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Newbie with NO idea!!

Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

Hello Everyone,

I am very new to this forum and to gardening as well. We recently purchased our first home and I can't wait to do something with the front.

A few weeks ago, my husband and my father in law were sitting in front of the house and decided to get rid of all the trees and shrubs that were in front of the house. This now leaves me with the task of finding something to put in front of the house.

I wanted a garden, but I'm afraid it won't be high enough to block the foundation. So I'm thinking maybe some hedges and then perennials? I'm not sure if I will have enough space for both. The space is 12x6x5. I also need help with choosing a color scheme. I mean what goes with what? This is a lot harder than I thought and I would appreciate ANY help I can get.

Here is a picture of what the house looks like now... The driveway is to the left! Oh my house looks so naked now, please help!

Thumbnail by TriniStar
Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

Oh and here are pictures of what the house used to look like. We had the cut the trees to the right of the house because it was hanging on our neighbors power lines.

Thumbnail by TriniStar
central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Another Jersey girl...GREAT!!!! WELCOME!
I'm one of those that have to match the flower colors with my house, you house is perfect for that since it is white, everything matches...LOL
Does the front get morning or afternoon sun? That will help in determining what perennials you can plant.
Also do you know what style garden you like? Cottagey? more formal?

I would put something tall and narrow at the corners of the house
For example

I would create beds along the walk, (but not straight ones) then also at the bottom by the sidewalk make a corner garden

Check out all these front yard plans on Better Homes and Gardens, might help you find something you like

Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

LOL, Yes another Jersey Girl here :)

The front gets sun all day long. And I didn't know there were types of gardens, like Cottage or Formal. I'm going to research that now.

I never thought of beds along the walk or a corner garden... Thanks SO much for the links, they are very helpful!

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

New Jersey, the garden state, I'd strip the grass, and stuff with plants, chuckl, less mowing. from tall to sprawl...

Oak Lawn, IL

I do not know if this helps, my garden looked a lot like that some time ago.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

A row of tomato plants across the front of the house on each side of the porch will definitely hide the foundation. Place medium high veggies next and lower ones closest to the street. You could have an edible front yard! You have just the right amount of space, full sun and you would not have to mow the lawn! I no longer have a lawn. I have veggies and ornamentals all growing in the front yard. I raised canteloupe, watermelon, tomatoes, herbs, broccoli, lettuces, peppers, peas, carrots, beets. Veggies are beautiful too when you plan how to space them. Just plan like you would for ornamentals. Beets and lettuces have beautiful colorful foliage and tomatoes and broccoli are taller plants for the back side of beds and against the house. Carrots have fern-like delicate foliage and look nice against plants with large leaves. Mix in some ornamentals enough to make it pretty. There is a variety of Swiss Chard called Bright Lights which has large leaves and colorful stalks. I grow some every year for winter in my front yard because they are so pretty.

I think it is a lot more fun to preen and snip and care for flowers and veggies than it is to mow a lawn or fertilize and water it so I can mow it again but that's just me. Cam

Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

Thanks for all the wonderful advice! It's very helpful!

Over the weekend, I went out and purchased 2) arborvitae occidentalis smaragd that grows 8-10'. I am hoping to keep it cut or pruned to 5'. I will put that by the foundation and then flowers in front.

As far as colors go, well.. I'm not that good in that area. I tried to drive around the neighborhood to get ideas, but EVERYONE seems to have evergreens in front of their house and then I remembered "duh, it probably hasn't blossomed yet!!"

What do you think of the colors Purple, Pink, Yellow and Red? Too much?? It's overkill right? I know I'm am overthinking this waaay to much, but I want to get it right and make it look good.

