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What Would You Put Here?

I have an update on the changes we have slowly been making to the front exterior of our house.  Remember when Ed removed the holly in the front of the house in the fall?  This week, he removed the two holly bushes on the sides of the steps going to our front door?

These hollies were healthy and would be pretty somewhere else in the yard, but by the steps and driveway they are dangerous since the leaves are like sharp knives. We get pricked or cut every time we walk by them, plus when I back up my car, the side of it gets scratched since both the shrubs were planted away from the porch and right against the edge of the driveway.

landscaping-around-exterior-steps

You can’t see it in this old photo I took when we first bought the house, but the hollies were bare in the back. Another reason we didn’t like them. They have probably grown like this since they have been pruned for years to keep the full globe shape you see in the front. Ed has trimmed them, but there is not much we could do about the bare backs that looked really bad when you looked at them when you stood on the porch. I also didn’t like the empty space by the one on the left, so it was time for them to go.

Before and after front entry shrubs removed
Holly Bushes Removed

For the inside of my house, I am full of ideas…on the outside…not so much and that is where I would love to find out what you would do and/or plant in this area? I would love to be able to afford a real Fixer Upper style makeover, but I have to do this on a small DIY budget.  I know I want to add color and have it be low maintenance.

Now that the clouds of spring pollen are gone, I can now proceed with painting the green trim on the front of the house a neutral tan color to coordinate with the brick facade. I plan to start next week. Once I get going, it should not take long.

The Complete Book of Outdoor DIY Projects

I found a lot of doable outdoor DIY inspiration in this book, Outdoor DIY Projects, but nothing that would work for the areas by the front steps.

Fieldstone-garden-wall-that-uses-no-mortar

Seeing many stone projects in the book, though got me to thinking I could create a low stacked stone wall on each side of the steps like I did around flower beds in the yard at my previous house, but not with grey stones…

stacked stone garden walls

…but with stones that are similar to the brick facade of the house.

Ideas for stacked stone retaining walls

I could do this pretty easily and have already been to the stone yard to find the best color stones to use.

Modern house exterior
Photo: Houzz

I really like this look of the stacked wood retaining wall, and the modern vibe this exterior has, but Ed is not sure he wants to remove the brick steps. One reader mentioned to just build over the existing steps. I like this idea and then building a stacked wall of wood or stone across the entire front of the house once the rest of the shrubs are removed.

flat stone garden border

I could also do something really simple like this.

House with shrubs removed

We also have to keep in mind that we really don’t want to cover the air-vents that provide airflow under the house.

Front of house with shrubs reused

Once I get the green trim painted neutral, I may get more ideas and will probably remove the rest of the low hedge in front of the house,but in the meantime, if you have any, please tell me about them in the comments. I really would appreciate reading them. My brain needs some exterior landscaping brainstorming. :-) If it helps, my house faces north and is in Hardiness Zone 8a.

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56 Comments

  1. Since you are not sure what other changes you might make on the future, why don’t you just plant some colorful annuals? You can enjoy them for now and put perennials or bushes in later. Have you considered painting the brick? An off white wash would look great and is very in style!

  2. In a way, I am happy with the wait, as I am getting a much better feel for what I want the exterior to look like. We have pulled out more shrubs and covered the areas with mulch for the summer. We are considering lots of options. get rid of the rest of the shrubs all I see is your roof I want to see your lovely brick.Swift Retaining Walls Atlanta

  3. Hi Diane:
    Where are you on this project ? We need an update and hopefully a photo or two of what shrubs are left.
    I have studied your photos and the inspiration shots. ( When I read a post like this I have to read and imagine until I know what I would do. )
    It may seem odd, but I think the #1 thing to get right is the plant between the door and garage and the size and scale of the steps. I’d spend the big bucks to get the right plant. Some sort of narrow evergreen that won’t outgrow it’s spot. Shape repeating the trees visible from the back. Tieing what is out by the lake to your entrance.
    The builder went cheap and easy on the steps. To really get the big modern look that you like, I think you have to scale up the steps. Maybe in cedar ? The pics you liked were all stone, glass and wood. Currently there is not much wood on the front of the house. Maybe adding square cedar posts to the entrance ? Wrapping the current ceiling and beams in cedar ? Painted wood ?
    If the house were being built today the doors would be french doors with glass similar to the large windows. Any way to recreate that ?
    Plants : I’m all about winter color. Red twig dogwood, heath and heathers as low borders , pieris japonica, nandinia, etc.
    Thanks for all of the work you put in to your blog. It is my “go to” when I don’t know how to DIY something. : )

