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

 o
Companion shrubs

Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
Wed, Aug 14, 13 at 10:47

Good morning. I recently purchased 3 Magic Carpet Spireas for the front of our home as foundation plants. I'm looking for ideas for companion shrubs, preferably evergreen, with little maintenance. I've seen some yews that I thought might work. The 3 varieties are densiformis, nigra, and wardii. Would any of these work? Also, something tall to go on the end? Not arborvitae. The area is 21' long, and 6' wide, but could be wider. Gets morning sun.

Any ideas?


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Companion shrubs

Where are you? How much morning sun? 'Magic Carpet' (and many other spiraeas) will develop powdery mildew if in much shade - these are really full sun plants. Dwarf yellow threadleaf cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Mops', 'Sungold') would echo the coloring of the spiraea. If zone appropriate, Japanese wood sedge (Carex morrowii 'Aureovariegata'), heucheras and dwarf Japanese holly could round out the planting.

So what are you looking for with "something tall"? How tall? How wide? and why not arborvitae?


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 14, 13 at 16:33

I'm in south central Wisconsin, zone 5, and have sun until about 1 pm in the summer. Would that be enough?

I've come across the cypress you mentioned; is that evergreen in the winter?

We had arborvitae previously. I think my husband just wants something different.

What about something with red branches? Not sure what to look for as far as height and width. Enough to fill in the 21'.

I was thinking of 3 evergreens in a back 'row' with 2 of the spireas staggered in front.

Very new at landscaping, if you haven't noticed. :)


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

Half day sun is about the minimum I'd accept for the spiraea but keep an eye out for powdery mildew.

The cypress is a needled evergreen - holds its color all year.

Red branching could be accomplished with red twig dogwoods, definitely a good, low maintenance choice but can get big (quite big!) so annual pruning maybe advised. Another choice with red branches are certain selections of hydrangea paniculatas ('Limelight', 'Vanilla Strawberry').

My personal design choice is to avoid rows whenever possible in favor of more naturalized free-formed drifts or swaths. This typically requires at least 3 different plant types, often more (space permitting).


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 14, 13 at 20:23

Thank you, gardengal48. :) The plan is to have a raised border, unfortunately straight, with bricks purchased at a 'big box' store. I don't really want 'rows', either, but how else do I 'mix up' the shrubs?

I'll look into the red twig dogwood. Don't hydrangeas need more shade? Now I'm worried about the powdery mildew on the spireas. Maybe we should just go with 3 Endless Summer Hydrangeas?

I haven't had much luck finding a simple enough design by surfing the web. We have a ranch style home.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

I struggled with a similar dilemma when we purchased a home with a rectangular foundation bed lined with a straight brick walk. After purchasing the house we certainly didn't have the funds to rip out and redo the existing steps and walkway. You can plant in staggered groupings to break up the space so it doesn't feel so boxy. Planting some loose mounding plants at the front that cascade over the brick edging might also help to soften the straight edge of the bed. I like gardengal's suggestions. The "golden mops" are a very cheery chartreuse color year round and provide some nice texture. The limelight hydrangea actually prefers part sun to sun, so it should do well there. My neighbor has a very large beautiful limelight that is in full sun. Another suggestion for height could be purple ninebark which might be a nice contrast against the chartreuse threadleaf cypress. It's hard to work within a rectangular space and fight the symmetry while still maintaining a sense of balance. Planting a staggered grouping of 3 shrubs here and there will provide some structure to the space and then some perennials in the front with a variety of foliage texture and color for contrast helps add layers and interest. Some repetition helps keep some balance and pay attention to bloom times so that you don't have any bare patches... just some thoughts!


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Fri, Aug 16, 13 at 23:22

thanks for your 'thoughts', pinksand. :) Love your ideas, but they really seem more than I can handle. As I stated, the area is 21' long x 5-6' wide. I've already purchased 3 'magic carpet' spireas. They will need to be in the 'front' for as much sun as possible. Would 4 of the 'golden mops',
staggered, fit behind them in that space? I have trouble visualizing. thanks again.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

I've attached a pic of the area we're working on to maybe give you a better idea. It gets morning sun until almost 1 at this time of year, a little longer during the peak of summer.

(The big crab apple in the foreground is coming down. It's old and doing less than great.) It's the house, though, that gives the area the shade.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

I was thinking something purplish to go with the flowers, like lorapetalum but that only grows to zone 7. So check out the below website I found. The pieris with the purplish flowers or the dwarf nandina could work. Mom and I have some of the mopheads (golden mops) but have found them to be inconsistent, meaning 2 will do well and 1 will die. Mom is 300 miles away and we found same thing. Maybe just our luck. I think a darker shrub would be better for your brick (or stone) there.

http://www.deansevergreens.com/catalogevergreenskp.htm


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Sat, Aug 17, 13 at 13:01

Thanks for the ideas, Louisiana gal!