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Colors are a matter of personal taste...I remember someone on here once said "looks like my garden threw up" LOL she had every color all mixed together.
I'm more of a planner and my gardens have to have a color theme.
I have yellow/orange/red/hot pink garden and a blue/yellow/white garden and a maroon(purple)/peach/white garden

I'd like to eventually do a rainbow garden and put the plants in ROY G BIV order and have something blooming in those colors for at least 3 seasons

Right now I'm planning a property line garden, with purple and chartruese

So if you do all the "hot" colors it would look great( I personally would not mix in any pastels to that) or if you go with the pastel route

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

Look at nature. Most colors of Living things dont clash. It's hard to make a mistake. What do you really love to look at? Start there and then find what you might like to go with it. Cam

Athens, PA


There is nothing wrong with the colors you have chosen. I would use a neutral color to tie them all together - perhaps a blue, or a white or a silver..... Play around with your colors a bit. Put the different colors together and see how you like them. Look at them from all angles.

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

I like doing collages in Picasa to see if I like how a layout looks

This was the original layout for my peachy orange/purpley maroon garden

Thumbnail by flowAjen
Athens, PA


very nice.... what is the flower in the bottom left corner? That is so pretty.

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Geranium phaeum 'Samobor'

Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

LMAO, I def don't want my garden looking like it threw up!!

I had a landscaper come out because I have stumps that needs to be removed. He told me to return the 2 trees I purchased and buy 2 other trees from him. LOL, I politely said no because I liked the trees I purchased and he didn't have these particular trees on his lot, but he keeps insisting I return the trees. He's also telling me not to plant Roses because they are difficult and as a beginner I wouldn't know what I am doing. I know he's trying to generate more business for himself, but I don't think turning down all the things I like is a good start!

Thank you for all the wonderful advice, I hope my garden turns out somewhat decent!

Hey Jen, how did you put the picture in the post?

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Landscaper shouldn't tell you to return things...he can offer suggestions but he sounds a little rude to me
There are some roses that are only for rose experts but roses that are easy are shrub, mini, or the Oso series

I posted a pic the same way you did in your first 2 posts.

Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

I have like the Hybrid Tea Roses.

Oops, I confused sites. It's another Garden Website where I don't know how to post pics! lol

Decatur, MS(Zone 7b)

I, for one, don't think that hybrid tea roses are that difficult to grow. I'm very new at gardening and I currently have about 15 rose bushes. I planted half of those last year and half this year. Maybe I've just been lucky so far, but they are beautiful!

Athens, PA


Your landscaper sounds like he is only interested in himself..... If you want to grow roses, try them. How are you going to know if you don't give them a try. I have been gardening forever and I am still interested and learning new things. That is one of the things about gardening - there is always a new plant to learn about and grow. ^_^

Thumbnail by Carolyn22
Wakefield, MA

I think a little bit of grass up front is good because it makes your front yard look bigger. When all the lawn is stripped it only accentuates the fact that you don't have much space up front (I have the same problem!). That lawn gives the illusion that you have a "normal" front yard. I like your idea of planting evergreens. Definitely start with perfecting the backbone before filling in with perennials, which you will have to move later when you realize you need to add/move a bush! The backbone (evergreen and deciduous shrubs, trees, and trellises or other garden accessories) will be around when it is winter and they also make a big presence in summer even when they are not the highlight. So, get that right first, then fill in! That's my advice after making the mistake of not doing that first!! =). Have fun and express yourself! I think roses sound great. I don't have many myself, but they are a beautiful flower and look good from far away and close up. Plus I understand many types rebloom over a long period. Also, make sure you are happy with the way your house will look over the winter. There is such a temptation to fill with color, color, color, but looking at a bare foundation over winter is not cool =).

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

I am on the edge of zone 8b and 9a and everyone here grows a lot of tropicals. HOWEVER, for the past two years we have had hard freezes that killed all those despite covering and using lamps. It has got me to re-thinking roses because they were evergreen and they bloom a lot. We have something here called "Knock-Out Roses. They come in every color and they are disease resistant, tolerant of most weather and are just generally all round great plants. I have a pink one and a red one and they bloom almost constantly. I looked around after the freeze and I did not like what I saw. Im doing as the previous poster said. Im thinking about what my yard will look like in winter because if the last two years are any indication, our tropical weather is over until the pattern changes. Cam

Longwood, FL(Zone 9b)

You might like the magazine Garden Gate. They always have a design challenge and show you what plants to use.

Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

My husband said the same thing, he doesn't want a colorful house in summer and naked house in winter!