    1. Hi Christie –

      Thank you for all the great ideas. With the planning of my daughter’s wedding, the exterior updates on the house went to the back burner. Now it is way too hot to do anything. In a way I am happy with the wait, as I am getting a much better feel for what I want the exterior to look like. We have pulled out more shrubs and covered the areas with mulch for the summer. We are considering lots of options. I do know that I want larger steps across the entrance. I also plan to get advise from the local garden centers (there are many in the area) to get recommendations on what is colorful and drought-resistant.

      Thanks for reading my blog.

  4. The two bushes removed is much better…the house looks like it can breathe! I would consider extending the front steps almost to the vents. Draw further emphasis to the porch/front by a few substantial plantings in pots on porch near front door. (Consider indoor/outdoor fake small trees!) and a few colorful annuals. Maybe paint front door. Take out the other long low retangular bush and put some more “organic” shaped bushes/plantings there.

  5. I agree with many who have commented….remove the hedge in the front. It will open every thing up. Dwarf Burning Bush is a great bush that is airy and doesn’t get too big. It changes color in the fall to bright red. I love phlox for in the spring. You love bright and they come in purple and pinks. Peonies are a great choice. I would add a Clematis and trellis too. Those come in many shades of purple too. They bloom all spring and summer. Baskets of Gold are another favorite. Woodland Phlox smell divine and offers an in between height. I think adding color is the way to go which I feel reflex your personality. Add a colorful rug and two planters on either side of the door. I know you’ve said that for the time being you have to keep the door. You could paint it a different color. Now the decision is yours to make. I don’t envy you but maybe through all the comments you can come to a decision that will make you and Ed very happy with low or no maintenance. It will look great after you are done I am sure!! Good Luck!

  6. Hi, Diane! Please consider Encore Azalea “Autumn Debutante”…a beautiful evergreen that blooms from spring to fall. This plant does not grown very tall and would not require much, if any, pruning. The soft pinkish-salmon color would complement your brick.

    There are many nurseries in the Lake Murray/Lexington area offering assistance with planning your landscape, if you purchase. Please look into such a resource.

  7. Wow, so many great suggestions! I agree that all the shrubs across the front need to go. Your home is very linear and I think you need to replant with plants that have an open or “loose” growth habit (no pruned hedges) that will soften all the hard edges. I like ornamental grasses and I LOVE abelias. Training a vine (evergreen) to grow on the brick between the window and door will bring in much needed height. I like the idea of hostas by the front door. I think the stacked stone would be a mistake but making the steps larger would improve the scale and make the front door more inviting. Nothing wrong with the front door just needs paint and “brighter” hardware. Two oversized pots with “tall” plants by the front door will draw the eye to the area. You can always underplant the pots and entry area with annuals for a dose of color. Your best resource is your local nursery (not the big box stores). Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  8. It looks shady. Is it shady all or most of the day? If so, you need plants that love the shade. By the sounds of it, you may want easy care.
    With those couple of things in mind, I’d get a couple of large hostas, like Blue, or one of the variegated types. Be sure they’re the species that will grow huge! They have no prickles to snag you. They’re easy care. They’re always green (bluish or variegated) and many have lovely flowers before they die off for the season.
    For the first couple of seasons, there may be space around the plantings, so get some wave petunias or other annuals to fill in the space until the Hostas reach their full potential.
    If the area is only partial shade, you could also place some Iris bulbs around the Hostas. Irises come in a multitude of colours, bloom early and brighten an area until other plants grow. After the flowers die back, there’s a gorgeous grass like green left for the season, that makes a beautiful backdrop for other plants.
    I love hostas! I also love Irises and refer to them as the poor man’s Orchid, because they look a lot like Orchids to me. Enjoy your gardening adventure!

