Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Desperately Seeking Curb Appeal.

The term "blank slate" perfectly describes the front of our house.  I took this photo earlier this morning.

I need help.

When we first saw this place, it was trapped behind an overgrown hedge of Burford holly and a diseased Deodar cedar.

I took this photo on our first visit to the house, when we toured it with our real estate agent.

We removed the hollies and the cedar, laid the brick and stone walkway to the front steps, and put in stone walls to hold the front of the house on a more level plane.  (The grade drops off on each side toward the corner of the house.)

Kimba is coming over to see what I'm doing.

I want to put in a traditional old-house foundation planting of shrubs ... hard to believe that I would want to do something traditional and expected, but it's true in this case.  This spot has me completely out of my comfort zone, and I am at a total loss as to what to plant. 

The conditions on each side of the house are completely different from each other.  The right side gets full sun and the area bakes from sun-up till late afternoon.  The left side is partially shaded until noon at least.  The facade of our house is symmetrical, and I want to continue the symmetry with the front beds.

Boxwood is the obvious choice for an old house, but I doubt boxwood would do well on the left side of the house.  The Burford hollies did great, but they grew too big too fast and I'd never do that again.  I really want something that has the affect of boxwood, that grows to a good size to help ground the height and bulk of the house.  Some sort of little leaf holly, perhaps?

Anyone more familiar with landscaping and shrubs have any ideas?

I showed you a small glimpse of the south side of the house yesterday, with the outline for my newest rose bed.  Here's a good look, so you can see the problem I'm dealing with there.

The left side of this photo shows the drive-under garage that is part of the 1960's addition to our house.  I really don't like the way the garage door dominates the view, and I have a couple of ideas to fix it.

I want to put some sort of arbor/pergola over the garage door, and have Reve d'Or climb up and over ... softening the door and the blank side of the house.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about.

(photo courtesy of

After a few minutes with PhotoShop, and we have a crude idea of what this could look like on our house.

Much better!

Should I design some sort of flat trellises to go on each side of the basement window to hold two more roses?  They would probably be based on a plain grid with a beefy outline.  (painted white?)  I thought about not using trellises, and training the roses to horizontal wires.  Any suggestions?

The wind died down enough this morning for me to get out with my sprayer full of herbicide to kill the grass and weeds in the new bed.

This makes the job of creating new gardens SO much easier.  A bottle of concentrate this size may seem like overkill for the average yard.  This yard is far larger than average, and I can pretty much guarantee that I'll have it used up by the end of the year.

I'll let you know how this progresses.  Any and all suggestions, or brilliant ideas, are welcome.

(written by Hartwood Roses.  Hartwood Roses blog.)


  1. Have you thought about Steed hollies? Compacta hollies are smaller and also might work, but note that they are a great deal more fussy about watering, etc.

  2. I think I would consider painting the garage door and the trim around it a colour that would blend more with the brick (even a dark gray) so it doesn't grab your attention so much. I love your idea of the arbour for roses over top of the garage door.

    As for the front of the house, what about different types of bushes (to handle the different light conditions) that are about the same height so it maintains the symmetry. Or what about hydrangeas if you want them to be the same on both sides. I just googled them and it said they like sun and shade depending on the type. Just a thought though. Let us know what you select.

  3. You may to consider some of the Asian boxwoods species or cultivars. They will give you a similar look, but can take more adverse and varying conditions than traditional American or Old English box.

  4. I love your house. How fun to have a blank slate. Can't wait to see what develops.

  5. I think broader-form hollies such as ilex crenata, might work there. They are shade-tolerant and I love the tiny curved leaves like baby's fingernails. Also, ilex glabra with its oval leaves does very well in shade. It is also called "inkberry" for its almost black berries. Both ilex crenata and ilex glabra are forgiving of bad pruning and are informal in shape. And they seem to do well with minimum care and just whatever water is there. At least up here at the northern edge of zone 7.

    But whatever you choose, let it be evergreen for easier maintenance and for winter interest.

  6. I love your front windows that were hidden by the previous shrubbery, but you need something evergreen to give the beds a foundation of sorts. How about sarcococca? I used it in a friends garden in Virginia last year and it is doing so well. It is a bit unusual, which I think you might like, but the form is less formal than a boxwood, yet it would provide you with all season color and would visually anchor your beautiful brick flower beds. It can also easily be pruned to keep it low.

    I agree that vertical arbors with roses on either side of the garage door would be lovely. How about interplanting them with clematis, maybe the autumn flowering form? I think it's so pretty, and unexpected to plant them together.


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