tangerinedoor

My front path needs some pretty. I need experienced eyes.

tangerinedoor
14 days ago
last modified: 14 days ago

I have new construction and a raw lot. I am in Zone 4, New England near the Connecticut River. We get lots of snow. Our growing/bloom season is very short.

My property is Certified Wildlife Habitat, and I'm in the middle of making decisions, taking plant inventory, etc. related to that. Jungle is fine, provided I have solar access hitting my roof.

My immediate need for design input has to do with the approach path to the front entrance. I'm having trouble visualizing options (e.g. overall look like height and height variations, where to put tubs of annuals vs perennials).

While the approach path gets morning sun, that side of the house faces due north and is shady most of the day. I also have to be able to dig out the pathway from under snow in winter. I don't use much salt at all—mostly sand—but the pathway gets icy.

The gravel has to stay. It works well in our freeze-thaw cycles.

Now that I think about it, a grab railing might be a helpful thing along the path if you can help me incorporate that into a landscape vision.

The door is currently blue, but I don't like the color, and it will be re-painted.

The white skirting is required by my lender. No snarky comments, please!

Pathway photo October 1 2019:



Comments (37)

  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    14 days ago
    last modified: 14 days ago

    In general, people do not like to be squished by plants, or brush up against them, and they also like to see clearly where they're going. Presently, a wide path to your door is established by the grade, and you've reinforced (made more durable) a central portion of the wider path. I believe you need to keep things low for several feet distance from the path. Most people do this with mowed lawn, but it doesn't sound like you're going in that direction. A low groundcover would do the job if turf isn't under consideration. Apparently you've already got some scheme in mind -- tubs of this or that -- so it's kind of hard to second guess where you are trying to go. I can't think that growing things in tubs is going to be near as easy, or more practical, than growing things in the ground. The house could stand a foundation planting, surrounded by low growing, lawn-like area, which is surrounded by taller growth/screening, etc around the perimeter. I think you need to be clear about your objectives and whatever preconceived details you're trying to incorporate.

    The title suggests that you want to line the path with things that will be taller and eye-catching. This goes against all of my design experience. Things don't have to be under people's noses for them to be seen. You have to look at the bigger picture.

  • tangerinedoor
    14 days ago

    Thanks, Yardvaark.


    Evidently my initial post is confusing. Apologies.


    Premise. I have asked for advice and am willing to take it. I might not implement everything, but I don't even know how to think about this space.


    Maybe I need to clarify some things.


    1. I don't know what to do with this front area of the house at all.


    2. The rest of the yard (out of view) is either jungle or I have local input about.


    3. Like Yardvaark, I can't imagine putting taller items near the path. I NEED input on topics like height.


    4. Because of our short growing season, weeds, etc., I can imagine incorporating some annuals in containers, but I haven't decided where the containers would go. I have no idea how tall the containers should be or anything. I like red/fuschia/purple flowers, but don't have to stick with that, either.


    5. I'm thinking some way to upstage the skirting would be a good idea, but I don't know how I'd do that or what it would look like.


    6. I would welcome a ground cover in lieu of lawn.


    Hope that clarifies!

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  • Missi (4b IA)
    14 days ago

    Following along w/your thread..I enjoy the landscaping posts.

    tangerinedoor thanked Missi (4b IA)
  • mad_gallica
    14 days ago

    Given the strongly geometric nature of the house, I'd prefer a walk with straight lines and right angles. The current form looks like it wandered in from a different house. I'd also plan on putting in concrete. Concrete is much easier to shovel, and is quite durable in walk sizes.

    Because of the skirting, and the relative lack of windows, the house looks like it could handle a traditional foundation planting. What the shrubs should be depends on things like soil pH.

    Low growing ground cover for sun is called grass. Anything else quickly becomes a weedy mess. Lawn of the 'its green and I mow it' type is maintainable, and looks decent if mowed high.

  • tangerinedoor
    14 days ago

    FWIW The house is almost all window on the south side. This front door is on the north. The curve and gravel of the current pathway are intentional and will not be changed.

  • suezbell
    14 days ago

    Neat little cottage. There are in-ground solar lights that you can, literally, mow across because the top is ground level so outlining your walk with that lighting would be worth considering.


