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Old 09-18-2015, 09:43 PM   #1
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Looking for interesting alternatives to wood based mulch


I'll have about 3 feet of space directly in front of my house before the lawn starts, where like many people do, I'll be planting some shrubs, smaller shrubs in this case, I'm going for kind of a simple look, maybe you could call it minimalist if you like using big words, but basically I'm trying to keep it simple. It is a beautiful home, built in the late 1930's, all stone on the exterior and having renovated many older homes, this is without a doubt the best built older home I've seen yet. Inside, the first floor is all poured concrete over steel trusses, something you don't see a lot of even today (here in WI, nearly every home built has a basement) I could go on and on about how well built or even overbuilt it is, but this is a landscape question, not "how well built the house is" post!

So, when I bought it (via sheriff's sale after a foreclosure) it was like an overgrown jungle of many kind of low cost plants and shrubs, so we ripped everything out, cut down several trees blocking the view of the home as well as trimming back the branches from the first 12 or 15 feet of a pine tree also blocking view of the home. It sits on 2.5 acres in a very nice area of one of the nice suburbs here, in an area full of many architecturally significant homes and I just don't feel like the usual "pick your favorite color" shredded wood mulch would be right, yet I'm not sure which way to go.

Maybe pea gravel? Or other rock products meant for ground cover? I also saw something interesting, the glass pieces they sell that are rounded off so you can walk barefoot on them without slicing your feet 1000 times, but what about mixing a little of the glass pieces in for a bit of "bling"?

I'm also having an extensive, all LED low voltage lighting system installed to replace the former line voltage system, which had mostly failed by now and amazingly had been installed in the early 90s (found receipts for fixtures in basement) but totally ignoring burial code, unless it was legal to direct bury WHITE, not GRAY romex about 4 inches deep in the early 90's! Thank God we had electrician disconnect old system, which I checked and rechecked 100x over to be sure it was NOT energized with my non contact tester as we worked to remove the old plants and electric, just to be extra sure. It was crazy, right where you'd expect people over the years to be digging with shovels to plant new plants, etc was live romex and not romex meant for burial!

Anyway, I'm attaching a few pics, I'll have to move quickly here as the planting season is nearing an end fairly soon for SE WI, but we still have some time left to plant. I'd be open to any plant or shrub suggestions too, for both in front of the home, as well as the center island in the driveway for how to make it look nice, but main thought is to avoid the "plants and shrubs everywhere" look and just have a limited number of nice plants and/or shrubs.

The first three pics are of the original condition of the place, with the original vegetation and pre-power washing the exterior and the last three are where we're at now (and no clue why the second last pic of the repaired front stoop and refinished front storm door is rotated sideways) and as for the center island in the driveway, my plan was to ditch the copper "little naked kids and lots of grapes" fountain/statue and electrician is running new power to the island as well, both line voltage and low voltage for the landscape lighting.

Any ideas/suggestions are MUCH appreciated, thanks!
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Old 09-18-2015, 10:09 PM   #2
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They make a rubber mulch. (basically
ground chunks of old tires, dyed .)

This mixed with the glass bling that you described would make a softer surface, as well as a complimentary decorative planting bed.

I agree with you rotting wood mulch is UGLY.


ED
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Old 09-19-2015, 12:51 AM   #3
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wow, what a makeover! well done! I usually am all to eager to offer suggestions for landscape ideas---I suppose I fancy myself an ar-teest! of sorts (not really, but it is fun to brainstorm about it)---but admittedly my knowledge of Midwest/East Coast trends in landscape designs is rather limited; not to mention, I have no real concept of what seasonal changes are actually like, or which trees and plants fare best in those conditions. Nevertheless, I'm not one to pass up an opportunity to give my opinion!

My first thought when reading the title of the post was "rock mulch" and since you also mentioned it, I will go with that. Also, you mention possibly using sea glass as an addition to the mulch, which I think is a great idea. I actually had wanted to do this on one job, and I had even ordered a 100lbs of sea glass in advance thinking that the homeowner would be on board. Unfortunately, I never got to find out since he had a change of heart at the last second and I was left holding the bag (quite literally). But, regardless, I still think it would've looked cool with the theme I had in mind for the place. Basically, I was going for a minimalist, japanese zen garden-type design with a little island fusion mixed in. I was going to use a 4" layer of dolomite (or white marble chips as they're often called) as a mulch around some landscape bonzai trees in small garden beds bordered with brick or natural stone and separated with a pathway of crushed granite/gold fine/ginger rock---whatever it's called---running between the beds. I was then planning on interspersing some blue and green sea glass and maybe a few other lighter colors in with the dolomite as an accent. My idea was to give it a beach-theme type of look, with asian flair. Sadly, I wasn't able to make it a reality, and I've since learned that most people will either love white marble chips in the landscape, or hate it. The one's who hate it say that it gets dirty and quickly loses it's primary feature. I can see their point, but not anything a little water won't fix... But I digress... oh, also, about the sea glass: Make SURE you're getting the translucent kind. The 100 lbs that were shipped to me had about 50lbs of pink and neon-orange crap that I'm not even sure was technically glass. It definitely wasn't mentioned in the description when I bought it. I forget the name of the company at the moment, but just something I thought I'd mention...

As for trees, besides the bonzai idea---which would be Junipers, ideally--- I think something reddish color would be a nice contrast. Maybe cherry blossom? or maple? There's also crepe myrtle, but that can be a toss up. I've seen them be either a beautiful, lush addition to landscapes, or an eyesore like something out of a Tim Burton film.

In any case, you seem to have a good eye for color and definitely a green thumb so I'm sure that if any of these suggestions are compatible with your tastes and the climate, they'll have no trouble reaching their maximum aesthetic potential.

Please keep us updated with pics!
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Old 09-19-2015, 02:43 AM   #4
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Thanks for the thoughts so far! I had been looking a bit at some of the glass products and its interesting, they'll sometimes show pics on their websites where they'll have an entire area in just all glass and to me, that looks a little odd, but when mixed in with something else, like a pea gravel or something like that, it really seems to add a cool element to it AND when combined with a little bit of the light from the landscape lighting (which would actually be aimed to light up the house as well as trees in the yard) but there'd be a bit of extra light hitting the glass bits here and there and offering that it of "bling" effect.

Now the rubber based mulch I've certainly heard of before, but haven't looked into it at all, but I will have to take a look!
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