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Starting over, need help please!

17 years ago

I am cross-posting this from cottage gardens because I need all the help I can get! I am not much of a gardener so this is a big step for me. We recently had some drainage work done around our house and they tore out all of our landscaping. The landscaping was overgrown and inappropriate, so it needed to go, but now I am left with a mud pit that I am trying to restore to some semblance of attractiveness before winter. The landscape guy who did the drainage work gave me a plan for new beds, but he's just not getting my vision. We have a reproduction farmhouse, and I want all the plants to look cottage-y and like they've been there forever. I have a picture in my head of my grandmother's garden when I was a kid that I want to replicate. His plan was more the traditional three-shrubs-in-a-sea-of-mulch plan. So I'm trying to figure it out on my own.

Problem is that I don't have much experience, so other than looking at a bunch of pics, I don't really know what various plants look like nor how big they grow. Also, I'm kind of broke - over the past year, we sunk well over $100K into the house fixing the things the builder did wrong (if you're interested and/or really bored, you can read the story here). So I can't afford to go with one of the expensive designers around here, even though I've seen their work and it's exactly what I want.

So OK, on to specifics. Take a look at the pictures of my house right now. The front of the house faces north and is fairly shady. Previously we had sand cherries at each corner, two viburnums next to the door that had grown WAY too big (you couldn't see out the windows), and some winterberry holly (again, taller than the windows) in front of the windows to the left of the bow window.) The holly never really got berries - don't know if we didn't have a male or if there wasn't enough sun.

Along the side of the house, we need something to hide the A/C units and radon pipes. We had Cherry Laurels there and they were ok, but kind of blah. I was wondering if there would be something better there. That side of the house gets morning sun - we had hostas grow well there, the sweet autumn clematis loves it there, and all our azaleas got lacebug and were half dead.

Along the back of the house (southern exposure) I have an antique rose that I love. I figured all the sunny beds I would just fill with shrub roses & perennials. It's the shady and morning-sun sides I don't know what to do with.

So ok, given all that, I was thinking of the following:

In the front of the house, to the right of the door, a hydrangea close to the door and some snowmound spirea along the foundation towards the screen porch. To the left of the door, some hostas, ferns, maybe a boxwood or inkberry holly for evergreen interest. At the left front corner of the house, I was thinking of a beauty bush (kolkwitzia) that would eventually grow big enough to hide the electric meter, but would it be too big? Along the side, in front of the A/C units, I was thinking of boxwoods or inkberry holly (they just seem more cottagey looking to me than the cherry laurels) but the landscape guy tells me they grow really slow and it will be hard to find a big enough one to plant that will hide the A/Cs right away without spending a fortune. I was also thinking of a lilac back in the little corner between the A/C units and the side porch, and a Lespedeza Thunbergii Pink Fountain in front of the lilac (saw a pic of this and it looked amazing - it dies back every year and grows up from the ground to about 4-6' tall by September, so I figured in front of the lilac would be a good place - as the lilac gets ugly, this will grow up and hide it. But I am worried that a lilac won't do well back in the corner - it will get morning sun only and maybe will get bad mildew from being tucked in the corner?

I definitely want a lilac bush somewhere, lots of shrub roses and climbing roses, other climbing vines, etc. I'd like to find a spot for a hydrangea, a weiglia, a mockorange maybe. I remember my grandmother's garden having peonies, sweetpeas, and 4-o-clocks, so I want those as well. I love knockout roses even though they're not technically an oldfashioned plant. I saved a beautiful Russian Sage as well as a bunch of hostas and daylilies before they started tearing everything out. Oh, and in the front of the house, I'd like to eliminate some or most of the lawn between the front walkway and side walkway and fill it in with vinca - though my landscaper tells me this will be very expensive since I'll need thousands of vinca plants and tons of mulch for the first few years.

Also, I want to be sure that whatever shrubs I plant along the front of the house don't take over - like I said, the other shrubs were about 8 feet high and blocked the windows. I don't want to have to prune too much (I think it looks fake-y) so I'd like shrubs and stuff that is naturally small.

Finally, like I said, I need to do this on the cheap. I don't mind shelling out some cash for plants and good soil now, but I can't afford the time and/or money to bring in 50 yards of mulch every year-- that was the goal with the vinca - to eventually eliminate the need to mulch. Something I could plant in stages would be good - put in some shrubs now and more in the spring and over the next couple years when I have the cash. Low maintenance is good too - I have two small children and don't get much time to putter around in the garden.

I'd appreciate any feedback as well as suggestions for cottage-y plants that I haven't mentioned. If you have any suggestions for bed sizes and placements, feel free - I'd love to hear them. Thanks so much for any help you can offer.

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