Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu May 31, 2007 9:42 pm
Location: Kenosha, WI

1st time homeowners need ideas

I'm excited to find this forum and am hoping to get some suggestions.

In December my husband and I bought a home that is 3 years old. The original owners bought it and soon discovered it was too much house for them. Well, they pretty much did nothing to the exterior. The only thing they planted were two rose bushes and two asian lillies in the front of the house. One of the rose bushes isn't looking so good.

Our biggest problem is the large area they neglected between the side of the garage and the sidewalk leading to the front door. As you'll see in the photos, the area to the right of the sidewalk is about 20 feet long and 6 feet wide. There's also a very small area on the left of the sidewalk right in front of the step.

We live in Southeast Wisconsin which is hardiness zone 5. The front of the house faces due West so it doesn't get sun until mid-late afternoon.

Any experienced gardeners out there have any suggestions of what to plant - especially in the larger area. A friend divided some variegated hostas for me, which are currently planted in pots until I figure out what else to put there.

Thanks in advance for any advice!




PS - I'm going to create a second post regarding the planter areas we had built as part of a patio in the backyard. Any advice there would be appreciated as well!

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Greener Thumb
Posts: 1023
Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2007 7:50 pm
Location: England

Hi :D

I have just checked plant lists for your zone so I know what you can grow.
Here are my suggestions;
I would keep the plant pallette quite simple as it is very narrow one side and the other side is not very spacious either.
First before any planting enrich your soil. I would also put a drip hose the full length of the wider side as it is so sheltered from rain by the house.

Plant Tiarella as an edging both sides as the foliage is evergreen and would give you something to look at all year round as well as flowering in season. Buy two large pots and plant one with a smallish evergreen Rhode (acid soil) and the other with Cimicifuga. Alternate them when flowering to give a focal point to the area right in front of the little fenced area by the porch.
Plant the rest with your Hostas, Ferns, (Pref evergreen), Hellebores and Hardy Geraniums. This should give you something of interest to look at all year round but they do need moisture and I do not think they would grow well without proper irrigation. The only choice you have for dry shade is Vinca...not very attractive really.

Green Thumb
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 11:17 am
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

First, I would encourage you to seek local advice. There is no substitute for knowledge of local conditions. You also might want to have the soil tested at least for pH. I have no knowledge of your part of Wisconsin but much of the upper midwest has neutral to alkaline soils with tremendous buffering capacity, trying to get acid loving plants thriving in these conditions is very much an uphill battle. My regional experience is primarily from the Minneapolis/St Paul greater metro area and along the the St Croix in Wisconsin on the western edge of the state but with those qualifiers here are some plant suggestions:

Shrubs: Viburnum carlesii 'Compactum' this is marginally hardy, at best, in western Wisconsin but might go in your area. I'm dubious but if local nurseries think it is hardy it is a very nice smaller shrub, very fragrant. The amount of sun you describe may be marginal, it prefers light shade.
Rhododendrons are difficult in the upper midwest. 'PJM' and its close relatives tend to be the easiest to grow but they need more sun than it sounds like you have available. The Finnish hybrids (e.g. 'Pohjola's Daughter') and yakusimanums (e.g. 'Ken Janek') could be viable options if you can keep the pH low enough.
Yews, especially Taxus x media 'Tautonii', could be another option. They are all to often sheared into graceless shapes but left in more natural forms or pruned into the Japanese tamamono shapes they can be quite attractive.
Daphne x burwoodii is a great plant but very intolerant of less than excellent drainage. It prefers to be slightly on the dry side. You might not have quite enough sun, it prefers light shade.

Perennials: Aruncus, Bergenia, Brunera, Chelone, Cimicifuga, Hosta, Polygonatum, Pulmonaria, and Tricyrtis are a few of the plants worth trying. Most of these prefer conditions that are consistently slightly moist. Among the smaller perennials Asarum, Epimedium, Iris cristata, and Tiarella are likely to be good options. Ferns, especially the Japanese Painted Fern, are another possibility. The aggressive ferns like Ostrich ferns would not be a good choice.

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2036
Joined: Thu Mar 10, 2005 4:58 pm
Location: Michigan--LP(troll)

Because you have the thermal mass of the house and concrete, I think you can push the hardiness zone, so if something says it's hardy to zone 6, you can probably get away with it. Jess' idea about laying a soaker hose is excellent--you won't get the splash-up mess with a sprinkler or hose. Amending the soil with compost or well-rotted manure is also a good idea. Also check the drainage, you don't want the plants to sit in water 2" under the grade, nor do you want foundation problems. The smaller rhododendrons/azaleas (look for the Northern Lights series) would do well, I think, because being lower to the ground they wouldn't suffer as much from frostbite/winter dieback. Since it is an enclosed area, you could cheat and just go with Ostrich Ferns--they like to run and are only kept in bounds by hard borders or harder digging. (Ok, quit groaning out there!) With hostas, again, watch the size, some can get quite big and encroach on the walkway; either go for the upright versions or the smaller ones. BTW--do you get a lot of dependable snow cover each winter? If not, piling the snow from the walkway only on the sides would help avoid winterkill. I like the idea of the tiarellas--they come in a rainbow of foliage colours. Astilbe, bleeding hearts, heuchera and heucharella (a cross between heuchera and tiarella). Some dwarf bleeding hearts and astilbe will act as a ground cover in drier areas, may be good for the narrow side. Well, you've gotten a lot to run with--have fun!

Happy gardening,

Full Member
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Sep 04, 2007 4:49 pm

That area between the garage and the front door could be covered if you would want by some larger hedges, there are so many varieties it would be up to you as far as personal taste. If you want an open view to the porch in front I would then recommend something smaller obviously. See what your goals are and then go from there.

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