Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Designing a Northeastern Garden

When we finally moved into our new house in Massachusetts three months ago, it didn't seem much like a home at all.  One of the problems was that the yard was completely bare in the front.  No foundation plantings, no grass, nothing.  On the positive side, I got to design my garden from scratch!

Ack, my house is naked!!  Quick, throw a few shrubs over its foundation!
Step 1:  Trees, Shrubs, and Hardscaping

The first step in designing a garden is to put in what is called the 'bones' of the garden - the main structures that really anchor all the other smaller plantings.  That usually means trees, shrubs, and hardscaping.  

In addition to trees and shrubs, I have two light posts and a few boulders in my garden.  One great thing about the Northeast - boulders are plentiful!  (Farmers would probably disagree about this being a great thing.)
I designed this garden with the winter season in mind.  It's easy to make a garden look good in the summer up here in the Northeast when everything is blooming, not so easy to make a winter garden look good - and all I hear from people up here is how long the winter is going to be!  So I focused on plantings that would look good all year long, such as... 

Evergreens:


On one side of our yard we put a Blue spruce.  The silvery blue of the needles match our house perfectly, and the birds love it!


Vanderwolf's Pyramid Limber Pine and a Blue Atlas Cedar are planted on the other side of my house.  I love how these two evergreens have totally different looks.

...and Foundation Plants with Winter Interest:

Deciduous trees and shrubs going in my yard needed to have either interesting bark or winter berries that would look good in winter!


Winterberry Hollies were planted on either side of my porch, and a River Birch tree with its fabulous light-colored, peeling bark was planted at the corner.


I also planted some Variegated Red Twig Dogwood shrubs.  In summer they have variegated, gray-green colored leaves that look quite pretty with our house color.  The leaves then turn a fabulous pink in autumn before dropping off to reveal bright red stems for winter!

Step 2:  Deciding on Color and Gardening Style

After putting in the main landscaping, it was time to take advantage of the end-of-the-season sales and get some smaller shrubs and perennials for the garden.  But what color scheme should I go with?  My previous Red House perfectly set the stage for a cheerful front garden filled with lots of yellow blooms accented by oranges, reds, whites, and purples.  

But my new house is a subdued grayish green with a hint of blue (yeah, I have no idea what color to describe it as).   However, it really lends itself to a.... pastel-colored English-cottage theme!

We're going pink and pastel here, very different for my garden!
For this theme I had to have roses, of course, though being the lazy gardener that I am, they had to be very hardy and non-fussy.   I found several 'The Fairy' Roses on sale, which are impressively still blooming despite our recent cold snap!  I also picked up several 'Magnus' Purple Coneflowers, several different shades of Salvia (I'm a sucker for salvia), Gaura, and some Great Blue Lobelia, among others.

The Great Blue Lobelia is perfect for a wet spot in the yard.
Step 3:  Plant what you love!

I know I had a pastel theme decided on, but I just couldn't resist putting some cheerful, bright yellow flowers somewhere in the garden.  Next to the garage side door I planted a little clump of Willow Leaf Sunflowers, which are fabulously supposed to get around 6 to 8 feet tall.  I can't wait.

I have big dreams for you, baby clump!
Step 4:  The fun has only just begun!

I still have a lot to fill in.  Bulb planting has started, and I'm already thinking about what plants to start from seed for next year.  Ah, such planning!  Hopefully it will carry me through the long, cold winter that everyone keeps warning me about!


But I must say, with the new beds and the landscaping 'bones' of the garden put in, my new house looks much more like a home!

35 comments:

  1. Indie, it's going to be beautiful all year! Your home is so lovely, what a nice backdrop for a garden. I love 'The Fairy', though somehow I haven't made room for it. You're going to have so much fun exploring the options available in a completely different color scheme from your old place!

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    1. I've seen 'The Fairy' in a lot of books and magazines and always admired it. This is the first time I've gotten them. Hopefully they'll be as hardy and easy as everyone says!

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  2. I remember the magic of starting from the scratch, the blank canvas, dotting the plants around. Next time I'll have to get my head around, take THAT out, so I can put THIS in.

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    1. I have yet to get to the stage of having to much! I have yet to live long enough in a house to get to that stage. Hopefully I'll be in this house for a long time, though, and be able to really build up and enjoy a mature garden. Though it definitely is fun to start from a blank canvas.

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  3. That boulder wasn't there in the original nekkid picture, so how'd you get it there and where'd it come front. I'm doing good to steal a few rocks from my sister's backyard. A boulder is out of the question.

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    1. I have to admit, that wonderfully placed boulder wasn't originally there! We hired a landscaper with machinery to place that there. We have quite a few less strategically placed boulders along the side of our yard and down in a ditch. It makes me wish for a tractor so I could move them myself for some more great garden boulders, but I am happy to finally have at least one! (And my side garden will be taking full advantage of the boulders there, as well.) I wish your rock seeds would turn into magically mighty boulders for you.. I know you love rocks as much as I do!

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  4. So smart of you to start with the evergreens, and plants that give winter interest. And I love your color scheme of pastels against your blue-gray home. It already looks beautiful. In a couple of years, it's going to be magnificent!

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  5. Thanks! I knew after living for so long in a place with such a short winter that I would need something to feel like a garden even in the wintertime here. I'm also planting bulbs that bloom very early, and I plan on getting a couple early-flowering trees at some point. I know I'm going to need spring to come as early as possible!

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  6. Big boulders boulders look good in every garden, I think. And provide a place to rest :) I also have a Blue Atlas Cedar in my garden. The size of your garden is much more suited for such a tree. It will become very large.

