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Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Posted by CreatedToCook 10a/10b Semi-Coastal (My Page) on
Sat, Oct 12, 13 at 16:55

SO HERE'S THE PROBLEM:
I just moved in a few months ago, and have been busy digging out all of the overgrown plants in the front yard.
But now I'm left with dirt, and a patchy lawn.

I'm at a lost as to what I should do next. Will you PLEASE HELP me create an overall plan and layout??? All of your ideas and suggestions will be GREATLY appreciated.

WHAT I WOULD LIKE:
1. I would like a design that will complement the architecture and style of the house... only, I'm not quite sure what this style is??? If you think you know, please share. Keep in mind that the color of the house will eventually change, but it will still be a color that will complement the brownish-greyish roof color. But for now, the house is this light yellowish-beige color.

2. Get rid of the round ficus tree. I was told that it MUST go, because as it gets bigger, the roots will create issues with our plumbing and pipes.

3. I want to create a screen to cover the unsightly area by the trash cans on the right side of the house.

4. I want to have the large bay window at the front of the house make more visual sense. It currently looks misplaced and off center because it runs into the current walk way.

5. I want to cover up and soften the look of the ugly retaining walls on either side of my property, between me and my neighbors.
I was thinking some evergreen shrubs, like:
-Sweet Pea Shrub (polygala myrtifolia)
-Buddleia Pink Charm (6-8 ft tall)
-Lavatera bi-color Mallow (Lavatera Bi-color)
-Buddleia 'Butterfly Bush' Pink Charm (6-7 ft tall)
-White Chiffon rose of Sharon: (although I'm not sure if the White Chiffon Rose of Sharon can really take the heat)...
-Silver Sheen (Pittosporum): I think they can look nice grown at back corners on both sides of the house. I've even seen the silver sheen shrub, grown to look like a tall and somewhat slender multi-trunk tree.
-White Iceberg Roses: I was also thinking of interspersing some white iceberg roses in front of the evergreen shrubs and adding some other flowering perennials like Blue Russian Sage, or edible herbs like thyme or sage in front of the roses. If you have any plant suggestions, PLEASE share.

5. I also like the idea of a small tree of some kind, but I'm not sure if that's a good idea, or where it should go... maybe something like a crepe myrtle or some kind of small weeping type tree... or even maybe some kind of smaller fruit tree???

Here are the WEATHER CONDITIONS at my house:
1. The front of the house faces SOUTH, so it gets ALL DAY sun.
2. The summer temperatures are generally up into the mid to high 90's.
3. The winters here are fairly mild, and we generally never get frost... the lowest temperatures are maybe down in the 40's.
4. As I mentioned above, I am in a semi-coastal area, so our house always gets a breeze coming from the south-west off the coast, every day at about 3pm. Sometimes, this breeze can be quite strong.
5. There are also a few days during the year where we'll get something called the Santa Ana Winds, which is a VERY HOT and DRY and STRONG dessert wind.
6. Sometimes, we get a little wet marine layer in the early morning, but it burns off quickly as soon as the sun comes out.

Planting Conditions:
1. Dirt Conditions: I have dark clay type soil.
2. The plants need to be able to take heat and all day sun.
3. The plants need to be able to handle windy conditions.

I'm posting lots of pictures to give you an overall sense of front yard area, in the hopes that you will be able to give me some great ideas I can implement. Thank you for looking at this, and sharing your thoughts and ideas with me.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Here is a closer look at the unsightly area on the right side of my house. It's just a long, rectangular dirt area that I know is full of potential.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

From another angle... there is a thin dirt strip that goes all the way to the back of the house. I was thinking it might be a good idea to plant some rosemary there to off-set some of the smell from the trash cans.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Should I build a raised planting bed here? Or should I just leave it the way it is and plant evergreen shrubs like a sweet pea shrub along the retaining wall to cover it up? I was also thinking of planting a tall, narrow growing plant like a, Pittosporum Silver Sheen in the far right corner, (where the terra cotta pots are), to screen the trash cans and neighbor's house. What do you think???