  9. Diane,

    I would suggest 4-5 widely-spaced Sky Pencil Holly plants up against the brick between the door and windows to create a graphical statement. Your house seems to have a 60s-70s vibe with the windows and doors and I would honor that look in the plants. Hostas for ground cover would make the look very low maintenance and budget friendly. I would use more modern/minimal styled planters for the front entry and anchor the stairs with mid-sized granite spheres placed in the planting beds rather than expand the stairs and mess with the venting. If you decide to replace the windows and doors at some point, none of this landscaping is expensive to re-do.

  10. I’d second the idea of hostas. They are very inexpensive, hardy and very shade tolerant.
    They come in a wide variety of textures and colors.
    We’ve split the one in our front yard into 5 different plants- and it just keeps thriving.

  11. Looking at the last two pictures you posted I saw the existing steps up to your expansive front landing as wimpy. Building steps that stretch across the full length of your landing would make a nice flow to your front door. Potted arrangements of shade loving foliage on either side of the landing for some softening of the rectangle. I also think wooden steps would work. Good luck and I look forward to seeing what you decide, you carry out your ideas very well.

  12. I like August Beauty Gardenias, evergreen, blooms twice, prunes easily so you maintain the size, soft bushes and you cannot beat the scent when blooming. My favorite and we live south of Raleigh. Good Luck on your search.

  13. No advise for plants, but maybe think about painting your front door! I did mine a few months ago and i love it. It was just the pop of color my house needed! I chose turquoise!

  14. Just have to say that I love your home!
    I would go to your local nursery with a picture of your exterior and ask for suggestions for soft, evergreen shrubs that would work in this situation. I’d leave the brick steps-they’re welcoming. Instead, focus the attention on the House by adding drama to your entry. Place two large, glazed ceramic pots on both sides of your door. I think a square shape would look most sophisticated. Fill each one with a beautiful plant. Bring your eye to that gorgeous door!

  15. As someone who purchased a 50s rambler with old, overgrown greenery…and did a complete purge despite extremely small budget to replace…never regretted that decision. Even for starting over with smaller-than-desired plants, within a couple years the visual was much improved, and that was in the short and slow grow seasons of MN. Consider contacting a local tech school or community college which has a landscaping design or horticulture program. Might have students who’ll design for free, or for nominal fee, and have their work overseen by an instructor. Local expertise and, as a DIYer, might be a more ‘interactive’ experience.

  16. I love podocarpus. They are easy to maintain just by trimming periodically and they would provide beautiful tall plants for adding Christmas tree lights.

  17. I’m no expert on outdoor design but here’s my 2 cents worth. I love how on the show Fixer Upper, she always does something special to make the entryway stand out. When I look at the pic of your house, the entrance seems almost hidden away. I would add a lovely kind of wooden trellis up and around that area and then plant either hydrangeas on either side or start a clematis vine on the trellis. You could even build lovely wooden steps to cover up the existing brick steps. I wouldn’t do more brick or stone. Also I agree with others about removing the bushes it’s more a dated look and hides the home. I would also maybe add some wood lattice in the empty space between the front entrance and the far window, see how it looks kind of empty just all brick? Or maybe plant a small decorative tree in that spot.

  18. Oh Diane, your eyes are going to be stressed reading all the many comments, suggestions. You have such an innate talent for knowing just “the right thing”, that once you get the painting finished, the answer will just POP into your creative head! If it needs a little nudge, then take pictures and show them to the folks at a good gardening center. They’ll have great ideas that you can do yourself. Best of luck! My money is on YOU!

  19. Diane, I agree with you on waiting til you finish painting. You will get a whole new look that will brighten things up and give you a better idea of what you want and need. I know you will do a great job! Keep us posted!!!!!!

