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Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Posted by katrina_ellen 5 (My Page) on
Fri, Sep 7, 12 at 9:16

I have never seen a house like mine on this forum, but here goes. You can see the abandoned house to the left of me with its cracking driveway, but lets ignore that. Those are yew bushes that have probably been there since the house was built in 1958. I cut them down by 1/3 in the spring. The others are boxwoods, and when I moved in there were spirea bushes in front of them. Slow growing boxwood with fast growing spirea. It wasn't a good partnership so out they came. I expanded the bed by a foot this summer, and planted grasses more as place holders than anything else. I planted a cornelian cherry bush form tree as you can see - more as screening because its a neighborhood where houses are close together and I wanted some privacy. Probably not the best place for it esthetically. I am open to all ideas and would consider those that are not too cost prohibitive for me. The deck to me gives it a trailer park ambiance, do you have any suggestions to improve the look? If I could keep whats already there and have it look good that would be ideal. Should I expand the bed? Plant another tree? I really need help as you can see. I want it to look its best. Thanks for any advice, ideas you may have, I truly appreciate it.

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Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Bdesigner - I've been thinking about the bed expanded, I am kind of visualizing it now. I hope you come back to read this - how far out on the right side would you expand the bed? I am trying to visualize the shape of it.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Very interesting - mainly because I've been re-reading A Pattern Language (an Ink recommendation from a year or two ago...) and last night one of the parts I read was Entrance Transitions, which deals with your situation where the door opens abruptly into the house. You do, however, already have a good part of the recommended solution - i.e. a change in level and materials (the deck) from that of the street (driveway in this case). What is missing is the 'entrance as a private domain' by having the door set back, providing a transition space between it and the street. The simplist way to do that would be to put a little dormer roof projecting out over the door. Yardvaark is a bad influence :-) with the Paint mock-ups.... Below is my bad attempt to show what I'm talking about. I've attempted to draw posts supporting the dormer, but a triangular bracket sort of thing would also work. A lower cost option might be an awning of some sort or perhaps a little pergola-like structure that you could then grow a vine over. Do you have anyone in your family that is a good handyman who could build something like that for you?
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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

woodyoak - I'm going to take a look at that book - it sounds interesting. Thanks for the mock-up, I love that triangular piece and I have considered something similar, but changing the roof line to make a dormer sounds expensive, although it does give me an idea to search for a lower cost alternative. That would really give the entrance some emphasis. I also considered an awning but the only ones I know of are aluminum and I think it may give it a cheap look. I like the pergola idea, but have no idea how that would be supported on vinyl siding, but worth looking into. I do have a brother that works with wood. I really like that suggestion, thanks.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

katrina_ellen - the book is a bit strange at times... It was published in 1977 and parts of it read like 1960s hippie-utopia urban planning that makes your eyes glaze over! :-) But there is lots of very good stuff about all sorts of aspects of planning/building houses (and other buildings) as well as issues around siting the house on the land and some garden lay-out type things. If I was building a house from scratch or doing another major renovation, I'd be looking for an architect who was familiar with the concepts in the book, and I would be using them myself to come up with my 'must-have' list and evaluating the proposed design. A book well-worth reading even if you roll your eyes at some parts and the writing style at times! :-)


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Like Woody, the first thing that I noticed about the house was its lack of shelter at the entrance. It would be nice to have a gable porch roof that added some architectural interest and protected you from rain while you're trying to get your key into the lock. Or allowed a place for a visitor to stand out of the rain while they waited for the door to be answered. But it is an expense so maybe can come later. In the meanwhile, an arbor/pergola could be a cheap substitute if one was conservative about materials and labor. A vine could cover most of it so would allow being a little less particular about details. It wouldn't actually give much rain protection, but it would look like a shelter and visually serve to add a lot interest.

Another possibility would be to move the cornelian cherry dogwood into the vacant space by the house and let the tree grow into a large dome ceiling that would give the sense of shelter and add visual interest. It would help the house look more integrated into its surroundings rather than remain looking like it is still sitting on top of them.

A vine-covered lattice screen could add a sense of privacy to the left side of the yard.

The hedge type plants I'm showing could be made out of what you already have if you SERIOUSLY cut their height, regrow and shape along the way and stop trimming between them. I like the idea of a window box on the rail, but the one that's there now looks like it might be made by Hasbro. The tiny plastic ready made "window boxes" don't hold enough soil to support plants. It needs to be bigger to be practical (DIY custom made) and set lower if you're going to have one at all.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Nice suggestion, Yardvaark, especially #1 which visually separates the house from the trailer on the left.

Katrina, notice how the simple trellis/privacy screen "sets" a boundary and how the curve of the bed on the left repeats the curve former by the tree's canopy. Together these create a "cozy" look to your front. Also, by integrating (through pruning) all of the shrubbery, Yardvaark has established a swath of green that anchors the house to the ground.

Later on, if the budget allows, you could add a covered entryway.

