emily_danyluk21

please help with landscaping ideas --huge magnolia needs to stay.

Em Dash
5 days ago

Please help w landscaping ideas for my front yard. I hate the magnolia but it needs to stay right now for financial reasons and because it might belong to the city.... I'd love to learn to love it rather than just feel like a giant tree is in my yard. Here are other details:

enter house through carport, so we have no visible front door (fairly typical in our neighborhood),

azaleas to left of house also need to stay

lavender in right flower bed should stay as well, but needs other plants in the bed with it. it's only a year old and will get bigger.

I'm in Maryland, zone 7b. I'm partial to natives, but don't need all natives. I love hydrangeas, but would they be too much?

it's shady/partly shady around the magnolia. full sun everywhere else.

I'm happy to re-take the photos -- I tried to follow what seems to be the convention here.

please help!!!!! thank you!

Comments (25)

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    I would give the Magnolia no special pass when it comes to blocking view of the house. In that position it should be limbed up like any big tree, such that the first floor of the house shows. This will let a little more light below it and help lower plantings grow better. With it's dense surface roots, you'll need a groundcover that starts from small bits and spreads by rooting wherever it touches soil. Or one that pops up from underground roots. The suggestions are not of specific plants, but of size, shape & placement, subject to your on site adjustments.



  • Embothrium

    I'd rather look out my windows at the foliage of the tree than the street.

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  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    Me too. I never understand the obsession with showing the house to passers by and stripping the trunk of every tree to a uniform shape. The magnolia is infinitely more attractive to me than the building. And it hides the horrible utility pole and wires from your windows. If I were walking past the tree would cheer me up, especially in winter.

  • Christopher C Nc

    The big question is what can you grow under a magnolia that won't make dealing with the magnolia leaves a PIA? Your lavender bed on the right looks like it belongs to the neighbor's house and is there a gate, do you need access through the right side fence?

    At this point I would suggest making a single large bed using the viable grass line as a guide across the whole front. Start at the right carport side, go in front of the magnolia and connect to the lavender bed so it looks like it belongs to you.

    Main shrubs for this new bed could be oak leaf hydrangea, a few more azalea and some of the dwarf evergreen hollies for the sunnier parts. What if anything to plant directly under the magnolia is something that needs to be pondered.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    "... I never understand the obsession with showing the house to passers by ..." It is the well established fact of humans seeking ever higher status. We like to show off our faces, bodies, cars, belongings, homes, vacations, jewelry and absolutely everything else imaginable. We have an eternal love of architecture and take great pride in displaying our homes, pouring unimaginable sums of money into them, especially their front facades. Even if they are modest, we try to make the most of them, not only for ourselves to see, but for the general public. Most of the problems presented here on the Landscape Design Forum revolve around someone trying to upgrade the appearance of their home. Of course, some people are exceptions to the general rule, because that's how human nature is. And BTW, trunks of trees, once they have attained some size, and when they are able to be seen, can become outstanding art features of their own accord.

    In general, I prefer the Southern Magnolia grown in the shrub form (with foliage to ground) but here, that wouldn't be possible as it would consume the walk. It's not practical, or a good tree choice, but it is what exists. The SM as best displayed requires an enormous amount of space.

    "I'd rather look out my windows at the foliage of the tree..." Hopefully, Embo, you live in the woods.

  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    Well that's us told. You don't say where your quote comes from but it is extremely ethnocentric. Kerb appeal is not a universal value. And I'm really amazed to hear that tree trunks can be beautiful. I would never have thought of that if you hadn't kindly informed me of the fact. In my view that tree is by far the most attractive thing in the pictures.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    "I never understand the obsession with showing the house to passers by and stripping the trunk of every tree to a uniform shape. "

    As a practicing landscape designer of many years, I can state that that obsession is not uniformly held. And it is not something you will find repeated in any landscape design text. I believe it to be either a regional or purely personal choice. It is not one of mine :-)

    And yes, some tree trunks can be extremely attractive - paperbark maple, stewartia, Chinese paper birch, the musculature of dawn redwood. But I sure wouldn't lump a magnolia of any description into that group. Nor most other tree species, either.

    Not only is curb appeal not a universal value, it can mean many different approaches to many different homeowners and their situations. It is not 'one size fits all'. Having the front of one's home wide open to public view is not everyone's cup of tea.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    The discussion suddenly became confusing. Floral, when you said, "You don't say where your quote comes from but it is extremely ethnocentric." I don't know what quote you're referring to, since I quoted yourself. If you and Gardengal are arguing against me, it seems you have created a "straw man." I said the STATUS SEEKING is a universal human value --by the vast majority of people (and not every last breathing soul.) But CURB APPEAL is a predominantly American phenomenon, and possibly exists in some other countries (I wouldn't know which ones.) Curb appeal is mostly urban. People who live in rural or wooded areas may have no interest in making their home visually appealing from, if the term were taken literally, the street, though many are interested in making it look good from where one first views it. The overriding landscape value in many other countries is SECURITY ... thus lots of screening, walls and privacy.

