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Old 01-02-2011, 06:22 PM   #1
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General design and lighting?


One of the first things I want to do in the spring is get the yard done. I detest this yard. When we bought the house it had been vacant about 15 years. The man that had lived here for ages had been a very avid gardener. I'm sure while he tended it, it was stunning. We found some photos in the attic that are probably 20 or 30 years old. The gardens - there were tons of them - are magnificent. But since we were way too busy to keep them up, or even get them back under control for that matter, we just removed almost all of it.

I kept a ton of the lily bulbs that were here. I gave away thousands of others. They bloom like mad each year. I've been happy with them. I'd like to do as much bulb planting as I can. It's the one thing I found that I don't kill.

I'm thinking:

Remove the rock flower beds that line each side of the entrance. The rocks are hideous, sharp, need contast cleaning to keep moss from growing on them, and on the left they block the porch. I'd like to open up the left side and put a patio of some kind there instead. I'll tile the front walk part of the patio and hang a porch swing but I want to find an inexpensive way to make a patio of the rest that's not under the roof. Was thinking river rock maybe? Any thoughts?

This side:



We're planning on selling in a year or two. We paid next to nothing for the house and are trying to do the work for as much as we can ourselves. River rock is pretty inexpensive in this area. You can get a dump truck delivered for about $40. I know it's going to need quite a few dumpster loads, but at $40 a load we can get a good bit without feeling it in our pocket.

On the right side I'd like to remove the rock and replace it with the landscape timbers and do a tiered garden there. Maybe put in some landscape lighting? On the right side where the house tucks back in (that's the living room window) I'd like to do the tiers a bit higher than the rest. I thought of doing a pond in the area but was told to keep any water features far from the foundation of the house? That's fine, but the people that installed the central heat and air have a pipe coming down from a corner there that drops the water that's pulled out of the de-humidifier in the unit. So should I run gutters under that so I can move the water away? I'd just planned on having the pond under there and make it useful.

Last, the yard. It's full of very mature shade trees. I love the trees and want to keep them and highlight some of the nicer, fuller ones with some up lighting. I'd planned on putting a gazebo in the middle of the group of trees in front of the house to the right and putting tons of flowers and ferns and stuff around it, making some flowering vines growing up it? Then some more lighting around the bottom of that. We have a little cottage style storage shed that sits to the right of that now that I plan on having moved to the far left side of the yard on the other side of the drive way.

Anyone have plant suggestions? It looks like we're in 7a / 6b zone for growing. Hoping to stick with bulbs and easy to grow plants. I think I'm just doing all bulbs in that tiered garden along the front. But I'd like some advice on what to plant around the gazebo. And any suggestions on lighting? Up lighting, down lighting, path lighting, etc.


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Old 01-03-2011, 06:32 PM   #2
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General design and lighting?


river rock looks nice and for you is inexpensive. Because the stones are rounded they move and shift when you walk on them and will need some maintenance depending on how much traffic the area gets. River rock is great for beds or other areas that rarely see foot traffic.

Id like to suggest a crushed stone like 3/4" crushed granite, marble, brick chips or what ever else is available in your area. Try visiting your local stone supplier and see what they have available.

I think the reason some may have tried to shy you away from a pond next to the foundation is becasue if the pond were to leak it would create hydraulic pressure on the foundation which could lead to foundation leaks or cracks. If you use a preformed pond or a lined pond, go for it but keep in mind where the water will go if it were to overflow or leak.

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Old 01-03-2011, 08:38 PM   #3
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General design and lighting?


"iver rock is great for beds or other areas that rarely see foot traffic."
True, but ever try to rake or remove leaves from them?
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Old 01-04-2011, 07:12 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by bob22 View Post
"iver rock is great for beds or other areas that rarely see foot traffic."
True, but ever try to rake or remove leaves from them?
Yes, I forgot about that. Its a nightmare.
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Old 01-04-2011, 07:55 AM   #5
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General design and lighting?


So you took out nice (but overgrown) flower beds because it is too much work, but want to put in new ones? My suspicion is that they would be too much work, also. Unless you enjoy weeding and general yard work, I suggest avoiding flower beds. I also suspect it would be difficult to achieve a nice look with bulbs only. Most have a relatively short blooming season.

For those who don't enjoy yard work, it seems to me that the best option is grass. I have found grass to be less maintenance than flower beds. I would tend to avoid perennials unless you are willing to spend an hour-or-so each week keeping things tidy.