Molie


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Wow Yardvaark, I truly LOVE that! I should say I do like more of an assymetrical design like you created, with the bigger area of ground cover balancing the deck. You are right about the window box, nothing I grow in it does well, and then the trellis fence is so smart to add a sense of containment. Yes, I got a little carried away with the yews inbetween, don't know what I was thinking. I really like the way the boxwoods would look with one at the far end being larger and defining the entrance and the others trimmed down as a hedge, it looks so much neater. I am just so excited about this plan, thank you so much! I can't wait to start working on it. My only concern is my little cornelian cherry tree. I planted it about a year and a half ago. I will have to look into whether it could stand the shock of a transplant so soon. I love the spot you have it in, that is about where I put that pot of flowers and it just seemed to balance things out better. The landscaping I am able to do myself, and yes, the entryway I will have to give some thought to, but this gives me a plan to go by. Thank you so much! I love a beautifully landscaped yard and I love this plan!

Molie - the trellis does give it a cozy look and really fits the cottage style of the house. It will take a while to establish but I enjoy gardening. The border does ground it well - I never realized what a difference it makes. Thanks for the response.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Hehe come to a landscape forum for some plant tips get advice that involves hiring a contractor and getting permits.

A cover over the entry is nice but making even minor changes to your roofline isn't a simple or cheap task. A nice fabric awning will keep you dry and won't look as bad as the aluminum on the left of the photo.

Yardvaarks screen idea is nice. You can also just add some perenials around your shurbs to soften the look. Get rid of the planter in the middle of your lawn and start taking care of your lawn. Once you start actually planning, shopping and doing you'll start to get more ideas.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Do guests ever park on the street? A nice curving walkway from the mailbox to the front door would be very welcoming and they wouldn't have to walk up the driveway. More pleasant for you, too, when you get the mail.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Katrina, I'm glad you like the ideas.

One idea I could not show and forgot to mention is painting, each their own color, the deck and rail. Your house looks tidy and well mannered but the unfinished wood imports a rustic quality to the scene. Painting it will not only keep the wood in better condition and make it last longer, it will change the rural tone of it to something more classy looking. With paint rollers it would be easy to do. It, along with the other changes you make, would help bring the whole scene together into something quite charming.

"I will have to look into whether it [CGD] could stand the shock of a transplant so soon." If you wait until Fall when it drops its leaves and then separate it from its present site by clean cutting a rootball out of the ground, there will be little or no shock. In a circular manner about 10" from its trunk, slice all the way around the trunk at a slight inward angle with a long blade drain spade. Go around a couple of times to make sure all the roots are cut clean and then extract the "plug" (rootball) by carefully prying it out of the ground. Getting someone to pry from the opposite side in unison is a big help. Do not break the rootball. Handle it carefully and suspend it in a tarp. Don't drag it across the yard or give it a rough ride in a wheelbarrow. Don't wait until Spring to do this as a Fall move will give it the best chance of success. At its young size, you (and it) should have no trouble.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Tom - overseeding was one of my projects for the fall, I haven't been in this house very long - 2 years, and I spent that working on the inside first and all the repairs that needed to be made (well not all yet!) I know the lawn is a mess - the people before me did not care about lawns. I've been on the lawn care forum too! I was checking out some nice metal awnings that are made like the copper ones - but have not priced them yet, fabric may be do-able too.
Chibimimi- thanks for the input, will have to think about that idea.
Yardvark - too late, I was so excited about this plan I transplanted the tree today. I ran into "Murphy's law" along the way. I looked at the picture I printed out and found the perfect spot, dug down, and about a foot down I ran into what I thought was an old root, well after much chopping away with a shovel and hoe, I discovered it was an old trunk. So - I made my hole adjacent to that, twice as wide as the root ball. My project I thought would take no more than two hours, pretty much took me all day with the wood chopping. I hope it works out, I chopped as much wood as I could handle, but hopefully its far enough away from the stump. I dug the rootball out similar to what you are describing - after just a year and a half it had settled in there pretty good - but I think I got all the root except for just a few little fine ones left behind. I figure if it doesn't take, I will replace it with a rose of sharon - they don't get as wide. But I think the tree will like this spot better, its more sheltered. I hope I did the right thing with the stump and all. I wondered if anyone would suggest painting the deck because I have considered either painting or staining. If you read this again, I would appreciate your input - paint or stain? I think the cottage look would say paint - but I have wondered about the upkeep of it painted as opposed to staining. Thanks for your awesome ideas.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

You should call 811 before doing any digging, even just for trees and shrubs. The utilities will come out and mark any plumbing, electrical etc. They don't detect trunks though. :)

Copper awning sounds nice.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Katrina, in transplanting the tree, if you didn't run into the old stump until a foot down, for your small tree I would have gone right over the top of it and called it a day.

Everyone will have their own preferences, but I prefer paint over stain. Neither will be wrong. I don't think stain holds up necessarily better, but because it's more "vague" to begin with, it's deterioration is noticed less. In other words, it leans toward rustic to begin with. I think most people use it for it's theoretical, not actual adantages.

Tom, calling 811 seems like overkill for moving a small plant on one's own property. Even if you run into one of your own pipes or conduits, it will have it's own shell as protection from hand digging. The only thing that seems like it might be in danger are things like unprotected TV cable/telephone and the like. But they don't exist everywhere.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yardvaark,
Thank you for the response. Well, I guess if I run into the stump situation again I will know better!
I do think painting the deck would really add something. Would you paint the railing portion white and the deck a color? I am thinking that a white railing would be best to integrate it with the house, and a color for the deck. Or? Thanks for your help, and thanks for posting back.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

For a house, I usually like a darker body color and lighter trim color... but I'm not going to tell you to paint your house taupe just so you can have a white rail! I guess white for rail (but you could check pale taupe if you want; it might look good with the white background.) You also have beige in the shutters on your palette so plenty of places to experiment with. Darker for the deck.... medium dark taupe or teal (along the lines of your front door.) Get something dark enough that it doesn't glare back at you in bright sunlight.

