Where to begin? When you move into a brand new house that is
surrounded by nothing but an expanse of curling, just-laid sod or,
even worse, rutted mud and construction debris, it can be hard to
decide on the plants that will create your ideal landscape.
For some, there is a temptation to do a rush job in order to make the
house look more like a home, digging beds almost at random and filling
them with just about anything green. For others, the task is too
overwhelming to contemplate and the landscape is pretty much left to
The best solution, however, lies somewhere in between. Here are
questions from two brand new home owners who are faced with this
QUESTION: "Our house was just built; in fact it is still being
finished up. It has a small front yard and wet lands in the back.
We're looking for something to spruce up the front lawn / patio area.
Right now, there is nothing on the property so this will be a fresh
start. I have attached 2 pictures of the house so you can see and
maybe give me some idea of what I can do.
"Right now, the only thing I have in my mind would be a Japanese dwarf
maple and maybe golden mops with barberry shrubs. The only reason I
chose those was because of the burgundy color roof. The house itself
is more of the khaki brown color.
"I have been racking my brain with this all week as to what I can do.
I have no idea about planting so I feel I need something that requires
little or low maintenance." -- Sharon
ANSWER: From the photos you sent me, as a first step, I would
recommend foundation plants or anchor plants on the corners. I would
go with evergreens like arborvitae or holly.
I would also suggest Bamboo Green Panda. It will grow to a height of
about 8 feet with deep green leaves and orange-red sheaths. Green
Panda is a fargesia or "non-running" variety which means it is non-
invasive and does not need to be contained. Another benefit is that
Green Panda is fast-growing so you won't have to wait long to get that
"established" feel on your new landscape. We have this bamboo
ourselves and have found it to be very easy to maintain.
You might want to take a look at some of the new dwarf Crape Myrtles
like Pocomoke or Chickasaw to line the driveway or plant in front of
the house. Some crimson pygmy Barberry shrubs would add some low-
maintenance color, too.
I would get these first and then stand back and a take another look.
Landscaping is a work in progress. I have found the best way is to
plant a few plants, mulch them in, get grass going and then add as
The next question was fielded by my wife Cheryl.
QUESTION: "This is the first house we've owned. Our back yard is
needing some help to look better. We want to improve our yard little
by little, so what's a perennial that would add some color to our
yard?" -- Dick and Mel
ANSWER: The first thing that you should do is just live in your new
home and enjoy it over the first year or so to begin planning your
ideas of how you will be using your property on a long term basis.
You might not want to go to a large expense to add color to your
landscape at this time as you may end up only changing the area. Using
annuals, perennials and ornamental grasses grown in containers can
brighten up your deck or patio areas. Specific varieties will depend
on the amount of sunlight in your yard area.
As you and your family begin enjoying your new home, make drawings and
notes about the different ways the property seems to be developing
itself for use. As you do this the landscape will come into being,
becoming easier to narrow down to trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses
and other perennials.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org