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alexa223

Help creating stucture and softness on a large property

Alexa
2 years ago

Hello,
I need help visualizing and creating a plan on how to landscape and bring beauty to this ipen land surrounding my home. We purchased this property that was severly overgrown and disregarded for sometime. I realize that due to budget constraints this will be a multi step project but I would like some ideas. My initial goal is to landscape around the perimeter of the house with trees, flowering shrubs and various perennials that will provide color throughout the seasons. In addition, we need a walkway from the front door to the driveway. Next, I would like to bring some life and beauty to the right of the long driveway. I was thinking some pine for privacy with flowering shrubs or perennials like hostas or tall grasses. It is at slope and I would prefer not to waste money on retaining walls. Perhaps adding some flowering trees like pear along the driveway would be nice as well. We plan to relocate the currently unused and poorly placed vegetable garden to the far left. Our 10 year plan would be to rip out the deck and do a sate patio. I would also like to replace some of the trees that we lost due to disease. We unfortunately had to cut down a lot and lack the shade to really enjoy the property. Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated! Zone 6B, NY full sun.

Comments (30)

  • Alexa
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Additional photos of rear of house

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  • mad_gallica (z5 Eastern NY)
    2 years ago

    Go slowly. Spend at least a year researching plants, and identifying what you already have. Right now it sounds like you really don't know what you don't know*.

    *(I wouldn't plant pines for privacy because they lose their lower limbs with age. And I would never, ever plant a pear because of their tendency to explode once they get to a certain size. And you may already have some nice flowering shrubs that need rejuvenation, etc.)

    Alexa thanked mad_gallica (z5 Eastern NY)
  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Limit discussion to the front. Trying to take on a whole huge yard in one thread seems overwhelming.

    You have a large house, large yard and large trees. All the low-hanging limbs and foliage on the front trees, from the streetview do not seem welcoming, but obstructive and as if the owners haven't come outside in the last twenty years. Perhaps they're dead and mummifying in the upstairs bedroom. Who knows? If they are alive, they sure haven't walked out the front door and down those steps in a few years. It looks completely uninviting.

    Not trying to be harsh, but make point that some tweaking is not what's needed here. It needs a radical makeover. Once couldn't know from this distance is there was anything savable in the foundation planting ... but I doubt it. Typically, things are planted much too close to the house, and here, they are all wildly overgrown. Unless someone pointed out a gem in the lot, I'd get rid of all the foundation planting and start over.

    Limbing up trees (removing lower limbs) is a VERY cheap things to DIY and makes a profound difference. In one weekend, a couple of people can dramatically transform the look into something much more civilized.

    You mention wanting privacy at the right of the driveway. You have to show us ... privacy from what ...?

    The first project to decide on, before moving on to planting, is the front walk. (Because it is hardscape and could influence how planting is arranged.)


    To start, at least clear out plantings around the steps and entrance and take another picture (from closer) of the entrance and its surroundings.

    Alexa thanked Yardvaark
  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK
    2 years ago

    Consider your own personal tastes and wishes before limbing everything up and clearing stuff out. We can't even tell what those shrubs are around the steps and whether or not there is anything interesting or amenable to shaping differently. We all have our personal aesthetic. What do you like?

    Alexa thanked floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK
  • kitasei
    2 years ago

    My general first impression is there is an imbalance between the plants crowded around the house vs the rest of the property. A natural landscape is balanced. To bring the two into balance, you need to thin the foundation plantings and add to the existing trees. Adding groundcover beds would go along way to achieve this. Use them to extend the foundation planting and to anchor the trees. My thought on the trees is to evaluate each one as an artistic specimen and shape/prune accordingly. This may mean limbing way up to reveal a majestic trunk, or it may mean interior thinning to reveal an interesting branch structure, or heading back some branches to open a view or space for an adjacent tree. Be sure to know what you're doing, especially with unforgiving conifers.

    Alexa thanked kitasei
  • nickel_kg
    2 years ago

    (Following because I love this style of home -- so calm and dignified. I might post a request for help with a similar house if I get the owner's permission.) Oh and Alexa you are smart to have a 10-year plan!