If you want to add a little interest, I have found an assortment of shrubs to be a nice compromize between maintenance and aesthetics. Shrubs are relatively low maintenance, and, with a little care, surrounding area weeds can be controlled chemically (roundup, preen, etc...). We all have our favorites. Pick the variety that you like, based on your growing zone. Give them room to grow. I tend to like 4-6 feet for most shrubs from the foundation if you want to plant around the house. BTW....by "shrub" I mean anything from evergreens (spruce, juniper, etc...) to azalea, hydrangea, to small trees (Japanese Maple, sumac, etc...).

I don't personally like stone or gravel for patios. It may be OK for walkways if you can contain the surface material. I prefer pavers or concrete. Large flagstone is also nice. If this is outside of budget, skip the pond. Skip the timbers. Put that money into a nice patio.

I can't recall seeing raised planting beds made with landscape timbers that I like. This sounds like a lot of work with low return on investment. I know you don't like rocks, but I suspect your opinion on this subject is in the minority. While I understand your desire to remove those specific planting beds, it would be a shame not to use those stones somewhere. Since you will be selling soon, I suggest re-considering the use of this resource that you appear to have in abundance.

Landscape lighting is nice. By my way of thinking, less if often more. I personally don't like the airport runway look that is common around my area when folks put out too many fixtures. I think it looks nicer with indirect lighting, where one cannot see the source. I tend to also like up-lighting of trees, but avoid it out of concern for maintaining a dark sky. Some regions even have regulations about such things. My suggestion is to light up interesting parts of your house and gazebo and to provide downlight fixtures along pathways.

Last edited by oberkc; 01-04-2011 at 08:01 AM.
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Old 01-04-2011, 11:43 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by oberkc View Post
So you took out nice (but overgrown) flower beds because it is too much work, but want to put in new ones? My suspicion is that they would be too much work, also. Unless you enjoy weeding and general yard work, I suggest avoiding flower beds. I also suspect it would be difficult to achieve a nice look with bulbs only. Most have a relatively short blooming season.

For those who don't enjoy yard work, it seems to me that the best option is grass. I have found grass to be less maintenance than flower beds. I would tend to avoid perennials unless you are willing to spend an hour-or-so each week keeping things tidy.

If you want to add a little interest, I have found an assortment of shrubs to be a nice compromize between maintenance and aesthetics. Shrubs are relatively low maintenance, and, with a little care, surrounding area weeds can be controlled chemically (roundup, preen, etc...). We all have our favorites. Pick the variety that you like, based on your growing zone. Give them room to grow. I tend to like 4-6 feet for most shrubs from the foundation if you want to plant around the house. BTW....by "shrub" I mean anything from evergreens (spruce, juniper, etc...) to azalea, hydrangea, to small trees (Japanese Maple, sumac, etc...).

I don't personally like stone or gravel for patios. It may be OK for walkways if you can contain the surface material. I prefer pavers or concrete. Large flagstone is also nice. If this is outside of budget, skip the pond. Skip the timbers. Put that money into a nice patio.

I can't recall seeing raised planting beds made with landscape timbers that I like. This sounds like a lot of work with low return on investment. I know you don't like rocks, but I suspect your opinion on this subject is in the minority. While I understand your desire to remove those specific planting beds, it would be a shame not to use those stones somewhere. Since you will be selling soon, I suggest re-considering the use of this resource that you appear to have in abundance.

Landscape lighting is nice. By my way of thinking, less if often more. I personally don't like the airport runway look that is common around my area when folks put out too many fixtures. I think it looks nicer with indirect lighting, where one cannot see the source. I tend to also like up-lighting of trees, but avoid it out of concern for maintaining a dark sky. Some regions even have regulations about such things. My suggestion is to light up interesting parts of your house and gazebo and to provide downlight fixtures along pathways.
I wasn't clear. The flower beds covered over an acre of the yard. Just set in the middle of the yard. There was nothing lining those. They've just removed huge patches of grass and put in tons of bulbs. It was a pain trying to move around them and the way those bulbs spread they'd have take over. We've got a lot of dogs and kids and wanted the yard more than the gardens they'd put in. So we removed the bulbs and filled those areas in with grass seed which has filled in nicely. So we now have a huge yard full of grass and mature shade trees, which is what we wanted.