I am dying to plant my trees, but I have to wait for the landscapers to remove the tree stumps. Hopefully this weekend. I think I am going to plant my Rose Bushes in the backyard against the house. I can't wait to see them bloom!!

Thank you all very much for all your help and advice! It's refreshing to know this community is filled with such wonderful people giving great advice :)

Decatur, MS(Zone 7b)

Can't wait to see some finished pictures!

Madison, AL

Hey Jersey girl!


You might consider planting the two arborvitae to the far left and right of your house and letting them grow to their full height. This will give the house and "established" look and act as a frame for both the house and garden. It will also leave you with Winter interest. You might consider planting a mix of shrubs in overlap pattern (large in back row, medium next and spaced in front of the gaps between the back row), and lowmounding or perennial/annuals (flowers) to the front. You could have a garden with nothing but shrubs and bushes and still have a huge variety of color w/out a lot of work every year or an ugly winter garden.
There are also many shrubs and bushes - both deciduous (lose leaves in the winter) and evergrean (do not lose leaves but are NOT arborvitae) that flower in the spring or have beautiful fall color, *also look for leaf color variety - some are purple, blueish, variegated (mutlicolored):
Burning Bush (Euonymus) (turns blazing red in fall),
Clethra (smells great, deer resistant, attracts butterflies),
Potentilla (Gold Drop),
Redtwig Dogwood (awesome for winter interest - the branches are an deep orange/red!),
Cottoneaster (evergreen),
Bollywood Azalea rhododendron (evergreen)
Other types of "evergreen":
Sungold Cypress (Gorgeous golden color, waterfall effect, great mixed in w. deciduous plants)

Knockout roses are gorgeous and almost impossible to kill (as I can attest to). They are usually a "hot" red borderline hot pink and EASY. Some can grow pretty big, but you can prune them - or look for smaller variety like Double Knockout. A good rule of thumb when looking for a smaller variety: if the label says "good as container plant" it usually stays pretty compact.
You could have a separate smaller "English" garden bed where you can plant all the variety of colors you want and not have it detract from your home in the Winter (down here there's a lot of circular gardens in the middle of the lawn, either with large stones as border or small boxwoods as border, then all the crazy variety of flowers you could imagine in the middle...) You could put your roses in there :-)

Under the tab "landscape ideas" you can click what you need (ie foundation planting) and they will give you a list of plants that are good for that. They also have a Landscape Design 101 tab with lots of great info.

Remember gardesn don't have to be straight lines (more natural if they're not) or confined to foundation planting. You could run a constant garden all around your yard perimeter, with gaps for entryways from sidewalk, driveway, backyard. (Imagine a big grass oval in the middle, and all the edges plants...) This can be informal, formal, natural... It's all up to you! And you don't have to do it all at once. Start with you foundation planting, then dream up the rest - growing from your house to your sidewalk, as the years progress!


Ps - Attached this pic bc it made me think of your house...

Thumbnail by michelleinAL
Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

Whoa... those are great suggestions! I also like the picture you attached, Thank you very much Michelle!

I returned the 2) arborvitae because I wanted to keep them short and and since they grow so big, I don't think it was a good idea to keep cutting them down to stay around 6ft. The trunk might get to big and it would look odd.

We finally got all the tree stumps removed from the front yard, so we are ready to plant! I just have to purchase the right evergreens that stay small.

Madison, AL

Yup. So many plants, so little space! LOL.
Go to the library or a bookstore and look at some books on the type of landscaping your interested in. You can always photocopy... Or google "gardening with evergreens (in the Northeast)". Here's another website that might help you http://landscapedesignbylee. They have some evergreens listed that I've never seen before but plan to research about planting down here (Alabama).
(Or I'll live vicarioulsy through my Mom in law and plant them in HER garden. She lives in NY. LOL)

The best advice ever given to me was "do the research first and fix the soil before you plant in it... even if it takes an extra year."

