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Half Shade Half Sun Balance (pic)

10 years ago

Trying to create balance in the front of the house, and I'm getting pretty frustrated.. Help? Please?!

The front of our home is on a busy corner, facing west. The north side of the front porch gets only a small window of sun as it sets, perhaps an hour or two. I consider the area full shade. (I'm a new gardener, so I may be wrong here!) The area to the south of the porch recieves sun from noon till sunset. My husband is adament that the front landscaping be symetrical..which I just don't see happening. I've tried a few plants that *might* do in either shade or sun, but they are obviously growing a such different rates, that the side to the north just looks sad! I'd like to attain balance.

I have some evergreen bushes that are doing well on the south side that I'd like to keep, as well as some plants that ..I can't think of the name-I'll look for a picture, that I'd like to keep as well. I'd like to keeep this extremely budget friendly, and animal and kid friendly. I love big flowers, butterfly bushes, burning bushes, yellows, whites, purples, blues, I like delphinium. As I said, I'm new to this, so hardy plants suit me well!

We have widened the front porch, and changed to sides to open rails, which will be stained a solid gray/green in the summer. We are planning on putting in a walk to the front sidewalk, brick? concrete? And are interested in putting up a fence or barrier around the front yard as well. We do have the window boxes too that I have to figure out.. And the shutters will be replaced- hunter green or white?

Any suggestions will be greatly!!! appreciated!! The main issue of course is the sun/shade balance. Thanks for reading!


The house...


The plant in the back seen here, looks similar to the plants we have in the front.


Comments (19)

  • designoline6
    10 years ago

    Prune the tree in left,then add a dogwood,a selverbell,ninebark,a beautybush,some goldenmop in right may be work.


  • missingtheobvious
    10 years ago

    Hi, lethargo, I have some questions.

    How much wider will the porch be?

    How deep will the porch be? And how much do the stairs add to that?

    How deep are the front beds now?

    How far from the front of the house to the sidewalk?

    Where exactly is that tree on the left? What I really mean is how far it is from the front of the house to that side of the trunk.

    Your blue evergreen is a juniper. They need full sun. (And that's an azalea behind it.)

    Noon to sunset pretty much qualifies the area south of the porch as "full sun" (technically six hours or more, but afternoon sun is always stronger, so I'd call it full sun).

    The area on the north side of the porch might qualify as "medium shade" rather than "full shade," since it does get some direct sun. How do you feel about rhododendrons and azaleas?

    Which reminds me, does your husband's love of symmetry mean he'll feel the need to prune the foundation shrubs into perfect meatballs, cones, cylinders, and gumdrops? [My father's like that.]

    I like the shutters as they appear to be in the photo: essentially the same color as the roof. In any case, a contrasting color will definitely give the house more character than white. If not the same color as the roof, I vote for a color in that family.

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    Comments (18)
    Hi, Dee Thought I would suggest Arborvitae, Emerald (Smargd). It is a tall, columnar evergreen that I use alot in my designs where I want tall and narrow. They will get to about 10-12 feet tall and three feet wide here. I have them at each corner and each angle of my house, and on either side of my front door. I grow them in full sun to almost total shade here and they do well. If anything, the shade makes them a bit narrower, which is fine with me. You were talking about depth of your beds. I find it easier to design the plantings first and then just make the beds a depth that will accomodate the mature size of the shrubbery. Be sure to leave a good two feet of empty space along the wall of the house for window washing and other maintenance. You mentioned purple foliage. I find it shows best, especially against a dark background when it has something chartreuse planted behind it. If you want to use alot of deciduous plants, you might want to consider doing a low edging around the beds, or part of the beds, with boxwood. This gives a parterre look, which I have really come to enjoy over the years. It can be low maintenance if you choose the right box. Go for low and SLOW growing varieties. I use alot of korean box (which may or may not be good as far north as you are) for this purpose. I only have to shear once a year. Be aware that boxwoods can have hungry roots. I root prune mine every year or two with a spade to keep them in bounds and away from other plantings. I can get one gallon boxwoods here for about $8 each. Of course, we don't grow Green Velvet and some of the other beautiful ones like it here in the south. One other thought. If you will get a pad of graph paper and a tape measure and go to the house, you can measure and draw out the area to scale. Just use one little box for one square foot. Then draw away (in pencil). When you are done, you'll know exactly how many plants you will need for the project. It's a low tech way, but it works. Being able to visualize things in your mind really helps. It sounds like you have that ability. Good luck! I am sure it will turn out beautifully.
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  • lethargo
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Hmm, I'm not really into lobbing off the top half of our maple tree.. And we have a large ..cherry? To the south of the house that would shade out/overreach a smaller tree between it and the house.

