Starting a project... Suggestions requested - Zone 8b

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

The driveway is lined with Maple Trees on both sides. On a moonlit night it looks like Sleepy Hollow. I would like this area to become a beautiful garden and make it so it will no longer need to be mowed.

I would like to get started with the ground work now and be ready to add plants by early fall (Sept). I would like to hear from others but I'm thinking that since we don't usually start getting to what we call cold (30 degrees or less) until Jan/Feb that will be a nice amount of time for my new plants to become established before our (usually) almost non-existant winter. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

I want to do plantings all along the long driveway. The sunlight varies from full sun to dappled shade. When an area is in full shade during the day it it not for very long. None of it is heavily shaded even with all those trees because they let a lot of light through.

I know that when there is pine straw (pine needles) left on the ground it kills any grass and or weeds underneath it. My thoughts are to put down 3-4 inches of pine straw along the entire drive and let it stop the light from reaching the grass in order to naturally kill the grass.

I have posted some pics to start. All of these are at 9:30am. I will take pics at different times throughout the day and post them. The pics here begin at the south end of the drive (closest to the house) and we are looking to the north. - The east side is about 6 ft wide in most places to the pasture fence. The west side is about 4-5 foot wide. There are about 2 feet between our trees and where the neighbors property line begins.

This project is going to happen over time. I would appreciate any suggestions, ideas, critiques or other input as this will be my very first project of this magnitude.


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Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I'll take a look at the pics later and let you know if I have any other suggestions, but in warmer climates summer is typically more challenging for new plants to survive vs winter, so fall is the ideal time to plant most things. Only exception I've found is if you're trying to grow something more tropical that will barely (or not quite) be hardy in your zone then I'd overwinter it indoors and plant it in the spring. But otherwise fall planting gives things time to get established before they have to deal with brutal summer heat. My rate of success with fall planting is MUCH higher than spring planting.

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

Well, my first thoughts are this.
Putting pine needles 3 inches deep all along the driveway is going to be a major undertaking. Even if it does work, which I think it might, you are going to want to remove the pine needles before you plant, more work, and not pleasant work at that. You can use Round-up, it's chemical but it would be sooo easy. Or how about covering up section at a time with something like tarps. I mean you can't plant the whole thing at once anyway and you could even tarp along the fence first and then in front of the trees making it kind of a two phase project.
I agree totally with ecrane3. Fall is the time to plant perennials. This gives you all Summer to kill grass and plan what you are going to plant.
You could even start some cuttings of bushes that grow good locally. I suggest you check out your neighbors yards for some good plant choices.

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)


You are correct, there is no way I can do this project all at once. It must be done in sections...

You raise a valid point regarding movement of the pinestraw.

If I were to use Round Up to kill the grass will it effect the trees in any negative way? I know not to spray it on the trees but I'm concerned about getting it on the roots.


Vicksburg, MS(Zone 8a)

We have a 5-acre yard that had no trees when we first moved in. I've been planting trees for the last eight years so you can guess that I don't want anything to kill them! We do use Round Up around the base of all trees I've planted (over 100 and still going) to make mowing easier. To date, it hasn't hurt any of them. The roots do get hit with it but they, like the trunks, they are protected by their bark.
Now to your project--are you wanting to plant flowers, shrubs, or a mix? I've done all of our landscaping and will gladly share ideas with you if I know generally what you'd like. BTW, I use pine straw as a mulch and it works great--plus it's free since we have a place where we can rake up all we want. I have LOT'S of flowerbeds and shrubs that need mulching so I don't care to spend the money it would take to buy that much pine straw. Also, I've planted many of my trees, shrubs and flowers in September here in Mississippi and they have all survived very well so you're smart to wait till then.

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

Round-up dilutes so much when you water that your trees will never know you used it. Spray the grass when it is dry and give it some time to kill it , you'll see it dying. Just avoid spraying it on the trees, I wouldn't worry about too much.
Sounds like NatureLover has some good ideas for you and certainly has a better idea of what will grow in your area than I would. I've never used pine needles as a mulch, but in principle it sounds good. Especially if you put in some acid loving plants like hydrangeas.
I get free county mulch. They chip the branches from the trees they trim and then if you request some they will deliver it to you, pretty cool huh. Good luck with your project.

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

These pictures were taken at 3:15 pm. They are south facing, taken from the entry of the driveway from the road. Some are zoomed in for a closer look.

I spent some time cleaning up the trees, saplings and some dead limbs.

