Beds in front of my house look aweful...Please help!

Elmira, NY

I purchased my house in 2007 and I have been remodeling from the inside out. I have lived with the front of my house looking terrible for way too long. When I moved in the plants that were out front were dead and the beds were full of leaves and rocks so I just removed everything. Now I don't know where to start, I don't want anything that is poisonous to children or dogs as I have both. If someone could give me some suggestions to make the front of my house gorgeous from spring to fall I would be extremely grateful. I live in New York so the plants need to be resistant to cold weather as well. Thanks to all for your help.

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Athens, PA

What type of exposure do your front beds get? Mine faces East, so I get the morning sun and then the in the afternoon, the house casts a shadow on the front beds, so I have afternoon shade.

Elmira, NY

Mine is the same, sun in the morning and then shade in the afternoon and evening.

Athens, PA

What do you like? I have put hydrangeas and deutzia in my front beds. This year, I am adding May Night Salvia, Lady's Mantel and Silver Mound. I am looking at a color scheme of Purple and silver with yellow as an accent......

Are those posts holding up the front overhang of your house? Could you trellis either or both sides? Some clematis would be attractive.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Just remember to leave "breathing space" between your plantings and the don't want shrubs jammed up against the house, so note what kind of spread plants have and give them the room they need...

Leicester, NC(Zone 8a)

I would start by researching the shrubs good for your State and pick the ones you like. Here is a link that may help you get started.

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

I love checking out the plans on Better homes and gardens to get ideas, then I research individual plants

I also have a front yard that get morning sun and afternoon shade.
I have a few rhodies and azaleas that were there but I keep expanding.

Last year did a orange/peach and purple/maroon combo in front of the rhodies

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central, NJ(Zone 6b)

So what I used is bulbs for early spring, and tried to find plants that will bloom all summer into fall and of course the rhodies are evergreen so I have the winter interest
Daylilies are a good summer into fall flower, hostas would also work if you want foliage interest...there are sooooo many possiblities.

Elmira, NY

I don't know the names of very many flowers, but after doing some research found pictures of the ones I like and discovered their names...I like zinnias, phlox, azaleas, daylillies, pinks, peonies, candytuft, and astilbe. I don't know how big they grow, level of difficulty to maintain and how many different plants you can have with them still looking tasteful. I have a 1 year old so I can't dedicate too much of my time to gardening.

I think that clematis is very beautiful but I don't think I can handle having a vine. My neighbor has the most annoying English ivy vine (that is extremely poisonous) that grows on his fence and it is constantly trying to take over my backyard and it drives me crazy. I just keep tearing it out and throwing it away but it always comes back. I also do not care for evergreen shrubs of any kind; I think flowers look nicer.

Thanks for the link it was very helpful!

central, NJ(Zone 6b)

If the ivy is in your yard, just tearing it out it not going to help, you need to use Round up or a heavy duty brush killer
Clematis are nothing like that.

Azaleas come both evergreen and decidious.

Zinnia is an annual for full sun, usually started by seeds
Peonies, phlox(some creeping are good for half sun area) and dianthus(which I think you mean by pinks???) are also for full sun
Candytuft, is a very vigorous ground cover and some find it invasive

Athens, PA

The plants you have mentioned should cover different seasons. You are not that far away from me and my azealas are starting as well as my Candy Tuft. Typically my peonies flower in June, but you can get early, mid and later bloomers. My phlox (providing you are not talking subulata) flower most of the summer as well as the zinnias.

Also, Jen is right, there is a big difference between a clematis vine and English Ivy. That English Ivy can be quite invasive and I would definitely hit it with the Round Up. Clematis stay put without invading other areas.

Portland, OR(Zone 8a)

I would suggest window boxes! I think they would look great, with the symmetry of those two front windows.

Wakefield, MA

I think your house would look nice with a cottage-style garden in the front with lots of flowers, as you suggested. I agree that window boxes would look very cute! I would suggest making the walkway (I assume it connects to a driveway?) path a bit wider and use lighter-color stones/pavers. Maybe light tan or grey pavingstones and make the path in a curved shape rather than a straight line to the driveway. For example, a path that is 2 (large, irregularly-shaped) stones wide with some groundcover/grass in between, or a wide paved walkway that is curved. You might want a white picket fence to provide some structure, and it would go with your white trim. What about some of the multi-bloom sunflowers such as Helianthus annuus 'Autumn Beauty' for some height and color. They are annuals which are grown from seed. You could put the zinnias that you mentioned in front of that (also an annual) and voila you'd be all set for color this summer! I know you mentioned that you don't prefer evergreens, but I could see two dwarf alberta spruce (Picea glauca var. albertiana ‘Conica’) on either side of the steps (not right up against the house but right next to where the steps meet the porch). They don't take that much room. You might want to get an idea of exactly how many hours of sun each spot gets (and this can change over the course of the summer) before you put in too many plants and shrubs. When you say the afternoon is shaded, is that starting from 1pm or later in the afternoon? Afternoon sun is the hottest and has more impact on plants than morning sun.