  20. Are you familiar with Indian Hawthorne? I’m FL & they grow well. They have a white spring bloom & look like a shrub. I know you like white. You could ass annuals (pinks) in front of them. Or a dwarf white crepe myrtle.
    Good luck!

  21. Since I have seen a lot of what you do, I have total faith that you can do this. Research what plants and flowers are for your zone. Pick you favorite colors that will go with the colors on your house. You can get the ones that come back year after year, spread them out and every spring plant different things in between your annuals. Just remember it has to please no one but you and yours.

    P.S. Do a lot of looking before planting. Have a plan. Map out your area on paper with colors you like and see how it fits first.

  22. I agree –get a landscape architect who can come up with the right plantings for the right area…..you can almost always tell when someone hired a design vs design it themselves.

    I know you didnt ask but—the front doors have to go!! They are extremely dated imo. I find the front of your house (the facade) severely lacks curb appeal. The doors and proper landscaping will help.

    Sometimes curb appeal is lacking due to the year the house was built—some years have nicer designs than others.

    Either way you ned to work with what you have with some changes.

    Dont take my comments personally but every time I see the front doors they call out to me–CHANGE!

  23. Hi Diane! Just what you DON’T need- another opinion! Aren’t you sorry you asked? If anything, you must now be more confused than ever. There are some nice ideas here but I don’t think you are going to find your answer here from ‘friends’ who mean well. I like your style- always have. You are clean and classic but with a pop to surprise. Your landscaping out front is as dated as your interior of the whole house was before you slowly worked your magic. The outside needs the same love. No big changes- just work with what you have. No wood steps, no stone walls. You have enough hard surface with all the brick; you need to soften the hardscape with fresh, lush plantings. Don’t worry about picking out the earrings for the outfit you still are working on! I’m sorry to have too say it-but the old shrubs just need to go. It’s like all you did on the inside- some things work and can be redone, some have just lived their life and – – – it’s time to say goodbye. Get rid of the old overgrown shrubs. Anything new you do will just overemphasize that they are way past their prime. I recognize it seems wasteful to just throw them away because they are still alive and I know that is important to you not to be wasteful, but really take a good look at your pics- just because they are green and alive doesn’t mean they look as good as they could. Look at your inspiration pics- they are appealing to you because they show thought and planning and attention. I personally would rather have nothing at all – just clean weed free mulched beds – and work slowly with a plan than try to work around those old overgrown plants. You got some great ideas here, but I do think you should consult with a local landscape architect to get an overall plan of what to plant where by a professional who knows what works in your environment. Half of this plan is coming upward with a nice looking plan for immediate gratification, but the other half- the important part- is coming up with a plan that WORKS for you to maintain it so it continues look great and enhance your home. We are do-it-yourselfers too and when we first moved into our home in South Florida (and knew nothing about the extreme gardening conditions here) we talked to landscape architects until we found one that was reasonably priced for a plan and was willing to work with us to create a plan we could implement over time. He drew up the plan and over years we did the plantings ourselves as budget allowed. It was like following a map and so easy to do! That is the only way to go! You have to have a master plan and if you don’t it will always look like piece meal. You will still spend the same money on no plan (maybe more with ‘mistakes’ that end up not giving you the punch you need, not to mention that they might just die because it was he wrong choice) as you will with a plan in hand. You saved so much on the inside by doing it all yourself. You can do this for the outside too! Just get some expert advice and you’ll be on your way. You don’t need someone to dig holes for you! If you can redo a kitchen you can redo your yard! Not to sound like HD, but YOU CAN DO THIS!

  24. My suggestion, since this is your forever home, is to hire a professional landscape architect who is familiar with plants in your area and have a comprehensive design plan designed. I’ve done this before and it wasn’t super expensive. He designed it so that I could add to it in stages, either DIY or by hiring someone to do it for me. Whatever you do, I’m sure it’s going to look great and I can’t wait to see it!

