Landscape Dilemma

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nicobus
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Landscape Dilemma

Postby nicobus » Wed Mar 29, 2006 3:35 pm

Hi All
I am a newbie to this forum, but not a new to MCM design. Low and behold my husband and I just recently bought the closest thing we could find to a MCM in Michigan suburbia. Too many mcmansions to count out here ;)

Anyways, this summer we will be tackling the job of landscaping the front yard, I love the look of modern californian landscaping, but of course with our climate we do not have the luxury of all the tropical plantings. We are in the process of changing the cement stairs and porch in the front to include 4 4'x8' stairs leading to the circular driveway. other than that we're definately in the brainstorming process as to what to do. Any ideas or suggestions would be such a great help! I have included a picture in this post, let me know what you think.

Image

Thanks in advance!
Nicole
Last edited by nicobus on Tue Apr 18, 2006 9:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby SDR » Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:54 pm

Neat, Nicole, and welcome. Is that buff brick on your house ?

I like it. Hope you can replicate the excellent "floating" detail to the risers (and edges) of your new step slabs -- that's a wonderful and valued MCM detail that never fails to bring life to steps and stairs of masonry. . .

The row of smooth boulders (?) could easily be recycled into more interesting formations, at the foundation or further from the house. Or is that your work ?:oops:

Keep us in the loop ! SDR
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Postby nicobus » Wed Mar 29, 2006 9:40 pm


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Postby Joe » Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:33 am

rather than hosting a large front lawn to water and maintain, consider a natural landscape in front. My first thought was to break open the huge space with a dry bed of river rock meandering through it. from there, use dirt to create some elevation in the flat parts. work in some clumps of boulders, asymmetrically, in varied sizes. bigger, the better. keep the large tree, of course.

layer your plantings. Use plants that are natural to your area. this will mean less maintenance. I don't know what can be used in michigan, but I am thinking a mix of rhoadies, azaleas, ferns, mugo pines, and a couple more trees. If I were you, take your hubby to an area near by that sounds similar to what I just mentioned, then recreate it. remember, make it as natural as possible. It will be a nice balance to your home.

While I am not suggesting a japanese garden, do find a book which has a plant list for Japanese gardens. then cross reference with Sunset garden book to find what will work in your climate. there are several different styles of Japanese gardens which natural and aid you in your design.

When I planned my landscape, some things we considered included what the landscape will look like in each of the four seasons, color through the four seasons, house color, and appearence from all sides. Remember, design the landscape for you to view since you'll be looking at it far more than your neighbors.

Do use this board's search engine to find other threads on landscaping, especially books by Thomas Church and Gerrett Eckbo.

good luck

some of my landscape in oregon:
www.barthlow.com/beforeafter

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Postby nicobus » Thu Mar 30, 2006 8:34 pm

Wow, Joe, thanks for the great ideas. Your picts look great, the landscaping is wonderful. I will definately take your advice and explore those ideas. Landscaping is such an artform, I really want to do this right!

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Postby Jamal » Sat Apr 01, 2006 10:07 am

nicobus - good luck - living in michigan you will need it. we just went through this on our house. i am convinced no one knows how to do modern landscaping in michigan. we live in ann arbor. where are you?

we ended up doing a mix of modern square stone tiles in a bed of pea gravel. a PAIN to maintain - but looks awesone when you brush all the pea gravel off the stone. lesson learned - elevate any pavers or stone tiles above the bed of gravel! anyway - we ended up going with a mix of more traditional asian influenced plantings and stone walk ways mixed with a modern square walkways and patios....some pics available at:

http://home.comcast.net/~jhameedi/wsb/h ... html-.html

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Postby nicobus » Sat Apr 01, 2006 11:40 am

Hah! Isn't that the truth!! We can find a million contractors around here trying to shove brick pavers down our throat, but god forbid if they can do anything else!