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    1. I'm a little nervous about the size of the trees, as the two evergreens are planted along our driveway. I tried to place them as far back as possible, while still being in the flower bed, but I know they both get quite large!

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  7. It looks great already. I love your choices. I'm a bit jealous that now that you are up north, your winterberry hollies will hold their berries all winter - mine are bare already, and the leaves haven't even dropped yet. What is the soil like? Is it normal (i.e, not clay)?

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    1. My soil still has some clay in it, but it's definitely not pure clay like in NC, thankfully! There are a lot of rocks, which I was expecting. I'm so glad to have better draining flower beds now!

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  8. Indie - you gotta come back to Rock Hunting and answer my question. It will add to the hilarity cuz my sister is trying to write us all off as crazy. (Now you can delete this comment).

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    1. Us? Crazy?! Some people just don't have appreciation for a good rock! :)

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  9. I love the colour of your house, such a nice backdrop to any colour scheme you choose for the garden! And I agree on evergreens, they are the backbone of my garden too as I use my garden all year round. So exciting to have a blank canvas to play with!

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    1. It took me a bit to warm up to the color of our house since I had loved our red house so much, but it does really work well for different garden schemes. And of course we had to add some red doors for some color!

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  10. I don't know where to begin , it is all so lovely...I love the color of your house and red door. Did you paint it red or was it that color already? The evergreens are fabulous. I love blue spruce and as you know it doesn't grow well here in the south. You are so smart to approach the "bones" with winter interest in mind. Your garden will look fabulous in all seasons. Can't wait to see it all fill in.

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    1. We painted the doors red as a homage to our last house! We couldn't choose the house color since it is vinyl siding and not really paintable, so we wanted to add some color with the doors. I'm excited to grow some things that don't grow as well down south. I planted a couple lilac bushes as well!

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  11. Indie, I'm so impressed with what you have accomplished already in your new garden! The last few photos show how much difference these additions have already made. Great plant choices; I always want to start with flowers, but you've done the right thing by starting with trees and hardscaping. Your new house is beautiful--love the red door!

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    1. Thanks, Rose! I was in a hurry to get some trees in. I love the look of yards with mature trees in them, so the sooner I planted trees, the sooner they could start growing!

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  12. You've done so much in 3 months! My only advice is to look for inspiration around your yard, and down your block if you have neighbors. I've found that paying attention to what is thriving on its own, or does well in the yards around you is a great, and foolproof place to start! I'm just two years into my house, and the planning is my favorite part!

    Happy Gardening!

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    1. I actually picked out the variegated red twig dogwood shrubs because I kept seeing them in people's yards up here and thought they were so pretty. One of my neighbors has some gorgeous evergreens - I hope mine thrive as well as hers!

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  13. Hooray for blank slate gardens! I'll have to go back and see what you had as foundation plantings at the Red House, I am always trying to find inspiration to replace my boring builder shrubs. As for your house color, I'm going to say the color is "lichen" or at least that's what it looks like on my monitor.

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    1. Well, our builder's landscaper put in the shrubs without consulting us (even though we had specifically asked to go pick them out with him). Someone dropped the ball there, but I did like his choices. They planted 'Little Richard' Abelia and 'Gulfstream' Nandina. The abelia thrived, but the nandina got eaten a couple times by deer and never quite took off. They were very pretty, though!

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  14. Terrific design and choice of plants, Indie! Sometimes a perfectly empty yard is a great way to truly personalize a new house. You will not regret planting the evergreens as they will look great, regardless of the season. Hope you love the 'Fairy' rose as much as I do. A consistent bloomer in the summer and then again now. Lookin' good!!

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    1. I've heard so many great things about 'The Fairy', and they're still blooming here when pretty much everything else is kaput. I'm excited to see them when they've grown large and are full of blooms!

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  15. I love your new home! And of course, the boulders.....there are never too many rocks. The Vanderwolf's Pyramid is a beauty, we've had one here for ten years and it's getting big. (On my header photo, it's the big tree on the left.) The Blue Atlas Cedar is something I've longed for, but haven't gotten around to planting yet. I also love river birch and I think all of your choices are excellent. I look forward to seeing your garden grow!

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    1. Thanks! I can't wait until our trees grow into mature ones. We have a strip of mature trees in the back and on the side, but not too many evergreens, other than a few little white pines. I'm so excited to finally have some boulders!

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  16. Your garden is looking wonderful! You are wise to plan for year round appeal. I am so jealous of your blue spruce! One can find these trees for sale here, but it is a mistake to buy them, as they suffer through our hot summers and eventually perish. I also would like a few of those big boulders! I can buy those too...for a heavy price to match their weight.

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    1. It's been fun to buy plants that I wasn't able to buy down south. I was also thrilled to buy a couple lilac bushes, since those grow up here. On the other hand, most people here have never even heard of a Crepe myrtle, and some of the perennials I used to grow are considered annuals here. It's always a trade off!

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  17. Indie your house and landscaping are wonderful and I love the first bones you put in. Can't wait to see kore as the seasons move along.

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    1. Thank you! I'm really interested to see the difference in gardening with the cooler summers. It will be fun!

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  18. Oh Indie!
    I'm so glad, so glad that you wrote and you visited my blog ...
    I am delighted with the new site. It is very beautiful.
    I send greetings.
    Lucia

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  19. Smart to get in your trees first and build around their structure. I love your selection of trees too, much visual interest.

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  20. Step 3: Plant what you love...that's the one I have the most fun with.
    Your garden is looking great. Can't wait 'til we see it next Spring.
    David/:0)

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