PDA

View Full Version : My first full foundation bed design and install


Whitey4
05-03-2009, 08:14 PM
My second year... last year I did some transplanting of overgrown shrubs and bushes from and to new beds, and did some minor plantings. No full blown bed designs.

It's my time to do my first one. A small job, but still important.

A small cape, the bed to the left of the front door is 16', large picture window, centered, to the right is 9 foot, double set of windows also centered over the bed. Both are 5' deep.

On the left side, I want to use a cut leaf maple under the window, and out from there, symetrically, 2 gold mop cypresses (one on either side of the maple), and 4 sky pencils, two on each end of the bed. Between the cypress and sky pencils, but towards the front, two muhgo pines. In front of the sky pencils on both sides, an ornamental grass called a pink cloud (Muhlenbergia capillaris) which is intended to be a temporary 3 year install, as once it gets mature at 4' it will over grow the spot.

On the right bed, a globe spruce under the windows, an upright boxwood to the left next to the porch, and on the right of the spruce, a sand cherry to balance the maroon color of the maple in the opposite bed. On either side of the spruce, but further from the house, a small variegated golden eunonymous, again to balance the color in the opposite bed with the mop cypresses. I will add two heathers just inside the eunonymous'.

I'll add some phlox and annuals to these beds as well. I will raise the beds with a 1' + change stone retaining wall up front.

I hope this can be visualized.... I just don't have the resources yet to buy software to make proposals, I'm using sketches. The job is mine and the customer will go with whatever I suggest.

My intent here is to have a feature plant in each bed (the maple and spruce), keep some balance even though the two beds are not near in size to each other, and have some year round interest. The spot for the sand cherry is a bit small for that plant, but it can be pruned to keep it from getting overgrown.

A friend of mine suggested junipers around the maple, but junipers like dry feet, and the other plants want water. Southern exposure, full sun for most of the day.

I'm a rookie, but want to do this right. Any suggestions or critisisms welcomed. Thanks in advance!

EVM
05-03-2009, 11:54 PM
I would like to see a picture of the area to be landscaped and some dimensions. Anyways remember to use things like perennials in the landscape. I am not so hot on gold mops, they look great when they are new. I like sky pencils but only use them as specimens (i.e one of them in the landscape). I like mugo, again it is a specimen only. I like the sand cherry too. I don't like junipers, put some day lillies or liriope around that maple but not too close because the Maple will choke them in the future. Sounds like a nice scape but I can't picture it. Try a grass called little zebra grass, I think it is the best, along with little bunny fountain grass.

AGLA
05-04-2009, 08:06 AM
Don't forget that the house is the dominant feature of the landscape and the planting needs to address that first. Then you can figure how to introduce interesting plants within that context or in addition to it. What you are describing (remarkably similar to my own house) is going to have a number of cool looking plants, interesting color contrasts, but it won't hold together as a composition in my opinion.

The sky pencils are a great plant, but they are too light weight visually as a feature foundation plant. The maple is a great plant and can be used in addition to the foundation plants, but not so well when it displaces one. You could swing out the bed wider as you round the corner of the house to get it out and in front of the foundation planting.

You can keep the basic foundation planting closer to the house to take care of the look of the house from a distance and then introduce a second layer of planting with the gold mops, globe spruce, etc,... in front.

Think of the funky plants as a lead guitar. It is great and everyone pays attention to it, but it only works when it has the support of the good composition of the rest of the music to hold everything together.

I don't know if this comes across making any sense, but think about it.

White Gardens
05-05-2009, 01:26 AM
Overall, you've got a great concept.

I too like to have symmetry at the front door. The eyes are naturally pulled to the front door so the key is to have balance when staring at the front door.

The muhgo pine will take up a lot of room when it hits maturity, so you might want to take that into consideration. I just did a pruning on a couple of muhgos that were 8 feet in diameter. And you can't just take a pair of trimmers to them, it seems you need to hand prune the center canes off the stems.

I definitively would like to see some pics, it's can be hard to visualize like you stated.

I'm sending you a PM.

Whitey4
05-05-2009, 08:34 AM
I'll take a couple pics today.

I've changed it up a bit. On either side of the front door, Hollywood junipers. The 16' wide by 5' deep bed to the left of the front door will have the cut leaf maple under the centered picture window, with Old Gold Junipers on either side. The far left end of the bed (and house) gets a dwarf alberta spruce. The Muhgos are temporary.... inexpensive space fillers.

Whitey4
05-17-2009, 10:14 PM
I have installed the short 16" to 20" retaining wall.... and not without some mistakes. The mistakes are not horrible, one has to study it carefully to see them, but I can. So will you guys once I post some pics, but so far the home owner is happy. For my first shot, my cut bricks and mitered cap stones came out very well... it was the leveleing that got me. Maybe 1/4" to 3/8th's" from one end of the house to the other over about 40 feet. A 1/8th" hump on one side of the front door's wall.