What do you think about one of the varieties of buxus (boxwood) on the site you posted?

If we got 4 of those to stagger 'behind and between' the spireas?

And then maybe something tallish on the right end? Maybe with red bark?


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

Now that I have seen the picture, I like the spirea thing. Where you live, there will be enough sun in the morning (with that tree gone) to make it attractive. Please just remember to prune it at the right time, so many folks don't do that!

Hydrangeas love the sun and enjoy the shade. Mine get lots of shade in the morning due to tree placement. From 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. (this time of year) lots of sun. I get spectacular flowers, even without plant food. My next door neighbor just planted some hydrangeas in what will ultimately be shade for all but 2 hours of the day. I don't anticipate great things there.

Also to be considered is some bold contrast. I like barberry for its red color and its 'don't give a darn' attitude. It is thorny, but once established will do well with benign neglect. There are different varieties, check with your local garden center to see what they suggest if you want something like that.

Jim


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Sat, Aug 17, 13 at 15:09

thanks, Jim. :) I like the barberry idea for the right end. What do you think of the 'boxwoods' to mix with the spireas for the space I have. Which is now 21' long, but now only about 4.5' wide. :( Hubby didn't put the brick border out as far as I thought it should go. sigh

Or should I just space the spireas in a row, but leave room on the end for the barberry?


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

When I first learned designing (retail flower shop), odd numbers are generally better than even numbers. So, you have 3 of one shrub and are considering 1 of another shrub. The next thing to consider is placement.

You have some options. One might be to put one spirea under the left window and two under the right one. Barberry, would work in between or on the right end.

Or center the spireas between the windows with the barberry at the far right.

I know that you originally said that you would like to have evergreen, but that might not be the perfect thing. Consider a fragrant, spring-bloomer for right outside the door. Anyone at the door will appreciate the smell (as will the insects). There are some lilacs that don't get out of hand; I have created a row of forsythia along the north side of my property to separate me from the idiot next door. A little pruning after they have bloomed and that is all you need. They both go barren during the winter, but they would add a nice splash of color in April/May.

You didn't mention it, but you might want to also consider some bulbs in and around the shrubs. Not too many, again something that will announce the new growing season.

One other idea, at the far right, you might want to think about decorative grasses. Some are very erect and others have a tendency to flop a bit. Some will spread out and others maintain their little space and don't need much attention. Some are much taller than others, but it would help to soften the look of the lower part of the front of the house. Grasses should be trimmed back each year, but that would not take too much time.

4.5' is a nice size, I have seen beds that were less than 24"!

Jim


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 18, 13 at 19:02

would I put the barberry in the center of the 'wall' space between the 2 windows and then the spireas split and spaced accordingly? I like the idea of 1 and then 2 on the other side. Also, the thought of bulbs. Thanks so much.
Maybe tallish red grass on both ends? I'm still considering a flowering plant, but not sure about insects that close to the front door.

Would everything just go in the center of the width of the bed?

I really appreciate your help.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

I have a grass that I like in my back yard. I don't have a picture of my own, but did find this link for Northwind Switchgrass. Good color rather than just green.

You don't have to do the barberry, it was just an alternative that you might consider. Do some reading about them and check with your local garden center to see what they have (or will have).

Those insects I mentioned would generally be more interested in the flowers and not the people standing next to them. I was in my back yard today near some Helianthus that are along my fence. I just stood there and watched and listened to the bumblebees, they did not care whether I was there or not. And, the spring bloomers will happen for only a few weeks, then you have a low-maintenance green bush.

As to placement within the bed: consider maintenance. If you plant something towards the front, it might be in the way of whatever in a few years. However, planting a straight row of things can appear too formal. You will need to consider how much space each plant will take. I would place the spireas the same distance from the wall. If you elect grass, it can go closer to the wall. Barberry, might go between the windows, so that the eye flows from one aspect to another without getting shocked either with color, texture or shape.

That would give you tall on the right end, reddish in the center and the spireas sort of under the windows. Remember that you are trying to balance the entire front of the house, not just that part. Stand away from the house 20 - 30' and look left to right and then right to left. What will you see?

If necessary, the grass and sprireas can be moved in the early spring, the barberry can be a bear to move (I have that experience!). That means that you can change your mind on part of it, in case it just doesn't balance out.

This is for you, since it is your home. However, you also want to make your neighbors jealous!

Jim

Here is a link that might be useful: Northwind Switchgrass


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Sun, Aug 18, 13 at 22:30

I appreciate your ideas and suggestions very much, Jim. I love the thought of 'softening' the straight, rigid border. I'm taking a break for tonight, but I'm sure I'll have more thoughts tomorrow. thank you again.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Mon, Aug 19, 13 at 13:50

Jim, I found this Flame Grass this morning: http://www.directgardening.com/detail.asp?ProductID=7444

Is this too short and wide?