  25. I don’t really have plants to suggest since I kill anything green unfortunately, but I do have a suggestion or two. I didn’t have time to read all the suggestions here, so I hope I am not repeating anyone. First, as I see some suggested, continue to rip out all of those hedges to lighten up the space. I’d plant one lovely Japanese maple under the window, flatten out the entire area across the front, and put black mulch everywhere. Then, in front of each of those vents and in the interest of savings, I’d get two 24×24 patio stones and inset them level with the mulch then get two large urns and do plantings in them – that way you can change them up seasonally. I’d set some lights into the mulch to light up the Japanese maple at night and light the walkway. The biggest issue I have, and it could just be the angle of the pics, but those stairs look hazardous. Again, to save money, and since Ed is a great DIY’er on the building side of things, build two long wider stairs in wood across the front ending just before those air vents (you wouldn’t even have to remove the brick stairs underneath them). Stain the stairs the same as your front door. Since there are only two stairs (as there are now), no need for railings, but the two large urns (and maybe a couple smaller ones on the edges of the new stairs) would welcome your guests a lot more than those small brick stairs you have now. My two cents for what it’s worth. Oh, if the black mulch one maple and planters are not enough, then just add in a few easy to care for low lying grasses in there.

    1. I really like your ideas. I can picture it and think it goes with the look of the house. Also, I have read the other suggestions and some have forgotten that she is working on a budget or are getting way ahead of the project at hand. I should send YOU photos of MY list of updates I want to do around our house :)

      1. Ha! Thank you. I actually do it for friends and family all the time. I’ll walk into someone’s home and they’ll see my eyes darting around and know I’m up to something. My suggestions could be as easy as moving some furniture to better the layout, adding artwork, painting a wall, or a full reno …. I’ve reno’d my own home top to bottom and love teaching my daughters that you don’t have to be male to own and love power tools (I work in a law firm by day, and reno my home on a tiny budget by night).

  26. With the idea that you need to keep the air vents open, have you considered putting in a low-growing perennial “flower”? I’m not sure which planting zone you’re in but maybe something “neutral” colored and quite lovely and soft like Lamb’s Ears. They will grow almost anywhere. :-) Average height is about 6″ – 3 ft tall.

    Here’s an excerpt from a website about them. “It’s hardy in USDA plant hardiness zones 4-9, and the plant’s Middle East origins make it superb for growing in drought-like conditions. In fact, lamb’s ear plants are tolerant enough to grow almost anywhere. The plant should be grown in full sun or partial shade. Although lamb’s ear can tolerate the poorest of soils, it should always be well-draining as the plant dislikes overly moist soil. This is especially true of shady areas.”

    They have small flowers but it’s really their so-soft-to-the-touch “ears” (the silvery gray foliage) that make them so desired.

    Read more here: https://www.bhg.com/gardening/plant-dictionary/perennial/betony/

    Good luck! Cannot wait to see what you plant :-)

  27. Wow. The readers have shared some great thoughts. Personally, I would just do some lovely annuals or perennials for color. Depending on how much sun this gets, it’s hard to know what to go with. For lots of sun, shasta daisies will multiply like crazy and their white color would be a great bright backdrop to a smaller more colorful plant in the front. Begonias love sun. Gerbers have lots of pretty colors. Vinca is simple to grow and comes in great color choices. If you have more shade, impatiens are great for some color. I think I would head to the nursery to see what appeals. These choices wouldn’t be as expensive as a shrub and could be moved later if you changed your mind. Also, being in the south you can get some hibiscus in several lovely colors.

  28. I agree with previous comments, remove the row of existing shrubs, mulch and add urns to the porch. You didn’t ask, how about some type of shutters that match the style of your home? And of course a beautiful Japanese maple!

  29. Hi Diane!
    I love Hydrangeas and Boxwoods!
    Boxwoods are resilient and are pretty much low maintenance. Just a little pruning here and there. Hydrangeas Classic and timeless!!
    Enjoy the Lake! We are finally going to our Lakehouse in a week!!
    Oh yes for gardening of Boxwoods and ideas follow Potager on instagram! Linda Vater is amazing!