Your picts looked fantastic. LOVE the house! We looked for months to find something like that in our area...we're out in west Troy, borderline with Bloomfield...not sure if you are familiar with the area. Bloomfield definately has some great modern homes, but the cost was well beyond our means. :) We settled on this one, which we are happy with but it needs a lot of help on the outside :)

You're landscaping looks great, that is exactly the look we are hoping to achieve. If you want anything done modern in Michigan, you have to do it yourself...why do I not live in California?..... ;) We'll need to explore Japanese gardens and books on that, I beginning to see that that will be the route we'll need to go with the type of plants, etc that can even grown in our climate. Hardscaping i get, plant life...that's a whole other ball of wax!

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Postby dentedvw » Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:08 am

Having the same trouble up here in Lansing. Nearly NO modern homes out here that are keeping their modern roots. Little bit at at time, they are being "Home Depotized". It's tough to beat the prices of cheap landscaping stuff at those stores, but even tougher to find good examples of modern landscaping for our climate.
We could start a topic dedicated solely to inspiration for this. :)

We have a large area in the front of our home that is impossible to grow much of anything, due to a large maple tree. I love the tree, so it is staying, but grass is reluctant, and there are wide beds of dirt and leaves against the house. What to do? Wood chips? I wanted to cover it all with a long, low cedar deck, but my wife wants to keep planting stuff there. :cry: A constant battle. Nothing grows, and it continues to look bleak. Hopefully we come up with a solution.

We turned a brick and concrete planter that is on our porch into a water garden, and it contains fish in the warmer months. In fact, she is out getting another batch of fish right now. We got feeder fish last year, and many of them were ill, or were stolen by birds or critters. Getting bigger fish this year. :) So, that took care of one spot, and luckily water plants seem to grow just fine there in the shade. It was also where the pipes came up for the oil tank hidden beneath our porch. It is hiding in a "bunker" you can actually see through a window in the basement. Strange stuff.
I can only give you what I think you said you thought you wanted.

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Postby MoneyPitModern » Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:47 am

Dentedvw, have you looked into either vinca minor (periwinkle) or pachysandra? Both are ground covers, and can be found in evergreen varieties that are hardy in Zone 5, in which I believe Lansing is located. From what I understand, they both do well under maple trees. If your wife wants plants to add some seasonal height above the low-growing ground cover, you can use hostas, lily of the valley, and ferns.

Although these are not the most exotic shade plants, they are pretty reliable, and certainly beat dirt and leaves. Offbeat varieties to provide a good mix of leaf textures and colors could be pleasing, depending on your desired end result. If you want to check out other plants that may work, look for those that grow in dry shade.

Many maples are impossible to grow grass under because the roots grow close to the surface, and the shade is especially dense. You may need to add a couple of inches of soil or decayed mulch above the surface roots to support the new plantings, but be sure to keep it to less than six inches and a foot away from the trunk, so as not to suffocate the tree. Definitely keep your new plants watered until they are established, and don't remove the leaves from under the trees in the fall.

My house has pachysandra directly under a 150 year old oak, and it thrives. An added plus to pachysandra is that deer seem to dislike its flavor, in case they are a problem in your area.

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Re: Landscape Dilemma

Postby hexius » Tue Apr 11, 2006 6:42 am


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You have

Postby modfan » Tue Apr 11, 2006 9:16 am

a lot to work with and very little to undo. Hope the other posts give you some inspiration. Post some after and/or progress pics.

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Postby SDR » Tue Apr 11, 2006 5:18 pm

The floating stair effect is accomplished by recessing the lower part of the riser between steps -- it can be as little as an inch of recess -- leaving a two-and-a-half or three inch upper edge sticking out, and a handsome shadow line below. This is often (not often enough !) done with brick paving and steps; it's also easy and natural to achieve with concrete, by adding a precisely located and levelled strip (2x3, 2x4 ?) on edge, to the form at the bottom of each riser. . .