    Alexa thanked nickel_kg
  • Alexa
    Original Author
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Thanks Anna, I am so overwhelmed by the options out there I wanted to have some basic ideas before researching designers. I will work on a scaled drawing to provide a better visual of my layout. Thanks again!

  • Alexa
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Thanks mad_gallica, you are correct my knowledge is very elementary regarding plant /tree species. We currently have that exact issue with the established pines on the property, prior to moving in we had to cut 7 down due to their poor conditions and we lost one over the winter in a bad wind storm. What do you typically recommend for privacy and lining a driveway?


  • Alexa
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Winter photos (closer view of plantings)

  • Alexa
    Original Author
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago


    Yardvaarkwe are alive, I promise! But you are correct, we do not use the front door and it is completely uninviting. Our house sits in the middle of 3 acres on a hill so the photos were taken downhill, nevertheless...it needs help! I will take better photos showing what is actually there in the foundation plantings, but I have no issues ripping it all out and starting fresh. If you can imagine we initially pruned it way back from its original state to allow light into the windows. We have since left it alone until we could properly address it. The stairs need to be redone and a walkway/path established. In addition I would like to add a portico. We had many of the tree limbs pruned prior to them budding and still were left with many dead and dreary limbs...the tree guys are going to come back at the end of the season to address this. I will mention limbing up the other trees a bit more as well. I appreciate your response, I am hesitant to start ripping things out without some sort of plan. It looks pretty bad now but I know it can get worse (as well as better-that's why I am here)!! I will take better photos and make a few drawings and come back to the table! Thanks again!

  • Alexa
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK- I really like the look of lush multi layered multi colored foundation beds. All of the trees on the property with the exception of one are green. I would like to add some trees that change colors through the season. In addition, I would like shrubs that stay green throughout the winter as well as flowering shrubs and perennials to give the house some life! Thank you for taking the time to reply!





  • Alexa
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    kitasei You are so right! There is a major imbalance. The property is so vast and there isn't much tying the space together. One of the many things that drew us to the house was the potential...we just didn't realize what a project it would be outdoors! I love the look of landscaping around trees and would definitely consider some manicured ground cover.



    Thank you for taking the time to reply!!

  • Alexa
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    nickel_kg This house is a charmer for sure, we are working from the inside out to transform it. It will take some time but I think in the end it will be worth it!

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    2 years ago

    Hire a designer to help you develop a plan for the entire property.....or as much of it as you want to landscape. You do not need to have a very defined look in mind.......it is the designer's job to help you develop the look that will best compliment your home and your life style and utilizing the plants that will work best in your specific location. Just show them as many inspirational photos as you can that appeal to you and have some firm ideas about usage specifics.......improved entry way, wider or more defined pathways, portico or outdoor entertaining areas, play area, vegetable or cutting garden, whether or not you want to include an inground irrigation system, landscape lighting, etc. And determine how much maintenance or time you want to spend keeping the garden looking good. Provide this info to the designer and they will take it from there! That is their job.....to provide substance, function and visualization to your very prelimary thoughts.

    There are different perceptions on how a house must be viewed from the street. Some prefer everything be on open view........others prefer some moderate screening and others still do not want to be on view at all to the world at large. It is always your choice, not some arbitrary "landscape design" rule (there really aren't many of those :-)) Limbing up trees is not a requirement and does not always enhance the tree or the view/curb appeal. And once a limb has been removed, it can't be put back. Every situation should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

  • Embothrium
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Strictly speaking the only garden layout that is going to pair effectively with that house façade is one that is as formal and geometric as the façade itself is. Consider doing an arrangement directly in front of the house that echoes the façade, having informal plantings and other naturalistic features elsewhere on the property - anywhere the design of the front of the house is not a visually dominant backdrop. With this formally gardened zone serving as a transition between the façade and the less uniform scene around it.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Just as there are always 4 wheels and tires on every car, there are some aspects of landscape that are consistent and universal among typical residential properties, and don't depend on one's personal taste or whims. Of course, a person can ignore those universal requirements/preferences, but they usually do so at their peril, which often doesn't show until the property is resold. Then personal tastes and whims mean nothing as it becomes the buying public who judge.