  30. Good Morning, I think I would remove all shrubs and mulch it and put either Japanese maple or crepe Myrtle on the end. Then I would get a large rug to put on the porch with a colorful one at the door and treat this like outdoor room than when someone comes by you can sit but, not necessary come into the house. I think it would be perfect place on rainy day. Put to large pots that is more contemporary at the top of steps. then maybe you have some hosta u can divide and put at the bottom and just seasonal flowers with a pop of color. I would also add maybe put large light fixture from ceiling, if u can not wire one maybe you could put solar lights in it to give a little light at night. Without the added electricity cost. Remember you want inviting but with the lake view you will probably not want to spend a lot of time with a lot of upkeep. Now I wish I.could come with plan for the front of my house. We took all the bushes out and I have crepe myrtles on the end on house and a 40 foot front porch that empty. Will be interested in what you decide on.

  31. First of all I would take out all the old plants including the ones in front of the drive. Open the yard up. If I couldn’t do that right now I would cut everything back to about 12 in. When all that stuff is not there you will be able to see potential better. I bet you can find someone in the area who would come out and talk to you about what to do and plant that would best enhance your house and yard. Plants are too expensive to just go willie Nillie. Look in the local paper or city magazine or ask at an independent nursery/garden center. It’s usually not more than a couple hundred dollars and they help you with the work or sell you plants they will usually take the consultation fee off with credit.

    Little lime hydrangeas would look lovely in front of the drive and they bloom all summer. I would use 2 BIG pots on either side of the steps and fill in around with ground cover, annuals or just mulch. Forget about the wall planters You don’t have enough room or height here. IMHO.

  32. Tell Ed to keep going and take out the rest of the old shrubs in front. the next one in line doesn’t look very nice from the side. Looks like in a few years you will have to do it any way. I would take it all out down to the corner of the house and then put in some type of flowering tree on the corner of the bed to soften and give height to the corner and then you will have a clean slate out front to work with. Good luck!

  33. Fabulous comments from everyone. All I have is a plea not to put those stones round your borders. The pictires of the flat stones? In UK this was known as dog grave and pastry cutter school of gardening. Also snakes like hiding under stones so I am always wary. You will make the right decision and have fun too. Good luck and looking forward to seeing it,

  34. I love ostrich fern (https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/foliage/ostrich-fern/growing-ostrich-ferns.htm). It pairs well with the aforementioned hosta and other shade plants. It has a modern striking look to it. It also requires very little care(at least in my circumstance, I find these things vary much more than planting guides) and best of all no trimming or any other maintenance once established. I also think ferns impart a feeling of coolness…if that makes sense. Good luck and whatever you do I’m sure it will be lovely! Your taste level is never questionable!
    p.s. a new Ina Garten book is coming in the Fall…when in doubt, WWID? lol :).