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Here's a closer view of the left side of the house. The wind blows from the left side of the house towards the right side.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Here's a better view of the large bay window. If you take a close look that the cement walk way, you can see how it partly cuts into the area where the bay window sits, making the window look off balance, and off center. There is currently a very narrow strip of dirt running directly underneath the window along the wall of the house.

This post was edited by CreatedToCook on Sat, Oct 12, 13 at 17:52


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Here's a closer view of the left side of my house. You can see a close up of the short wall I would like to cover up. I was thinking that a tall narrow shrub would look nice in the back corner where the tall wall is. Should I plant the same kind of evergreen shrubs on both the left and right side of the house?

This post was edited by CreatedToCook on Sat, Oct 12, 13 at 17:55


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

The stick looking plants surrounding the archway are iceberg roses. One is a climbing iceberg rose over the archway. The water fountain in the archway does NOT have to say.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Here's a closer look at the archway and front entrance enclosure. Can you see how problematic the current placement walk way is to the placement of the window. It makes the window look like it doesn't belong there. Is there a way I disguise this with plants??? Or should I do something about the cement walk way???


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Here's a view of the walk way leading into the enclosed front entrance area. You can see a side profile of the bay window and how it juts out from the face of the house. What should I do about this walk way?


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

It’s a nice batch of pictures that explains the existing conditions well.

Landscape and architecture is functional art that communicates without the need for written or oral language. Its messages are physical and many of them are transmitted visually. This house is sending a seriously mixed-up message about where and how one enters it. At first glance the arched opening appears to be the entrance. At second glance, we see it’s a bit narrow, is blocked and there looks to be plantings at its foot, indicating it is not the path to entering. We are led, then, leftward to follow the concrete path that goes to a place we can't yet discern. Maybe it dead-ends at the house face, or maybe there is another opening around at the left side of the structure and not yet visible. To be sure, the path is narrow and not without obstructions. (I am not referring to those temporary.) There is a tall, snarly looking plant that must be circumnavigated. Add it up and it equals an entrance that is not visually inviting. It discourages the uninitiated. To my mind, the real fix would be an architectural modification, but if that is not in the cards, the best thing that landscape could do is NOT to encumber the actual entrance in any way. The arch, if a modification is not performed would be better turned into a window instead of impersonating a blocked doorway. The path could be reconfigured to swing back around toward the right and appear like it IS leading to an entrance that is beyond. Some welcoming art on the wall near the entrance wouldn't hurt either. A small entrance garden could be created around the arched opening. The walk could be more spacious to better fit the scale of the house.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

  • Posted by min3 9N.CA (My Page) on
    Wed, Oct 16, 13 at 20:09

Well, if you are going to block that archway with a grille or something like it, I don't see why not to keep that pretty fountain right where it is, with the low garden in front of it. It has character and fits the house. Min


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

  • Posted by min3 9N.CA (My Page) on
    Wed, Oct 16, 13 at 20:12

Another thought: if you don't want to keep the fountain AS a fountain, though most people love the peaceful sound of water, you could fill the bowl with very nice low succulents. Min


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

I have no objection to the fountain, per se. My objection is that is is not architecturally integrated into the opening, but instead, looks like an object sitting there. Integrate it, and maybe it could be the ultimate. I like the simple grille, too, so another possibility is move the fountain forward into the garden, if enough space is made.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

I apologize if it appears as though I've abandoned my thread. I assure you this thread is still alive. I've just been SO CRAZY busy. Work in a new house never ends... especially when you add two young boys and a dog to the mix... ;-) I've actually been hard at work trying to implement some of the suggestions that Yardvaark and Min3 suggested.

Yardvaark: THANK YOU for ALL of your suggestions. I really like your explanation on what GOOD landscape should accomplish... and I'm going to hold onto that wisdom as I continue to plan my landscape. I couldn't agree with you more on the mixed message that my house is currently sending. I especially appreciate the visual rendering... it is SO HELPFUL to see it drawn up like that. I really like the idea of expanding the flower bed area in front of the arch. I intend on posting some follow up pictures as I make progress on the house. I really like many of your ideas... And while it's not in the budget for me to do major hardscaping write now, I plan on incorporating many of your ideas into the long term plan for the house. Right now the plan is to plant some of the larger foundation plants that will need time to mature and establish and in a couple of years, do some more major hardscaping and painting.