    If there was not a penny cost difference, a massive amount of people would prefer to live in a very high class hotel or resort, where not a single thing was designed according to their personal tastes. Even though they had no input on the design, someone who had good taste designed spaces that appealed to anyone and everyone. Most people cannot create great design, but they can still appreciate it.

    One "universal requirement" of which I speak is that the home is the subject of a pleasant view. That view usually begins at the street. At some large properties or highly treed environments, the street view may be entirely obscured and view begins after one enters the property. But at some point it begins, and usually before one gets out of the car. People want to see where they're going. That view cannot well happen when tree limbs obscure too much of the house until the last ditch second of the approach, and clearly, in picture #1, that's what's happening.

    This need for view is again universally made evident for the home entrance. To comply with the principle of view, and to be 'welcoming,' the entrance, and the path to it, needs to be visible and inviting. This cannot happen when the path or entrance is obscured until the last minute, or completely, with bushy, engulfing plantings.

    For a foundation planting, there are more universal requirements. A biggy is that plants are not placed too close to the foundation. If this rule is ignored, then it barely matters what any plant material is. In order to create a good landscape, it need to be removed and new material needs to replace it. The new material needs to coordinate, to some degree, with architectural features ... it cannot be placed to completely cover windows, for example.

    Given these basic rules, I can't see that there is much, if any, existing foundation material that is worth saving. The follow-up, winter-view picture, confirms in my mind a complete lack of coordination or uniformity among foundation plantings, and plants that are "spent," in terms of their landscape value. It screams "Start over!"

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    2 years ago

    "Strictly speaking the only garden layout that is going to pair effectively with that house façade is one that is as formal and geometric as the façade itself is. "

    This is another fallacy re: landscape design. In no LD text will you find instructions that a symmetical facade must be accompanied by a formal layout.....or even a perfecty symmetrical layout. Balance in mass can accomplish the same thing but without mirror image duplication. And many times, a less formal, more casual, organic or looser design plan will soften the geometry of a large and very precise, symmetrical structure and make it blend better, connect to the greater landscape and be less imposing.

    "Universal requirements"?? Pure hokum!! Personal aesthetics and common sense should rule the day.......nothing more.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    2 years ago

    "... Pure hokum!" You don't believe in the concept of view in terms of the anticipation it creates? ... Proper planting distance away from the foundation wall? ... That an entrance and path to it is visible? Call that hokum you want, but I think it reflects negatively on your appraisal.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)
    2 years ago

    Reread what I wrote....."Personal aesthetics and common sense should rule the day."

    There are almost no absolutes in gardening and even fewer when it comes to landscape design. So yes, I strongly disagree with the term "univeral requirements". I can't think of anything involving landscape design that comes under that heading. It is an endless series of very site specific variables.

  • doods
    2 years ago

    gardengal - however Yardvark's "Just as there are always..." made perfect sense to me! I think you two should agree to disagree :-)

  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    2 years ago

    But then, "personal aesthetics" is indefinable in terms of any actual standard. Adhering to it doesn't guaranty any particular outcome, good or bad, as it's dependent entirely on the individual person's knowledge and perception.. "Common sense," sounds like a great thing but is also without any standard. My view of landscape design is organized along discernable paths, follows rules. and has standards of outcome.

  • Kev Dog
    2 years ago

    Just a side comment -- I notice you have a slope in the backyard and wanted to make sure you don't have any water issues. You might want to think about foundation/drainage issues first (if you have any), and then take on the hardscape issues next -- like walkways or decks or driveways. Tree removal if you need any is always expensive and is much easier before the landscape is completed. It might be better to formulate a plan and then tackle some of these issues over time. It could take several years depending on time and budget.