I also saw some barberrys and like them very much. Do I want a tallish variety of that, as well, or one more mounded similar to the magic carpet spireas?


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

I am not familiar with this particular plant. I have had to divide every Miscanthus that I planted and it becomes a chore. I checked out several mentions on the web and most have indicated that it would fill out that 4.5' width within 5 years or so. I have cut several of the plumes and fronds and they look really good in a narrow-necked vase that sits on the floor.

I forget the variety of barberry that I have in front of my house, I do end up pruning it every year to keep it somewhat neat. I believe that most barberry plants will handle that pruning nicely, so that you can prune to shape. If you were to go with a 'dwarf' variety, with the grass on one end, the door on the other, it might look like you have a valley in the center (drawing the eye downward). I would believe a bit taller would work better.

If you do plant some bulbs, the spring look will draw the eye downward for several weeks. That is not bad, as the grass should be sheared to the ground in the spring and you would not have that tallness on the right end.

I have attached a photo of the front of my house from early June of this year. Note the barberry that I planted in 2007 that were in pots the size of what you have. That is Russian Sage between the barberry. It was an experiment that will be reversed this winter. Russian Sage self-sows, I love the fragrance, but the self sowing issue is too much. Please ignore the sansevieria on the porch, they were being punished at the time!


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 20, 13 at 9:55

So I should look for a taller variety of both the grass and barberry. I like the grass you sent the link for, but was drawn to this one because of the 'red'. I'm not sure how the light color of the other one will show up against the brick on the house. ???

If I do something I don't like, it takes me forever to figure out what it is, and I feel like I'm running out of time. I need more summer. :)

Thanks for sharing this view of your yard; very nice.

Again, I appreciate your input.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

Things will appear much different once that tree is gone. That's one of the difficult parts of making decisions for things like this. With the tree, some things just won't show. Tree gone! You could have a great wow factor.

A word of warning now on the spireas. The temps are supposed to be climbing. Make sure that the plants that are still in pots don't get cooked in the sun. If you like the placement of those, get them in the ground now and water well. You can decide on the other plants later.

I have always been a big fan of the local garden center. I won't knock the big box places, but I want to create an association with local folks who keep all the money in the community. Get friendly with your people and tell them what you have and what you want. See if they have something in stock now that could solve your problem. We I go to my local store, the help there know me and what I don't want. The boss gave me some good deals on rain barrels this spring.

Don't get too hung up on any one plant or variety. Keep an open mind. Where my barberry are, I had something else for two years. I just didn't work, so I moved the barberry into those spots from another spot in the yard. I like the look now.

I will admit that I sometimes over-do my plantings. Here's a different view of the house as the sun is rising. Karen thinks I have too much out there. I keep adding.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

Another thing...

When that tree comes out, it will look sorta naked there. Consider planting a spruce there. Basically no maintenance and good cover for the birds.

Jim


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

Here are some pictures I just took. I tried to do some others, but I will have to do separate postings (this old man is slow on some things!)

Northwind Switchgrass with chair so you can judge the size.

This post was edited by Jim-1 on Tue, Aug 20, 13 at 14:02


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

Hers is some Miscanthus that I planted too near the fence. I promise, I really do, that I will dig that out in the spring. I know, I meant to do it before!


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

One more...I had a bunch of grasses out front. I dug some of them and moved them to the back to sort of hide my compost stuff. This was originally 5 things that were no more than 6" across (about 5 years ago). Out of control, but my wife likes them there! Go figure!


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 20, 13 at 14:35

I love all your plantings! I will look for the switchgrass! And I love the color and spikiness of the barberry. I'm concerned about getting anything 'too' tall in the center. ???

As far as the spirea, I really do like the 1 and then 2 idea. If I plant them before I get the other 'pieces to the puzzle', I'm afraid I won't get the placement right.

No way on the spruce! lol We have too many pines in the back. I guess the previous owner removed a large pine where the crabapple is now. Possibly a new shade tree in the future, though.

Gosh, how much do you charge for consultation? :) Wish you lived next door. :) I so appreciate your help.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

OK...I did some online looking. Go to Mayfields. See what they have in stock. According to their Web site, they generally stock barberry of several varieties. Don't go with anything that will be taller than your spirea. Take the picture of the front of your house and show them what you have. Tell them you are concerned about the overall effect and see what they say.

Remember, you plant and see how it goes. If you don't like what happens, you dig up and move it. You aren't spending hundreds of dollars (and that is good) for these plants.