    How is "curb appeal" even a thing? Because it exists! I did not make it up. One could easily imagine that it emanates from the human wish to increase one's status. It can't happen if one is obsessed with security or privacy. But the United States has a longstanding tradition of spacious yards (which now, sadly, seems over with) and low crime, probably due to the fact that laws were strict ... and so many of us owned guns during the last two centuries. :-) (The low crime, sadly, may also be over with.)

    A landscape text would have no particular reason to be for or against "curb appeal" per se, and neither a need to mention it. It's no more than beautification that can be seen from the street, with its intent being to capture viewer interest as soon, and as intently, as possible. We've heard that there are people who do not wish to do this, and that's understandable. But we haven't heard a justification why anyone should be prevented from capturing viewer interest, and at their first opportunity, if that is their desire.

  • Christopher C Nc

    City people. "People who live in rural or wooded areas may have no interest in making their home visually appealing...….."

    A few aim straight for Roadside Attraction. It's all about the 'kerb', cool, appeal.




  • Em Dash

    Thank you, Yardvaark for a mock up and everyone for thoughtful responses. A magnolia is not what I would have chosen, but it's what they planted so many years ago and I'm trying to deal. All the neighbors love it. I do not. (cleanup and it's just so big).

    A view of the street is fine for us, as well as the wires... that's just reality. It's the kitchen that's in the front of the house so I like being able to look for guests or my family returning from the playground for lunch. The back has huge windows onto the private back yard. It's not a fancy house, having been built in 1954 and is very midcentury modest, but it's good for our family and I just want to put something in the front before weeds take over and that maybe doesn't make me always think about how the tree is so huge.

  • Em Dash

    also, I have long been considering Roxanne geranium under the magnolia. thoughts?

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    I only know this Roxanne girl from pictures. Does it seem like it could be trampled by magnolia leaves? Maybe something a little taller and stiffer and hungry enough to eat at least a few leaves would be better. Maybe some kind of fern mass, or Aspidistra (if that grows there).

  • floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

    My mistake. I took the quotation marks before "it is an established fact .... to be the beginning of a quote, not the end of the previous one.

    However, I still disagree with the statement since it makes a blanket assertion based on cultural norms in one part of the world. And I would not consider an evergreen magnolia restricted to shrub form to be the apotheosis of that tree. Ironically the OP says the neighbour's love the tree so the idea that removing it would improve the appearance of the home from the street is immediately undermined. The house itself has little visual merit in my view. As to wires, maybe it's reality in the US and people don't notice them anymore. To someone from a place where wires are usually buried they're really egregious.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    "I still disagree with the statement since it makes a blanket assertion based on cultural norms in one part of the world." In what country, continent or culture do people not seek status and like to show it off? As far as I can see it is a TRUE blanket statement, being a trait that spans all of humanity with the expected minor percentage of exceptions.

    "And I would not consider an evergreen magnolia restricted to shrub form to be the apotheosis of that tree." By shrub FORM I do not mean size, but the normal natural SHAPE, with foliage to ground, that the full-sun-grown magnolia takes when left to its own devices.

    "... the neighbour's love the tree so the idea that removing it would improve the appearance of the home from the street is immediately undermined." How can an uncredentialed neighbor's opinions of a plant be accepted as true and valuable? It can't weigh as much as other criteria, especially what we can see with our own eyes.

    In the US, almost all wires in subdivisions of the last few decades are buried. In many older neighborhoods it depends on where and when as to how they are placed. In days of old we had alleys so wires ran through the air, but came to houses from the back. In other places, wires run along the street so come to the house front. It can be an eyesore, thus the trend for burial.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I'm sorry but this discussion has now become outright silly in that we are now just trying to defend our positions/opinions rather than contribute meaningfully to a landscape design issue.


    Yardvaark, to make a statement that it is a uniform trait of all people regardless of culture or origin to seek status and show it off is ridiculous. It is a personal assumption that you cannot possibly justify. I will grant you that some people do overtly seek status or like to show off.............but they tend to be the minority, not the norm, and you cannot justifiably generalize to the extent that it is a common, cross-cultural, cross-country character trait.