  • l pinkmountain
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    Rules have principles behind them. An entrance most likely should look welcoming. Erosion should be remedied. Plant shade tolerant plants in the shade. Etc. There are some principles that will make an entrance look welcoming, but they do not need to be so rigid as to require only one style or application. There are many ways to handle erosion. Within the principles are a gazillion ways to skin the cat and they involve personal taste along with ideas about style, etc. For example, I think limbed up trees look contrived and there is a whole school of thought in aesthetics that I could waste my time arguing for it, but there is no absolute right or wrong about it. It won't necessarily kill the tree to limb it up, depending on how you do it, so if you LIKE that look and don't find it contrived, more power to you. But don't claim it follows some kind of universal aesthetic that is so overriding that there isn't room for more quirky and natural looking ideas. It's like saying everyone must decorate in midcentury modern style because all the rest of design is "dated" which is laughable. Or that bauhaus esthetic is "better" than victorian or that one couldn't morph the two together and create something equally gorgeous and unique. I find an overdone desire to tidy everything up creates a dull and soul-less landscape and I'll trade a mismatched and out of proportion but loved set of trees for a perfectly balanced one any day. One looks like humans live there and the other looks robotic to me. On the other hand, someone else might look at same and think, "Ugh, cluttered!" My main advice to you Alexa would be to not get drawn up into the world of magazines and television and even on here where people make you feel dissatisfied with stuff that isn't really that important over the long haul. The perfect is the enemy of the good and much of that is just bupkes to motivate you to buy more stuff or services you don't necessarily need.

    To your question Alexa, you've got a real issue with overgrown shrubs around your house, so I'd start with a foundation planting overhaul. You have many options, and it doesn't hurt to peruse houzz sample photos or other web sites and books from the library, magazines, etc. to find some inspiration. You can begin to develop an idea of the kinds of styles and plants you like.

    The trees in your yard aren't going away, so they can sit for a year or two while you focus on the foundation. Then you may want to keep them, reshape them or remove. My friend inherited a similar property and she began developing beds around her trees and in a couple of places incorporated several trees into big islands. Her landscape was a mix of shrubs and perennials under the trees (planted properly so as to not interfere with the tree's growth) and it was stunning. Took her about ten years total to integrate all that she wanted done, both front and back.

    Start with what's closest to the house and work outwards as far as priorities. Does not mean you can't do something outside of that recommendation, but implement the things that will make the most difference first, (like a new walkway) along with things that take a long while to grow, (like shade trees, for example) and pick the low hanging fruit for greatest impact. Get an overall plan and if you want large drifts and beds, you can implement them one at a time or whatever, as time and money allows.

    That tree on the left in your photo of the front of your house looks like it is not long for this world. I wouldn't invest too much into fixing it/reshaping it, unless I am wrong from what I am seeing.

    Oh, and I'd start with the front, and let the back be more of an adventure for the kids for now. I inherited a similar property with a lot of overgrowth and "issues" to say the least. Carve out little islands of beauty and order for yourself and learn to squint at the stuff that you just don't have the time and money right now to fix. One step at a time, small victories!

  • l pinkmountain
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    One other comment is that it is hard to tell from the photos you posted why you want to line the driveway? I can't really see the driveway. My mom had a mixed border of flowering plants along the driveway in the house I grew up in. It was a flat sunny spot and provided a nice little view. But it's a heck of a lot easier not to line a driveway with anything other than grass considering how many other spaces you have for a planting bed. My current driveway is lined with flowering trees. I now have to be careful not to run into them backing out. My dad started parking his truck in our driveway and it's hard to back out around it. I like to use the truck sometimes though, and he's 88 so I'm putting up with it. But anyway, I wouldn't sweat that, a driveway does not necessarily "have" to be lined unless you have some kind of erosion issues you're worried about? Or something you really really want to do with that space? More info would help. I am a bad backer out so I would opt for grass that could take an occasional oops and get rolled on. Also, in your zone, I imagine you'll be snow blowing out that driveway and the sides will have to take piles of snow perhaps mixed with salt . . .

