Landscape Design forum: Can you help me with some inspiration? A blank slate in Maryland!

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Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
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bitbit
Nov 6, 2015 1:21 PM CST
My husband and I are buying a house next year from his family. I know the land is productive, but there's currently not much growing on it. I'm looking for input on some ornamental gardens in front of the house, though most of our effort will be on growing edibles in the side and back areas.

Thumb of 2015-11-06/bitbit/b5488a

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It's in Baltimore, MD, zone 7a: moderate winters, sticky summers, reliable rain. The house is northeast and tall evergreen trees southwest of the garden, so only partial sun, with the most near the sidewalk. I'd like to build a large garden area in front of the house - at least out to the sidewalk, and with the long-term goal of getting rid of all the grass on that side of the driveway. I prefer things that will be relatively low-maintenance (especially perennials or reseeders) and non-toxic (we'll have people, dogs, bees, and birds).

So, what would you do with this blank slate?
Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
A bit of this and a bit of that
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Herbs
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bitbit
Nov 6, 2015 1:40 PM CST
I have a few thoughts already, of course.

I'd like to put in bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis) and columbine (Aquilegia) in the section behind the sidewalk, which both remind me of the gardens at my childhood home. I could see the bleeding hearts near the front door and the columbine spread out between there and the driveway. At the very least, we'd need another low groundcover-y plant to make the space look full.

To the left of the front door, I'd like to put something really striking. In my mind I want sunflowers with Zinnias in front, but I can't offer as much sun as they need. What would you recommend for bright, cheerful, rainbow-colored blooms in partial-to-heavy shade?

And near the driveway, I think I'd like to put in a rosemary plant. I'm hoping that the heat coming off the brick and asphalt will help me push its zone a bit.
[Last edited by bitbit - Nov 6, 2015 1:43 PM (+)]
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Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
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DogsNDaylilies
Nov 8, 2015 10:03 PM CST
Are you looking for more of a cottage garden type of feel, something more natural and wild, something more planned, something more modern, something exotic....?

I think you'll find TONS of great ideas from lots of different people, but it might help to funnel those ideas toward a particular overall look you desire, if you have one. Smiling
Name: Carol Sandt
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Zone 6b)
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csandt
Nov 9, 2015 3:45 AM CST
I would edge the walk and driveway with Liriope muscari, which will give you pretty purple flowers in late summer and will provide an organized look to the garden. It does well in sun or shade and the foliage is evergreen in mild winters. I am partial to the cultivar 'Royal Purple" which has deep purple flowers.
Carol Sandt
"Hope is the simple trust that God has not forgotten the recipe for manna.” - W. Paul Jones in "Trumpet at Full Moon"
Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
A bit of this and a bit of that
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bitbit
Nov 9, 2015 6:28 AM CST
Thanks for the idea, CS! I've seen that plant before, but never knew its name. Thumbs up

DogsNDaylilies, I'd like to eventually get to a cottage garden feeling in place of all the grass in front of the house. I figure it will take a few seasons to develop, so I don't mind if things are a bit sparse at first (and starting with a smaller area). My taste in plants is pretty old-fashioned: lots of color, but not really exotic or flashy.
Silver Spring, MD (Zone 7a)
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ssgardener
Nov 9, 2015 6:49 AM CST
Hi bitbit, welcome to Maryland! Welcome!

Do you know what kind of soil you have? Depending on your location, it may be sandy, rocky, or clay.

Are you looking for shrubs and trees as well or mostly perennials?

It looks like you have an open field in your backyard. Do you know if you have deer?

Come say hi on the mid Atlantic forum!
Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
A bit of this and a bit of that
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Herbs
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bitbit
Nov 9, 2015 7:22 AM CST
Hi SS!

I haven't dug in the front, but the back field is richly organic with some rocks. It's what I think of as typical Piedmont soil, not overly sandy or clay-ey. It should be similar out front, though it hasn't been worked as much. We definitely have deer... I hadn't really considered them, but I'm sure I should Thumbs up

I'd be OK with shrubs and trees. If there's enough light for it, I'd love to put a dogwood in there. I like azaleas, but I've heard they're not good to have with honeybees.
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
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DogsNDaylilies
Nov 9, 2015 8:07 AM CST
If you like the cottage feel and if you have a lot of backyard space, don't forget about lilac bushes!

