Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mid Century Modern Curb Appeal - Spring Plantings

I tell you, it's all in the prepwork. Since we've moved in, we've been dying to get our hands dirty and personalize our landscape with a little MCM style. If only we were in Palm Springs or even Hawaii we'd have an xeriscape-fest and an easy go with chosing super appropriate arid plants that maintain themselves. Instead we're in the Midwest, climate 'transition' zone 8/9 and our soil is a little finicky, and our particular area we are planting is a somewhat sunny, somewhat shady area. Couple this with a husband and wife trying to select plants we BOTH like, this landscaping stuff isn't always the easiest.

The first two years we didn't plant anything, really we just ripped things out. and pondered, and started raising kids, I digress. We finally poured the landscape walls last year, planted a bunch of bulbs at the sunny end, and looked at the very lonely Magnolia, wondering what should keep it company. Along the road of decision making, we were able to narrow down our agreed approach. We wanted a lot of color from spring until frost, we planned to plant geometrically, two square beds in front of the porch and linear lines of plants in front of the studio. Prepping the existing soil was also a task we tackled last fall, tilling and adding plenty of compost and manure.

We started with the 'anchor' plant that will eventually grow to screen the front of the house, Azalea. We picked a sweet pinkish fuscia color and got five of them. In front of the Azalea we went with the tried and true Phlox, along the front wall of the landscape bed, it will eventually cascade over and stay low to allow us to layer to the taller Azalea. A couple weekends ago, we planted these two plants for round 1. Made sure to add some peat moss and compost with the soil on the Azaleas. Both of these plants are early spring bloomers and hold their flowers for around a month, before giving us some green foliage for the remainder of the summer.

In the first few photos some of the flowers of both plants are still hanging around. It's interesting how much the gray of the house becomes a background color to the bright flowers. We're totally going for plush color continuity. One thing to note about our linear approach is it makes it easy to lay the plants out and space them, then time to dig. I always overdig the holes for our plants and mix in some compost and adjacent soil as I plant.

The color of the Azelea is intense, the photo here doesn't do the color justice. Some new growth already kicking in.

We bought 6 flats of creeping Phlox to go along the wall. This Phlox is the same color as the stuff we've had in our gray planter for a few years, proven to do well so we can't go wrong.

End of round 1 ended with a soaking rain chasing
me along planting the Phlox, no worries as the plants were welcomed by a good soaking, finally a little color a greenery.

The width of the front of our house is our reference width to space the plants by, eventually the Azalea will become a hedge along the front of the house. I'm debating shaping them into a giant rectalinear block, I still have time to think about it as it will take several years for them to rise up and mature.

Two weeks later and many trips to the local gardening centers we started round 2 of planting today. After looking at books, researching online, checking stock of desired plants found online we were ready to pull the credit card out. We decided on a couple of flowering annuals, Torenia and Browallia, a dozen of each. Both plants have purpleish flowers that will flower through fall = maximum value + they will mound and fill in.

Having all the dirt prepped and ready makes it easy to plant. Our soil in the planting bed has been referred to as black gold, as it's very soft and potent, ready for plants. The Torenia is a little lower of plant so it goes in front of the taller Browallia. Both are in rows in front of the Azalea filling the gap in front of the bed.

Messing around as work progresses, we can't wait until these flowers really start to take off.

About 45 minutes after unloading the car, the new plants were in ground and watered. Wendy and I cranked out some work quickly while the kids rested. From the street we now have a complete 'green' line in the planting bed. We also planted some Impatients around the Magnolia that will mound and overflow the bed in a couple of months, they start off small.

Here's a view of the linear vision in full effect. Gotta keep everything nice and aligned. Our next step is to plant some ground covering behind the Azalea to cover the remaining blank area. The area is almost full shade so we'll have to look at our options.


  1. thought you might like this:

  2. I am really enjoying your blog, Chris. I had no idea what you were! :)
    I google-imaged azalea to see what the front of your house might look like when mature, and I found this neat blog I thought you and Wendy might enjoy:

    (I've never posted a comment, apparently. I have no idea what "select profile" means, so I picked one....)

  3. looks great! I was wondering which thrift store you found the Lane tables.. I live in the cincinnati area and i love thrifting! :)