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(TNS)The 10-year-old retirement home we purchased in Virginia Beach, Va., in February is tired and outdated—including the front and backyards. After months of redoing the home’s interior, we focused on the exterior, looking to maximize use and enjoyment and minimize maintenance.

“It’s important to refresh a landscape because, over time, the constant pruning and shearing that plants endure creates an unnatural growth habit that leaves each plant with poor access to light,” says John Ingram, landscape designer for Coastal Landscapes. “This in turn creates interior and ground-level die off.

“A refreshed or new landscape adds curb appeal and is often a deciding factor when choosing a home,” Ingram adds.

We opted for pavers for a side yard walkway and backyard patio, and all new shrubs for the front. Larger-than-life hollies and other non-description shrubs planted 10 years ago hid the house and made it difficult, sometimes impossible, to get out of a vehicle parked on the driveway.

Our goal for the new landscape was twofold: first, we wanted to avoid any possible annual pruning to keep the plants healthy and looking good—a goal accomplished by choosing the right plant for the right place. Second, we wanted a cleaner, simpler landscape look, one that allows our home’s good structure—gabled roof lines, front porch, columns and attractive brick—to be front and center. We chose plants that don’t swallow the house, or block the view of the front door and porch.

We also chose to put no foundation plants on the sides or back of the house—keep-it-simple landscaping that also means the house stays drier and cleaner. Mulch, especially heaping piles of it, and too many, too-large plants invite moisture, mold and insects.

Plants that we selected include:

  • Degroot arborvitae – One of these stately evergreens was placed at each front corner of the house, replacing giant hollies that littered the landscape. The narrow, tall plants reach four to five feet wide and maybe 20 feet tall. The rich green foliage takes on a purple cast in winter.
  • Winter Gem boxwood – Three of these evergreens were placed in front of a bedroom window. The moderate grower will reach four to six feet tall and wide, but I plan to selectively hand prune each so the plants stay at their current size: about two feet wide and three feet tall. Winter Gem’s dense foliage does make it ideal for shearing as an attractive hedge.
  • Gulf Stream nandina – This dwarf form of larger nandina has new growth and fall foliage with small white spring flowers.
  • Mondo grass – These little tufts of a grass-like plant are ideal for groundcovers and spaces where you want a fuss-free plant. The plant also likes growing among pavers in a walkway. We used it as a space-filler in the beds.

©2016 Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
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