I think it's better to work toward find color compatibility, than it is to try and make exact matches of things already present. They are just guides.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yardvaark, well I couldn't paint the house if I tried, its vinyl siding. I like the light taupe idea, I like a more classic style. Thanks for the suggestion of a darker color for the deck. I can't wait to get started on it.
I am thinking of using a speedwell groundcover that flowers blue because its low-growing and takes sun and part shade. Any suggestions for around the tree? Its facing west, so I get the hot afternoon sun. I will probably do that last, as I want the tree to re-establish itself in the new spot before I start digging around its base.
Once again, thanks so much for your help - I can't wait to post an "after" picture.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Below the tree you might change the plant type later as the tree develops shade and light conditions change. As long as you stay out of the rootball area, you would be okay to plant around it now. You will have to assess what might work best with your western light. I'll just mention some possibilities: everblooming or recurrent bloom daylilies, rose 'The Fairy', ferns, herbacious peonies, purple coneflower, Geranium. Later, you can test variegated Solomon's seal, Hosta, or Astilbe. Of course, I would pick only one plant variety for below the tree.

If you build a screen panel, it's easiest to paint it (two or three coats with a roller) before construction and then just touch-up cut ends after it's built. Treated one by 2's work well for the lattice part. You can drive a nail that's too long all the way through and then hammer its tail sideways on the back side. If you hammer all the tails in the same direction it doesn't look bad and it's very sturdy. Use beefier wood--2 x 4--for the frame part. 4 x 4 or 6 x 6 for posts.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

"Tom, calling 811 seems like overkill for moving a small plant on one's own property. Even if you run into one of your own pipes or conduits, it will have it's own shell as protection from hand digging. The only thing that seems like it might be in danger are things like unprotected TV cable/telephone and the like. But they don't exist everywhere."

New homeowners, as the OP sounds like, usually aren't aware of the location of service lines to their property and it's a good idea to know where they are.

Underground, everything looks like a root or a rock and people's first reaction when they encounter an obstacle is to try to break through it or pry it up. This can be a costly repair bill for a plumbing or electrical line or even deadly in the case of natural gas.

In addition tree roots can damage some lines. Sewer lines, especially clay ones are easily damaged. You also want to avoid planting any large trees over lines because it will make it difficult to replace them when they need repair.

It's a free call and service that is completed in a couple of days at most. It's something all homeowners should be aware of.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

I forgot to mention Heuchera as a possibility for plant below the tree. Foliage color--many options--would add interest even when not blooming.

Tom, I agree 811 is something good to know about for when it is needed.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yardvaark,
Thanks for the details about the screen, I was looking at that closer and saw it was simply made - which is good - I might even be able to make it. I'll have to look into the posts - I assume they need to be in the ground in some kind of container with cement to make them sturdy.
Thanks for coming back with the Heuchera suggestion, I actually have three of those and I like them a lot. I can add a few more to make it full. They are easy care as well - right up my alley.

Tom - I appreciate your warning, I was thinking about it as my neighbor walked by and asked if I was burying a body - he knew where my gas lines ran but I didn't think about the other issues you mentioned. Thanks for bringing it up, it would be awful to mess something up like that.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

"I assume they need to be in the ground in some kind of container with cement to make them sturdy. "No container but the earth itself... so therefore, no wide hole. The easiest way is to use clam-shell post-hole diggers (borrow or rent) to dig a 6" or 7" dia. straight-sided hole... slightly larger diameter than the post itself. Making it 2' deep will leave 6' of post above ground. Set post plumb and backfill will concrete. In this case (of a single, lightweight panel) it will be easier to create the frame of the panel, attached to the posts, so that posts are set in unison, as one piece, and square to one another... rather than doing them separately where they will end up slightly out of sync--in terms of plumb, level or angle of orientation--with each other. A couple of nice caps on the posts would look good.

For mixing and delivering the concrete you would only need a wheelbarrow (preferably metal) or one of those black plastic tubs from Home Depot or Lowe's, a hoe, a round-point shovel and sturdy hand trowel. Don't bring the top of the concrete all the way to grade. Let it be recessed 3" or 4" so that it can be covered with soil. One, eighty-pound bag of concrete should be enough to set both posts. Use a carpenters level to make sure posts are plumb. If you can guaranty that no one will touch them or there will be strong wind for several hours, you could probably get away with no temporary bracing. If not, brace diagonally with 1"x4"s screwed to wood stake driven into ground.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yardvaark - thanks for the details. Looks like I had no idea how to do this, so thanks for going into the process. I did plant some Amethyst Mist huerchera's yesterday to ring my tree - two of my neighbors commented how nice it looked. The only thing that bothers me is that I wasn't able to plant the tree in the ideal location due to the stump, and with a yard as small as mine it makes a difference. I think I may have to tweak the design somewhat but that probably happens a lot in real life. After I get all the huercheras in the ground I am going to post another picture. It will be before I dig out the ground cover area. And of course you will see the bare spot where the other tree was at - which has become the neighborhood cat's litter box. Thanks for sticking with my post!


