Contessa
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Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welcome

Hi,

I live in Zone 6 and I would like to put a perennial garden against the foundation of a walkway. I really don't like wild (messy) looking perennials so any help with this is much appreciated. Also, the size is 22 inches wide, and 23 inches length, full sun.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

And where are you located - full sun perennials for Minnesota would be very different from full sun perennials for Florida.

22 inches wide makes sense for the space between the walkway and the house. 23 inches long doesn't. You just want to do one teeny piece of that foundation strip? Only the part by the fence?

Showing us another picture looking at the house across the foundation strip would help. Are there windows in that wall? Are there wide eaves (that would put the strip in a rain shadow where it is very dry). Oh and if you are looking out those hypothetical windows, what direction are you facing? You said full sun, but with the house right behind it, it can't be completely full sun. If that is the south side of the house, it will be much sunnier than if it is the north side (always presuming you are in the northern hemisphere :) )

Give us a bit more information and we will be glad to try to help! Welcome to the Forum! :)
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Contessa
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

rainbowgardener,

Thank you for reading my post. I live in Massachusetts. I would like to do the space between the walkway and the house the up against the fence. The space between the walkway and house is 22 inches wide, and 23 inches length. We do not have any windows on that side of the house which is considered the south side. I'll have to take more photos and upload them tomorrow. Thanks again for wanting to help me. I appreciate it.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

Thanks for the update. I will think about some suggestions.

I'm still not understanding your dimensions. It looks like the space between the walkway and the house is 22 inches wide. it looks like the length is the full distance of that side of the house, plus the L shaped part by the fence. Has to be at least 15 FEET I think.
Have no idea what the 23 inches long refers to... That would be a tiny little square, just big enough for one plant or maybe two small ones.
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Susan W
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

This may be doable, but not easy! If it is a newer house, the dirt may be gravelly and not a good organic rich top soil.

Perennials sound good as you plant once, and let go. Well, not quite! Most bloom for 6 -8 weeks. In before and after, especially after blooming may get straggly and messy looking. Great for a meadow, not so much in neat yard! To have bloom from May to October, need different ones to keep color going. After you work your soil, perhaps could have a few perennials, and fill in with blooming annuals.

Look around to see what others have planted in similar situations. Go to your garden centers and check out options.
Have fun!
Susan

Contessa
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

Hi. Here is another photo I just found. I hope this helps. Thanks
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

It's actually a very difficult space to work with. They should have made the walkway straight out from the gate and given you a much wider strip there. Small little plants will look all out of scale and dwarfed by the big blank wall. You need a couple shrubs / small trees there mixed in with other perennials. But it is not a good thing to plant trees (or even shrubs if not very small) right next to the house like that, the water and tree roots will eventually make problems for the house foundations.

My solution to that would be to get a couple of very large containers and plant shrubs into them. Or even gravel the whole area and plant everything in containers on top of the gravel. I did that with a similar narrow strip between house and driveway at my previous house and it came out surprisingly nice. It was hard to find a good picture of what I mean, but here's a little bit.

Image
(you wouldn't have to have the rocks in front)

Image

Image

For a very formal effect, you can just make a line of identical containers, but my style would be to make a mixture of varying sizes and heights. You want very large containers for the shrubs/trees. But very large containers are expensive and you don't need them for the other stuff.

Shrub possibilities: dwarf serviceberry, purple nine-bark, viburnum, red twig dogwood, boxwood

Small trees for containers: dogwood, Japanese maple, washington hawthorne, redbud, evergreens like cedar/ juniper

Perennials for that hot sunny space: milkweed, coreopsis, coneflower, sunflowers, black eyed susans, gayfeather, bee balm, sundrops, asters. Ornamental grasses like pink muhly grass would be nice. You could make some beautiful mixed containers of different flowers. The grass would need its own container.

Growing in containers will make easy maintenance and give you lots of possibilities for swapping things out.

So just some things to think about.... perhaps others will have different ideas...

This thread has some great inspiration pictures of how beautiful mixed container plantings can be: http://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 2&start=30
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Contessa
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

Hi Rainbowgardener,

Thank you again for helping me. I never thought about Containers, but I do like your idea. I especially like the idea of adding gravel to the whole area and plant everything in containers on top of the gravel. I also like a lot of your suggestions for shrubs, trees and perennials.

With that said, I have so many questions... Where do I begin? Is it too late this time of year? What size is consider large pots? Do I choose all of them (shrubs, trees and perennials)? If planting in containers, how to they grow without suffocating the roots as well as surviving the cold winter months?

This is all new to me, so figure me with all my questions.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

Contessa wrote:Hi Rainbowgardener,

Thank you again for helping me. I never thought about Containers, but I do like your idea. I especially like the idea of adding gravel to the whole area and plant everything in containers on top of the gravel. I also like a lot of your suggestions for shrubs, trees and perennials.

With that said, I have so many questions... Where do I begin? Is it too late this time of year? What size is consider large pots? Do I choose all of them (shrubs, trees and perennials)? If planting in containers, how to they grow without suffocating the roots as well as surviving the cold winter months?

This is all new to me, so figure me with all my questions.
Right now it is not too late, but too early in the year. In the middle of the heat of summer is a very bad time to plant things, though you can be getting the area ready, gravel down, getting containers, etc. In the fall, once the weather breaks you can plant. September is probably good, because you want stuff to have a chance to get established, put out roots in its new location before everything freezes.

Here's a cold hardiness zone map for Massachusetts :
http://www.plantmaps.com/interactive-ma ... ss-map.php

Everything from zone 5 in the eastern third of the state to zone 7 in the cape cod area.

