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New Front Landscape for 1850s House on Busy Road

Posted by AnneNJ 6 (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 13, 14 at 18:17

We've lost a lot of trees and shrubs to critters and hurricane Sandy over the last couple of years and it's finally time to come up with a new plan.

The house is old and formal and I would like to stick to a fairly formal design that seems period appropriate.

Here's the house and a photo of the view from the front porch:

Front of House photo IMG_20140610_162613_071_zpsc95eb154.jpg

View From Front Porch photo IMG_20140610_162659_721_zpsf08b30d9.jpg

I'm in central NJ--zone 6. We back up on old farm fields, so it tends to be windy although the prevailing winds come from behind the house. We're also in a frost pocket as things tend to bloom a couple of days later than in town.

1. Some privacy from the road. The road is a major commuter route and can vary from heavy 55 mph traffic (it's supposed to be 45) to stop and go at rush hour. I don't mind if passersby can catch glimpses of the house driving by, but I don't like to feel like I'm in full view when I'm carrying on a conversation on the front porch or in the driveway.

2. Reduce traffic noise. I presume any plants will help with this, but I don't know if placement has any effect.

3. Critter resistance. Deer in the past haven't been a major problem in our front yard, but with this past winter's heavy snows they did come right up to the front of the house and ate yews and hemlocks that they hadn't touched before. Voles are also a major challenge and took out the lilacs we previously had out front (I made the mistake of letting english ivy grow under them). We aren't going to really get rid of the critters as we back up on open space, so we need to plan around them.

4. Winter interest. This is the one part of the yard we routinely see in the winter, so it would be nice to have some attractive evergreens and berries.

5. Low maintenance. I'm a serious gardener and have a huge vegetable garden and perennial garden behind the house. I'd like to save my energies for those areas and keep the front to things that just need the landscapers to trim annually.

6. Maintain views from upstairs windows of farm fields across the street.

I also plan to take out the yews that are overgrowing the house and redo the foundation planting, but first I'm trying to figure out the part between the driveway and the road.

I've met with a couple landscape architects through the local nurseries. Here are suggested plans:

A. Plant a hedge of leatherleaf viburnum between the trees and the road. This would allow for privacy and make the front lawn part of the house rather than public property. I liked this idea until I figured out that there are only 25-30 feet between the edge of the road and the trees. If I put the plants at 15 feet and they end up 6-8 feet wide, they are going to seriously obstruct my views getting out of the driveway, which already can take 2-3 minutes at rush hour. I normally sit so that the driver is 15 feet back from the edge of the pavement.

B. Plant a semi-circle of either Cryptomeria yoshino or Thuja Green Giant in front of the house and keep trimmed to about 12-15 feet. Inside the semi-circle, leave space for small shrubs/grasses for winter interest and a gravel parking area for three cars. I generally like this plan, but I'm trying to figure out if it is all going to seem too big in proportion to the yard. Is that much parking area too much? Does leaving part of it gravel make sense? Currently the distance from the house to the edge of the front lawn is 36 feet and the distance from there to the first trees is another 72, so if I keep the new parking and trees to 36, will dividing it in thirds like that make sense?

Are there other design ideas I'm missing that would also meet these goals?

Here are my (sorry rather rough!) drawings of the existing layout and the two options:
Existing Layout photo FrontYardLayout_0001_zps168964a5.jpg

Layout A photo FrontYardLayoutA_zpsec974e19.jpg

Layout B photo FrontYardLayoutB_zps7b0fba8d.jpg

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: New Front Landscape for 1850s House on Busy Road

Your plans are lovely. Why do you need the help of this forum? If I was from your part of the country, I could make suggestions, but no clue what grows there. I am a fan of Pinterest. Maybe check there for photos of what you want. There is a wealth of info there. Good luck!


RE: New Front Landscape for 1850s House on Busy Road

I wouldn't consider scheme "B". It does a tremendous disservice to the house, which the view of wouldn't be possible until one was right on top of it.

The pictures are insufficient. Please take additional shots showing space to the sides as per illustration. These would be taken from the exact same vantage point as the original picture, but panning the camera left & right, overlapping photos. Also, go across the road and take 3 more panning shots that show the entire space in question. Then, go upstairs and take a picture of the view that you're trying to preserve from the upstairs window. If we can't see these things, we can't know them.

It takes a LOT of density for plants to make a difference in minimizing sound. Don't expect much in that regard unless you turn the whole yard into dense forest with lots of tall under planting.

When you get to the point of looking for help in hashing out the foundation planting, I would seriously consider removing it all and taking another picture so that the house could be seen. As it is now, no one would have any idea what is to be hidden and what is to be featured. Those things need to be seen by whoever is doing the design. Since the plantings are spooky looking anyway, it will look better with them gone.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Fri, Jun 13, 14 at 21:58

RE: New Front Landscape for 1850s House on Busy Road

Desertdance: I'm glad you like the plan. I was looking for more input for a couple reasons. First, when I remodeled my kitchen, I thought I had a plan, posted it to the kitchen forum, and ended up with an infinately better one. So thought I might be missing something here too. Secondly, I feel a lot of reponsibility with an old house like this to get it right.

