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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Hiding boulders with trees and shrubs

Lynn Walsh_LopezJanuary 1, 2013
When the builder built our house, he used all of these massive boulders as a retaining wall. They are to the right of the photo and this wall is 3 feet tall. We have about a 5 feet wide space between the boulders and the driveway. They are so ugly and we can't afford to build a real retaining wall. I would like to plant a couple of ornamental trees and some shrubs to try and cover and hide boulders. We live in Massachusetts so they will have to be able to survive our winters. Any suggestions. Thanks
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Could you plant trailing rosemary on top of the wall and let it grow over? If you can't plant on top, there is also an upright growing rosemary you could plant at the base.
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 8:07AM
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you can soften the look by adding green BETWEEN the boulders. I personally love the way the boulders add character. Not everyone has that. It's that iron fence that could use some softening, perhaps a flowing vine...?
1 Like    Bookmark   Thanked by Lynn Walsh_Lopez    January 1, 2013 at 8:12AM
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Lynn Walsh_Lopez
Thanks for the advice. Gontygirl, I agree about the iron fence. I would love to add a flowing vine. Any suggestions for the Northeast? Pcmom1, will trailing Rosemary survive cold winters?
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 8:20AM
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The boulders are BEAUTIFUL. Much, much prettier and sturdier than "a real retaining wall" they are organic and free flowing. Now, to affirm their beauty what you need is a plan
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You need ornamental grasses, lots of perennials for color, some roses (use knockout they are very easy to care for) in front and behind the iron fence. Also some rock garden plants growing in between the boulders
3 Likes    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 8:25AM
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The best advice about which kinds of plants would be best for your area can be found in your "nurseries" in your area... Take a pic of your front walk way and show it to those people that work at the place. They will give you vine ideas that work for all the seasons you have in your state/province. Find the right person, someone creative and on the same page as you, to help you with ideas and you can't go wrong..I promise. :)
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 8:35AM
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Lynn Walsh_Lopez
Thanks again everyone. It is going to be a long process. We have three acres of land and started with a blank slate. No landscaping was done as you can see from the next picture I will post. I appreciate all of the suggestions and help I can get.
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 8:45AM
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Been there done that (with 30 acres plus...) and it was an interesting experience. We have since down sized and have a whole slew of new challenges, however less expensive and on going...thank goodness! The best advice I can give you for dealing with lots of land and the biggest bang for your buck is too think on a large scale and learn to like ground cover (flowering ones as well like lavender, mint and herbs...). Become an avid gardener yourself (not as hard as it may sound, or time consuming...), get tips from your local nursery and try buying the plant YOUNG so it's cheaper..(if you plan on covering a lot of space with it). Maybe make it a hobby...? I had a friend who built a small green house to help her grow her own...she let me grow a few things too lol). There certainly is a time to purchase matured plants or trees as well, you can consider when you spend a good amount and when not to. Just my opinion... :) Good luck and happy holidays!
1 Like    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 8:54AM
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Can you tell us if it is a sunny or shady spot. Is it dry or wet or well drained? Are you looking for color? Perennials? Shrubs? About how long is the space. Do you know the gardening zone? (BTW I am in zone 4 so I can talk hardy)
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 9:42AM
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Lynn Walsh_Lopez
It's mainly a shaded area after the first morning sun. The soil is not well drained. My husband and I are bringing in fill and soil in the Spring. We plan on grading it so the water drains away from the area. We are in zone 6. I like the idea of planting evergreen shrubs with perennials so that during the winter months the boulders will remain mostly out of sight. I have a tendency to like formal gardens more than wildflowers and grasses.
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 10:37AM
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You might need to get a landscape designer involved. the house and existing structures are much better suited to informal natural landscapes than to formal garden so you might need a professional to get a look you like. that said if they really bother you that much you might be better off replacing the boulders with a retaining wall you like. Just for kicks, the properly landscaped boulders might have a much higher resale value than a wall. they age beautifully, as opposed to a wall. they can do their job regardless of maintenance, as opposed to a wall. It is a very expensive natural retaining wall you have there. that, done new might be in the viccininity of 12K- 15K in the NY area. I am always in favor of going with the style of the house than against, but that is just me. Good luck
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 10:50AM
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I think the boulders are nice, the big area of mulch is what I find unattractive. Plant it up and the boulders will seem to be part of the landscape.

You can try Creeping Juniper or other ground-cover evergreens.

You can also get a creeping Japanese quince. The quince will have flowers and fruit. Or cotoneaster, which will have red berries that last.
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 11:01AM
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I didn't realize those were the boulders in the picture. Those are beautiful! I thought there was some ugly retaining wall out of the shot we were trying to hide!

I would just add some great shrubs and grasses on the right of them. Your best bet is to go to a good local nursery for what works best in your area (but rosemary I believe is pretty darn hardy!).
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 11:40AM
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Check out steppables.com for some stunning ground cover! They have some great ideabooks too!
    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 11:56AM
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I agree completely with Sigrid. The mulched area is too expansive and the right side of the lot could use some balance in general. I envision a subtle, natural meandering-pathway look between the iron fence and retaining wall. Start by removing several of the shrubs "lining" the fence and create a more free-form pattern that mirrors the nooks and crevices created by the rock retaining wall. Choose shrubs with varying heights/widths, leaf structure and color, and plant them at different distances away from the fence. Not sure what zone you are in, but crimson barberry, winter gem and dwarf boxwoods, and golden thread cypress would blend together nicely with the existing shrubbery you have along the house. Intersperse a few perennial plants, ornamental grasses, and flowering vines (Jackmani clematis blooms a beautiful shade of purple-blue if it will survive in your zone) but don't overdo it. You don't want to depart completely from the neat, organized look going on in the rest of the yard. Nestle some permanent shrubs along the top of the retaining wall to anchor the look (be careful to choose varieties with shallow roots that won't interfere with the structural integrity of the wall itself). Perhaps one or two Japanese lace-leaf maples with some creeping juniper and a non-invasive cascading ground cover (vinca vine) planted in between the rocks on the driveway side.
2 Likes    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 1:06PM
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If you want to know what kind of vines would do well in your region...the best bet would be to visit a garden store/nursery. This way you'll have all the options available upon request. Good luck!
    Bookmark   July 7, 2013 at 9:39AM
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