The Q&A Archives: Help with a front garden?

Question: I am trying to plan a garden for the front of my house- there is currently about a 17' x 5' bed in front of a big bay window. I was thinking of possibly putting a Japanese Andromeda at one end of the bed (near the driveway) and a heavenly bamboo at the other (near the front door) with an Otto Luyken laurel or 2 in between. The area gets afternoon sun and partial shade for the rest of the day. Do these shrubs complement each other? If not, any suggestions as alternatives? I'm also trying to find lower shrubs and perennials to plant around them... thanks, I'm new to gardening and feel pretty clueless!

Answer: Based on your description I think this area would be considered full sun. Afternoon sun is hot and strong, and a spot in sun for six hours or more is considered sunny. So you will probably need to select plants that can withstand full sun. Also, you need to look at plants that are hardy to zone 6. Next, you need to consider your soil and determine if it is clay based, or fairly humusy, and whether or not the site is well drained. Next you need to consider how tall and wide the plants can be and whether or not you want evergreens. Finally you would begin selecting individual plants that are well suited to the site and also meet your design goals.

Generally speaking you would want to select a background plant that would be repeated along the bed and fill in around that with plants that have contrasting foliage. You might use a needled evergreen as the basic, and then a broadleafed evergreen or deciduous plant for the accent. Select the shrubs first, and then the perennials. Make sure you allow ample room and space for the shrubs to accommodate their growth to their mature sizes -- height and width -- or select a plant that can withstand regular pruning.

Your local county extension and/or professionally trained nursery staff should be able to help you analyze the growing conditions and identify plants that would thrive there, then you would select the ones you like best from those. Have fun with your project!

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