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Postby hexius » Tue Apr 11, 2006 6:48 pm

I'm actually thinking about getting some stairs done in that style, with nicely squared details (the look of a cut slab) but my worry is that the cement companies out here will be lost when I ask for this sort of detail (wanting to throw a radius on the edge of each pour).

Any suggestions on methods or keywords I should be looking for when dealing with these contractor types?

I'm also interested in a very clean cement, not too rocky or grey... should i be looking for a certian mix or additive for them to be using?

many thanks
-Hex

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Postby SDR » Tue Apr 11, 2006 7:03 pm

Show them a picture of what you want ?
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Postby PacificaModern » Wed Apr 12, 2006 7:58 am

Perhaps something like this? As an idea generator? We cantilevered virtually all of our flatwork. We also finished all the upper edges with a 1/4" radius bullnose. Anything sharper than that would surely end up shearing off!

Image

Note that the finish on the concrete is merely a light acid wash which produces a nice surface, something akin to 1000 grit sandpaper... 8)

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Postby roxy500 » Wed Apr 12, 2006 8:55 am

Pacifica, what do you mean about the bullnose? I don't see it.

I still love your yard. I copied the pics into my "someday front yard" folder. :D

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Postby PacificaModern » Wed Apr 12, 2006 9:35 am

Yep. That's the best thing about it. it's actually hard to notice!

All it means is that the edges are rounded ever so slightly so that there isn't a hard 90 degree sharp corner which would be prone to chipping off. Imagine a circle with a 1/4" radius. That amount of curvature is applied to the exposed edges, "softening" the intersection of the vertical and horizontal planes.

Does that gibberish make any sense?

Regards,
Marty *** ***

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Postby nicobus » Wed Apr 12, 2006 11:50 am

Wow! what a fantastic idea, thanks hexius for getting the talk of floating steps started. I really love the look and my husband and I are aleready looking into changing our porch and create new steps to look like this.

PacificModern, your picture looks fantastic...do you have any others of your home? I love the look of it! I noticed the horestail you have in the planter boxes....how is that working out? I want to incorporate that into our landscaping, but i ahve heard you need to keep it well contained? Have you noticed any unwanted spreading?

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Postby hexius » Wed Apr 12, 2006 11:51 am

wonderful, wonderful. thanks you all. i did have some photos, did show some contractors, but... sometimes i got that look, that ... confused look.. so that's why i asked for keywords and techniques, which is what you all have exactally supplied me with. so yeah, nicobus... this is what i was mentioning :D

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Postby SDR » Wed Apr 12, 2006 1:30 pm

Words, even well-chosen ones like those above, are often not enough to adequately convey a particular idea -- as there are differing vocabularies and experiences. So a visual really is a good idea. . .

PacificaModern's steps are really the ultimate in "floating" or cantilevering. (Were those cast in place ?) Even a far milder version is superior to a dead flat riser with no articulation.

I mentioned nicobus's floating step(s) at the top of the thread because I thought I saw that detail in the house photo. Nicobus, what is the dark line under your first step ? Looks good, whatever it is. . .! Your entrance as a whole is special; I see now that the house must be split level, as the lower window to the right must be down a few steps from the entrance ?

I can understand the need to "do something" at the far right; the louvered wall is a good idea. Have you thought of placng a new tree in front of the wall ?

SDR
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Postby roxy500 » Wed Apr 12, 2006 1:57 pm

Oh - I get it now, Pacifica. Good idea. It would be lame if those steps chipped.

SDR - Good call on planting a new tree. I was going to suggest that.

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Postby Chimay » Wed Apr 12, 2006 2:07 pm

I'll answer the question on horsetail, since I'm familiar with Pacifica's yard and have a lot of the stuff in my yard, too. Unfortunately, it does need to be VERY well contained. Unless it's in a box or pot of some kind, you can pretty much count on it going deep enough to get out eventually. I have my horsetail planted in the ground with a 3-ft. root guard around it to keep it contained and out of the korean grass next to it. But it still managed to get through in one area and has spread to the korean grass. I'm constantly having to lop off the new stalks at the base as they pop up through my grass now.

