New front yard garden

Vancouver, BC(Zone 8b)

Hi there,
Looking for some input on my new front yard garden. The bed runs along the northwest side of our city lot. I started it because of the constant weeds spreading from the ditch beside us - especially buttercup. But I can't complain too much because on the other side of the alley is a gorgeous wild ravine.

This bed has full shade, part shade and sun. The biggest thing in there so far is the massive mophead hydrangea that must be 30 years old. Still puts on a great show. There's used to be a nice red rhodo, but now it's just a stick due to a misunderstanding about pruning between my and my DH. LOL. I suppose it will bounce back. There is also a lot of an unknown white astilbe that was growing here when we bought. I have divided it a few times, it grows like crazy.

Lots of blank spots to fill. Here's what's been planted or so far: boxwood, 4 blueberry bushes (hard to see), a baby Genie magnolia, spirea, some alyssum starts, yellow leaved speedwell, heather and a small yellow-leaved choisya among the astilbe. And transplanted from other parts in the yard: jack frost brunnera, hosta Francis Williams, pink astilbe, centaurea, and a tiny blue star juniper and lithidora Grace Ward down at the sunny end. I've got a heuchera and a white bleeding heart there waiting to go in the ground somewhere.

I've started just plunking things. Feedback about what else to do here would be great. I'd like some bigger plants to fill some of the holes and in the "back" - as viewed from the house, yard--along the alley. I've been thinking carpet roses, or ornamental grasses, but not sure if that will give me enough year-round interest.

Back behind the hydrangea there is a lovely pink honeysuckle growing on the fence with ferns and volunteer foxglove below it, and a big blue hosta.

Any input appreciated.

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Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

It looks like you have a great start. Let me think about that this weekend and see if I can add anything to your list. You are already planting many of my favorite tried-and-true performers.
The dividing of the Astilbe is good because, of course, since it loves your site, you can get free 100% guaranteed great plants that way. I did that with some Primula my sister bought me. It was one? little pot. I separated every little start and ended up with a huge area filled with primroses.
The buttercup in this area is horrible. I had a running battle with it at our old house and was slowly winning, but it's really invasive and comes back from what must be the tiniest pieces of root imaginable.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I finally got around to this thread-I wanted to give it a few minutes. The project is already looking great!

Choisya- The first pic is the yellow one 'Sundance' Surprisingly, it has turned out to be a fabulous shrub for-Dry shade! This one is perhaps 6-7 years old and it is blooming now. The second one is the regular species, in about half sun, I also have one in almost full sun that does fine. All will rebloom a bit. Totally easy. When one got knocked a bit over in a big wind, I cut off the ugly part, it grew back fine. However-this spring I notice a LOT of suckers? seedlings? around my 'Sundance'. This could make it problematic over time.
The third pic is a winter interest plant- a Witch Hazel. This one is not mine, I do not know the cultivar, it is planted where I work in Seattle. I have been messing around with Witch Hazels a bit. I planted a Hamamelis 'Pallida' which sadly holds it's leaves until after it blooms, so I do not recommend it. I have planted another one I think will be better, but to save on costs these are usually sold as grafted plants, and there is a problem with hideous suckers from the rootstock, and ugly graft unions. I am currently trying layering to make some "own-root" plants.
The 4th pic is a close up of another winter interest plant, a Hellebore. I recommend getting a few. They are not terribly showy in general as the flowers are mainly down-facing and in muted colors, but in January it gets me out in the garden to look at them close up. I have a patch of yellow ones in dry shade under a big pine tree that is super cheery in January. This one I chose because the backs of the petals are the same yellow, so it can be seen from a distance.
Last pic another winter interest plant- it is Edgeworthia chrysantha, a tender shrub, but I think you can grow it. Very showy, and I really like the leaves too.
I had to try lots of different crocus, finally got some established, they are good for late winter interest.
Skimmia japonica shrubs, have big red berries and even some not real showy winter flowers, but you need a male to pollinate the females that make the berries. Mine are trouble free shrubs.
Mahonia 'Soft Caress' has the usual Mahonia bright yellow flowers in winter, but without the prickly problematic leaves. Seems very drought tolerant, as expected.
Keep us updated.

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Vancouver, BC(Zone 8b)

Thanks all! I have a few new babies to plant here but haven't had a chance yet. For the shady end, I bought some epimedium, more European ginger, a golden bleeding heart, maidenhair fern and a hosta "emerald tiara".

For the sunnier end, I got Monarda 'Blue Stocking', a 'green envy' echinacea, Siberian iris, purple fountain grass, some anemone de Caen bulbs, glads, and trying Pistil's Lithidora 'white star'.

Along the ditch, I think I want to try some grasses and maybe shrub roses. I'll post some more pics to show the area in question and get your feedback and idea.

Thanks for the new ideas, Pistil, I'll check these out and post again when work chores are done! Ugh. How dare work interfere with my gardening! LOL.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I can't wait to see how it grows!

Vancouver, BC(Zone 8b)

Hi all,
Checking in with my progress. So I have added some purple siberian iris between the triangle of my blueberry bushes and some very young monarda 'blue stocking' in the back toward the alley.

Now I'm worried about year round interest as I mentioned before. I have a sad rhodo, a box and a young Choisya sundance that will provide evergreen interest close to house, but need something in the longer border portion. Something that doesn't get too big.