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

If I believed a tree was not in the correct spot, since it's small, I'd just move it, taking care as much as possible to avoid breaking up the rootball. If the rootball will fall apart for sure, it would be best to wait until after the plant becomes dormant. Moving it would be better than living with the tree in the wrong spot for years.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Good point, Yardvaark.

I can't tell what type of tree it is but if it's not a desirable cultivar, it might be worthwhile to replace the tree altogether.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

I thought you were talking about the CC Dogwood. No, we don't want any undesirable types.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

You can use the fast setting cement mix. It hardens in about 30 minutes.

Start with about 6" of compacted gravel. Then you pour about 1/3rd the cement, 1/3rd the water and repeat 3 times.

All wood eventually rots when it's exposed to standing water. To get more life out of your screen you can make the concrete footings and attach a post anchor to it. Then bolt the screen to the anchors. I know they make stand-off anchors that will keep a 4x4 post a bit off the concrete. Not sure about other sizes.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yardvarrk-Here it is so far. I think its in a good spot to continue. What do you think?
Tom-thanks for the info. I am going to be overseeding the lawn very soon, so maybe in the meantime I can see if I can get the screen made. Thanks for bringing up the water thing - something to consider.

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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yardvaark - what do you think about this idea in lieu of the decorative screen - a couple of sky pencil holly's in that same spot?


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

The trouble with adding fast setting concrete and standoff anchors is that it turns the $20-to-set-a-pair-of-posts into a $50+ project. That, with the extra complication it adds, for the novice, is sometimes enough to discourage them from doing the project. While standoff anchors are great for a deck or small building with its own structural integrity, they're actually a weaker connection in terms of keeping a freestanding post plumb throughout it's life. Those anchors can bend if hit hard (by teenagers most likely.) Since a treated post in just concrete will last more 20 years, its usually sufficient.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Katrina, I posted before seeing your recent additions. I don't think the tree position is far enough from target to be concerned about because it only means adapting the groundcover bed a little farther out and into a slightly large circle. There's no harm in doing that.

In your line of 7 "bushes", I'd remove the one that is at the corner of the deck... third from left. The easiest way is to cut it off at ground level (with a folding pruning saw) and paint the cut ends (with a throw away paint brush or similar) with straight, undiluted herbicide, to keep the roots from sprouting new growth. This is much easier than digging out the roots of an established shrub. The others must be cut back severely and regrown to their new shape, but for that I'd wait for end of winter or early spring (before new growth.) It's too late in the year to encourage new growth.

While using 'Sky pencil' Holly as a screen would work as a privacy barrier, I don't think it would add near the charming touch that a lattice screen, with a blooming vine on it, would add.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yardvaark, I see what you mean about that bush on the corner of the deck. In your drawing, you have the three boxwoods to the right of that bush with no planting in front of them, with a straight line of mulch going underneath them. I am thinking I need to move the grasses out of there and remove that curving line under the bushes to make it a straight line, except for the circle curve around the bush at the decks entrance. Hope that makes sense. I am overseeding my lawn and want to include that curved area of mulch in the seeding.
I missed the summer pruning of the boxwoods and thats why they are messy right now, but it works out because theres a little more growth inbetween now. I will wait for early spring - that seems to be safest around here.
Thanks for the input on the screen. I do think it adds to the cottage feel.
I am going to take out that bush - thanks for the "how-to" description. I put the tree a little further out because of its spread, so I'm glad it will work according to plan. And thanks again for your help. I am going to post a picture when the bush is cut down.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

I was looking through HD's website for a fence project and found these. There are some in different shapes and sizes. No concrete. Just a sledge hammer and some elbow grease. Groundmaster 30 in. Gray Post-GM-30 at The Home Depot


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Tom - Thank You!!! That looks perfect!
Yardvaark-
Did I cut out enough ground cover area, or do I need to go bigger - I went conservative as I can always add to it.
For the groundcover, I saw a dwarf plumbago that gets about 12 inches tall - do you think that would be too tall? The bush is getting cut down next, I didn't have time to do it yet.
Thanks!
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Another thought for the ground cover area. Wondering if I should mix up the types of cover - such as a low growing juniper that gets 1' to 2' towards the back, something like the dwarf plumbego, and then very low growing ground cover in the front. What do you think?


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

YOu already have a backdrop (the bushes) and skirt around the tree for added interest. I would keep the groundcover simple (a single variety) and low (6" - 10" ht.) In a sense, it's acting as a secondary "white space" foil that links plants but does not compete with them. Because the tree is a little farther from the house, I think I'd expand the groundcover bed a little. As it is, the tree is a little close to the edge. It should not look like it's in danger of toppling out of the island.

Regarding the bed for color, I'd use it more in a way that encircles and punctuates the 'sentry' shrub at the entrance to your deck, rather than as a small, linear "hedge" that will be in front of another small, linear hedge (where the front one would obscure the back one.) If you move it to around the larger (end) shrub, and the color itself is not too tall, these won't seem to be in competition with one another.


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Yardvaark,
Thanks once again, I was thinking by your drawing it needed to start wrapping around in the vincinity of the 2nd boxwood and further out from the tree, but wanted to double check with you.
I'm not sure what you are saying about the color, what I understand is that the groundcover should compliment the planting around the sentry shrub, not complete with it? Will post after the two areas are dug out and the corner shrub is gone.
Thank you SO much for all your help!!!!!