I just took a picture of my neighbors side yard. Ouch! I don't believe that they have ever trimmed that spirea and it shows. Not much shape and overlaps, so that the mower has to go under it. And, those things on the end! Don't get me started! My wife won't let me go over there and 'fix' certain things.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 20, 13 at 17:26

lol at you having to deal with neighbors who don't like yardscaping. :) Maybe you can sneak over some time after dark when nobody's watching to 'fix things'. lol

I kind of like the look of the spirea for our bricks, though. No?

Is that a hydrangea peaking out from behind the rudbeckia?

We had one of those tall arborvitaes at the end (where we're talking tall grass now) and then another one at the end of the garage. That's why my husband doesn't want to do them again. Will also need something on that end. ;)

We can prob get to Mayfield Nursery on the week-end. I'll take a pic of the 'whole' house. Thanks for another great suggestion, Jim.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 20, 13 at 19:06

I looked up Mayfield Nursery, and the Berberis Concorde Barberry looks like the one I'd want: http://www.greenselectperennials.com/shrubs.php
The Magic Carpet gets 18-24" tall.

I'm thinking Stein's has these on sale right now. I can get there before I can get to Mayfield. What do you think?

As far as planting the spireas, should I put them just behind center of the border? I know I need to get them in.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

With the bed at its current width, you might want to plant the spireas about 2' in. Just make sure that you prune appropriately.

I usually am up about 4:30 a.m. and either walk the neighborhood (and critique everyone's yard) or I also volunteer at the county-owned nursing home where I do all the landscape work (the county will mow the grass and that is it!). I go in early there to beat the heat. I am sweaty and home by 6:30, read the paper while I eat breakfast and then take a nap. Ah...retirement is grand!

On my walk, I take along my anvil pruners to cut back branches that are too low and overhang the sidewalk. If I were to do some deadheading and other things, I would have to tell my wife and she would give me a stern lecture. She said that I could never rob a bank because I would admit to it before I got out the door!

The hydrangeas they purchased last week, plopped it in the ground by digging a small hole and walked away. They did not even water the 6 that they planted. Those, if they live, will be too big in 3 years. They don't prune the spirea, and they won't do anything with the hydrangea. I told you not to get me started!

My own opinion on this: I don't like Steins. Never have, never will. However, if you want to go there, do it. I don't know much about Mayfield other than that have a good list of options on their Web site.

As the Nike ads say: Just Do It!

Jim


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 20, 13 at 20:01

all spireas about 2' in and spaced to allow for growth. Grass on the right end, and closer to the wall. The barberry? In line with the spireas?

I'm going to keep a spring blooming bush for the left end in mind.

Thanks so much for your great suggestions, Jim.

And, until you can keep a secret, I guess you'll have to put up with the neighbors' yard style. *g* Really sad about the unwatered hydrangeas. :(


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

Yes to all the above. And don't forget to think about bulbs. Ask the folks at the store when they will have them. Generally, for where you are, plant in later September or October. Use a variety, so things come up at different times. Crocus are a good harbinger of spring, but don't last long. I have daffodils (4 colors) in the front and tulips in the back yard. At the nursing home I have all those plus some grape hyacinth and allium.

The more I think about the spring bush at the left, I don't like the idea. That can happen in a year. Get this stuff in the ground, let it happen and in August, you can reevaluate what has happened and how much space you have available.

Now...about the soil. Make sure you have some quality stuff there. If you have any concern, amend. Ask at the garden center about what they have to offer. Do not fertilize until you decide that everything is going to your plan (like next fall).

When will the tree come down?

Jim


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

After you go shopping, let me know what you decided on. OK? OK!

Jim


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 21, 13 at 8:36

You bet I will let you know, Jim. Thank you so much for all your helpful advice. I'm so excited!


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 27, 13 at 10:10

Good morning, Jim, and all.
We finally got the new shrubs planted, and mulched. I realize they're a little hard to see, but I'm sure we're going to love this new border. There is full sun until about 12:30 pm. We're working on getting estimates to get that crabapple tree in the foreground removed. sigh

Thanks to all who responded, especially Jim, who seemed to have the same basic idea I did for this area.

This forum is an awesome help, and I know I'll be back with more questions.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

Yeah, they're hard to see with no picture!


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Tue, Aug 27, 13 at 12:19

oops. Meant to attach the photo. ;)

The pic was taken later in the afternoon, so the shrubs are in considerable shade here.


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

So much better, congratulations and a big thanks to your hubby for doing the dirty work on this project.

Jim


 o
RE: Companion shrubs

  • Posted by gemr none (My Page) on
    Fri, Aug 30, 13 at 22:24

I'll be sure to tell him. Thanks again, Jim.


 o Post a Follow-Up

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

    If you are a member, please log in.

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


Return to the Landscape Design Forum

Information about Posting

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


Learn more about in-text links on this page here