Also, I'm thinking I might like to alternate some easy care roses like knockouts or rugosa with tall ornamental grasses along the ditch. I might even plant these off my property to steal more room. There is about an 18" flattish spot before the slope continues down into the ditch. How do you think this would look? Any recommendations? This might give some structure, but not necessarily enough winter interest.

I have included a few extra shots to give some perspective of lot (excuse the ongoing lawn repairs - damn chafer beetle!). Across the alley from me is a natural ravine.

Still in pots, I have epimedium, catmint, bleeding heart, angelina sedum, creeping campanula, european ginger, echinacea more lithidora, a dwarf barberry and a few other bits. I'm not married to any of these for this border as I have other gardens to fix up as well. Obviously I've been mainly working on the shadier end and the sunny end needs some help. So far down there is three new winter heather, the little Genie magnolia, a tiny blue star juniper and some tiny lithidora starts.

I'd like to get the big holes figured out as I have lots of things that can be divided and planted into the little vacancies.


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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Well it is looking very nice already!
I guess for low winter interest, I would think berries. Also rose hips. I don't know it any of the little groundcover roses have nice big hips but you might investigate that. Berries that come to mind- I have some small Skimmia japonica shrubs, very slow growing, very nice red berries. Iris foetidissima make very showy berries for winter. There are some ground cover Cotoneasters with big red berries.
I have some yellow Hellebores, a big patch is noticeable in January-February, unlike many of the more traditional mauve. But all of them are more interesting close up. Anyway it gets me outside to see how they are.
I guess I don't worry too much about the winter-it is short here, and dark. With your nice grey and white house, I would be more likely to decorate the house with a huge Holly wreath or something, maybe wrap the stair rail.
For the ditch, I would tend to put spillers at the top garden edge, to flop over. Since the ditch is probably very soggy in winter, you will be a bit limited. I have a low soggy spot in my yard. Low things I have planted there include Toad Lilies, Bloody Sorrel, and Corkscrew Rush, they seem to survive winter sogginess. Another idea-plant Geranium 'Rozanne' at the top of the ditch, so it will survive the winter. In my yard it spreads out to be as much a 6 feet across during the summer, even climbing into shrubs. Every single one I have planted has survived, and the only care is a rare drink of water, and whacking off the old dead stuff in early spring. It blooms nonstop all summer until frost. Here is 'Rozanne with Carex 'Frosty Curls', which I find drought and clay tolerant, but is reportedly tolerant also to sogginess. In the back are Lambs Ears. I like this easy-care combo. Lambs Ears would not tolerate sogginess, but could be put at the top of the ditch maybe.

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Vancouver, BC(Zone 8b)

Good suggestions. Thank you. I have some Rozanne in the back yard I can probably divide. It does well for me too. Looks nice with the carex. I was looking at carex today but didn't buy any. It always looks so uninspiring on its own and I'm not great at imagining combos. I was also on the lookout for a more colourful hellebore like yours but no luck today. Good excuse for another garden store trip. Lol. I love your purple one! Bought a cute little miniature patio set so I can build a fairy garden with my daughter too! So many projects on the go. I'm better at starting than finishing. Lol

Buckeye, AZ(Zone 9a)

Wow I love looking at all the beauties you have posted, I miss the PNW! I am now in Arizona after living in Washington for 25 years. I am able to grow iris, daylily and am trying dahlia this year, I miss all the hosta, japanese maple, tall trees, heuchera...there are so many that will not thrive here. 8zoner everything looks wonderful and I hope all of you do not mind me peeking at your threads...I miss the PNW!

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Vancouver, BC(Zone 8b)

Cocoa - you just need to fall in love with new plants! There are so many great blogs out there with ideas for drought tolerant gardens that look lush and lovely. I like Pam Penick's blog Digging (

I envy your hot weather and sunshine!

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I tend to ogle High Country Gardens website myself. I guess we all tend to want what we can't have... Cocoajuno you have made a lovely garden there.

Buckeye, AZ(Zone 9a)

I have fallen in love with new plants 8zoner I grow eucalyptus trees. olive trees and any of the tecoma bell shrubs and vines I can find. I was born in the desert so I appreciate all the native cacti but hate being There is nothing better than driving out to see the cacti in bloom or the wildflowers...but there is nothing like the smell of the cedar trees. the beauty of a japanese maple or even the puff balls from the cottonwood trees. I hope you do not mind if I lurk here to see your blooms! Pistil I too ogle High Country Gardens and thank you! 8zoner I am going to check out that link, thank you so much!

Vancouver, BC(Zone 8b)

Hi all,
Still working on this bed, but have added a few more things and thought I'd post an update of how it's coming along.

This message was edited May 16, 2016 1:24 PM

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Well you have been hard at work on this , and it sure looks good!
What did you plant along the bottom of the low wall?

Vancouver, BC(Zone 8b)

I planted three Karl Foerster grass in a triangle and three double pink knockout roses. Too pedestrian? I wanted a bit of a hedge/border effect along the alley. Someday I'll plant even more along the ditch but it's a start.

This message was edited May 16, 2016 4:17 PM

Buckeye, AZ(Zone 9a)

Oh 8zoner everything looks beautiful!!!

Vancouver, BC(Zone 8b)

Thank you both for your nice compliments!

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

I agree, it all looks wonderful! Not too pedestrian. A simpler area is nice and allows the eye to focus on those WOWZER areas.

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