Saturday, July 17, 2010

Softening the Look at the Big House

The house where I spend most of my gardening days was built about ten years ago, and the garden is now reaching that mature point  we all so eagerly anticipate; it is also the point, however, when it's time to seriously edit and remove some things that are no longer working.

The interior of the house has a feel that reflects the owners, in that it is a large, gracious, warm house.  For lack of a better phrase, it has a "country French" feel,  and the back of the house is very open to the gardens. 

Over the course of time, the plants at the front of the house had really outgrown their usefulness, and had begun to look almost oppressive.  From a practical point, the plants were blocking most of the sunlight from the front rooms.  Last fall we decided to start working at making the front beds more indicative of the home's interior; the intent was to make visitors feel they were approaching an established Southern home, specifically softening the edges.

The overgrown arborvitaes (which were at that point tied to the house to keep them from falling over) came out, as did the sheared holly hedge and the Indian hawthorne (HATE that plant!)  We replaced the cornuta holly hedge along the house with the same hedge ("If it works, why change it?"), but replaced the other hedges with Limelight hydrangea and radican gardenia.  In the process, we allowed the sun to shine on the poor camellia that had been living in complete darkness for ten years!

It's always a stretch to put in dormant plants in fall, trying to envision how it will all flush out in the summer, but I couldn't be happier with how they're progressing.  We accomplished exactly what we set out to do, making the entrance warmer, "fluffier" and softer....and the combation of hydrangeas, crape myrtles and gardenias couldn't get much more Southern. 

I probably should have staged these photos from the same spots, but hopefully you'll get the idea.  Here are three "before" shots..... 

Here are some "after"


  1. I don't know what those white plants are but I like them. what a wonderful job you do in this garden.

  2. The white plants are the Limelight hydrangeas (paniculata type). What's great is that they can easily be kept at whatever height you'd like, since they bloom mid-summer on new wood.

  3. You clearly are a multi-talented guy. What a nice creation! Landscape architecture is a mind-boggling craft to me... I only plant in pots! Fantastic job man!

  4. Great landscaping! The hydrangeas are beautiful and I wish mine had as many blooms! Do these get full sun? Mine get early morning sun and shade the rest of the day. Wonder if that has something to do with it. Mine are hydrangea "balimar" endless summer. Then, when are they cut back? So many questions...