What's done is done... I applied concrete adhesive to the caps yesterday. The problems are hard to see... but I can see them. I bring in soil and compost tomorrow to fill the beds, and plant after the adhesive has cured, 5 to 8 days. Once it's all in, I'll post some pics for constructive critisisms.

Any tips on leveleing walls for my next job? Laser based levels? String? I used only an old fashioned level. That is not good enough as I know now.

I'm sure the customer is happy, but I think I could have done better... and need to learn how to achieve perfection, so any advice welcome....

White Gardens
05-17-2009, 11:48 PM
I use a lazer when doing bigger walls, but otherwise I use string lines with line levels to get my base set if the grade is fairly cut and dry.

The base is the hardest part of the wall, once that's done the rest usually falls into place.

I do my crushed stone base, and when leveling the first course, I use a little fill sand, or crushed stone dust. If I use sand, I try not to use too much in case it erodes away. (1/8- 1/4 inch max sand).

I use a torpedo level and a longer 4 foot level to get it correct. The string line (after the base) is then moved to the front of the wall to make sure I keep a strait run, unless of course I'm doing curves. One thing I've learned is to keep the wall about a 1/4 inch away from the line. If your wall touches the line it will mess up the run if it gets pushed around.

Post some pics Whitey, I'd like to see how it turned out.

Whitey4
05-19-2009, 07:50 PM
I use a lazer when doing bigger walls, but otherwise I use string lines with line levels to get my base set if the grade is fairly cut and dry.

The base is the hardest part of the wall, once that's done the rest usually falls into place.

I do my crushed stone base, and when leveling the first course, I use a little fill sand, or crushed stone dust. If I use sand, I try not to use too much in case it erodes away. (1/8- 1/4 inch max sand).

I use a torpedo level and a longer 4 foot level to get it correct. The string line (after the base) is then moved to the front of the wall to make sure I keep a strait run, unless of course I'm doing curves. One thing I've learned is to keep the wall about a 1/4 inch away from the line. If your wall touches the line it will mess up the run if it gets pushed around.

Post some pics Whitey, I'd like to see how it turned out.

Thanks for the tips, Mr. White. Several plant changes, after I realised the Hollywoods were just too big, etc. While I am not entirely happy with my work so far, the customer is, and even neighbors have commented on how "great" it looks. Unless it is studied, the mistakes aren't glaring. The overall appearance does look good so far.

The side bed is now planted, and I will post pics once it's all in and done including annuals. Frankly, the mistakes will be harder to see once it's all done, so I'll hold off on pics until it is completed, should be next Monday.

Whitey4
05-25-2009, 09:30 PM
After some tweaking, here is the house. The porch was there, I did the retaining wall and plantings.

Whitey4
05-25-2009, 09:43 PM
That last pic shows the side property line, where I installed a Nikko Hydranga, an Andromeda, and behind an exisring az plant, a camelia. I added some petunias and some clematis.

I think it came out pretty well, not perfect, but pretty well.

After I finished the plantings, I went to get one more flowering annual.... and left the soaker hose on. When I got back, the 3 evergreens and the cut leaf maple had "fallen over", towards the house. Apparently, the company that did the foundation (basement leaks) work never tamped down the soil, and never watered it to settle it in. They had dug down 8 feet to the foundation footing, and it looks like the water caused the back half of the bed to collapse as that deep soil got wet and settled.

I had reset the plants, and now have to bring in more top soil to relevel the beds. :cry: In any case...

There are also two Hameln ornamental grasses behind the tewo Muhgo pines that will help fill in space as they grow this year. They don't show up in the pics behind the Muhgos.

Constructive critisisms?

Whitey4
05-25-2009, 10:09 PM
Correction.... Coleus, not clematis.... duh. Edit function doesn't show up....

whoopassonthebluegrass
05-25-2009, 10:17 PM
Hey, Whitey, that looks great. Clean and neat. Good work.

White Gardens
05-25-2009, 11:38 PM
Not bad Whitey.

I like the wall block you chose, and I don't see the inconsistencies that you were complaining about.

I would have considered another ever-green on the right corner of the house instead of another J Maple. But that's only my opinion, and my mind always seems to lean towards symmetry regardless if it is needed or not.

All in all it looks great for your first Install. Hope you get a few more to do this season. Thumbs Up

Whitey4
05-26-2009, 07:51 AM
Thanks Whoop.

WG, that is actually a sandcherry on the far right, not another maple. That bed tapers off around that sidewalk, and it seemed like the space was a little too tight for another evergreen. I did give that some thought. I liked the color balance of the maroon leaves to balance with the cut leaf maple in the left bed. The camelia just on the other side of that walkway (opposite the sandcherry I hope will make that side of the property look filled in during the winter months.

Honestly, I think it looks better in person. I will take some closer in pics today after I bring in more top soil to relevel the beds after that soil collapse.

The left bed does a slow rise in height vs. level, which is the thing I screwed up on, but with the plants in, it is not easy to notice. It comes up about two inches from the porch to that left side of the house. On the right side, the cap is just under the clapboard, on the left it is about two inches above the bottom of the clapboard. It matches at the porch, so the rise is all on that left side.