The rock gardens we're removing are against the house, flanking the front entrance. I'm sure some people like rocks, but we hate them. They've very sharp and if anyone falls against them they'd be cut all up. If it were smooth large round rocks I'd have loved them and left it. It's just the choice of rock they put in that we hate. It's difficult to clean them and keep them looking nice too. I don't want one on the left anyway, as I'd like to open that up to the front porch.

We are re-using the rock from there in the back pasture. There's a wet weather stream that runs through there and we're using it for lining that.

As for river rock, would it be difficult to use a leaf blower to blow leaves and stuff out of there? We're trying to stay very inexpensive. If we planned on living here a while we'd put the money into something a littler nicer. I'd looked into stamped stained concrete. But since we're putting the house on the market in a year we're just looking to define the patio areas and make it look better than it currently does.
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Old 01-04-2011, 12:19 PM   #7
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General design and lighting?


Quote:
The rock gardens we're removing are against the house, flanking the front entrance. I'm sure some people like rocks, but we hate them.
I like rocks, but I am with you....I did not necessarily like them in this application. The only point that I was trying to make is that it appears that you have a short time in this house and that you want to sell it, hopefully for a profit. Given this, what YOU like or hate may be less important that what the MARKET likes or hates. My personal gut reaction is that rock-lined flower beds, in general, are more desirable than timber-lined flower beds. I readily admit I could be wrong. You use of the rocks in the back stream would also be a nice feature.

Quote:
As for river rock, would it be difficult to use a leaf blower to blow leaves and stuff out of there?
No. That is how I do it, and it works well. I think the concern was using rakes. (Does anyone use rakes anymore?)

Quote:
We're trying to stay very inexpensive. If we planned on living here a while we'd put the money into something a littler nicer.
Given your short timeframe, I would be asking myself whether I think I could get my investment out of it. Expensive might be a better option if I could recoupe my expenses when I sell. Inexpensive may be bad if I fail to recoupe my expenses (you would be better off doing nothing). I just don't see loose gravel or river rock as a viable surface for a patio area. I would rather have grass.
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Old 01-05-2011, 10:20 AM   #8
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It's such a weird area. There's a huge concrete slab that's just sitting there. I have no clue why it was put there. I started breaking it up and pulling it out. Just figured putting something in the area would help. I personally like river rock. If I were staying I'd be happy with it. If I had the money though, I'd love to put in flagstone. But with the major stuff we have to do inside the money's not there for outside stuff.
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Old 01-05-2011, 11:11 AM   #9
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I love the planters but I understand if you do not like them. I would let the moss cover those up and put some rosemary or salvias in there to give a nice fragrance as you approach the home. Anyways, river rock is terrible to clean with or without a blower, terrible to walk on and a hazard. I use 1/4" minus stone that can be easily compacted with a plate compactor and some polymer. This is EASY to maintain and can work as a "poor man's" patio or pathway if you use a river rock border to keep any grass or any other larger stone out.

Low voltage lighting is awesome but do some research. Either you will have to mount the lights inside the trees or use a nice halogen bulb with the right beam to give you the right spread etc. Go to vistapro.com--they have tons of information for the lighting and you don't necessarily have to use their products. Also I heard they are now using led's so you don't need a huge transformer and the wire doesn't have to be 8 gauge this will reduce cost. I agree with oberkc that less is more. Remember, it's called "accent lighting" not "safety lighting" so keep it low key.

Another suggestion is to go to a nicer neighborhood and copy what they have. If you recently bought the house, ask your realtor which area is hot in your region and drive through there at day and night. I'm sure you can get professional ideas by just driving down the street or parking your can and taking a walk so you can really take a look.
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Old 01-05-2011, 01:55 PM   #10
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Quote:
Also I heard they are now using led's so you don't need a huge transformer and the wire doesn't have to be 8 gauge
Yes, they are. Mine are exclusively LED lamps. Yes, you can get by with lower-gage wire and don't have to be so concerned with consistent voltages. However, you may need to be more concerned with the type of transformer....you need a regulated power supply to avoid overpowering these low-power devices. Don't be tempted to use the inexpensive transformer so common at our home improvement stores. Watch, also, your connections. Avoid those silly peircing connections. Solder is good. Waterproof connectors are good. Both is even better.
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Old 01-05-2011, 02:05 PM   #11
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If you are selling in a year or two I'd find out what your house is worth 1st
Then find out how much your added work will add to the value
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Old 01-05-2011, 03:35 PM   #12
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Thanks everyone.

