My first full foundation bed design and install

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Whitey4, May 3, 2009.

  1. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    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!
  2. EVM

    EVM LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 382

    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.
  3. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    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.
  4. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    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.
  5. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    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.
  6. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    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....
  7. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    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.
  8. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    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.
  9. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    After some tweaking, here is the house. The porch was there, I did the retaining wall and plantings.

    Kellyplamts 002.jpg

    Kellyplamts 001.jpg

    Kellyplamts 003.jpg
  10. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    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?

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