    Actually the stairs were the only thing widened, sorry. I can get more accurate measurements later, but for now, they're about 60" wide. The stairs are the same depth that they were, and the beds are as deep as the stairs from the house, about 5'. I would guesstimate the sidewalk is 20' from the house. The maple (guessing here-but will check it out) is about 6-7' from the house, and does need to be pruned back from the house as it stands now. This tree is THE barrier from the very busy corner. We don't have the junipers, nor the azaleas, and I'm a little uneasy about azaleas because I thoroughly killed them off at our last home. Aren't the rhodod. Posionous? My husband Isn't very likely to pick up the pruning shears, but perhaps if Provoked..I would say not likely. The shutters need to be replaced because of disrepair, and we're on a budget, which means off the shelf-hunter green it is!

    I will take a look at the tree, and measurements today and get back asap. Perhaps even an updated pic, that one is 5 years old....


  • PRO
    10 years ago

    I think the other plant next to the juniper is a Barberry.

    Here is a suggestion of a "look." I think you need "balance" but not necessarily 100% symmetry. I would suppress, somewhat, the inclination (as a "new gardener") to bring "gardening" to the front of the house and opt, instead, for a "landscape" appearance. (I'm leaning toward your husband's thoughts here.) And then, bring all the gardening you want to the sides and back of the house. What I mean by "somewhat" is, if you use a "garden" plant, use it in a "landscape" way. And there are many "garden" plants that are good enough looking and performing to choose from.

    I would install a basic hedge "moulding" at the base of the house (as the windows start fairly high up) and keep it always well below the windows and window boxes. Low growing Yews would be one example that would accept sun or shade. And they're easy to cut. I don't think it necessarily has to be evergreen, though. There are other choices.

    Your window boxes aren't beefy enough to support plant life without much trouble. I'd rebuild bigger and hang them lower so that what grows doesn't impede the window opening.

    If your house is still white, white would not make a good shutter color. I'm in total agreement with Mto, that what is shown in the photo looks great. I'd keep it basically the same.

    I like the idea of a brick sidewalk. As it's fairly short, I'd make no narrower than the steps are.

    My inclination for the Maple tree it to limb it up so it's acting as if it knows of the existence of the house. This will also help much in balancing out the light levels that reach the plants below.

    Because the front yard is so small, I would not screen it with a picket fence. Instead, I'd put the fence behind the landscape and screen the side yards if you like.

    There's space for a "tree." Possibilities on the smaller side are Japanese tree lilac, Burning bush (grown in the tree form,) Redbud, paperbark or trident Maple and many others. If a larger tree is wanted, place it a little farther from house. A Linden cultivar is nice, but there are plenty of other choices, too.

    Some groundcover below the trees would look good and lessen the maintenance.

    I think your house looks adorable!


  • inkognito
    10 years ago

    If by symmetrical you mean both sides of the front door looking the same looking at the house house full frontal there are only two ways this will happen 1) remove the maple and 2) plant a tree as per yardvaarks suggestion above.

    As a little experiment take a can of spray paint or a bag of flour and trace around the shade at around 2pm this will show some kind of pattern on the ground. Does the result show what might be considered symmetry if one side of your sprinkled flour line is Yin and the other Yang?

  • missingtheobvious
    10 years ago

    lethargo, as far as the "fence or barrier" goes, what is your aim in installing one?