The house we bought five years ago. It's in a very economically depressed rural area of middle TN. There are two types of homes. Old farmhouses sitting on large tracts of land or big brick homes in sub-divisions that are way over priced. Ours is the farmhouse on a tract of land.

We did get the market value of our house recently. Based on the work we're completing being done it's looking like it will sell for a bit higher than others in the area, so I don't want to put too much into it. The area is nice, don't get me wrong, but if you go down the road in either direction you hit very old trailers and yards that aren't well kept. Because of that, no matter how much we put into it, we won't get more than the estimate we have. People won't pay $250,000 for a house that's surrounded by $50,000 homes. So we've got to keep what we put into it reasonable since we're pretty much topping out on our ROI at this point.

The patio area is just kind of a finishing touch to me. It could sell in a few months or it could take a couple years to sell. We're seeing a lot of houses like ours being bought up right now as people bail from the more expensives areas in the south. Since we're from there, we know what people are used to and we're trying to make this as close to that as possible without losing money that should be equity.

Anyway, that's a bit more info on the house / situation. I'm looking into crushed stone too. Will see what we can afford. It will be a very large area with patios around the great room and the den entrances to the house with a path between them. So finding something that won't kill the checking account is important.
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Old 01-05-2011, 05:21 PM   #13
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If you are already the most expensive house in the area then you may not get any return on improvements
Keep that in mind
Many people looking for homes, especially in this economy, would rather buy a house they can spruce up
And your house may sell faster if you simply shave the $$ you were going to put into it off the asking price
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Old 01-06-2011, 03:06 PM   #14
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The estimate we got is for doing the improvements that need to be done. I'd like to do the yard as well. I know that brings people in - curb appeal and all. As a last resort, if the money gets too tight, we may just put down some top soil and grass seed instead of the patio. Hate to do it, I love the idea of putting in a patio. But I guess it's a last resort option.

I took more pictures to hopefully help everyone see what I'm planning.

This is the flower bed I want gone. There's a porch roof behind it and I'd like to be able to put up a porch swing there. Would be a nice place to sit and have a cup of coffee. The view is what sold us on this house and I'd like to have as many places outside that you can sit and enjoy it. Hoping someone will come along and like it as much as I did. So, removing that rock flower bed and having the patio right up to the concrete walk - which will be tiled - or as a last resort have grass to that point, so you can just walk right up and sit down.

I'm down to the last row or two of rocks but have found it's almost solid concrete. Just my luck the one sturdy thing they did in this place is the thing I hate the most! The jagged rocks that line the sidewalk - not the nice smooth round ones - are the rocks that came off that flower bed, just so you can see how ugly and sharp they are. I know, ugly is in the eye of the beholder, but I think they're ugly and too sharp for a house that will probably have a few kids at least.



Pulling back further from that area, you can see most of what I want to be a patio on this side. I stood in the driveway to take the picture. The flower bed I'm removing is on the left. The one on the right I'd like to cover with landscape timbers. I started removing the top layer of that flower bed at the front porch / door. I'd love to change the entry to the house to where that flower bed is, so you'd walk straight into the house. Trying to get furniture in and out and going around corners is a pain. Just not sure if I can do it without ripping out the concrete that's already there. It's something I'll figure out later on, but a thought I had.

The area between the driveway and the sidewalk is another part I'd like to include in the patio. It's a pointless grassy area unless I put in a bench or something? Maybe a place kids can sit and wait for the bus? (It's picks kids up at their homes out here) And then from the sidewalk to the porch would be patio. Following the line of the sidewalk would be the border for the patio and the stepping stones to the right leading to the den entrance of the house would be a patio walkway and another patio would be in front of that entrance. It's currently a brick round shaped patio that I love but it's in horrible shape and would need to be ripped up and put back down. I don't think we've got the talent to do that.



Closer look at the main entrance where I'd like to remove the rocks and change the entry and all



Close up of the rocks my nightmares are made of

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Old 01-06-2011, 03:12 PM   #15
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Almost forgot! This is the area I want to put in a gazebo. I want that for me! I'd love to sit there and look out at that view. Even if I only get to enjoy it for six months before the house sells, it will be worth it to me.

So, in the middle of these shade trees is where I'd like to drop it.


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