    " How can an uncredentialed neighbor's opinions of a plant be accepted as true and valuable? It can't weigh as much as other criteria, especially what we can see with our own eyes. "

    And why wouldn't the uncredentialed neighbor's opinion be just as valid as anyone else's? That is after all who so-called "curb appeal" is supposed to appeal to - the general passerby, not some "credentialed" design professional!! Or is having a valid landscape design opinion only restricted to those with credentials (in which case we should probably eliminate 85% of the participation in this forum)? To be perfectly honest, a great many design professionals can themselves have questionable design opinions - we see it here on these forums all the time. An opinion of value is not a feature that is limited only to those with specialized training or in the profession!! And what we can "see with our own eyes" will always be highly subjective - no two individuals will react to the same visual aesthetic in exactly the same way. What you may find jarring or awkward others will find pleasing and attractive. Neither viewpoint is right or wrong.


  • PRO
    Dig Doug's Designs

    Some ideas using Lily-of-the Valley under the magnolia.


  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    "Yardvaark, to make a statement that it is a uniform trait of all people regardless of culture or origin to seek status and show it off is ridiculous. It is a personal assumption that you cannot possibly justify." The fact is that is that there are MANY traits common to people everywhere because we are all one species, much motivated, by the same common factors, regardless of our location on the planet. Notice that when I made the claim, I gave many examples (a drop in the bucket) to demonstrate everyday instances that were true and obvious to anyone. I am neither necessarily talking about showing off OVERTLY. There are many subtle ways that even people of modest means can, and do demonstrate that they are better off than their neighbors. What person does not seek to improve their lot and let others know it is improved?

    "And why wouldn't the uncredentialed neighbor's opinion be just as valid as anyone else's?" It's valid for them to HAVE it, furthering our ideas about free speech. But not valid for others to ACCEPT IT AS EQUAL. Because said neighbor may be completely stupid about the subject at hand. If a plant has a flower, many people will begin raving of its value, while after the bloom is over its value might be nonexistent. And what we see about "neighbors" (who are not landscape designers or proficient in the genre) is that they may profess love for something ... but then be completely happy, or happier, when shown something else, that they hadn't thought of yet. Without knowing them and their ideas to some degree, they cannot be the people counted on to direct the landscape activities of others. I'm not at all saying that such-and-such neighbor has an opinion without value, I'm saying that until we know what is behind that neighbor's ideas (credentials/experience/good taste) we cannot at all assume that their opinion has any particular merit ... unless it happens to coincide with what we can see or are told and already understand to be true. But then, it's just corroboration of our own ideas. I've mentioned many times before that one problem advice-seekers must face here, is that they must be able to sort through the mixture of opinions to find the good advice. Gardengal, you can't think that every bit of advice that gets posted on the forum is equal to yours. It isn't!

  • amili

    'Rozanne' geranium wouldn't be good under the magnolia. One, it would prefer more sun and water for better bloom and two, it keeps a single central crown and does not root as it covers the ground. It would come right up with the magnolia leaves and would not like the leaves sitting on top off it at all.

    Great geranium though. I can see it in sunnier parts of a new larger bed away from the magnolia. Makes for easy winter cleanup. You can roll it up like a carpet and cut it off at the crown.

    If you like the idea of oak leaf hydrangea, think about planting those under the magnolia. By under I mean around, say 4' feet away from the trunk, and allow the shrubs to grow into the space under the magnolia. Shrubs may be your best bet to help absorb the magnolia leaves and keep that cleanup job to a semi-annual event.

    Shrubs under the magnolia might soothe everyone involved here.

    From the shrubs around the magnolia, you can layer the planting down to 'Rozanne'.

  • Em Dash

    dig doug, I'm liking the bench idea!!!!! Geranium is out under the magnolia. I'll look into other options mentioned here. I have considered ferns and Lily of the valley. I'll look more closely. Lily of the valley was under a second tree that used to be in our yard by my now-lavender bed -- due to the direct sun and a drainage project I think we lost it all.... otherwise that would be easy and cheap to transplant.

    the utility had to cut it down due to interference w the power lines. shame because it was a lovely cherry tree. I wish the original owner had swapped places and put the magnolia there: I'd still have a cherry tree and we'd all be happy 😉

  • Em Dash

    dig doug (or Yardvaark or anyone) -- ideas for the shrubs behind the trees?

  • PRO
    Dig Doug's Designs

    Consider Otto Luyken Laurel, Dwarf Plum Yew or Canyon Creek Abelia.


  • schrickg

    Did you already say which direction your home is facing?

  • Em Dash

    I did not. thank you schrick -- south.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark

    Would Aucuba grow there, for where it's shady? Maybe a hydrangea where there is more sun.

  • Em Dash

    I have concerns about the size of aucuba. I'm considering dwarf hydrangeas for a shrub, ferns as grounds cover (I love the idea of dig Doug's Lilly of the valley, but I think that they are considered invasive here -- I'm checking that). I'm also considering a red twig dogwood but I think they are all too big and need too much sun, or a Holly if there is one that is smaller.

    I love both designs, but am leaning toward digdoug's w a bench at the moment.... but maybe w one big shrub like Yardvaark's.

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