    Are you trying to keep pedestrians from stepping on the grass or cutting across the corner?

    Are you aiming for a sense of distance from the rest of the world?

    Do you want to prevent people from seeing into your yard? Slightly/completely/somewhere in-between?

    Are you trying to keep small children or pets in the yard?

    Something else?

    Keep in mind that you may need different types and heights of barriers along different parts of the perimeter.

    Does your municipality limit where you can put a fence, or what height fence you can use in certain areas? Many do....

    [Barberry ... sigh. I'm sure Yardvaark sees a lot more of those than I do, so you should take her word for that. I can't remember the last one I saw.]

  • lethargo
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Wow, Yardvaark, you've done a great job! The house looks so quaint and sweet.

    The thing is though, I don't see the same plant growing at equal rates on both sides of the porch. The north side will remain mostly, if not completely, under the tree even after pruning. I guess I'm trying to figure out what plants I can put in as a foundation cover, but work together/relate/balance on each side of the porch. Also, this is a Budget project for a house I don't plan on living in a day longer than I have to... Planting a tree would be lovely, but not practical for us money or time wise.

    We don't yet know if a fence/screening will be allowed on this corner, which is a concern. I am concerned about our little ones on the yard, playing-mainly coming from the side yard on the south. Also, our dog technically needs a fenced yard by ordinance, which is taken care of in the rear of the house on two sides, the third side is overgrowth/marsh garage and driveway. I would love some privacy, as the living room faces the road, and the blinds are Always closed-which makes for a very dark living space. I do like Yardvaarks idea of fencing from the side of the house, which would be fine for local code.

    Does Barberry have berries? Leaves in the winter? I haven't gotten out, and in this weather I doubt I will-will post new pics as soon as I can....

    Oh, and I think the brick walkway looks great!

    Thank you all so much for all of your suggestions!!! Just reading through this is helping with ideas.

  • PRO
    10 years ago

    It's a common situation where the growth of some shrubs is slowed because of uneven shade. But it WILL work IF you select a plant that grows in sun or shade... and IF you limb up the tree SUFFICIENTLY. Alternatively, success with using different plant types depends on the details of how you do it.

    I think of a house as presenting its face to the street. Have you ever sat down at a dining table with a big fluffy flower arrangement and tried to converse with the person on the opposite side of the table? It's annoying for each party having to lean around the arrangement each time one or the other wants to interact... and still be unable to see the other person in the interim. As I look at your first picture this is what I see. The big fluffy maple is obscuring the left side of your house's face. A proper limb up would be at least 15' above ground by this point. Then, you WILL get light below. Observe trees in your neighborhood that are limbed up to clear the house and you'll notice less sense of gloom, old age and vitamin B smell. The trunks themselves become far more handsome and important looking than those obscured with foliage.

    When people walk into a room with a high ceiling, they get a good feeling because of it. When they walk into a back yard storage shed with a low ceiling, they get a bad feeling because of it. If you're IN a yard, the tree IS a ceiling. A high ceiling FEELS BETTER than a low ceiling. Walk below each and compare.

    So you know, small and inexpensive trees can be obtained via mail if that's what suits a budget.

    Barberry will be deciduous. Don't count on many berries. (It's a sun-loving plant.)

  • adriennemb2
    10 years ago

    How does it feel that all the feedback that you've received so far basically validates that you're right and your husband is wrong?
    Just like in most marriages...

    You do have your challenges but I think that most of Yard's suggestions are spot on. That is a really good mock-up!
    You will never achieve symmetry, but you can certainly have each side of the walkway reference each other.
    Some further suggestions that I'd make are -

    1) The two evergreen bushes that are showing in that photo look like a dwarf yew in the front and a barberry behind it. They are fantastic foundation plants and look wonderful mixed together in both sun and partial shade but plant them away from the structure. Leave breathing room for growth. And for God's sake, if you love your children, keep the barberries out of easy reach of young kids.
    They are absolutely gorgeous and a bird attractant, but they are really, really thorny. Mind you, it usually only takes one encounter
    with them to find that out and to learn to never again make the same mistake.