    If you add a rail, consider doing that only on one side; in fact a better idea to a wood or metal hand rail sticking up like a sore thumb might be a short fence atop a short curved wall built with pavers (at least at the driveway/low/beginning end of the walk) to use as a rail on the left/back side, enabling you to level up part of the ground left/behind the wall as a planting area in which you could add a bird bath and/or a post with a solar light and/or brackets for hanging baskets of plants or wind chimes in a mini-front yard sunny patio.

  • tangerinedoor
    13 days ago

    Suezbell....how much solar do you think the solar lights need? I'd love to have them along the pathway, but this side is mostly shade.

    Interesting idea about having a railing on top of the wall. The paragraph you wrote about that gives me lots of ideas you might not have intended!

  • btydrvn
    13 days ago

    Solar lights need lots of sun...and have a pretty short life span in your weather conditions ..if you live there during snow season something more permanent may be required...as to the walkway do you feel you will be able to shovel snow on gravel?...i love pea gravel as a foundation for outdoor living spaces in summer so the area where people are standing would be great for that as there is not much direct sun there in summer...... we have areas on the property where we create pea gravel “patios” under a pergola or the trees with a hammock and chairs...bordering the gravel with stones to keep it sort of confined...we selected a local variety of pretty greenish stones...and had a few yards dumped to use for all the areas we wanted to keep the gravel in place...we also have lots of wildlife so we learned by our mistakes until we realized the importance of researching varieties that do not tempt the wildlife but would thrive in shade or sun situations...we have had wildcats , deer ...raccoons...foxes...stray cats...become close neighbors/roommates as they love our big pond....our surrounding gardens have been systematically dictated by nature as we let the ones that thrive stay and give up anything requiring special care...so now all we have to do is keep nature in check with pruning and thinning and all the happy things that are left...luckily... I enjoy pruning more than any other gardening chore

    tangerinedoor thanked btydrvn
  • btydrvn
    13 days ago

    As to whether you feel the gravel makes shoveling a challenge ...I recommend using cheap pressure treated material for walkway...in a terraced Format so each step is about 3-4 deep ..the pressure treatment is ugly but will look much nicer in a fairly short time as it gets weathered...

    tangerinedoor thanked btydrvn
  • celerygirl
    13 days ago

    As option to go with local shrubs


    tangerinedoor thanked celerygirl
  • tangerinedoor
    13 days ago
    last modified: 13 days ago

    Thanks for all your great input!

    That "gravel" is actually hard-packed micro-stuff. I'm not sure what it's called. Shoveling is fine for now.

    Wow, celerygirl, that's fantastic. You are helping me visualize.


    dtybrvn, your yard sounds wonderful. I might use your idea to border a path somehow, maybe stones.

  • Christopher C Nc
    13 days ago
    last modified: 13 days ago

    I'm with celerygirl. This is where you need to have some more proper planting beds along the walk and foundation plants in front of the skirting. It can still be a wildlife certified habitat and be a touch less wild in appearance. Raised planter boxes are not the way to screen the skirting. That might look worse in the winter than the skirting.

    tangerinedoor thanked Christopher C Nc
  • Missi (4b IA)
    13 days ago

    We have a lot of Lamium in our gardens. Some of it I guess depends on what you're willing/able to do as far as upkeep, weeding, watering, pruning, deadheading, splitting, transplanting, what have you. Our place is small, but the landscaping is my favorite thing about it. We keep bees, and are working toward converting the rest of our backyard to flowers.

    tangerinedoor thanked Missi (4b IA)
  • tangerinedoor
    13 days ago

    Oooh, lamium. I hadn't encountered that plant before. Thanks, Missi.


    Yes, Christopher, I agree with you. My goal is to have a bit more of an organized garden at the front approach (without bringing too much work on myself) than I do everywhere else.