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Sorry. By "color" I meant the seasonal color (which might be annuals or perennials) in the small bed around the shrub next to the driveway. It doesn't imply, either, that other plantings shouldn't, or can't be colorful. If the groundcover blooms it will obviously be colorful at that time, but its primary job it not so much to be attention-grabbing (by using color) as it is to serenely knit other components together. The small bed is supposed to be colorfully attention-grabbing, making sure that the route to the entrance is noticed.

By the way, I forgot to mention earlier that it's shaping up pretty well.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Thanks Yard, and thanks for explaining the concept. The groundcover choice was what I couldn't decide on because its a large part of it. I'm going to do vinca minor periwinkle - I think it will serve that purpose.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

If Vinca minor grows well in your area, I think it would be a fine choice. It's a combination of good height, leaf sheen, interest and manageability. (I would not say same about V. major!) Have fun!

One more thing, you will probably need to add another plant--probably perennial (like daylilies or Iris or something along those lines... whatever strikes your fancy and accepts the conditions and is about 30" height since it will appear behind the Heuchera)-- in the space up against the house... between deck and shrubs to the left. While this originally would have been part of the planting bed bed that goes below the tree, because the tree has moved forward, there's now a vacant space behind. In my original drawing I'm taking the plant material below the tree--you're using Heuchera--all the way back to the house. Now that the tree is farther forward, there can be something else (separately) filling in this void. Hope that makes sense.


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I see what you mean, when you break it down to shapes you can see it better. I actually have an ornamental grass in that area that hasn't grown to full size, but I am going to take that out, I think the daylilies or iris would look good. Will have to have a look at whats out there. I've talked to a few people here who have said as long as the ground isn't frozen here they have planted sucessfully.
Thanks once again!!! I hope to have the groundcover area dug out and planted by the end of the week.


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"I've talked to a few people here who have said as long as the ground isn't frozen here they have planted successfully." That was my experience in the Midwest and I came to far prefer Fall planting over doing it in the Spring. (It's hard to think of frozen ground when it's in the eighties and still fairly humid here!)

If you want to make it a combo situation, the vertical foliage of 'Caesar's Brother' Siberian Iris as a backdrop with daylilies in front of it looks pretty good. (I'm still just talking about the one spot I've shown in blue above.)

Another thought occurred to me that you might wish to put the tree on the other side of the obstructing underground stump and get it closer to the house. You can evaluate if it's possible. I'm not saying it's not workable where it is, just that the overall scene would be improved by getting it closer. If you plain don't want to for whatever reason, that's okay as you're making it workable with other adjustments.


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Yard, I just took a look at that Caesars Brother Iris online, that is gorgeous. I have been thinking about Iris because it fits so well with a cottage look. I've seen those tall ones in yards and always thought they were beautiful, even when they are not flowering.
About the tree, I am concerned about its close proximity to the stump - its probably 2' from the root ball, but the tree gets as wide as it is tall - which is 20', and right now it is planted about 13' from the house, so I figure at the distance it is at now I am still going to have to prune it to keep it away from the house. I was hoping the roots would find their way around the stump. I really don't want to replace the tree, I really like dogwood trees, but what do you think about the distance from the stump and then the distance it is from the house?


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'Caesar's Brother' is an old award winner that is beautiful, very easy to grow and performs well under many conditions. When out of bloom, the vertical foliage is very handsome.

I would not worry about the old stump at all. As long as the new tree is in soil and has access to soil, it will not care that an old stump is nearby.

The tree could actually be much closer to the house than 13'. It's not a maintenance problem as long as the trunks stay clear of the wall and eaves. Since they're growing primarily upright, not horizontally, it's easy for them to conform to such a configuration. (Even if they were as close as 5'.) The canopy will be above the eaves. The portion of the canopy that allows the silhouette of the house to fit behind it, is carved away and is not visible from the front and is unnoticed otherwise. It's not difficult to maintain as the carved away portion is in its own shade, so there's little or no re-growth once a branch is removed. What growth occurs at the lower canopy edges would be easily manageable for a small, flowering tree. Since your house is not the source of light that encourages growth of the tree canopy, most growth will be in the opposite direction, upward, toward the sun.

(My picture is only saying how to handle the tree, not where you should place it.)


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yard, here is the groundcover area dug out. How about the roots of the tree? I have always heard to keep it away from close proximity to the house to prevent foundation damage. I don't know much about pruning and don't know if I could shape it to have it look good. I was reading a pruning website and he recommended only to prune a tree when its young, when its older, only prune anything that is dead. You seem very knowledgeable, but there is always dissenting opinions. If I do move it, would it be advisable to do it now? I am thinking I could move it back to about 10', but would that be enough? Thanks Yard!


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Oh Drat Yard, I'm going to move it. I want to get it right. Tommorrow I will have time to do it. Thanks for bringing it up, since everything is dug out, it will be pretty easy.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Ha! I have been in the same boat. Many times I've moved something just a foot or two or even 6". It's only bad when there are leaves on the plant and the root ball falls apart.

The reason for enlarging the bed, which you've done a good job of, was to get the tree closer to it's center so that proportions of elements look balanced. Changing the tree location (the theoretical center) might beg shrinking the bed a LITTLE. But at this point, I wouldn't even think about. It could happen next spring (if it needs to happen at all) and I'm not sure from photos if it does. I'm just saying it's a possibility for later.