    2) A fast growing maple like a trained amur is not expensive and will give you a lot of bang for your buck in that right hand corner.
    There are some varieties like "hot wings samsara" that produce fantastically bright red keys in the summer.

    3) Behind that little fence and concealing the base of your raised deck, I would plant a mixed shrub bed of different hydrangeas and spireas interspersed with more yew to echo the other beds, providing some big, colourful, relatively low maintenance "flowers".

    4) Very likely, no hedge or fence will be allowed on your corner lot. But you still need privacy within the home too. What I have seen used successfully in this kind of situation (besides those oppressive closed curtains) is decorative window film which you apply yourself. There are all kinds of patterns and opacities, even some faux stained glass. My personal preference for the style of your sweet home would be rectangular frosted "panes" so that I could still see outside whilst obscuring the inside view from curious passer-bys.

    5) Since you are already planning to stain the front porch rails gray, I would take it further and do the back deck as well - that dark brown is way too heavy and discordant. The replacement shutters from stock should then also be a deep gray. If those tiny, tiny window boxes are staying as is, I would paint it the soft green of your roof and plant it only with draping ivy tendrils (german, swedish, etc) to add visual bulk and to tie in the foundation shrubbery. If you are installing a brick pathway, try to use brick similar to what is already visible on your chimney. All of that should help appease your husband's need for symmetry...

  • karinl
    10 years ago

    Adrienne has touched on what I think is the real issue here, namely how you and your husband talk about landscaping. If I were you (and having a husband prone to just such adamance about stuff he doesn't do), I would say "Symmetrical? What a great idea honey. Have fun with that." And then go paint the bedroom or something.

    Come back to it when he is interested in hearing about (a) what YOU want to achieve out there, and (b) what there is to learn about gardening and landscaping. Or, when he hands it over to you.

    I know that now because I am the living result of having never said that, but rather tried really sincerely hard to meet his expectations while doing all the work myself. I am smarter now, but much more arthritic and grey, and also, shall we say, somewhat weathered.

    I don't advocate running roughshod over your spouse though. I don't think happy marriages come from either spouse imposing their will on the other. I think you want to get an overall idea of his wishes, for example, and factor them in. It sounds like he wants it to look tidy and controlled. You can do that. But I feel the person doing the most work gets the most say, especially when the say comes from understanding how plants grow and what the conditions demand.

    Karin L
    PS: MTO, do you think Yardvaark is female? That never occurred to me :-)

  • missingtheobvious
    10 years ago

    Karin, I thought something had been said somewhere along the line (weeks or maybe months ago) to indicate Yardvaark was female.

    Apologies to Y if that is not the case. (Hey, it's a compliment when a woman assumes you're a woman!) 8-)

    Sometimes I wish I kept a list....


  • PRO
    10 years ago

    Ha! I laugh. In the case of gender identity, Mto, there's a temptation to string you along (a la the mystery character Pat from Saturday Night Live. But I am male.


  • lethargo
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    Here are some updated photos. We have replaced the deck as well,and it will be stained to match the porch. I guess I feel like we need the tree to block the view of traffic... We used to have a stop sign at the intersection, but now there is a red light. The nice even flow has been changed to stop and go traffic. As far as me and my husband's design ideas and how we work together, we do fine together. I hope I didn't imply anything other.

    Also, even after triming the tree, the area will be shaded by the porch, and in the evening by the trees and houses across the street.









  • adriennemb2
    10 years ago

    Nah, lethargo, don't worry about it. We were just ribbing you :)

    On a serious note though, now that we can see the whole property and it's location, I'd be really concerned about little children and pets playing in your yard too. I would personally "pretty up" the front as has been suggested but also build a serious fence around the side
    and back yard. Unfortunately, that will be expensive but ultimately safer, keeping the kids from running out into traffic while protecting
    them from strangers coming onto your property.

  • karinl
    10 years ago

    Your house is symmetrical but your lot is not, so natural symmetry is just not going to happen here and won't look good if you force it.