I don't know that I have placement recommendations for you because one thing builds on another, so landscaping, to me, feels like something I do all at once, more or less. I wish I could be of more help. If I think of very definitive suggestions, I'll post more later.

I can say, however, that sweet alyssum lend themselves well to a cottage-y feel...they look very lacy and smell heavenly when you run your hands through a bunch of them. They will self-seed somewhat, though, so be prepared for that. (I planted them last year and they are a little too lacy for my design scheme, but they kept coming back this year so I just let them be for now.) They would be great between other flowers as sort of a groundcover and a nice, white backdrop to flowers of other colors.
Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
A bit of this and a bit of that
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Herbs
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bitbit
Nov 9, 2015 8:18 AM CST
Ooh, I didn't think it'd be cool enough for lilacs, but it looks like I'm right on the line! I have them here in Michigan (for the first time - VA was too warm) and the scent is amazing.

I don't mind self-seeders at all! I'd love it if most of the garden eventually plants itself each year. I think I have some Sweet Alyssum in my old seed collection Thumbs up
Silver Spring, MD (Zone 7a)
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ssgardener
Nov 9, 2015 9:41 AM CST
Lilacs don't bloom reliably here. About half the time they bloom (if we had a cold enough winter) and the other years they don't do much at all. In my opinion, that's not good enough for a shrub that doesn't look all that good when it's not in bloom. Shrug!

In a small space like your front yard, every plant should count!

You have lots of options if you want a flowering shrub. Even a camellia!

But the big issue is going to be deer. If fencing is not an option, then your choices are somewhat limited.

Liriope is good against deer. Sweet alyssum is an annual that does really well here. Looks good until frost.

Have you considered bulbs? Daffodils and alliums would do well, but tulips and lilies are just too enticing to deer and squirrels.
Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
A bit of this and a bit of that
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Herbs
Composter Container Gardener Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader
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bitbit
Nov 9, 2015 10:40 AM CST
Ahh, thanks for the update on lilac. I'll have to leave that sweet scent in my Michigan memories, I guess.

I know there are deer in the area, but I also know Grandpa grew veggies without a fence for years, so maybe they're not bad. I'm willing to try my luck a bit, but fencing isn't a good option - there are stands of trees right where it would need to be.

Yes to bulbs! Do you know if ornamental alliums would cross-pollinate with my onions? I had irises and daylilies at my old place, and I absolutely love crocus.

I can't believe I didn't think about hostas. They can fill in some of the deeper shade, and should come back reliably.
Silver Spring, MD (Zone 7a)
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ssgardener
Nov 9, 2015 11:04 AM CST
Ooh good question about allium cross pollination. I have no idea!

Hostas do great here but they're also deer candy!

And crocuses (especially the 'Tommy' variety) do really well here and naturalize well. Mine bloom in January and February. Big Grin

Oh hellebores! They're deer resistant and almost evergreen here.

Have you grown hardy begonias? They're fantastic in the shade and bloom in the fall when nothing else is blooming. If you have dry shade around tree roots, epimediums should do well for you. They have beautiful spring blooms and some are even evergreen.

Please let us know over at the mid Atlantic forum when you do move here. I always have plants to give away and there's a large a local co-op group buy every year. We also have local swaps three times a year. Thumbs up
Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
A bit of this and a bit of that
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Herbs
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bitbit
Nov 9, 2015 1:54 PM CST
I sketched this up based on aerial photos (though I promise the real walls are straight).

Thumb of 2015-11-09/bitbit/327ebd

And here's a first attempt at filling it in:

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From the front door, I'm thinking of adding a walkway (probably not round stones, those just sketched easily) to a sitting area. A small dogwood tree can give this spot a bit more privacy, and would also be visible from my bedroom window. I lined all the pavement with small plants: labeled as Sweet Alyssum, but I think the Liriope muscari that @csandt recommended might be a better fit, and have two zone-pushing edibles up against the house on either side of the driveway. I have a bunch of bulbs and bleeding hearts in the small garden.