  • Christopher C Nc
    13 days ago

    No lamium for you. It is highly invasive and will smother out the native forest plants. I have spent the last decade killing off an acre plus of it in my mother's garden. It crossed the border into the next county before I got here.

    tangerinedoor thanked Christopher C Nc
  • laceyvail 6A, WV
    13 days ago

    Lamium is not by the wildest stretch of the imagination invasive. But Lamiastrum galeobdolon is--wildly aggressive. Lamium galeobdolon, commonly known as yellow archangel or golden dead-nettle, is a stoloniferous spreading perennial of the mint family (opposite leaves and square stems) that typically grows to 9-15” tall but spreads by stem fragments, rooting at the nodes. Often confused.

    tangerinedoor thanked laceyvail 6A, WV
  • Christopher C Nc
    13 days ago
    last modified: 13 days ago

    The purple flowered selections of Lamium maculatum are not as fast of a spreader as the super aggressive Lamium galeobdolon, yellow archangel, but given a little more time they are just as aggressive and smothering. Lamium is not a plant I would suggest for a wildlife habitat garden. A better groundcover would be woodland phlox, Phlox divaricata

    tangerinedoor thanked Christopher C Nc
  • nickel_kg
    13 days ago
    last modified: 13 days ago

    about the white skirting: I don't think it's bad at all. I like the crispness of the gray against the white. To keep it clean and white, consider a 6" to 12" wide band of gravel around the house. That will keep mud from splashing up, and any plantings you add need to be that far away from your house anyhow.

    How much rain to you get? Enough to use lots of ferns, rocks & mosses?

    eta: a white birch would look beautiful with your gray/white house. Not right up against your front path of course, but maybe as an anchor for a bed that stretches to/along your walkway.

    tangerinedoor thanked nickel_kg
  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    13 days ago

    Start with a foundation planting. It will occupy a fair amount of space. I'm not speculating on what any of these plants might be, but surely you can find plants there capable of assuming these general forms. I don't get why you think a short growing season necessitates annuals being in containers. Annuals are easier to grow in the ground. And you have ground. Containers are best when they are fairly large and you have some hardscape to set them on. Your steps are not wide enough that containers pinch the path for using them. The walk layout seems fine to me and it's decently wide. Personally, I'd wish it to be covered in pavers so as not to track sand in the house, but maybe you'll do that later.

    I'm showing the simple and the basic. If you want more variety, add some plants for punctuation by subdividing the groundcover area. But be careful not to add too much or you'll increase maintenance and make a busy scene that people have a harder time of making geometric sense of.

    We can't see much of the yard so hard telling what you need elsewhere. Where I'm showing lawn, that could just as easily be a low groundcover IF you have one that is walkable. I don't know. Since you said the area is shady, I haven't added any trees. Whether you any is up in the air, based on this view.


  • tangerinedoor
    13 days ago
    last modified: 13 days ago

    Nickel, can one grow a white birch from cuttings? I have a white birch, but I'd like to create a cluster. And they like sun (they grow on the edges of woods, not in the middle). If I can do cuttings, it would be fab.

    Great minds think alike....My house has a state-of-the-art foundation (helical piers, often used for bridges and lighthouses), but part of that is that there is a thick layer of gigantic pebbles under the house. That layer sticks out about 6" from the skirting. Just yesterday, when I took a look, I was thinking of adding a few more inches. Yep, to minimize splatter.

  • tangerinedoor
    13 days ago
    last modified: 13 days ago

    Oh, my gosh, Yardvaark, exactly what I'm after. I love how you did those shrubs. They're not too complicated for me to pull off, and they really pop. Wow!

    And this is a great way for me to start without taking on too much. It looks about 5 shrubs that have a colossal effect!

    You've blown me away.

    The red flowers must be in containers? I'm thinking New Guinea impatiens in the pots. I absolutely love NG impatiens, the leaves, the colors, everything.

    I might eventually use celerygirl's rock pile on the left side of the pathway or a big barrel container. That would go well with your scheme.

  • tangerinedoor
    13 days ago

    To stay on the safe side of the lamium issue, woodland phlox will be a great choice since I'm familiar with and love it.

  • tangerinedoor
    13 days ago

    That guy in the photo is my builder, by the way, and he's talking to the inspectors. His body language shows how proud he was of that project. He GAVE me those front steps. Built them himself. Then he brought by the mums. I'm very lucky, huh?