I'll show you what I now think it a good location now, and you decide if it's worth doing. There is some forgiveness in landscaping and I can tell that either way you go--move the tree or not-- you can and will make the scene come together in a positive way.

(If you can't read my writing, it says "ideal now" and "range of acceptability")


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Yard-I know it would bother me if I didn't move it, so here goes, I am going to try and get it into the sweet spot, which is about 10' out. What do you think about the corner boxwood now, do you think it still needs to go? I thought about cutting it down before I move the tree so I can have a better look at the spot. I'm going to try and get the tree moved, along with the huechera and the bush removed, depending on if you still think it needs to go, by the weekend and post another shot. I am wondering if I should plant the groundcover as well, or would it be better to have you take a look at the area after the move before planting? Again, thanks for all your help, I sure couldn't do this without your expertise! Thanks for hanging in there!


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

I've always thought the corner boxwood needed to go away and have not changed my thoughts on it. Cutting it down to get out of the way would be fine. Remember, if you cut at ground level and treat surface of the fresh-cut root "stump" (though there won't be a stump sticking up) with undiluted herbicide, it will not come back.

It's fine to plant the ground cover. Stay clear (2') of the front bed edge in case it needs to shrink later, and then you won't need to move any GC plants. If the bed doesn't shrink, the plants will still grow toward the edge and cover it. It will just take a little longer for them to get there. No need to get closer than 2' to shrubs, too.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yard, I got a little carried away with the GC area. I learned how to make a circle, so I did that and reseeded the bald spot with grass. I think it may be a bit small now, but I wanted to plant grass before it got too cold. What do you think? I can enlarge it a bit in the spring if it looks a bit small. You said GC is just suppossed to unite the plantings and I think I was making it a feature instead. The corner bush is cut down and that made a big difference. Its kind of hard to see the tree, but I planted it about 3' back from the previous spot. Should I grow the GC under the yews and back in the corner of the deck and house? I thought in the spring after the lattice screen is in I can reassess the GC area.
Also, do you have any suggestions for the sentry shrub planting, which I still need to cut an area for? I thought maybe something about 18 inches tall that doesn't spread very wide since it will be a small area.
Thanks!!!
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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Heres a side view.

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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

The groundcover should/can be a feature, but we need to be mindful of proportions and balance at all times. I think you're making progress. The tree looks better there. I can visualize it as "belonging" to the house and being a part of the house's "accessories". I'll give you a pat on the back for your dedication! It looks to me like you might be returning a little bit too much bed back to grass. You might take the bed to the vicinity of the red line I'm showing in the photo. It will be easy enough to scratch out newly sprouted grass where you don't want it, add just a few more Vincas and cover the area with mulch.

Don't grow Vinca under Yews. In the Spring when you re-define the shape of the Yews, they'll begin developing a new profile. (You'll need to learn the correct shapes to prune shrubs so that the lower foliage doesn't disappear from lack of light. The upper portion should not shade the lower portion.) The Vinca will MEET the Yew, not go under it.

Even though the shrubs are still high (but don't cut 'til Spring) the overall picture of the house has it looking much less "engulfed" with the corner-of-the-deck shrub removed.

18" seems like a good height around the sentry shrub. If you went went with a shrub, Potentilla comes to mind. If a perennial, 'Stella d'Oro' daylily and 'Rozanne' Geranium come to mind but there would be other things that would work. It's an opportunity for you to use something that spins YOUR beany. Maybe someone else has some suggestions.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yard,
In your initial drawing the GC area is a circle shape, if I extend it like that it will be more of an egg shape. Does that matter? I really want to get the GC area right before I go on, its kind of driving me crazy. Thanks again!


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

It is circular. If it looks egg-shaped, it's because there's room to misinterpret single photos because of the angle of view or because my drawing on them is imperfect. When the screen happens, the arc of the bed would blend to meet it. But that can happen when the screen happens.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

What do you think? Its easy right now to adjust it. Thanks!!!

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Looks quite darn good!

You might check that cat. He doesn't seem to have moved in quite a while :-)


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Fantastic! Finally got there. Now I can start on the sentry shrub area. That will be about all I can do til early spring, except for making the lattice screen. I really like the color of the rozanne geranium and I found where they still have it.
Yes, that is the only cat I have - so I am not a crazy cat lady!
Thanks for your help again!!!


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Congrats and you're welcome. Nice that you found 'Rozanne'!

In the Spring, before new growth occurs, you'll want to cut the shrubs severely in order to direct their new growth into the places where it's needed. (Dead of Winter until new growth occurs is your window of opportunity. The longer you wait, the less time you must look at brutally cut shrubs!) They need to fill in at the bottom and connect to one another at the sides, so there won't be any cutting in those places. Removing upper portions of the plants helps to expose the lower portions to more light. As the hedges grow, subsequent cuts are only to refine the overall shape until you get to the final outline that you will maintain from then on.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

That really is drastic. I'm glad you diagrammed it, I wasn't thinking so low for the 1st cut. I'm planning on reading up about pruning so I can do it properly. I've just taken the electric shears in the past and tried to make a rounded form on the boxwoods, so I get what you mean about the bottom being somewhat wider than the top to let in light. Is it safe to cut in the dead of winter in zone 5? We have a lot of warming up a bit and then getting super cold during the month of March . Thanks again for all your help, I am looking forward to how its going to look next year.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