They're not in the sketch, but I'd like to eventually put bulbs on the road side of the trees as well. Passers-by really can't see onto the property, so I want a little something for them, and that side gets good afternoon sun.
Name: Jeanie
Minnesota (Zone 4a)
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foraygardengirl
Nov 11, 2015 7:12 AM CST
Hi bitbit,
Just a couple thoughts. Eastern hemlock can be a shrub or a tree, depending on the variety. It can tolerate shade and deer leave it alone. And I don't know if you specifically want a dogwood tree rather than a shrub, but one of my favorite dogwoods is Ivory Halo which is fairly compact. I have a mixed shrub/flower border in the front of my house with small weigela (Tango), yew, dogwood, birchleaf spirea, hydrangea, and flowers mixed in. Since I don't have deer here I'm not sure if they would bother any of these shrubs. The flowers are sedum, candytuft, knautia, phlox, boltonia, coreopsis, dianthus, daylilies, and a few lilies. I do have a few bulbs mixed in but lose many of them to rabbits and squirrels. I know deer like lilies, but I'm not sure about the rest. Seems like they would have to be pretty bold to bother the area right in front bordered by the sidewalk...but I know my friends who have deer around say they can get to anything if they are hungry enough.
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South San Francisco Bay Area (Zone 9b)
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Polymerous
Nov 16, 2015 6:56 PM CST
Did someone mention deer and rabbits?

Re bulbs, rabbits and deer don't bother daffodils. Spread naturalizing cultivars, such as 'Ice Follies' (whose yellow cup fades to near-white), around in drifts for a lovely spring show which will return. We have such a drift under our grove of Japanese maples. The daffodils are in bloom before the maples leaf out, and the grove looks lovely then. The fragrant 'Thalia' has also persisted here for many years, underneath a willow.


('Ice Follies' blooming under and among Japanese maples)

For the most part, deer and rabbis haven't bothered the Shasta daisies here, either. (The one exception here has been Leucanthemum 'Goldfinch', which something ate shortly after it was planted out. Grumbling http://www.bluestoneperennials.com/CSGO.html )

Other random thoughts...

Heuchera will do nicely in light or filtered shade areas. (I have a dark shade area that it doesn't do so nicely in.)

For sunny areas, Gaillardia will give you a very long season of color, provided that you can work it into your scheme, color-wise. ('Arizona Apricot', a seed strain, is shorter than 'Oranges & Lemons', so you will want to choose and place your plants appropriately.)



Much as I love daylilies, they are deer candy... as are roses. (The deer don't bother the carpet roses as much as the other kinds, but they are still eaten.)

Bearded irises, on the other hand... if you can find a spot for those, they are cheap enough, will give you welcome spring color, and the deer and rabbits will leave them alone. If you have gophers, though, you will either have to use gopher baskets, or else underlay your entire planting bed with some sort of wire mesh to keep them out. Thumbs down


The current avatar image is that of a volunteer daylily seedling showing cristation.
Silver Spring, MD (Zone 7a)
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ssgardener
Nov 17, 2015 9:03 AM CST
My gaillardia are still in full bloom! They've been blooming non stop since early summer.

Ivory Halo dogwood does very well here and is so pretty all year long. I don't think I'd recommend eastern hemlock, though, due to the dreaded hemlock disease that has devastated the east coast.

Veronicas do really well, both the tall and spreading varieties. I just planted St. John's wort for the first time and it's supposed to be good in pretty much any condition.
Name: Jeanie
Minnesota (Zone 4a)
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foraygardengirl
Nov 17, 2015 2:51 PM CST
Ss, I wasn't aware of the hemlock disease. What is it? I have only a few Moon Frost right now, but I was considering adding more hemlock varieties. Even though I am in the midwest, I should probably monitor the situation.
:+:+:+:+:+:+:+:+:
Old gardeners never die. They are just pruned and repotted.
Baltimore County, MD (Zone 7a)
A bit of this and a bit of that
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Herbs
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bitbit
Nov 17, 2015 3:40 PM CST
Huh, I replied to this thread earlier and it's gone now. I guess my computer ate it Shrug!