  • Missi (4b IA)
    13 days ago

    So funny how things work as far as growth—phlox doesn’t like our yard, doesn’t matter where we put it, but does well at my parents. Lamium, we’ve got purple, pink, white, yellow, and it’s by far one of our favorite plants in our gardens. We clip it back from pathways, but it’s never gotten crazy with our other things to smother them. The bees love it, it does well regardless if it gets too wet or dry, tho isn’t as pretty when too dry. We stopped doing annuals bc it was too costly. I like seeing the mock ups-they’re fun!

    tangerinedoor thanked Missi (4b IA)
  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    13 days ago

    "The red flowers must be in containers?" No. In ground ... like everyone does everywhere does. The drawing suggestions are conceptual, so whatever color of flowers you want.. You have to find plants there that will grow into these shapes and sizes. There should be several choices.

    tangerinedoor thanked Yardvaark
  • btydrvn
    12 days ago

    Impatiens is my least favorite of flowers..it drops messy flowers...the leaves balk and get brown-on the edges , turn yellow and die at the bottoms of the stems-if conditions are not ideal..but in the perfect conditions they are beautiful..i too have resorted to putting all my flowers in pots to control the conditions better...and fill great big pots with annuals for the summer..with the added plus of being able to move them to get more sun or shade if needed

    tangerinedoor thanked btydrvn
  • btydrvn
    12 days ago

    The material for your path sounds like something intended for driveways...it compacts to a surface almost like black top ....we have that on our 60’ sloping driveway and it holds up well but a little ditch along the lowest side may be necessary if you have much rain...so it doesn’t wash away/or undermine the walkway

    tangerinedoor thanked btydrvn
  • btydrvn
    12 days ago

    If you end up with any low spots where water sort of gathers or pools this is an excellent place to try some bamboo...keeping in mind it will get thick and spread a lot ...to contain it just add and in ground strip of plastic surrounding the area...to stop the spread of the shallow roots

  • Skip1909
    12 days ago

    Please dont put bamboo anywhere near a certified wildlife habitat. There are plenty of better choices for wildlife and wet conditions. Button bush, Spirea tomentosa or alba, willows, alders, or winterberry holly to name a few

    tangerinedoor thanked Skip1909
  • btydrvn
    12 days ago

    Skip i am wondering why you think bamboo is verboten for wildlife?..

    tangerinedoor thanked btydrvn
  • katinparadise
    12 days ago

    This is the 1st time I've seen the house from the outside. I just love it! My guess is that your pathway is crusher run. It gets almost as hard as concrete when it gets wet and compacts. Following along to see your progress!

    tangerinedoor thanked katinparadise
  • tangerinedoor
    12 days ago

    btydrvn I hate regular impatiens, too. Go brown, leggy, fussy, and they're icky. These would be New Guinea impatiens: they don't look the same or act the same, but I suppose they're the same species.

  • tangerinedoor
    12 days ago

    Thanks, Skip1909, I've been wondering what sort of shrubs might work if I get puddling. Now I have a starter list.

  • tangerinedoor
    12 days ago
    last modified: 12 days ago

    katinparadise.....I didn't realize I hadn't posted a photo of the outside yet.

    "Crusher run" sounds right. It's working out well (except the snow plow keeps scraping it off), no frost heaves, and has low-trip-risk. It would accommodate a wheelchair or walker (it actually has already).

  • nickel_kg
    12 days ago

    It is possible to start new birch trees from cuttings -- but I've never had much luck with cuttings of any type, so I have no advice there. But good luck, whichever direction you go!

    tangerinedoor thanked nickel_kg
  • Skip1909
    12 days ago
    last modified: 12 days ago

    Btydrvn, bamboo is not a part of any habitat in the northeast along the Connecticut river. The risk of it spreading far and wide in the region is low, due to it rarely producing seed and the climate, but it does have potential to expand from its source and displace other plants on the property, assuming we're talking about Phyllostachys aurea. Some plants make a lot of nuts, seeds, fruits, shoots, leaves, or nectar as a direct food source for animals. Often insects eat a plant, then other species like birds eat the insects, creating a food web. Relatively few insects and animals eat the bamboo directly, it doesnt produce fruit, mast or nectar, and its contribution to the food web is relatively low compared to native species and even some non-native species. It also changes the soil and leaf litter dynamics where it is growing. Pretty much everything it does as a plant like erosion control, carbon sequestration, cover for wildlife, and providing building materials, other plants can also do while providing more food to other organisms. Forest service has some info about bamboo, albeit in the south https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/graminoid/phyaur/all.html#INTRODUCTORY

    ETA: https://bamboo.org/GeneralInfoPages/BambooPests.html another link saying generally few north american animals use bamboo for food.

    tangerinedoor thanked Skip1909

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