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Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

7 pm pictures-

As you can see, even with all those trees it is never in deep shade for long at all.

I just wanted to give a 'through the day' sun pattern for reference.

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Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

I keep seeing hydrangeas. I also have a hedge of plumbago and they would look good although it does take a good shearing every year. I'd consider a combination border with bushes in back working down to some bulbs in front. I have a zillion daffodils I could send a box when you get to that point. They mulitply like rabbits and make Spring spectacular.

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

Great ideas... I'll be back on after work when I'm able to actually address the comments and answer questions..

My hubby got out there this weekend and ran plumbing. Now I have water access the length of the driveway! He is a dream.

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)


I want to plant a mixture of shrubs and flowers. I also want to seperate them into different "gardens" that look seperate, yet a part of the whole. I feel that way I won't end up with a jungle along the drive. I would be very excited to hear your suggestions. You are relatively close to me in distance as well as zone.

I have every intention of planting in the fall, with the exception of some Glads we are putting out now as I read several places that they can be put out until mid-summer. Its not mid-summer here yet :) I am planting a few rows in two week intervals so that I can get more blooming time.

I love your suggestion of shrubs/bushes in the back and stepping down as we move toward the front. Oh yes, when I get to the point of needing them, daffodils would be fabulous. I will be happy to pay for them, or shipping cost at the very minimum. Hydrangeas are a must. Don't you get different colors based on the soil? I wonder if I will end up with them all being the same color. :)

One thing I must consider is when placing shrubs on the east side of the drive close to the pasture fence, I have to be careful to use plants that are not harmful to my horses. They will reach right over the fence if something looks yummy. - The west side I can plant anything.

Based on the pictures throughout the day, do you guys feel that I should look at mostly full sun plants or should I Iook at part sun/part shade for the places that do get some shade? There is a portion of the day that it gets pretty shady but only in specific places and not for a long period of time. - maybe I will need both which is likely to be a plus.

I also hope to strategically place some half whiskey barrels full of colorful flowers along the way. I just like the look of them. Maybe some random planters, my 17 yr old son suggested an old toilet, and I just laughed at him. - I do have an old galvinized tub used for the horses watering that will become a planter. It is 3 1/2 feet long, 1 1/2 ft wide and about 2 ft tall. We stopped using it because we changed to rubberized watering tubs to avoid the possibility of rust in their drinking water.. Any body know what I could plant in that thing?

Thanks for all your ideas. I enjoy sharing this project and getting help from people who enjoy this hobby as well. However, I also posted here to keep my motivation up. :) I love to dig in the dirt, it is so relaxing to me even though it can be hard work.


This message was edited Jun 18, 2012 9:42 PM

This message was edited Jun 18, 2012 9:44 PM

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

I love the look of galvanized tubs and barrels. We use half wine barrels here as there are lots of wineries. The galvanized tub can either have drainage holes punched in it or you can plant "bog" plants like flag iris. horsetail, or mini cat-tails in it. I have quite a few bog pots, I like the look of them. If you put an inch gravel on top you can keep away the mosquitos.
You can find toxic plant lists online but I'd look specifically for plants and horses. It may even give you some ideas of bushes that are horse friendly and they can keep the far side of the bushes trimmed!
Your husband can come to my house and put in a watering system for me too, LOL. What an angel!

Vicksburg, MS(Zone 8a)

Are you planning to put everything in a row or shape gardens around your trees? There's so much you can do with the area you show that would look gorgeous. Since it's going to be a work-in-progress (my favorite way to do a project of this scale), you can make decisions as you go. Is the fence on either side yours? If so, clematis would be so pretty growing on some sections of it. If the fence isn't yours, you could grow it on sections of split rail fence. I have some of mine on split rail and it looks real nice. You could also grow some of our native red honeysuckle on that fence. I have some on a trellis and it blooms from spring till fall (and the hummers love it). Also, for some of your flowerbeds, you could mix cone flowers, Shasta daisies, Rudbeckia, day lilies and other perennials. I have purple cone flowers and Shasta daisies I can share. For taller flowers in the back, cosmos are easy to grow from seed which you could winter sow. I like to use them as filler and they generally grow to about 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall. Do you have any wild oak leaf hydrangeas growing where you live? We have them all over the place here--I dug up several and put them down by our creek. They should love growing in the light shade you have between your trees. Just a few ideas for you to consider. I have lots more but will save them for another time.