Jeanie, I'm guessing SS is talking about the bug that has decimated hemlock populations in the east, the woolly adelgid. I remember it being an issue in VA 10+ years ago and I guess it's still around. It dies in very cold weather, so Minnesota might be safe from it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemlock_woolly_adelgid I have a lot of evergreens/conifers already, so I'll probably skip the hemlocks.

And your earlier comment sent me straight to Google! So many plants I hadn't heard of! I really like the Weigela - it looks like a perfect non-toxic alternative to azaleas. Hurray!

Polymerous, I think daffodils are going to be the winner to go between the trees and the road. I do like the white ones, so I'll keep an eye out for those varieties. Heuchera is one whose name I didn't know, but I actually have a bit in my garden here in MI. Maybe I'll kidnap a bit to take with me Whistling

I think I can survive without daylilies, and I'm perfectly content to leave roses out, but I do hope that the deer let me have an occasional tulip.

And I had to chuckle at "For the most part, deer and rabbis haven't bothered the Shasta daisies here, either." I'm not sure how you knew there is a synagogue across the street, but my family is on good terms with the leaders Sticking tongue out

SS, I don't know if it needs to be a tree in shape, but I definitely want the traditional dogwood blooms. It's another one that takes me back to my childhood... the Ivory Halo is very pretty, but it doesn't match my mental image of a dogwood. That might be something I add later, though, because trees aren't cheap.

I like the look of Gaillardia, but I think I'll need to put it out back where there's more sun. I haven't posted about the rest of the property, but I'll have a sizeable septic leach field to plant with non-edibles, and I think it would fit well there Thumbs up
Name: Jeanie
Minnesota (Zone 4a)
Replace your lawn with a garden!
Enjoys or suffers cold winters Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Garden Procrastinator Daylilies Bee Lover Sedums
Hostas Dog Lover Xeriscape Region: Minnesota Heucheras Butterflies
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foraygardengirl
Nov 17, 2015 8:15 PM CST
Bitbit, I'm glad you found at least a few things of interest. Weigela doesn't bloom for very long but will sporadically put out a few blossoms through the season after the main show in spring. It comes in many different varieties and sizes and can get a little spraggly, so I generally do spend a little time pruning them each year. Daffodils are great bulbs and critters leave them alone. Heuchera/coral bells comes in so many colors that you can made a whole garden out of them and rabbits leave them alone, but I'm not sure about deer. I love dogwoods that bloom too, but I have limited choices in Minnesota. I have planted two pagoda dogwoods, both of which died within two years, so I probably won't plant them again. Good luck with your new place, and I hope you post pictures both before and after so we can see what you do with it!
:+:+:+:+:+:+:+:+:
Old gardeners never die. They are just pruned and repotted.
Silver Spring, MD (Zone 7a)
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ssgardener
Nov 18, 2015 6:57 AM CST
Yes, I was talking about the dreaded wooly adelgid. The damage has been awful! Thumbs down

Look what it did to the Smoky Mountains: http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get/I00007.qiYccQCR0/s/860...

Weigela only blooms for about two weeks for me, but it's a pretty shrub even when not in bloom. Some cultivars get huge but my 'Midnight Wine' stays at around 2 feet.

If you're looking for an accent tree in part sun, you have so many choices in zone 7!

Redbuds do well in partial sun and bloom early. There is the chartreuse variety 'Rising Sun,' the red variety 'Forest Pansy,' and a couple of weeping varieties that are really pretty. I really like 'Lavender Twist.'

Deciduous magnolias are great and they have dwarf varieties if you need it to stay small. I personally like the Sisters series like 'Jane' and 'Ann.' They have fragrant flowers!

And if you like fragrant flowers, nothing beats my Korean Spice viburnum. I hear sweetbay magnolia also has very fragrant blooms.

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