    That tree is actually a good bit too close to the house to be left there much longer. And traffic being an issue, I'd be inclined toward a hedge-type planting, even if it is kept low, moved away from the house wall closer to the sidewalk. It will grow a darned sight better there too, minimizing your concern about the shade/sun imbalance. If you must grow something in the shade, cultivate some fabulous ferns and hostas. I love my shady front bed, but it doesn't look like the other side! But honestly, if the street is busy, you might enjoy a bigger shrubbery.

    You can also put somewhat raised beds against that foundation. I'd probably give them a back, just to be on the safe side with respect to water in the basement, but you can do it, with brick, rock, or timbers.

    If you want to feel more divorced from traffic, plant a couple of new trees closer to the road and placed pleasantly along the front of the house - maybe not symmetrical, maybe even three trees. Once they grow in a bit, you could cut down that big one that is too close to the house. You can also leave that for a few years if it doesn't bother you.

    Karin L

  • lethargo
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    So the tree will be staying, it's a low budget project at best-taking that tree down would be more than I want to spend on plants! I realize the symmetry/nonsymmetry issue, which is I why I'm trying to find shade plants that reference sun plants, like are there any evergreen shrubs that would do well in the shade? That are also similar in size and growthrate to what we've already got?

    I do agree a fence from the front yard will be the best option, and I think some hydrangea would do very well next to the deck. I'm thinking a bush in the south front yard would be nice. I'm lost as to what to do about the window boxes...

  • PRO
    10 years ago

    It sounds like budget will keep most things from happening, but at least you can have goals and get to what you can.

    Trimming of trees is a lot easier/less costly if one keeps up with it and ANTICIPATES what's to come. 1.) A branch that's 10" in diameter is hard, time consuming and troublesome to cut. That same branch was once only 1" in diameter and could have been removed in about 10 seconds. 2.) As branches grow longer and thicker they hang down further. So branches that are only 4 or 5' off of a roof now, will be resting on it in a year or two. 3.)There's a store of energy in a tree that is in relative balance between foliage and roots. When the roots contain a surplus of energy relative to the foliage, the foliage will have a growth spurt. (For example, if one cut off all the foliage, the tree would have a major growth spurt. I'm not suggesting do this.) However, the growth spurt will most likely not to be channeled into what was cut... but in what remains. Therefore, A tree can be shaped much better, faster, and more efficiently (less waste of the stored energy) if it is pruned judiciously right along from babyhood. The wrong way is to let it get too out of bounds in places and ways it shouldn't, and then try to fix it long after it was needed.

    I understand that you are using the maple tree to solve a problem, but it looks like a case of using a hammer to kill mosquitoes. Why not consider some sort of screen close to, and wrapping the corner of the lot that will obscure traffic? It could possibly be combined with fencing that was mentioned earlier. I'm thinking along the lines of lattice or some kind of grill work with wines growing on it or some such thing. There's lots of possibilities. Just a thought.

    Hopefully, you don't want to grow the globe arborvitae as two separate balls. The house does not seem to be asking for any. I'd move the right-most globe leftward, as shown, to at least give these hope of growing together. The Euonymus coloratus is the shaggy reddish plant. I'd move it over to the Maple and start making groundcover out of it.

    I've marked up one of your pictures to suggest a bed line. And to show where you should have pruned the Maple.




  • lethargo
    Original Author
    10 years ago

    UPDATE: So we've gotten to work on our curb appeal. Taken a lot of your advice into consideration, and I thought I'd post an updated pic. We are still going to work on the shutters and deck, and are working on a variance for a fencing off both side yards. Because of the dormer and porch, no amount of pruning was going to make the north side sunnier, but we did prune up the bottom limbs of that tree on that side to allow some light in and get it off the house. We went with Rhododenrens on the north side and Hollies on the south side. Transplanted a larger, healthier Euyonumus to the north side for balance. Moved the Globe Arborvitae around under the deck. Added rose bushes for around the corner on the south side.

    Thanks for your help!


  • designoline6
    10 years ago

    Great your work.wish you continue to perfect curve and add some vine.