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Need Help Creating More Curb Appeal

8 years ago

I'm in the process of planning a re-do for our front flowerbed, and I could use some assistance brainstorming a vision for what ought to go where. When we bought the house, it was your basic "here's some dirt; let's slap random things in it that the receptionist found on sale at the garden center" builder landscaping (before anyone protests, I know for a fact that in this particular house, the receptionist picked all the lighting and the flooring was selected because it was on discontinued close-out rather than for design reasons). In the front bed there were three crape myrtles planted in very close proximity to one another and to the lamp (they've since been given nice homes on a relative's property), a row of generic hollies (which I hate and took out immediately), variegated monkey grass, and three sickly azaleas. I pruned and babied the azaleas back to some level of presentablilty, but the flowers are a bright pink color that seriously clash with the red brick of the house and they just need to go. I've been hobbling along planting annuals in the blank spaces for a couple of years, but I'm ready to do something more permanent and have less space dedicated to annuals.

1. I'm in USDA Zone 7 or 8, depending on whom you ask in our county.

2. The sunlight status is a little tricky. It's on the north-northwest side of the house. The whole bed is shaded until mid-morning, and the back half of it is shaded until about noon. Then it's in full sun during the hottest hours of the day before the sun drops behind a tree line and the shadow of the house next door comes into play. So it doesn't get many hours of sunlight, but what it does get is quite direct. You can tell where the line is because I had an area of salvia planted near the foundation and the back third was noticeably shorter than the front two thirds.

3. The soil is red clay that used to be farm pasture. The top two or three inches aren't bad because I've done some composting and have kept it mulched and some worms are starting to come back. But below that, it's well, what red clay is like.

4. This picture shows about half the driveway. I didn't take it all the way out to the street because the lot is trapezoid-shaped and therefore there isn't much in front of the house that is actually on our property. The back yard is a different story.

5. Our house layout needs are changing, and we hope to sell within the next five years, so I don't need to spend a fortune creating my dream landscape, but I do need to make it presentable and something I can enjoy in the meantime.

6. Those windows on the lower left are garage and one of them is blocked by cabinetry on the other side, so the view out from them is not important.

7. There is a row of penstemon behind the azaleas. Butterflies and bees seem to appreciate them; I don't mind them, but I'm not attached to them, either. I'm going at this assuming I'll rip everything out and start from scratch.

1. I'm trying to decide whether to leave the bed shapes as-is or whether to extend the whole bed around to the side of the house where it is too shady for grass to grow very well (either just around the downspout or all the way back to the air conditioner, which is about 2/3 of the way back). The flip side is how much work do I want to put in maintaining plantings or whatever on a side of the house that we don't use much anyway.

2. Since I took out the crape myrtles, there's not really anything with height other than the lamp post. Almost everyone in the neighborhood has a tree of some sort in the front yard (Usually one or more of the following: cherry, dogwood, crape myrtle, Japanese maple, redbuds). I'm not sure if I should put a small tree in the bed, in front of the bed, or how far away from the house a tree would need to be, or if putting a tree out front would just compete with the lamp as a focal. Some options I've considered: a tree-form tea olive, one of the taller varieties of camellia (there are some that do okay here), a kousa or pygmy dogwood, fireglow Japanese maple (or a green-leafed one with a similar shape if I think the red leaves won't work with the house color). The other idea I had for height was maybe to put in a trellis or obelisk with a clematis or something.


  1. There are exceptions to this, but in general I gravitate toward cool colors for my flowering plants (white, blue, creamy yellow, MAYBE terra-cotta) because it's so hot here in the summer that the last thing I want to look at is something that makes me think "fire red" or "hot pink"

2. I'm thinking about replacing the monkey grass in the big bed (I have plenty of monkey grass elsewhere) with Japanese Roof Iris, Chinese Ground Orchid, or both. I've seen both of those in other local gardens.

3. On a trip to South Carolina, I saw some Purple Muhly Grass in all its purple splendor at one of the plantations and loved it. It doesn't have to be purple muhly grass, specifically, but I might like to try some sort of ornamental grasses.

Thanks in advance for your input, and congratulations if you read that whole novel.



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