Thursday, July 23, 2009

Front Yards

Most houses have some sort of foundation planting. Look out your front windows. What do you see? I see a house with oversized yews that get trimmed into nearly square shapes several times a year. Then next to that I see a house with flowering shrubs (spirea, itea, hydrangeas and others) that are deciduous and loose all their leaves in the winter. Next door to me the house has lots of perennials, some low growing roses, anchored by clumps of grasses at the corners. What a change from just a few years ago when houses had three round balls of boxwood (or up here in the Boston area probably yew). I call this progress.

My yard was professionally landscaped before we bought it. The foundation plantings included hollies, pieris, the innevitable boxwoods and yews, azaleas, a low growing euonymous, a rhododendron and one lone perennial - a bleeding heart. It looked pretty good (except for the yews which were pruned into submission). At least until you looked closer. The pieris were under the windows and they're a bit too tall. OK, I could probably manage them. But they, and all the other plantings) are way too close to the house. In fact most of them are touching the house. The creeping euonymous was actually growing up behind the siding.

Plants touching the siding are problamatic for several reasons. One, it's time to repaint the exterior and the plants are in the way. Two, they invite and shelter pests such as termites. That's a big one for me. Three you can't get to the outside of the house for any maintainence. Four they reduce air flow and might allow moisture to build up right next to the house. Five, you can't spot any problems. And so on. On my house they also planted two hollies right next to the front yard spigot. I can push through and reach it but it leaks badly and needs to be replaced by a plumber. The plumber won't work on it because of the holly bushes in the way. This is a significant problem.

So I decided the foundaiton plantings needs to be modified or removed. I've already taken out the butchered yews and planted annuals (Mexican feather grass and sweet peas). The yew had braketed the garage door and were planted in small circles of soil bounded by driveway and walkway. I'm thinking clematis for long term.

I also removed the boxwoods by the front door and replaced them with my husband's choice - thread leaf cypress. I picked a smaller variety and planted them further from the house.

Now it's planning time (a good chore for rainy summer days, of which we've had quite a lot here in New England). I need to move the pieris and at least two of the hollies. I'm hoping I can move the pieris to the back yard where I can see them all winter. They are evergreen with colorful winter foliage. The two male hollies I'm hoping to move out away from the house but still keep in the front to pollinate the two female hollies. The females are further from the house and I'm hoping I can keep them under control with minimal pruning. I really enjoyed watching the birds come every time the snow level went down to eat the newly exposed berries.

I'd like to remove the azaleas and the euonymous. The azaleas are a pale pink and have a short bloom period so I don't think they're worth saving. I'm an intense color person rather than a pastel person. And the euonymous is too agressive.

Now the question is what do I put in their places? I have the corners anchore by the female hollies and the door bracketed by the cypress. Do I try to find evergreen shrubs that fit under the windows? Do I put in deciduous shrubs? How about perennials? and don't forget grasses! Whew. Decisions, decisions, decisions. I do know that the professional who originally designed the garden had a good eye and a good plan (if poorly executed) so I'm hoping to follow his or her ideas. I'll put one type of plant where the pieris were, a different type of plant where the azaleas were, etc. It should make a nice mixed border with just enough diversity and just enough repetition.

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