Per your suggestions, I spent a weekend moving the gnarly looking iceberg rose that growing next to the arch. The climbing rose has a lot of sentimental value... So after a lot of consideration, I decided to go ahead and keep it in its current location but just make a few minor adjustments to it. I moved it in slightly so that it doesn't impede on the walkway. My vision, is that once it overcomes transplant shock, it will be green and lush and filled with beautiful white roses to welcome guests as they enter our home.

Min3 & Yardvaark: Before the fountain was there, there was dated spiky iron work that made that arch look almost like a prison... so I removed it and put the fountain in its place. It was a fountain we had brought from our old house. I'm hoping it doesn't look too tacky. I was trying to send the visual message that the arch is not a walk way.

FOLLOW UP QUESTION: Do you have any suggestions as how I should go about creating a path that would lead from the side walk toward the front of the house and have it look nice???


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Min3: : The fountain used to work, until my dog chewed through the cord. I really like your idea of filling it with succulents. I may have to do that until I get around to replacing the cord.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

CtoC, why do you want to create a front entrance walk connecting to the city walk? Is that "in addition to" or in lieu of" a walk connecting to the drive? What objectives have you? Consider how the walk is used.

Too bad you must get rid of the Ficus. I don't care for its "ball" shape --- thinking an "umbrella" shape would be much better --- but it looks nice, full and healthy.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

  • Posted by min3 9N.CA (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 25, 13 at 20:24

I agree with Yard about the ficus- it is a real asset for your landscape, but just not in the ball shape (and I don't mean cube shape either - green cubes are taking over my neighborhood.)

The fountain is not tacky! I think it looks very classy. Min


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Hi Yardvaark,

While I really like your rendering of the walk way that wraps around and connects with the garage driveway... the reason why I was thinking I should consider creating a walkway that leads from the main sidewalk is because, our guests will usually be parked along the street and entering from the sidewalk. Also, I assume that a walkway the visually greets guests from the sidewalk would appear more welcoming than one that leads from the driveway... Do you think that I'm incorrect in this assumption?

I'm also sad about having to remove the ficus tree. I also think that it could actually look quite nice if it were reshaped. I think that the front of the house is going to look very barren once the ficus is gone. The round ball shape is what we got when we bought the house... We even thought about having some fun with it and turning it into a pumpkin or Darth Vader for Halloween... ;-) I"m trying to figure out if we should plant a tree in it's place that won't give us the same kind of root issues. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?

We keep being told that while it's a manageable size right, we will be sorry if we decide to keep it because the roots will eventually damage the sprinklers, pipes, retaining walls... and maybe even sidewalk. I wonder how long it will take for that to happen... do you happen to know if it's a fast growing tree? Or if the roots can somehow be managed?... like if we were to continually try and manage the top growth, would it prevent the roots from continuing to spread out and take over?

Thank you again for all of your landscaping wisdom and insight. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas... :-)


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

  • Posted by catkim San Diego 10/24 (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 26, 13 at 1:25

Ficus -- look up images of mature ficus and you will appreciate the good advice you have received. To wait will only make the project more difficult and more expensive, not to mention the additional time needed to grow an appropriate tree to an attractive size.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Lamenting the need to get rid of a good looking plant doesn't equal a suggestion to keep it. The Ficus could be hard-trimmed ruthlessly, but a human would resent that a plant had turned them into a slave ... when it's supposed to be the other way around. I agree with catkim that a different tree would be a better choice, all things considered.

"I assume that a walkway the visually greets guests from the sidewalk would appear more welcoming than one that leads from the driveway... Do you think that I'm incorrect in this assumption?"

edit: Oops ... I meant, in a word YES! (to the question about the assumption.) You should create a walk that looks like it makes the best sense for the overall property ... and a walk directly to the city sidewalk is not necessarily more welcoming. You might not want to duplicate what exists a mere few feet away. Much of it depends on the geometry of how a walk would be laid out, it's width, materials and/or finishes. I'm not saying a separate walk directly to the city walk would look bad, but that it might not be an improvement over one that ties to the drive. It depends on all the factors involved. You might explore similar houses in the neighborhood to see if others have come up with successful variations.