Shawnee Mission, KS(Zone 6a)

Something to consider, if you use only perennials then the front of the house will look like your photo above every winter. So think about if that will be a problem or not. There are a lot of different types of evergreens or textured decidous plants out there that would work in your situation.

The center of shrubs and trees should be placed at least one foot plus their mature width out from the foundation. If you have wide overhangs on the house then you will need to add additional distance to account for that. For proportions, the width of a bed should not be less than 2/3 the mature height of the shrubs that you are putting in.

Use a pole or furniture to determine what height or arrangement looks best from inside and outside of the house. In some cases we used a pole to determine if a small tree was going to be high enough to cast the kind of shade we wanted or would block a view of another yard.

As suggested you might want to consider widening and possible rerouting the front walk before doing the rest of the front landscape. To layout the shape of the walk or of a flowerbed, use a garden hose. Move it around until you find a shape that works for you and then mark it with spray paint.

There are a lot of vines that are less problematic then ivy. Stay away from Ivy, wisteria, autumn clematis, perennial sweet pea, and euonymus vines as they can be aggressive/invasive in some areas. I use other clematis, blacked-eyed Susan, sweet pea (annual), cypress, and nasturtium vines in our yard. I go with annuals and a temp trellis to see if I like having a vine in that area first.

Here is the Cooperative Extension Office site for New York. The CEOs usually have information on what grows well in the area and how to pick out a plant, shrub, tree, etc.

Here is the url for the woody plant search on the Cornell site.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

In the area to either side of the steps where the porch is wider than the steps, running forward to the bottom step...(that open rectangular but not very wide space) might work well with a pair of planter boxes, large urns, or the like. That would give you a wonderful place to use annuals and perennials to create a seasonal color display that can vary quickly if you tire of it. It would also allow you to play with color combinations and textures...a garden classroom or sorts.

Additionally, with little ones you don't have a lot of time for taking care of big areas...the planter boxes at window and step are easier to maintain and keep track of the various plants needs. It is also a project you can do with your children. Since it gets great sun, you could fill one with basil, oregan and and fragrant. Depending on the size and depth of the boxes on either side of the steps you could grow heirloom tomatoes with herbs and flowers....lending even more to a cottage-like feel.

Covington, LA(Zone 8b)

I bought my little house in the fall of 08 and it had nothing but some hawthorn bushes in the front and a huge sweet olive. The hawthorns are still there because I'm planning to extend the porch the length of the house. But in the meantime, I plant annuals in the little bed in front of the existing porch. That way I can change colors and plants when I want to or when the seasons change. Annuals are usually pretty cheap and if you have the patience you can always plant them from seed and really save a lot of money.

Thumbnail by LizaMouse
Covington, LA(Zone 8b)

Here's what it looks like right now.

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central, NJ(Zone 6b)

Wow what a difference! Gorgeous.

Ridgefield Park, NJ(Zone 6b)

Hey, I was in the same boat. I purchased my home in NJ last year but most of the time was spent on remodeling the inside. This year I wanted to focus a little bit on the front lawn while we continue our remodeling inside.

At first I only wanted Perennials. I loved Astibles, Phlox, Peonies, Daylillies, Gardenias, Salvias, Creeping Thyme and Roses. I guess I loved everything, LOL.

Anyway, my husband and the above poster, ilovedahlias, mentioned something about the house looking naked during winter and I didn't want that. So I purchased 2) Golden Globe Arborvitae's and I will try my luck with Azaleas. They are evergreens and will be my foundation plants and in front of those I will plant a garden of perennials.

I wish you the best of luck.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

That is lovely LizaMouse...has a nice cottage look to it. Extending your porch will be really neat.

Covington, LA(Zone 8b)

Thank you for the compliments. I'm kind of proud of the transformation so far. Did I mention that there's no driveway? There's a gravel walkway leading to.......nowhere. Who builds a house with no driveway?

I love perennials too but most of the things I had in Tennessee don't do well in this South LA heat. Like "Beginner", I'm not crazy about shrubbery either. I guess my point for her/him is that you don't have to live with a boring look while you're waiting for your grand plan to materialize. The annuals and containers let me have some color while I'm waiting to yank up the hawthorns and build the porch.

Dive in! Tall stuff in the back. Short ones in the front. Don't be intimidated and do have fun experimenting with plants you like.

Thumbnail by LizaMouse

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