Yardvaark: Bunch more photos for you below. I agree, my hesitation with plan B is losing the view of the house entirely. But I haven't figured out a way yet to allow it to show through in part without getting questions about who I was talking to in my driveway last Wednesday... Perhaps if there was more to draw the eye to the front of the yard our front porch wouldn't feel like a stage.

I have been toying with the idea of just yanking out the yews so that we can more easily plan what needs to go around the foundation. Just would feel even more exposed! Since this planning process is taking me some time, my thought was to get the rest figured out first and then when I'm confident that I can get that part planted in September, I'll bite the bullet and have them pulled out.

First, panning from left to right from the sycamore by the road in front of house (three photos)
Second, panning from left to right from across the street (four photos)
Third, view from upstairs. It's hard to get it to show in a photo, but there are farm fields and then an old farm set 1/4 mile back.
Fourth, views from between the hedges in front of the front door looking left and right.

For some reason, photo titles didn't come through this time.

    <P>Pan from under sycamore looking to left of house    <P>Pan from under sycamore looking to left of house photo     <P>IMG_20140614_092110_436_zps59883d77.jpg
v Pan from under sycamore straight on photo IMG_20140614_092116_849_zps35186cd0.jpg

    <P>Pan from under sycamore looking to right of house photo IMG_20140614_092123_136_zps6271b17c.jpg
Pan from across street looking to left of house photo IMG_20140614_092253_702_zpsc2826f6e.jpg
Pan from across street looking straight ahead photo IMG_20140614_092257_043_zps1f7bcca0.jpg
Pan from across street looking to right of house photo IMG_20140614_092300_460_zpsd42a654d.jpg
Pan from across street looking far right up stret photo IMG_20140614_092303_591_zpsf7ca9967.jpg
View from upstairs photo IMG_20140614_092556_307_zps6703f511.jpg
Standing in front entrance between hedges looking left photo IMG_20140614_093300_538_zps5ba8fe39.jpg
Standing in front entrance between hedges looking right photo IMG_20140614_093307_550_zpsc060ac24.jpg

RE: New Front Landscape for 1850s House on Busy Road

Merging A and B .... setting back the ends of the privacy screen

Start by parking your car where you normally exit to the road ... have an accomplice place markers where you need clear line of sight for a safe exit. Anything planted in that zone should be low-growing. A good spot for a wildflower, low-maintenance meadow.

The outer row would be "understory" trees. Dogwoods, magnolias ... whatever grows well in your area. The inner row is evergreens sited to block the view from the road in critical areas - think of the hollies and other native plants. . Fill in the row with ornamentals

ALSO ... how about some privacy panel trellises out there with native vines for instant privacy and eventual flowering interest? Make trellised garden seats facing the house?

__ ----- ____ ----- sort of spacing so you can garden around them.

RE: New Front Landscape for 1850s House on Busy Road

"Secondly, I feel a lot of responsibility with an old house like this to get it right." Does this mean that your trying to achieve highest and best use of the property? If that's the case, I am sensing "pride of architecture" neither in your list of goals or in the landscaping itself. The landscaping is almost saying "embarrassment" ... as if there is a hair lip it's trying to hide. And it doesn't "feel" strongly as if we're trying to move away from this.

Thanks for the additional photos. I'm posting a composite so others can get a better feel for the overall front yard space. If this is the view one gets during the quick drive-by, you would think this house is nothing special at all. I realize drivers will have other opportunities to see more as they pass by, but should they work too hard to know this house is special?

RE: New Front Landscape for 1850s House on Busy Road

lazygardens: I have measured that distance. The driver is 15 feet back from the edge of the pavement when trying to merge into traffic, so can't have anything tall in that first 15 feet. There are three large trees (2 Sycamores that are 30-40 feet and a mature Horsechestnut) set back 25 feet from the road. So that leaves just ten feet that could have taller planting on the way to the trees.

I understand your idea of gradually increasing heights from perennials to shrubs to low growing trees to the big trees, I just don't think there is room to implement it. I have seen people try to fill in a line of shrubs between existing tall trees and that always seems to look wrong, so the more naturalistic idea does make more sense.

Yardvaark: Yes, I did fail to profess my love of the house! It is lovely and I would hope whatever we end up doing adds to that. I would certainly agree that the existing plantings don't show off the house and the yews are certainly not doing it any favors, but haven't had the budget previously to deal with this. Old houses and upkeep, you know!

Remember that photos always focus your eye on what is close up in a way that you don't do in real life, so the house is more visible that it appears above.

So I think you are saying that you don't think it's right to try to make the front private at all? I do feel that these old places are sort of in the public domain. On the other hand, for fourteen years I've been able to go grab the paper in the morning without getting dressed. Now that the lilac hedge that did run the length of the house is gone, I'm finding that lack of privacy irritating.

So what would you do to complement the house in your ideal world?

RE: New Front Landscape for 1850s House on Busy Road

"... I think you are saying that you don't think it's right to try to make the front private at all?" Well, not exactly. I'm saying there must be balance. Just because we have one goal, doesn't mean that a seemingly contrary goal needs to be scrapped entirely. First, it should be explored if balance can be achieved and if both goals can be reasonably met.

Where is the paper left in the morning?

How is the front porch used that warrants greater privacy?

One of the purposes of landscaping is solving problems in the use of your outdoor space, even if it is challenging.

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