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

Just a brief "sneak peak" while I'm at work....Hehehe.

Oh Yeah! Your amazing.. I think I will use it for bog plants. I'm going to place the galvanized tub at the entry way near the road. I will take a picture of the area. That way even I'd their are a few Mosquitos it won't be a problem 5 acres away from the house. It will go between my new glass and a pampas grass that is small now, but it won't be soon. My hubby accidentally burned it down last year. I told him not to worry, it was prob good for it...

On the east side is our property. I will plant that side in gardens that can wrap around the trees. The west side is ours to about 2 ft the other side of the trees. The trees belong to us.. So I might find more straight lines on that side at the tree line..

I have seen the wild oak leaf hydrangea here..

I'll be back this evening!'

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

***new glads and the pampas grass

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

If you want any bog iris I have extra yellow and blue. I must admit though that I love my mini cat-tails best, they're so cute, and not the invasive mess their larger cousins are. Maybe you can find a good place to buy water plants in your area. Whatever you do don't overplant it, bog plants seem to multiply well and you'll be sorry if they get to jammed up in the tub. I say this because my blue iris is planted in a wine barrel and it looks like solid rhysomes because I haven't divided it in so long.
Here is a picture of a yellow iris bloom from early Spring.

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Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

I have a sick horse so I may be amiss for a few days.

I have some Corkscrew Grass and Creeping Jenny that will go well in my bog planter project.. I would love some bog irises as well. We'll talk about it more soon. I will be moving the "new planter" to it's new home as soon as I am done attending the medical needs of my Tennessee Walking Horse. - She is not doing well at all. :(

Arroyo Grande, CA(Zone 9a)

I'm too busy this week to dig iris anyway. Next week or even later would be just fine. Sorry about your horse.

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

Thank you!!

Thankfully she is doing better now and I will be able to get (most of my) focus back to my gardening this weekend!!

Sarasota, FL(Zone 9b)

Be careful of invasive species - especially bog plants! I have some iris in my water garden with yellow flowers that have turned out to be an invasive species. Iris Pseudacorus. They're ok up north where they go dormant in the winter, and also if you keep them in containers. But down here if they're let go, they get everywhere and choke out everything else.

Mobile, AL(Zone 8b)

Dyzzypyzzy, I don't have any wetland or ponds. I live atop a hill with very good drainage. All my bog planting will be in containers. My first is going to be a pretty good sized galvanized water trough that we used to water our horses from. We recently changed waterers to rubberized tubs.

I'm terrified of invasive anything. We live in the land of Kudzu from Hell. I don't fight it at my house but it's in the area.. I do fight Wisteria from killing my large oaks..

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Instead of killing off any greenery at this point and not untill you have drawn up a plan or PLANS of the beds you wish, I would spend this year laying out areas, How I did it here in UK, more same idea as you but cooler zone, I got the hose pipes out, layed them on the grass/ weeds and moved the hose around till I liked the shape then used fine sand in a bottle and sprinkled it along the line of the hose, this was marking out where the beds would be, any alterations to be done re shape, the sand was easy to brush it away and re-mark the areas.

Next go to library and get books on landscape, look for plants that grow in your area and make listed/ size . colours etc when they flower and what type of soil they need, Some plants like a rich soil and others not too fussy but some like an acidic soil and things like Azalias, Rhododendrons etc like an acid soil and looking at all this gives you plenty time to prepare beds for the different needs to suit the plants for each situation but dont mix acidic plants in the same bed as any that require damp or rish soil, they wont survive and plants are expensive.

you can always leave the grass growing between the large beds as this is easy to care for and better under foot till you can save enough money for say wood chips etc to make proper pathways, I like the greenery of grass but I dont have scorching hot summers NOR have to water lawns etc.

If you make a few beds at a time then your confidence will grow and you will waste less cash, gardening is not cheap and slower experience is better
than rushing in and then watching all your hard work either die or get eaten or even perish because they were plasnted wrong place or wrong time so research is best before fly in and loosing your keen-ness.
I like to use an enlarged picture of the house, cover with tracing paper and then draw the shapes of beds, show tall trees etc and shrubs, use coloured pencils to draw the colours you want so you dont clash, then at the side make a plant list of the tree's, shrubs etc for bed (A), Bed (B) and so on.
it's like a jigsaw you do it bit by bit. that way you can invisage what the beds will look like as you sit looking out from the windows of your home.
Hope this helps you out a little and go enjoy making your plans and beds. WeeNel.

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