You were probably thinking that the first cut would be more where the final cut would be. There is only about one foot of difference between the two and it would be better for you if it was made up of new, fresh growth rather than stubs that you must fight with when pruning later. It needs to be drastic to help overcome the existing shape and loss of foliage at the bottom of shrubs. It will not want to grow there unless you force it some. Shears will not work initially. You'll need loppers or a folding saw. I'm not saying you must cut mid-winter... only that you can... safely. I like to cut right before growth so I don't have to look at cuts all that long. But don't wait until after the spring flush of growth or you'll be cutting off and throwing away a lot of growth energy of which you will only get back a much lesser percentage. It's better to bite the bullet up front than it is to discover that you should have gone lower, but then the growth energy has been much dissipated.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

You're right, thats where I was thinking, but I see it wouldn't account for the growth. Well this ought to be interesting.
For the sentry shrub planting I ended up with Cosmic Evolution Coreopsis. I liked the neat growing habit of it, and the color is nice too. It looks like it is suppossed to be planted in a half circle around the bush, although it won't be a complete half circle because of the driveway, but just create a curve I believe. Thanks again for hanging in there with all my questions!


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Coreopsis will be nice.

I'm sure you understand that the shrubs are trimmed wider at the base in all visible directions so that the front face has the same profile as the end of the hedge (not undercut.) At the back where it won't be seen, it can be cut straight vertical.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

When you say the front face should have the same profile as the end of the hedge, does that mean taper the top narrower on the side of the hedge as well? Your diagram for the cutting is showing that I believe. On the yews should I follow the lines you have drawn? they both are tapering downward on the inside edges for the first cut, like they are cut seperately instead of straight across like the line you show on the boxwoods. Thanks!


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"does that mean taper the top narrower on the side of the hedge as well?" It means taper the FRONT FACE narrower as it ascends; wider as it descends.

You'll note that the boxwoods and the yews are not really planted in the right place. But they're close enough so it would be absurd to move them. The way to "massage" them into the right place is with pruning. Note that we're shifting the Yews to the right a bit as they overhang the outside (left) wall of the house. (We're trying to balance them with the window.) Since you removed the boxwood that was at the corner of the deck, the nearest one remaining isn't quite close enough to the corner so we'll shift it left. (We're not really ready to get out the measuring tape and strive for absolute perfection. Instead, we're trying to "position" plants--adjust by pruning--well enough to please the average eye. Follow my lines and you'll be fine.) Remember to give the plants fertilizer at the spring flush of growth to take as much advantage of the pop of growth as you can. Because of the plants' fully developed root system and energy stored there, you'll get much more growth after cutting than would be typical during a regular growth spurt. The plant will try to replace lost foliage. There are no guarantees, but I wouldn't be surprised if the hedge was at, or near the final height by the end of the first growing season.

While you bone up on "pruning" keep in mind that the vast majority of it is written from a perspective of gardening (what the plant wants), and not from a perspective of landscaping... what the overall scene wants. As long as you prune within the large window of opportunity mentioned earlier, you'll be fine. You might want to study up on sculpture, as that's what you'll be doing. In my sketch I showed curving sides (and imagine a curving face) to the hedges. If you prefer or if you want it to be easier, you can make it perfectly straight (angled, not pure vertical) for a crisp, sharp look. I like the curves with your house, but either would work. As you trim, use a house feature (like a siding board or the deck) as a visual guide to help you keep the hedge level and straight.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Heres a picture of the yews before I cut them last March. I am understanding that you mean that by pruning them as described, when the new growth fills in, I will just keep the new growth longer when I trim on the sides that need to be shifted? Thanks for the description, that really helps me to know what the goal is.
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Those yews were monsters!

That's right. Most of the new growth that occurs in the direction you are shifting the plant gets to remain. You'll just be touching it up along the way to the final destination in order to even it out.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Thanks Yard, I am going to follow the lines you drew, I see the first cut on the left side of the yews cuts further to the right. So I am assuming I do the 2nd cut when the bushes grow to the height of the 2nd line, is that right? I got a couple books on pruning from the library so I can educate myself. Thanks so much for your help, I truly appreciate it.


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It's a little hard to show everything in a single drawing so well that it explains itself. The first cut is important in kicking off the re-shaping effort. The final cut is the end goal. But the line I'm showing in between those two represents tidying up and evening-out that occurs along the way. It could actually be more than a single cut. The intermediary cutting helps the hedge fill in any holes and stay thick and full. If, for example, it grew 6" height since the first cut, you might cut that new growth back 50% and allow 3" to remain. Each cutting is an opportunity to strive toward your vision of perfection in shaping the hedge.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Yard-I have one more question about the first cut, on the face front, do I cut it to taper at the top on the first cut, or start doing that just with the growth after the initial pruning? I think I have everything pretty clear except for that. Thanks again!


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

I think the answer is "Yes, but...." Technically, you'd begin to create the taper at the onset. But since you're cutting fairly low on the plant, it's down in an area where most of what you need to be tapering is presently a void, which can't be cut. (The view is a cross-section as it would be seen from the end of the hedge.)


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Thanks, I will have to see what is there when I start cutting back. I will post another pic when I make some more progress, either the lattice screen or the pruning in late winter. My brother said he would make the lattice screen for me after he is done with his Halloween project. Again, thank you for the design and for all the help to do it!!!