  35. Hi Diane ~ Love your blog and always come away with inspiration or clever ideas or both. Regarding your landscaping question, to me the entryway/porch/patio is where you start. It’s your “wow” on a mid century modern style house such as yours and the front beds need to be integrated with the front door area. You are blessed to have a good chunk of space up there but large spaces can be tempting to fluff up with too many little goodies. When you look at that area try to step back and see it as a whole “experience”. I think that taller “skinny” planters (more modern than the urn) would look great on either side of the door with tall bamboo in them. It will create some depth and dimension and also go nicely with the mid century modern vibe of your new home. Tall and Skinny like the bamboo will create some interest without interfering with ingress and egress. Then on the porch, at the top of the steps on either side ~ get two companion statues, something that suits your family’s style. On a home of this design, foo dogs are actually timeless, not trendy. or you could use smaller planted urns/pots. But with all that greenery in the beds, you don’t necessarily “need” something planted here. But you do NEED something here for depth. Whether you do the wood accents now or later, you can plant en masse, african iris in the front bed area. It will allow the vents to get the circulation but still camouflage them somewhat, it will create height and interest (not an “even” edge like a shrub which makes more boxiness) and it’s a style that speaks a bit to your style, but it will still complement the facade of this home nicely. Since you like the wood look, maybe some brackets/corbel type accents on either side of the porch at the front/roofline area (if that makes sense). Not cottage or victorian corbels, but mid century design. That type of architectural feature would also help integrate the porch and the beds. And I hate to say this because I believe they are recently new ones, the light fixtures need to be more substantial. If you really wanted to up the ante at the entryway, you could have can lights installed overhead on either side of the door, creating a type of accent/spotlight over the planters that will flank the door. And then larger and more contemporary sconces or light fixtures in place of the current ones. It seems the general consensus is to pull out the aging shrubs completely, and I agree. With a courtyard style/circular drive garage entrance, all real opportunity for “landscape” is right here at the entry way and front beds. You could bring some more height to the far right end of the house with a japanese maple or something else commonly used with this style home and do away with the globes since apparently the sun doesn’t hit in a way that works best for globed shrubbery. My personal style is more like your former home so if this were my new forever home, I would need to scour the internet to see what looks I like that go with this more modern style. And as I mentioned, something like African Iris will soften the edges and speaks more to your natural style from before. They’re less messy than agapanthus though that would also work (flowers are usually white on the African Iris which will work well with your brick, but they do come in soft yellow also). Creating layers and interest at your entrance will elevate the front, the same way your reno on the back elevated the entire back facade. Can’t wait to see your updates and how you decide to Dianify the space. Best of Luck ~ Terri PS: If there are other neighborhoods in your area that boast mid century modern design homes, you could drive them and see what inspires you. Sometimes seeing what you DON’T like, helps you determine what you do want to use.

  36. I like a minimalist look. After checking with your nursery for possible plants for your area I would plant just a few and get a decorative large rock (like Japanese gardens) and mulch all around everything to retain the moisture and also cover up the bare dirt. Also, what looks nice is mounding the dirt so it’s not all level. One of the other comments suggest a landscape architect which would be fabulous but that can be iffy and expensive. I’ve found that many top nurseries help you design spaces and it’s all free. Good luck. I’ll be anxious to see what you come up with–you’re very creative so I’m sure it will be exceptional.

  37. The entrance needs a pop of color. I have two tall square vase planters in a stacked pebble design, one on either side of my front door. I painted them a dark brown and worked in a little burgundy and tan, for a soft and subtle textured look. With your brick, you could probably use a pair of large urns in a neutral color, nothing dark. I filled mine with bright orange fuchsia for height, a burgundy/pink cordyalis for filler, some dark red nicotiana, impatiens in magenta and orange for drama, a small leaf euphorbia with tiny white blossoms for a hit of light, and a spiller of lime green, either sweet potato vine, creeping jenny, or lime lamium. All like shade.
    I pack them in, cheek by jowl, as small plants with good potting soil and the first year they were stunning. As some of the plants outgrow the pot, I move them to beds with similar conditions or to their own pots. I replace only the plants that need replacing and I change them as I find new things at the nursery. I added a lantern filled with succulents on one side and a bowl of succulents on the other, both of which I tuck into a protected area in the winter.
    I add a touch of those colors in the beds near the entrance. Orange Rocket barberry tucked in as a shrub near a phormiun in reds, golds and greens. All are hardy for my zone but you can check for your zone. Shrubs with great color to break up the green and add texture that create a flow in the landscape and not a patchwork. The effect is to draw the eye to the entrance but also to carry the color in small increments across the yard, as bits of color draw your eye through a painting.
    I do love your photo of the contemporary home. Can you not just deck over the porch and steps and extend the width of the steps? I’d replace the long hedges, too, to get rid of the sharp edges and uniformity and soften the whole look. You can do it in stages. Also, smaller plants grow faster than large ones the first couple of years : )

  38. All the shrubs need to go. Since this is your forever house, hire a landscape designer to come up with a couple of plans that will include irrigation and lighting. Then you can decide to have them do it or you can do it over time but you will have a plan. I’m the same, DIane, inside I’m fine, outside not so much.

  39. Needing a little more information. Which direction does the front of your home face? Do you water by hand or is there a sprinkler system? Is this area in sun, shade, part shade? Do you prefer evergreen planting’s or flowering plants? If flowers are preferred, any favorite colors?