PacificaModern contained his in very beefy concrete planters, as you can see, but it still managed to escape even in his yard and there was at least one rogue stalk growing up on the other side of the planter wall, last time I saw. But his planter isn't very deep into the ground in the location that it came out.

For more pics of PM's landscaping, check out these links:

http://www.lottaliving.com/bb/viewtopic ... highlight=
http://www.lottaliving.com/bb/viewtopic ... highlight=
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House pics at http://www.flickr.com/photos/88017382@N ... 387250721/

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Postby PacificaModern » Wed Apr 12, 2006 3:46 pm

We like the horsetail, although as Darren mentioned, we did not completely solve the problem of containment. But I think that the look is well worth the fight!
It has matured nicely, since those early photos were taken. Here it is today...
Image

Image

The steps were indeed all cast in place with multiple pours, in answer to SDR's query.

Regards,
Marty

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Postby SDR » Wed Apr 12, 2006 3:53 pm

"I laugh in the face of danger! Then I hide until it goes away." Bender

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Postby Atomic Dixie » Wed Apr 12, 2006 5:35 pm


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Postby nicobus » Wed Apr 12, 2006 5:35 pm


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Postby SDR » Wed Apr 12, 2006 8:11 pm

I have to leave softscape issues and solutions to others -- but I was wondering if a tree alone in front of that beautiful surface of buff brick, would be enough ? Or does a screen wall also provide other functions besides "using up" some of that brick ?

What sort of evergreen would grow at a good pace, and have an interesting horizontal asymmetry ? How about a Japanese maple ? A stand of birch ? Dogwood ? I told you I have to leave this to others. . . :roll:

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Postby Boulder Gal » Fri Apr 21, 2006 2:53 pm

I agree with the comment to consider all 4 seasons. I've used a lot of ornamental grasses and shrubs which have interesting bark/shapes so I get a good look in the winter, too. I've focused a lot more on *texture* and color than on "pretty flowers" (don't really want many flowers myself, truth be told!). If you look at the basic forms in CA modern landscaping, you can find similar shapes, colors, textures in winter hardy plants, if you're creative. A lot of cool stuff can be done with rock, from boulders to cobble to river rock to pea gravel. Consider the shapes of the elements you add... the borders of our lawn and perennial beds in the back are a series of circles and arcs. The vinca under the maple is an excellent idea.

SDR, do you have a good nursery around anywhere? (That's the best way to know what will definitely grow in your climate.) We went to several and took a notepad and our digital camera.

Another thing... Start with your basic shapes... if you're going to move any dirt, if you're going to add any large rock. Then add any trees in. Then shrubs. Then smaller stuff. Pause after each stage and reassess how it's going... the little stuff is much easier to tinker with; moving dirt, trees, and rocks is a lot of work and you don't want to have to redo it.

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Postby nicobus » Tue Jan 30, 2007 6:20 pm

Phew! So this is late in coming....Back last spring I started a topic about my landscape issues and what to do with our newly purchased house. Well it took all spring and some of the summer, but we finally completed the job. I know a few of you expressed interest in seeing it when it was completed, so I thought I would finally post some picts! Thanks for all the great ideas that were given, we definatly used some of them! Hope you enjoy the pictures...I really love this message board and every one on it is so inspirational when it comes to modern home improvement!

Image
Image
Image

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Postby SDR » Tue Jan 30, 2007 9:24 pm

Beautiful ! Your entrance is gorgeous -- the steps and landings and the original doors and windows are just so fine. Congratulations.

It's nice to have a closer look at the house, too -- that brick is lovely. Your plantings will add so much over time.

Welcome back -- SDR
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