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gjones 03-26-2012 06:38 PM

Looking for landscaping ideas...
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Hello all! Spring has come very very early to Chicagoland and I am looking to do some work on the front landscape of the house. In the picture below, you can see that the shrubs are pretty much overgrown, the pine tree/shrub on the left end of the house is overgrown and will be removed, and there pretty much a clean slate to do what I want, within reason (money).

I am not partial to the shrubs in the front of the house, although I had considered using two of them for the ends of the house.

There are many more things I want to do with the landscape, but the front of the house is first. There are two window wells, one centered under the picture window at the front, and the other is close to center under the small window at the left of the front door.

The front walk will be removed at some point and replaced with a paver walk either going from the front steps to the sidewalk straight out from the steps, or a sweeping walk to the driveway.

I appreciate all ideas, and if anyone has pictures or drawings they can add I greatly appreciate it! Cost is a factor so please keep that in mind!



cibula11 03-26-2012 08:22 PM

Just know that if you pull what is already there and budget is an issue, you'll be waiting a good 3-5 years before you have anything that looks complete. Plants take time to grow.

gjones 03-26-2012 08:27 PM

I realize that. I'm not trying to do it for $100, but I'm not looking to spend $5k. I don't need anything elaborate, just something that fits the property.

cibula11 03-26-2012 08:40 PM

Do you want evergreen shurbs or deciduous? Does the front face the west? Boxwoods are nice if you like evergreens, and spireas are another option that flower and turn nice colors in the fall. What about ornamental grasses....something smaller and upright like a karl forester reed grass or small like a dwarf fountain grass?

gjones 03-26-2012 09:32 PM

I would like to keep evergreens in there so that there is some color in front of the house during the winter. I thought about some sort of fountain grass or something like that and somehow keeping some of the hostas that are currently there.

Ironlight 03-26-2012 10:13 PM

I'm a big believer in having shrubs along the foundation of the house...they soften the transition from the land to the structure, visually.

If I were you I would consider simply hacking back they yew bushes rather dramatically. They will come back, and you can keep them better under control so they don't dominate they way they do now.

Your hosta you can dig up and divide and spread them around. They will thrive after being divided and they always make for a nice lush planting through the summer. They are expensive to by too, so dividing them is an easy and inexpensive way to fill out your landscape.

That would leave replacing your pine at the end. Perhaps some similar evergreen...a holly or leland cypress or something for variety.

gjones 03-26-2012 10:27 PM

Ironlight- I do not want to get rid of the hosta. They are huge and overtake the sidewalk when fully grown in the summer, so they will be divided in the next week or so.

I like symmetry, so anything but another yew at the end would look odd to me.

I am not opposed to cutting back the yew. I do want to add some color and different height to the front, especially on the side with the overgrown pine. the thing that would bother me is cutting back the yew and having it look empty and bare. I guess its no different than the other side, ha!


GardenConcepts 03-27-2012 05:13 AM

I like the idea of a new walk- if you can give more space between the house and inside edge of the walk, you won't have to cram plants right up against the foundation. I would also plan on choosing or maintaining plants that stay quite a bit lower. The existing Yews cover about 1/3 the height of the front wall, and visually make the house look shorter. It's not like you have an ugly, or unfinished foundation wall- so why cover it? Be careful with anything that gets tall on the corner- again it will dwarf the house at it grows past the roof line- consider plants that don't mature higher than the roof line at the most. You like symmetry, so you can repeat the plantings from one side to the other- but also consider it would look better if it isn't exactly the same. You can still have a formal appearance and be symmetrically balanced without an exact replication on each side. Using evergreen-only plants will be nice in the winter, but boring in the spring, summer, and fall. As previously noted- which direction does the front of the house face?

gjones 03-27-2012 08:09 AM

Forgot to add that. The house faces east, but gets a fair amount of sun throughout the day. I bought the house a year ago so none of the current landscaping is of my choosing.

cibula11 03-27-2012 11:08 AM

Burning bushes on the corners look nice. Bright red fall color. They can get upwards of 6 ft, but if you maintain them, you can keep it to what you like.

user1007 03-28-2012 11:51 AM

First thing I would encourage you to do is measure everything and scale your yard to paper or computer. You can buy inexpensive landscape programs for about $30 but some only allow yards to a certain size. There are free options out there as well. I like Sweet Home 3D. It is a free, open source, floorplan program but no reason you cannot use it for a landscape plan and there are even plant symbol sets you can download.