Whitey4
05-26-2009, 06:54 PM
BTW, those are dwarf muhgo pines... they wo't get real big. Here is a closer set of pics after I added 480 punds of top soil today to relevel the bed after the soil compaction problem occured.

That last pic is the side bed... azeallia was there, I installed the Camelia near the walk and the stuff on the other side of the azeallia. Never can remember how to spell azeallia.

White Gardens
05-26-2009, 09:16 PM
The close up shots look great.

So do you think that you'll have more dirt settling or is the worst over??

White Gardens
05-26-2009, 09:17 PM
Also, how many hours did you have in that wall??

ericmcj31
05-26-2009, 09:23 PM
Whitey...

The construction looks pretty good for a first-timer. A little critisizm (~sp) would be the plants are WAY too close to the house. That Jap. maple is already touching the siding. The wall looks great but I would've made it about 2-3' more wider, at least-that would give you more room for stuff to grow. I liked the side-yard pic. that stuff looked pretty neat. All in all, a neat and tight lawn-just like I said the main thing that really stuck out is it is too close..that's all...not hatin' or nothing, just a little constructive critisizm. G'luck!

Whitey4
05-26-2009, 10:53 PM
Also, how many hours did you have in that wall??


It took about 8 hours to get most of the bottom blocks installed. The second day was finishing the corners and mitering the caps. I'll say the masonry took me about 14 hours. Call it 16 since I want to close those gaps next to the porch yet.

I think the soil compaction problem is over.... the foundation guys never compacted it after digging down to the basement footing, like 8 feet deep. Once it got wet, it settled. The customer didn't blame me, and I'll bill for the extra top soil. I think I need another 120 pounds or so.

Whitey4
05-26-2009, 11:12 PM
Whitey...

The construction looks pretty good for a first-timer. A little critisizm (~sp) would be the plants are WAY too close to the house. That Jap. maple is already touching the siding. The wall looks great but I would've made it about 2-3' more wider, at least-that would give you more room for stuff to grow. I liked the side-yard pic. that stuff looked pretty neat. All in all, a neat and tight lawn-just like I said the main thing that really stuck out is it is too close..that's all...not hatin' or nothing, just a little constructive critisizm. G'luck!

You are right.... the maple is too close. It looks worse than it is in the pics, but still, it's too close. Being a southern exposure, all the growth will be towards the lawn, but I over compensated. The other thing is the coloroado globe spruce. It's a few inches too close to the Heinzi evergreen. Should have moved it a bit to the right. The Maple I can prune off the siding.... the spruce and Heinzi may be a bigger problem down the road. Other than the maple, I had little room, and I think the evergreens and the rest are OK... but that maple...

The problem with the wall.... there is a walkway (concrete) in front of the right bed. That pretty much dictated how deep the bed could be, along with the porch. That curved walkway also made me curve the opposite bed towards the driveway for a more symetrical look. That curve was why I did not go with another evergreen at the far right.... just too little room against the house.

Good constructive critisism, thanks. Points taken.

For my first design, and first ever masonry work, I am generally pleased. I guess most importantly, the customer seems to be thrilled. Understand, this looked like a near derelict house when I first saw it. He even asked me to "Take a look and see if you want the job." The sparse grass was a foot high, covered in wild onions and weeds, no foundation plants to speak of, and now this older fella has come out of his shell and is talking to his neighbors for the first time in years, all because of the improvemnets I've made.

Funny, even doing this sort of work.... this guys life has been changed, and the neighbors are the ones that told me so. The job may not be perfect, but it's nice to know that there are rewards beyond the monetary.

Thanks for the comments.... anyone else?

I had to cut about have of the caps to make it work given those curves.

White Gardens
05-26-2009, 11:55 PM
That's one of the best feelings, when your work makes a little difference in peoples lives.

Whitey4
05-27-2009, 11:06 PM
That's one of the best feelings, when your work makes a little difference in peoples lives.

Yeah... pretty cool that this work has him out of his hobbit hole and talking to people. The woman across the street said his (my) landscaping is the talk of the neghborhood. Could lead to more jobs. Supposedly, the next door neighbor said he has "been shamed into fixing his place up". Referrals.... that's what it's all about! :usflag:

Whitey4
05-28-2009, 10:24 PM
Also, how many hours did you have in that wall??

Let me ask.... how many hours would you have expected to spend on the wall? Being my first one, it took longer than it will next time. Part of it I had to pull up and relevel, which cost about 3 hours. I figure next time, another job just like this one would take about 12 man hours, maybe a bit more. I figure 12 to 14 hours. Does that sound about right?

White Gardens
05-30-2009, 09:15 AM
Personally, I've only done a handful of walls, so, it's hard to say if it should have taken you more or less time.

I would say your final amount of time is about ballpark. There is usually too many variables in doing walls, so coming to a good number might be harder than logic tells you.

Sorry I didn't post back earlier, been busy.