Oh, my neighbor said she printed up a pic of the front of her house, and made cutouts of various plants/flowers she liked. She would put the plant cutouts on her printout fo the house to see what she liked best. Funny, but it worked.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Trinistar, I read you post about the landscaper....yes he was rude and out of line, but, in regards to the arborvitae, there are cultivars that will remain smaller than the one you chose, so they will not require the amount of pruning to stay within the size you want. i would be afraid trying to reduce its' size by 3 to 5 feet would destroy the natural pyramidal shape of the arborvitae, and may even damage it.

Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

Ya know, I'm starting to think I am a horrible "Googler", LOL! So thanks for the links.

I purchased 2) Golden Globe Arborvitaes because of the height. I decided to give up my search for a cone shaped shrub that stays under 6ft. I will plant Azaleas instead.

I've only seen pictures of Azaleas online and they usually show up close pictures or small plants, so I really didn't think anything of it till recently... I noticed some houses with these beautiful vibrant colored shrubs (even hedge like looking) and I stopped to ask someone the name and they told me they were Azalea's! These shrubs are AMAZING and I'm so glad I got to see them in person or else I would've never thought to get them!

I planted my roses in the back yard, but one of them is not growing. JFK Hybrid Tea just has the stems sticking out of the ground and no leaves. The others (Mister Lincoln Hybrid Tea, Gemini Hybrid Tea and Sweetness Grandflora) have beautiful foliage and is growing, but no blooms. Do I have to wait till next year to see blooms?

Here is a pic of the Golden Globes I've Purchased. After they get delivered this weekend, I will post pictures.

Thumbnail by TriniStar
Wakefield, MA

I think azaleas are beautiful too! I have a Gumpo white, which has lovely little leaves and an elegant shape, but it gets too much sun where I put it and isn't quite hardy in my zone so it is not doing well at all. The Golden globes look very healthy, and I like their formal, perfectly-round shape.

I know that you had mentioned that you gave up your search for a cone-shaped evergreen. Have you looked at boxwood 'Green Mountain', Japanese Holly 'Steeds' and dwarf Alberta spruce? Of those three only the holly will grow medium-fast and it can be sheared to keep at a certain size. The boxwood and dwarf Alberta spruce grow slowly and can also be sheared, though it will take a while before they get 6 feet. We had some dwarf Alberta spruce on our property that had finally reached 6 feet but they must have been about 20 years old! There are also other types of conical hollies which can be sheared (Ilex Dragon Lady), though I don't have experience with that one and in particular with trying to keep it small.

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Our town was known as the Azalea capial of the something...of the Northeast, US or NJ but they have since changed the their slogan, but anyhoo.....
They have an Azalea festival every year on Mother's Day, I went on Friday so there were no crowds, here's one of the pathways

Thumbnail by flowAjen
Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

Azaleas here are more of a east side of the house or understory planting. From what you said you have full sun all day in the front yard. They may not do well in the front of the house.

I think it was a good idea to return the arbortive. They don;t take well to massive trimming.

What kind of shrubs was the landscaper trying to sell you?

Do you know what type of soil (clay, sand, loam) your yard has and if it is acidic or not?

Our roses here are just starting to leaf out and bloom.

Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

That pic is beautiful Jen! They are very pretty!

Ahhh... Yep, the house faces south! This throws a wrench in my plans now.

I think it was a Holly Tree, but I specifically told him I have a toddler and a puppy and I didn't want to take any chances with them swalling the berries. I mean I know the chances are slim, but I rather be safe than sorry.

I believe the soil is Loamy, because we did the poke test. It's not acidic because we did the vinegar test, but I don't know the level, like 7, etc.

So, I guess since the JFK still doesn't have any leaves or new growth, it's a goner? Can I save it?

Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

I'd leave the rose where it is and see what happens. Our roses here have just started leafing out and blooming. It maybe itís slow leafing out. You can check to see if the stems are green. That should tell you if the plant is still alive.

If your house faces south then you may want to look at putting in some shade trees to cool the house in the summer. Try the azaleas and roddies on the east side of the house until you get more shade in the front of the house. Shrubs like hydrangea (oak leaf and other) and spirea like full sun. There are a lot of choices for full sun.

Below is a URL for Cornell University on Woody plants. If you use the woody plant database and fill out the perameters for your area (soil type, zone, amount of sun/shade) it should give you some choices.

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