongoing vehicular and pedestrian traffic. If you had a hovercraft instead of a car and could float instead of walk, turf alone would work fine as the multi-purpose path and "plaza" area ... ready to receive all traffic ... as a collecting and gathering place before entering the house ... and as visual "white space" helping to emphasize the details and architectural features of the house.

The large front yard "floor" is similar in function to the floor surfaces inside the house. As with the outside, there is much of the interior floor that is rarely walked on ... inside corners, places close to walls, etc. Instead, most of a person's walking occurs in well travelled paths that link to doorways, halls and commonly used furniture. Inside, it would absolutely never occur to anyone that it is a good idea to separate the well traveled paths from those less used with some type of raised, linear barrier. Imagine ... a confined pathway to the sofa or to the refrigerator! Even if we don't commonly use some areas of the floor, we want there to be immediate access if we ever decide we want to use them. For some odd reason, outdoors, it has evolved into a common (but not desirable!) practice to separate the well traveled paths from the less well traveled paths by raised linear barriers ... usually hedges of some type ... as if to tell everyone, "Walk here ... NEVER, EVER there!" (Even if the hedge is low -- 12" ht. -- it's still a barrier of some magnitude.) Even if it's comprised of disconnected segments (as the juniper will be) it still discourages passage when at some point a person wishes to have it. The juniper, as it grows in height, will eventually become a raised linear barrier that separates the well travelled path from the less well traveled path. I suggest that it would be better to let the lawn come all the way to the drive edge. This does not mean that there can never be a "momentary" barrier -- such as a landscape "island" that separates two path areas. It's the corral-like linear barriers that confine the well traveled path for its length that are so objectionable. The taller they are, the worse they are.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Sun, Dec 8, 13 at 9:49


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Interesting concept. Even so, I think I prefer to have something as a border rather than just grass, like we have on the right side of the driveway. At the top of the junipers there is about a 6 foot gap that provides access to the lawn. Also, the lawn elevation drops off a little more on the left side of the driveway so if I had grass instead of a planting bed it is just a little harder to mow.

The designer's idea was to draw the eye up to the house with a sweep of junipers that had light green tips to kind of complement the house. I don't think it sweeps up as much as it could and maybe we'll change something in the spring. That was the idea behind it, though.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

I'm not really criticizing what you have now. The junipers, presently, are so low that they read as a continuation of lawn. If one has a low, wide contrasting planting that borders the lawn, it is a decorative edge, not a barrier. If it changes in the future, it could be judged then.

" ...the lawn elevation drops off a little more on the left side of the driveway ..." In the picture I can only see that there is curb lining the drive. The grade should be flush with the top of the curb. If it is not, then I would consider it a flaw. But how significant? If it's not bothering anyone else, it's minor. If by "drops off" you mean something different, I'm not sure what.

As far as "The designers idea ..." I think "draw the eye" really means to emphasize an already existing line of convergence (the edge of drive adjacent to the lawn) that aims toward the vanishing point of the overall composition. I can't speak against emphasizing the line ... except if it is done by using a raised barrier. The curb emphasizes the line. If a decorative band/border were incorporated into the hardscape of the drive, that would also emphasize the line. Both would do it without incorporating barriers. There would be other ways to do it as well. I'm only against the extended barrier ... which you don't yet have.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

The yellow-tipped Junipers do get quite wide and tall. I had them along a walk way and had to keep them cut way back each Spring which removed the yellow tips. They are most attractive when they can spread. I would not recommend them for the spot you put them in.

Jane


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Jane - that seems to be the consensus on this forum. This spring I'll talk to my guy again. I'm actually more concerned about the junipers growing over the lawn side rather than the driveway side. They left extra space between the junipers and the driveway, but not that much on the lawn side.

Thanks!


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

The lawn side can change to accommodate the increase in spread of the junipers. Removing part of the lawn as needed is not too hard to do.
Mike


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Good point, Mike. However, I'd like not to lose too much lawn because of junipers. They could spread pretty extensively according to some here.


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

Most people equate losing some lawn is like losing some property. Sounds silly, doesn't it? Since I'm a plant nut I feel otherwise. Also most people equate the more plants you have, the more maintenance you have. Not so, if you pick the right plants and put them in the right place. Then it's less maintenance than the lawn. Don't be afraid to lose some lawn to the junipers. Then you won't have to trim them to keep them in bounds.

If you cut out the lawn to make beds it looks like just that, a cut out. The lawn shape should be designed first, because the shape of the lawn is more important, design wise, than the shape of the beds.
Mike


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RE: When Does Simple Design become Boring?

A big 'Ditto' to what Mike says re the shape of the lawn being more important than the shape of the beds. That's the most important lesson I learned during my 13 years of gardening in this place and the reading I've done in that time. One of the books Ink (who used to post here) reccommended first brought that to my attention. Now, looking at/assessing the 'negative space' is the first thing I do when looking at a garden picture and, in most cases, it's easy to see small changes that could greatly improve the look of the garden. But the importance of shaping the space that is not garden beds is almost never mentioned here - or in most design books for that matter!


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