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You're welcome! That you were eager, enthusiastic and thankful made it a positive experience!


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Hi! I'm here to throw a spanner into the works!
First, stain your deck. Do not paint! You will be in for a nightmare. (I'm an interior designer. Trust me on this) You can choose an opaque stain, but I prefer semi-transparent unless you are trying to cover flaws. Stains come in many different colours and read like paint. I am not a big fan of wood coloured stains, but a taupe or grey would be beautiful. Paint your shutters a deeper colour. Paint your door a brighter colour; it's lost behind the screen. You can paint a vinyl house, but you need awesome prep and the right paint.
In terms of planting, I say go big or go home. I would put a line of hydrangeas right along your property line , right to the street, to hide the property to your left (looking at the picture). I would the plant a large triangle of scarlet carpet roses running from the hydrangeas and narrowing to your driveway. It doesn't need to be straight sided, you can curve it, just don't keep it all the same depth. You really don't need a front lawn at all with a small house and yard like that. The tree is in the right place now. Add some more bushes because right now your house is very horizontally linear and more irregular plantings will de-emphasize that, which is what I think is bothering you. The last thing you need is to reinforce all those squat horizontal lines. You need undulating heights in your plantings. Try lamium for a great low growing groundcover. It will bloom in Spring and have variegated leaves the rest of the time. Sorry. I just had to speak up. No lawn at all. Trust me.


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diane0712, I'm interested in your experience with stain vs. paint. You speak with confidence about it, but my experience has it that stain is not what it's cracked up to be. I prefer paint over stain and think it looks better as well as lasts longer. Nothing I've ever painted outside I would consider a "nightmare". To the contrary, paint seems to last quite a while. I guess that speaks to its popularity as the de facto standard coating for houses. I think that degradation of stain is less noticeable as it ages, but I don't think it actually lasts or protects longer. Maybe someone knows of a study that scientifically compares the two.

As far as the house being "very horizontally linear" I'm not seeing that and think it's not the case. The house looks barely 25' wide, seems decently proportioned and it's only blank space, small. When the tree grows, it will do away with that. I'm not seeing all these things that need hiding or de-emphasized.


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diane - thanks for your comment. I actually have heard the same thing regarding paint vs stain, so I will have to get more info. on that. Thanks for the caution.
Regarding the door and shutters - I have a replacement door stored in the garage because my new door warped inside of a year - and I was going to paint it BM Homestead Green - which is lighter and more aqua after the door gets replaced. I don't know why someone would put a brownish red roof on a white house but they did, so I feel like they fight each other. The shutters were already painted that color which is SW camelback. I have a detached garage with the same roof and siding, and I picked a yellowish cream garage door - probably should have gone with white. So to connect it with the house I left the shutters their goldish color. I painted the door its current color because its a richer color to corrdinate with the roof. Do you have any suggestions for the door and shutter color? When the door gets replaced I am going to get a new screen door because that one is not in very good shape - I thought I would get one with a white frame. I really like the BM Homestead Green for the door, can you suggest a shutter color that would look good with it and still coordinate the garage to the house?
What you suggest for landscaping sounds lovely, but I really am not ready for that, and I love the simpler design that Yard created. I work a lot of hours so simpler is better for me. I see a lot of yards that are all garden and they really are beautiful, but I like the idea of just mowing over grass for my needs. I aso prefer a more "woodsy" look, to a lot of flowers, even though they go with the cottage look, I think a flowering vine, a good window box and the flowers around the entry shrub give enough blooms to go with a cottage look.
I would love to hear back about the door and shutter colors if you have any suggestions. Thanks again!


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

Katrina, jumping in here to say I think your house is cute, too and the improved landscaping is/will be wonderful. I have one suggestion that has nothing to do with plants- get a larger light fixture for the front door. Something with more presence will make a huge difference for relatively few dollars!


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cyn - it's funny I never noticed that before. I like the fixture up close, its kind of a nautical style, but you are so right, a larger one would give a better look. Thanks for that suggestion! I love those inexpensive fixes that make a difference.


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I'm excited to see the yews after you trim them! Nice work!


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When I do outside spaces I use oil based semi-transparent stain. Stain seeps into the wood, paint sits on top. Oil has a profound affect on the wearability of the stain, latex tends to peel. I have used all 3 and there is no comparison, and since I need to make sure things are done right for my clients I have been very thorough.
Since you bought the rich blue for your shutters, how about the wow of some orange galliarda in front of the shrubs lining the porch? Spreaders but not invasive, bloom all summer into late fall. No one will even notice your neighbour.


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RE: Can you make lemonade out of lemons?

I have been looking at Cabots deck stains. I think they are suppossed to be pretty good. I will have to wait till spring for that though, its too late in the year here. I have been dealing with strep throat and out of commission last week, but I will post a picture of the new color on the other link when I take a picture.
I had the galliarda in my garden at my old house - I had a larger space for a garden and a variety of perrenials and they really stood out, but they popped up in places I didn't want them. I will have to take another look when everything fills in, in the spring. Orange does look great with blue, but, now I have burgundy coral bells, vinca minor that blooms periwinkle, and coreopsis that changes from white petals with gold centers, to white with magenta petals later in the season. I have got compliments from a couple neighbors about the new door and shutter color, will post a picture soon.


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