So you need to know your zone. Then you can look up the plants you are interested and see what zones they are hardy in. I think everything I listed should be hardy for you. Ordinarily, planting in containers, we say look for something that is hardy to a zone colder than where you are, because roots are more exposed in containers than the ground. However, a south facing wall is such a protected location that you probably don't have to worry about that.

Just be sure that your container has plenty of drainage holes. Lightweight plastic containers are the easiest to manage and cheapest to purchase. But they are often sold without drain holes and you have to punch/ drill your own.

Shrubs and trees need minimum 2 ft wide and 2 ft deep containers* But, if you are buying little baby trees/ shrubs, don't put them in pots that big to start with. Start smaller and up-pot as the trees grow.

Do I choose all of them (shrubs, trees and perennials)? Yes. If you don't know what you want, work with a good local nursery (NOT BIG BOX) and they will help you figure it out. If budget is an issue, start with getting the trees/ shrubs and the pots and potting soil for them. Let them get started growing. It will look a bit sparse at first, but over time you can fill in with more and more. If you start with smaller (less expensive) trees/ shrubs in smaller pots, then when the trees get up-potted you can put perennials in the outgrown pots. If budget is really an issue, check craigslist and freecycle for flower pots/ containers/ planters. See also here: http://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 21&t=32338 for ideas of things that can be recycled into plant containers.

Best Wishes! Keep us posted on what you decide on! :D

*Actually considering that your space is 22" deep, you should just figure on planters that are as deep as the space and maybe overlapping on to the sidewalk a couple inches if need be. They can be whatever length you want, but for the trees and shrubs, need to be a couple feet tall or so.
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Contessa
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

Hi Rainbowgardener:

I am so sorry for the late reply to your post. I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and giving me something to think about. Currently, I am looking online for perennial ideas and hopefully I can put something together that will look nice. :)

Thanks again,
Contessa

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pinksand
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

I love Rainbowgardener's idea to use pots! Anything else would really look out of scale so it's a great solution. You'll have to share some "after" photos :)

One thing I'd add is to look for shrubs with an upright growth habit so it doesn't end up blocking the walkway. I personally don't mind some wispy delicate perennials hanging over (like coreopsis), but definitely don't want woody shrubbery blocking the walkway.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

Besides making the planting strip way too narrow, the builders made the walkway considerably too narrow.

Ideally you would rip that one out and do a wider walkway in front of the gate. Then you could plant whatever you wanted, in the ground. But I know that is a major project. Short of that, you could just widen the existing walkway, like to double the width. You could hire someone to lay more concrete. Or if you didn't mind not matching, you could just lay pavers right next to the sidewalk. If you had a wider walkway your planters and plants wouldn't be as limited and could overlap the sidewalk a little bit.
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Contessa
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

Unfortunately, ripping up the walkway is not an option at this time. So in the meantime, I will try the containers. What I struggle with is my design. From Rainbowgardener's list, I like the following:

Shrubs:
Purple Nine-Bark
Red Twig Dogwood
Boxwoods

Tree:
Japanese Maple

Perennials:
Coreopsis, gayfeather, bee balm, sundrops, asters. Ornamental grasses like pink muhly grass and mixed containers of different flowers.

Any ideas would be helpful. Thanks

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

Sounds great! :) Having them in pots, design is hardly an issue - just move the pots around until they are how you like them.

The only design issue would be container design, putting together mixed containers of perennials. The trees and shrubs need containers to themselves. Trees possibly could have something small that drapes over the edge in with them.

Image

The muhly grass needs to have its own container.

So it is just mixed flower containers to design.

This illustrates some principles of container design:
Image

"thriller, filler, spiller" Something tall and vertical, something to fill out the middle, and something to drape over the edges. And color contrast, and having some of the color in foliage. Blooms come and go, but the foliage is there all the time, so having something with colored foliage makes sure there is color all season.

Even if you are doing perennials, it helps to fill in a bit with a few annuals - they are easy and cheap to buy as bedding plants. Annuals bloom all season, unlike a lot of perennials which may just bloom for a few weeks of the year. For perennials, purple winecup (callirhoe) is a nice draping "spiller" plant, semi-evergreen, drought tolerant. Lamb's ears and artemisia are nice silvery leafed plants. Sedums come in colored foliage versions and are sun and drought tolerant. Lavender is long blooming, beautiful and fragrant. Dianthus, pinks, have evergreen foliage are long blooming and showy.

Think about a pot with something evergreen as well for winter interest.

But don't stress too much about design - there's a secret gardeners have: it's flowers, you can't go wrong! :) People look at a nice container and say "oh you designed that so nicely." They don't think about the fact that any other arrangement would have looked nice too...

You could give yourself a little extra sidewalk room, just by putting a border on it. I think it is a nice look too:
Image
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

It occurs to me that the other choice you have about planting one or two trees is just to plant them in the ground IN FRONT of the sidewalk (as you are looking at that blank wall) at an appropriate distance from the house. It will look a little funny at first, when the tree is (trees are?) small. But when the tree grows out and fills in the space and you have plantings around it, it wouldn't be quite so odd. It would however, mean that eventually you couldn't use the sidewalk, because the tree will be filling in almost all the space between the front of the side walk and the house wall. So it depends on how much you actually use/ want to use that walkway.

Just throwing out options for you! :)
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LIcenter
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Re: Perennial help for side of house - All suggestions welco

How about ornamental trees with upswept branches? Won't hog up the space but will still give a nice effect.

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