After 20 years in our Nashua, NH home, we finally decided to up our game with a renovation of our street-side gardens. In spring 2016, the front foundation beds and "walkway" garden were completely renovated with the help of Bill Parker of Parker Garden Design. Our goal was a low-maintenance garden that would enhance curb appeal and set the stage for the rest of The Big Little Garden!
Our home faces north, so the foundation plantings need to be shade tolerant. Plants just three feet on the other side of the front walkway need to be able to handle full sun. Designing relatively small beds that would "speak" to each other yet survive in completely opposite sunlight conditions challenged me for years. Happily, Bill helped identify the perfect plants for our makeover. Here's a chronology of events as the new beds were installed, with some tweaks made along the way.
Landscape renovation, March, 2016
Bill Parker's proposal included a stacked Goshen stone wall along the front of the house. He felt that the house needed stone materials to help anchor it to the landscape. Initially, we were a bit concerned that such a significant installation would be too much for our small property. But, we put our trust in Bill and his team and are so thankful we did! Bill also helped us realize that the Goshen stone would blend well with our existing walkway pavers which had only been in place for a few short years.
The crew set to work on March 22, battling snow and cold for the first week. To begin, overgrown rhododendrons were removed. A 'Bloodgood' Japanese Maple that we planted way too close to the house 15 years before was relocated a few feet "downhill". A few relatively painless weeks later, we had a gorgeous new stone wall and significantly more room for plant materials (click photos to enlarge):
First Year Plantings, may - june, 2016:
Foundation plantings include our pre-existing, shade tolerant 'Winterthur' Viburnum. This is a lovely specimen and was worth preserving, so we just nudged it slightly to the left to anchor the corner of the planting bed. New specimens include a dwarf Eastern White Pine 'Merrimack', Coppertina Ninebark and the slow growing 'Mikawa Yatsubusa' Japanese maple. Ground covers include Sweet Woodruff and 'Queen Esta' Epimedium.
On the other side of the walkway is the new bed formed with the installation of the stacked Goshen stone wall. Even though it faces north, this garden bed is barely eclipsed by the shade cast by our home, resulting in an entirely different sunny micro-climate. Trees and shrubs are underplanted with sun-loving, low-maintenance succulents, allium, grasses and woolly thyme. I've also tested a couple varieties of carex to accentuate and soften the front of the stone wall. Every year, I change it up a bit, sometimes adding a few unusual annuals.
A primary goal for our new facelift was four season interest. The specimens that lend "bones" to the garden provide that interest in spades: Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis', a 'Gold Spangle Thread’ Cypress, a Harry Lauder Walking Stick 'Red Dragon', and a Jack Pine 'Shoodic'. These and a variety of ornamental grasses lend beauty to the landscape 12 months of the year:
Second year tweaks, summer 2017:
Never content to just let something be, I decided that the front sunny bed presented the perfect opportunity to test my hand with a gravel garden. Instead of mulch, which can look messy and washed out over time, I find the pea gravel to be a worthy alternative - especially when wet. Water wise specimens planted in gravel are super easy care and I love how the gravel makes the plants really "pop". This garden only requires minimal care and maintenance, but offers sustained curb appeal.
In the fall of 2017, dozens of allium, tulip and miniature daffodil bulbs were planted in the gravel garden, and helped usher in a beautiful New Hampshire spring:
The many sedum and grasses have matured and filled in nicely. Even though this bed has underground (or shall I say “under gravel”) irrigation, it rarely needs to be used as plants have been selected for their drought-tolerance.