Saturday, March 22, 2008

Northern Exposure

This is how my house looks from the street in the summer. Not very pretty.
August 2007

I added several plants in the fall and I'm hoping that the astilbe and bleeding hearts are much larger this year. Even if they fill out nicely I need something bold and tall! I would like to hide the block shirt completely. The house faces north severely limiting my options. Further limiting my options is the metal roof. John rakes it often but if any ice builds up it comes down in huge chunks that make the whole house shake, crushing and breaking any woody plants.

This bed is only two years old and has been planted without any real plan in mind. As I obtained plants I added them based on what was already there. My spring project this year will be to move things around and maybe divide the larger hostas and space them out better along the entire length of the bed. I have some smaller hostas, pink and red astilbe, lungwart, two stella d'oro clumps, a large yellow daylily, columbine, a couple of balloon flowers, sedge, a fern (and there is more I can move), and lots of foxglove. I have a couple of azaleas that I may move to the end of the bed that gets a bit more sun (and no falling ice!)

A couple of years ago we had a very nice screen house that the winds totally trashed. I saved the eight metal corner brackets and I have four of them on the back of the garage.

I will put two of the remaining sections on either side of the front door. There are some varieties of clematis that are said to do ok with a northern exposure. If the sections are placed close to the house I think they will escape serious damage from falling ice. Do you think the black will look ok or should I plan to paint them brown to match the trim? Do you have any other ideas for vines that might do well here without becoming huge?

In the larger space between the front windows I want something that will get tall and survive the ice. The only plant I can think of is a hydrangea, maybe an Endless Summer or Annabelle that will still bloom even if it has to be pruned in the spring. I read somewhere that buddleia might grow here and if I have a volunteer I may try that. Any other ideas?

I'd also like to add some height at the corners but so far I haven't any idea what would look good and do well. I'm not happy with the transition from the butterfly garden on the side to the shady front border so I'd welcome suggestions for this area too.
I'd like the public view of my home to be pretty and welcoming. I do not want a lot of maintenance so the more plants I add the less space there will be for weeds. I welcome any suggestions!


  1. I'll give your questions some thought Apple and if I come up with any bright ideas I'll let you know. I'm drawing a blank right now. I like the trellises black.
    If you haven't already, you might like to look at Nan Ondra's sight, "Hayfield". She has some very good ideas to share and is generous with them. It's like reading one of her books. Perhaps you could ask her for some suggestions.
    I think I've already wished you a happy Easter, but if not, hope you have a lovely one with your family.
    Sunshine here today but it's still cold with a chilly breeze. At least that awful wind has dropped.

  2. I have an Endless Summer and it's not very good at blooming. I'd stick with the Annabelle or another variety of the same species, like the Pinky Winky that just came out.

    Does your house face truly due north, or is it more like northwest? I have a mockorange on the "north" side of my house, which I figured out after several years actually faces northwest, so gets a bit more sun. It actually blooms there and smells wonderful. And because it is a suckering shrub, even if it got totally smashed it would still come back.

    Also check out thalictrums (meadow rues) and filipendulas. They both do well for me on that side of the house.

    more on Endless Summer hydrangea

  3. I don't like the idea of buddleia in the spot mentioned. They're too 'ratty' looking in my opinion.

    I would really need to see the yard in person before suggesting anything specific. I shouldn't say anything at all but I can't help myself. So here goes.

    Consider extending your beds out far enough to keep shrubs out of the avalanche zone. From the steps curve outward and sweep around the corners of the house. This will increase your flower bed considerably but your going to need the room the way you assimilate plants.

    Of course I can't see the whole layout so don't know if that would work. But consider reshaping the beds in curved lines. You'd be surprised how much more pleasing it is to the eyes than straight lines running paralel the house. At least get rid of the square corners :)

    Use a garden hose to layout different lines.

    My greatest non-secret.
    Find a stable that uses untreated small wood chips and shavings for horse bedding. A lot of them end up with huge piles. You should be able to get it at least semi-composted. It makes a great mulch. I generally use it as 'weed and feed' but I also till a good amount into the soil of any new bed I make.

  4. I LOVE the trellis idea around the doors. And I'd leave them black (it's more dramatic and therefore a bigger eye-catcher). And I completely agree with Wise Acre Increasing my front garden bed was the best thing I ever did! Also I love a curve. If you use the front door on a regular basis consider extending the garden bed on both sides of the walkway. That way you walk through the garden everyday!

    As for plants to completely hide the foundation I'll give it some more thought...Yes, that smell is me burning out the last of my brain cells. LOL

  5. Thanks to all of you for your suggestions. I really appreciate them.

    Kerri. I'll check out Nan's site. Snow showers today :(

    Kathy - Thanks for the link to your Endless Summer post. I'll look at Pinky Winky. The house actually faces NNW so the far end gets just a little late day sun. Mock orange is doable and I'll be looking up your other suggestions.

    I agree with you Wiseacre, my purple buddleias do look ratty. But my pink one is very full and pretty. I don't know if it would fill out as well in the shade or not. The main advantage for me would be that it was free.

    Adding more curves is in the plan but I don't want to make the beds too large yet - larger beds require more plants. I still have to buy plants for out back (where we spend our time) and I haven't done anything on one side yet. If I had a truck I could get lots of good stuff but that's not in the budget this year either :(

    CJ - "Back door guests I like the best!" and to get to my back door you have to walk through the butterfly garden. It can take me several minutes to get from the car to the door. A front path and more beds are probably years away.

  6. By all means concentrate on the back yard where you spend your time.

    Instead of extending and making larger beds out front - plant the shrubs in an island bed until you can grow into them keeping in mind the final shape and curves of the future bed.

    Or consider creating a 'shrubbery' even farther out that will stand on it's own.

  7. Maybe you could try some fast growing annual vines started from seed? It looks like you're making very good progress with your landscaping - you've got some very nice plants put in.

  8. I have been thinking about your front garden for a few days now. I poured over my gardening books for ideas and you already have many of the plants they suggested. I do like Wiseacre's idea of curving out the beds, you wouldn't need to expand them a lot to change the look a bit. I found a photo that combines large ferns, hostas and pink caladium that I loved! You are sort of on that route already. I think the larger ferns and hostas would cover the cement portion of the house. I would paint the trelises brown but that's just me. You could also add a bit of color with a flat of impatiens and a few geraniums. Maybe two or three mounds that full... I was thinking pink to accent the caladiums and pink is nice with the brown.