A scaled drawing will come in handy when figuring out materials you need for things like a new walk, irrigation, landscape lighting, etc. You can also move plants around to where you want them.

When practicing landscape design I tried to keep away from plunking plants up against the foundation and liked using perspective to provide some depth.

As for color in winter? Evergreens are nice but when used in balance. You can also find wonderful groundcovers, shrubs and small trees with colorful berries and bark that will stand out in a snowscape (e.g. flowering ornamental plums have beautiful spring blossoms, small fruit, and deep purple bark) . Some plants will attract winter birds to the landscape and give your cats something to watch.

Dutch Elm disease and boring insects (were not provided with reading materials or decent music when young) have encouraged arborists, ag extension people, etc. to develop recommended planting lists for homeowners like you. The idea is to diversify so entire tree and shrub populations are not wiped out by one species of bug or disease spore. A real nursery is still a great resource.

As you redesign your landscape think about what you are willing to commit to its upkeep. Getting rid of square corners can speed mowing time. Turf is the most expensive in drought intolerant landscape element to maintain. If you do not need so much, add texture and visual interest with ground covers. Add some water, construction (decks, trellises, arbors, etc.) hardscape elements for focus points (e.g. a nice boulder with your street address sandblasted in it) to your plan---possibly for future implementation if not in the budget right now. Trees and shrubs may seem expensive upfront but will have lower continuing maintenance costs than turf.

Go to the library and search for books on flowering shrubs, perrennials and annuals that will do well in your climate and with your exposure. See if there are actual native plants that will work in your new design. Then buy your own reference copy of a book or two that will help you with pruning, planting, feeding and so forth.

Think about drip irrigation for as much of the yard as possible. It will save you money, the planet diminishing fresh water supplies, and is much healthier for the plants. You can add things like fertilizer injectors to feed while you water. It is cheap to install.

With a scaled plan, you can move things around easily before committing to digging holes with a shovel. A drawing also gives you a way to communicate and discuss plans with contractors, nurseries, etc.

Obviously and it hasn't been mentioned a lot yet this season, contact your free utility locating service if you plan to dig or trench to any depth. You should also measure water pressure and flow rate available for irrigation. I think getting a full yard (not expensive) soil analysis a good idea that can save you money and aggravation in the long run.

gjones 03-28-2012 08:43 PM

@sdsester Thanks for the thoughts and info! The upkeep will not be an issue for me. I did landscape maintenance for about 8 years and very much enjoy doing it. I would like to add some construction to the front of the house to add dimension, but that will be later. Other hardscape plans I have are to add a small bed around the lamppost you see in the corner of the picture. The sidewalk is just in front of the lamppost by about 3'. I have some fairly large rocks in the backyard that will go up there with some small shrubs and flowers.

I have two rain barrels (for now) that will be used for watering the landscape and garden which would work perfect with a drip system. My grandfather gave me a lot of stuff to build a drip system so that will cut costs as well.

Like GardenConcepts said, the yew are too high, and personally it would not hurt my feelings to see them gone. I would like a layered look with some taller and shorter shrubs and have a plan in mind so that when the front walk is eventually ripped up, it will be easy to modify the landscaping against the house and blend with the bed around the lamppost should I elect to have the front walk sweep from the front steps to the driveway, or if I broke the mold of the neighborhood and have it go straight out to the sidewalk.

There is a very reputable nursery that is local that I will visit and see if they have a list of recommended plants. Keep the ideas coming, I appreciate them very much!

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