This post was edited by Yardvaark on Sun, Oct 27, 13 at 12:25


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Thank you Catkim and Yardvaark for helping to alleviate any residual guilt I had about getting rid of the ficus. Here's a picture of the house after we took out the ficus.

Should we plant another tree in its place??? If so, what kind and where??? I've been leaning towards the idea of a single trunk crepe myrtle or a Silver Sheen Pittosporum grown as a multi-trunk tree. Anyone have any other suggestions?


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

I know they're not major changes, but I wanted to share with you some of the minor changes I made. I tried to incorporate some of your thoughts and suggestions.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Yardvaark: Do you think the fountain looks more incorporated into the landscape now than it did before?

I considered your suggestion about hanging some kind of art on the wall next to the large picture window and decided to add living art, in the the form of a climbing Eden Rose. My plan is to have it clime up and over to frame the the large window.

This post was edited by CreatedToCook on Wed, Oct 30, 13 at 1:13


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

I just had to share this picture of the first bloom on my iceberg rose. Just over two months ago it seemed like it was barely clinging to life. A major 90-100 degree heat wave broke out the week I transplanted all the roses from my old house to my new one. All the leaves turned brown and fell off and I was left with nothing but thorny sticks. Well thank goodness for YouTube and Paul Zimmerman's videos on how to transplant roses in the middle of summer... Even my very large climber which lost a major part of it's root system seems to be overcoming transplant shock.

I'm hoping that come spring, the iceberg roses will be full of blooms to welcome guests entering our home.

This post was edited by CreatedToCook on Wed, Oct 30, 13 at 1:34


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

As you can see, I haven't figured out a good place to store the hose. If you have any clever suggestions on how to hide an unsightly water hose, please share... :-)

This post was edited by CreatedToCook on Wed, Oct 30, 13 at 1:20


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

Things look better .... tidier. The Iceberg rose has a very handsome blossom. If I hadn't seen the ficus, I wouldn't miss it. Another tree seems necessary to create the sense of protection for your house and visual insulation from the property next door. Thinking it will deliver more presence, I would vote for a multi-trunk, or trees in a tight cluster over a single trunk.

What I was saying about the fountain was not that it needed to be more incorporated into the landscape, but into the architecture. From a distance, it almost looks like a child-sized figure standing in a doorway. I'm suggesting that you should make it look NOT like a doorway. If the gaps at either side of the fountain were sealed or hidden (maybe you'll do it with the roses) then it would read more like a low wall and the doorway would read like a window instead.

I like hoses on hose reels that are mounted on permanently installed, free-standing pedestals that are located away from the building, outside of the foundation planting zone ... to reduce the conflict between hose and defenseless plants. It's much better than having them close to, or attached to buildings. I don't really try to hide them, thinking that when they are wound up, they don't look bad. (But there is room for improvement in how the whole apparatus looks.)


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

I haven't looked at garden web for ages so just came across this post. I think the front of the house looks SO much better without that Ficus. it also makes it easier to imagine what you might do. I like the sugestion of a group of trees in the front, crape myrtles could work, they would give weight to the left side of the house to balance the garage's visual weight. also repeating two or three of the same along the right side property line, in the bed would, with the other trees frame the house and block out the side of the neighbors house. Get rid of much of the lawn and put in masses of shrubs on both property lines, but be generous with the width of the beds. Grass is more work than shrubs and generally need more water which in So Cal is important to consider. Try california natives along with south african and australian plants which will give lots of color , texture and need less water and pruning.


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RE: Southern California Front Yard: Desperate for HELP!

I haven't looked at garden web for ages so just came across this post. I think the front of the house looks SO much better without that Ficus. it also makes it easier to imagine what you might do. I like the sugestion of a group of trees in the front, crape myrtles could work, they would give weight to the left side of the house to balance the garage's visual weight. also repeating two or three of the same along the right side property line, in the bed would, with the other trees frame the house and block out the side of the neighbors house. Get rid of much of the lawn and put in masses of shrubs on both property lines, but be generous with the width of the beds. Grass is more work than shrubs and generally need more water which in So Cal is important to consider. Try california natives along with south african and australian plants which will give lots of color , texture and need less water and pruning.


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