  • kitasei
    2 years ago

    Yardvark, you made a much more compelling case this time for your view on “welcoming” (ie open) approaches to a house, specifically its front door. But I want to pin you down on it, in defense of my own house. I agree that approaches are hugely important. I like a slow reveal. Here’s my plan: Enter at the street, very unassuming opening in the rural wooded road. Ascend long driveway landscaped to screen view of other houses or their yards..semi-cultivated with ferns and Siberian iris to highlight the stream and ravine...sharp incline and sharp curves bring sudden view of iron gate at crest of hill which is sunlit opening wooded surround... view at the gate is still of long lawn..drive curves to reveal top half of stone house...arch entrance to path through hedge and wall brings you to courtyard of house and then THEN you see the house in its entirety (and perhaps me in my all together through glass doors)...but still you pause because where is the door? Ah there under the porch! So you see how I have manipulated the approach as a sequence of reveals luring you each step of the way, controlling your pace. I am with you on the universal appeal of welcoming a visitor, but think it can be broken down and put in slow motion. I like the comments I get from delivery people who seem to enjoy the surprise.

    In the case of Alexa’s house, I think it demands a long view if not from the street at least from most of the driveway. For this reason I am concerned that the inspirational photos she’s chosen are too fussy to read well at the distance and speed they will be taken in. I go back to my recommendation to lay out the shapes in bold strokes.

  • mad_gallica (z5 Eastern NY)
    2 years ago

    The inspiration photos are much too manicured unless one wishes to spend a great deal of time&effort, or $$$. It just isn't how the world works around here.

    As for the house approach, an interesting exercise is to go to the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park. Drive in the main entrance, over the White Bridge, past the Formal Garden, the around the oval in front of the house to the current parking lot. Walk back to the house, look due east, and see just how close Rt 9 really is in a straight line. That entire drive was to manipulate you into thinking the house is much more secluded than it really is, and has a much more extensive property than it really possesses. The man who laid that out would say that a visible approach was soooo last century - in this case the 18th.

    Unless there is much more to the property than we have been shown, I agree that you don't have room to line the drive with trees. And that isn't the point in planning you are at yet. If the playtoys are yours, is there a flat place for the children to play croquet, badminton, or volleyball? Is there a decent sledding hill? Those are places you don't necessarily want to add obstructions. Is there an open, sunny place for a vegetable garden? How do you have the driveway cleared - snowblower or plow guy?


    There is nothing here that is so bad that it has to be fixed yesterday, so take your time. Visit house museums, and Garden Conservancy Open Days for ideas.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    2 years ago
    last modified: 2 years ago

    "I am with you on the universal appeal of welcoming a visitor, but think it can be broken down and put in slow motion." Well, Kitasei, we aren't in the least disagreement! HOW exactly to do it is a matter of taste. And your property, as you've described it, sounds lovely. In the case here, I'm saying that waiting until one passes the back side of the tree that, which in the first picture blocks almost the entire right half view of the house, is waaaaaay too late. The only way to see the house behind the tree is to limb it up sufficiently that enough of the house shows below the canopy. (This never means to limb it up beyond what they tree is capable of. A 20' tree cannot be limbed up 15' of clear trunk! But a 100' tree easily can.)

  • l pinkmountain
    2 years ago

    Older, less than perfect trees add character to a landscape. Tree care is not inexpensive. You might call cooperative extension and ask them to put you in touch with a good, certified arborist. They can advise you and also do the work on the trees to take care of them properly. Nothing wrong with leaving a goofy looking tree stand for a while, they have a weathered look and provide homes for wildlife. Do you have a fireplace? I have several trees on my property that need to be trimmed and a couple diseased spruces, etc. that need to be taken down. Mine are going to stay standing until I get a new fireplace or I have a lot of my other priorities accomplished.

    Here's a link to the arborist directory that I use, from the International Society of Aboriculture. http://www.treesaregood.org/findanarborist/findanarborist

  • kitasei
    2 years ago

    Don’t burn spruce in a fireplace. Only hardwoods. Soft woods build up creosote. Shred them for mulch.