    I think there’s lots of potential. I agree with others suggestions to use planters/ urns to soften the brick. You may want to consider removing the rest of the large hedge to open up and allow the front of your lovely home to breathe. You could then do a cohesive low level planting across the entire front facade.

  40. Hi Diane, I live in Australia and have been following your blogging since before you left the old place. I love all the ideas you have and love seeing the transformation of your new place. How about a beautiful Japanese weeping maple each side – a bit expensive for a large one (at least in Australia they are) but they soon grow if you buy a couple of smaller ones – they love the shade and will give you room to place a couple of rocks maybe and some smaller ground cover like cyclamen which also love the shade.
    https://i.pinimg.com/originals/27/ba/50/27ba505142d79084761fea7f0d698f30.jpg

  41. If you like the idea of a stacked stone or wood retaining wall to make a planting area then I would also take out the other large hedges that look like they go to the end of the house. This would give a nice long area to plant in and really unify the front of the house. The hedges, are older foundation planting’s that really have a 10-15 year lifespan before they get too woody and start getting bare areas.
    As far as what to plant there, I would need to know what direction your house faces. Are there any colors that you would not want to see in your landscape?

    I think this could be a beautiful new area for your house to really shine!

  42. Diane, I would soften the porch on a budget with a pretty Welcome mat, some cute chairs and planters. I tend to buy annuals for my planters, but spend $ on the perennials. I also love hostas as the other gal mentioned… they are hardy, easy to grow, tons of options and you can divide them every few years. This fall plant some bulbs that will great you next spring. Peonies are another favorite of mine that is a perennial that can be divided. Cover the ground with mulch to make it all look neat and tidy. I personally love dark brown because it makes the green items really pop.

  43. Since the edges are different in the front next to the walkway, I think planters/urns on top of stones or chips would be good. Also the side of the hedge is bare after the holly was removed. Ask at a garden shop should you feed the hedge? I think the neutral paint on the trim will make a big different. Your home looks so nice.
    Smiles

  44. Hi Diane, I’d put in some Star Jasmine. Are you familiar with it? It’s a ground cover with small, white, star-shaped flowers. It’s easy to grow and has a wonderful fragrance.

  45. Diane, I immediately thought of 3 options to suggest. All of them would soften the entrance, be very low maintenance, and come back better each year. I do not know which direction the front faces but: Option 1) Lavender – Full sun, smells wonderful, adds a bit of natural beautiful color; 2) Little Honey Dwarf Fountain Grass (Cesped De Fuente Miel Pequena) these are beautiful, naturally mounding, often used next to water, 6+ hrs of sun; 3) Ice Dance Sedge (Carex morrowii) these have showy green leaves (blades) edged in white, they naturally spread and that area would soon be filled in with low soft, beautiful foliage, part sun/likes morning sunlight. I have all 3 of these in our landscape and they are gorgeous! I am all for low maintenance, softening the landscape, and interesting foliage/leaves. Have fun deciding. Can’t wait to see your painting!

    1. I’m voting with Barb here. My immediate thought was some kind of grassy plant to soften the area, yet doesn’t grow very tall, keeping that open feeling to your porch. Hydrangeas as mentioned by someone definitely grow way too tall for this area. The Ice Dance Sedge is a good choice, or take a peek at All Gold Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’) for a beautiful jolt of bright color. https://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/1206/all-gold-japanese-forest-grass/ A few plants would be all you need, keep it simple. No need to add stone walls or wooden steps, you have all the hardscaping you need! You could also center a large ceramic planter on the porch on each side of the steps for impact if you felt it necessary. A bold colored planter would definitely add interest and color. I know you’ll come up with something beautiful.

  46. Since this area is shaded I’d suggest hostas in the beds. Low maintenance and they will come back year after year, plus they won’t block the air vents but will fill in next to the steps. Then do two big planters on either side of the door with ferns, another shade loving plant. Add a couple rocking chairs, or a bench or swing and keep it simple.