Landscape or DIY

Old 04-05-09, 09:16 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: NJ
Posts: 446
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Landscape or DIY

We have an oval island on our front lawn approx 500 sq feet where we want to do some planting. We were thinking about 6 - 8 pretty plants spread out evenly that grow well with less maintenance. Next, we plan to mulch the whole island after planting. We are trying to determine if it is better for us to do it ourselves or hire a landscaper. We dont have a truck to get all the mulch so we will have to order it. I dont know if those plants would fit in my toyota camry either. I am a newbie to this so how much are we looking to spend on this job?
Old 04-05-09, 09:46 AM
Gunguy45's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 19,281
Received 6 Upvotes on 6 Posts
If you have a garden center nearby that sells bulk mulch and soil, you could have it and the plants delivered. They could also help with selection of plants and techniques. Take pictures and drawings with you, plus info on location, amount of sun exposure..etc.

You would need a tarp for them to dump the mulch in the driveway, don't set it directly on the concrete unless you like big brown stains. Then wheelbarrow it to the island.

You won't find this kind of thing at a BigBox would have to be a full service garden center or nursery.
Old 04-05-09, 12:46 PM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Michigan
Posts: 338
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
being them a picture with some dimensions and get a couple of prices. Less expensive is not always best, as with every hired out service, nor is the most expensive always the best. Use some solid judgement when picking your landscaper.
Old 04-05-09, 05:12 PM
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Maryland zone 7
Posts: 1,654
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Hi MikeyBoy,

It's impossible to give you an idea as I have no clue as to what you are planting. Are you going to plant shrubs or flowers? If they are flowers are they going to be annuals that will give you color all season long and need to be replanted every year, or perennials with a long bloom time? If what you plant will expand to cover most of the soil then you won't need as much mulch.

If you want plant suggestions it would be most helpful to know:

1. What state do you live in?

2. What is your plant hardiness zone? If you don't know you can use this zip code zone finder.
ZIP Code to USDA Zone Finder

3. What are the sun conditions?
Full sun is direct sun of 6 hours or more
Part sun is 4 to 6 hours
Part shade is 2 to 4 hours
Shade is 2 hours or less

4. If you want shrubs do you want evergreen and/or flowering (what color flowers?) and how tall do you want these shrubs to grow? Knowing the actual dimensions of the bed will help with selection for mature width of the shrubs.

5. What are the actual dimensions of the planting bed?

6. If you want flowers, any particular colors?

7. What type of soil ie: sandy, clay, mix of loam, etc? Most planting beds are best amended with organics such as compost. A 4" layer of compost mixed into the soil will make your plants much happier and they will be better able to withstand drought, pests and diseases.

A picture or two would be most helpful as 500 sq ft could be 10' x 50' or any combination of measurements.

You will probably need to put down 2" to 3" of mulch. Here's a compost calculator and a mulch calculator.
Mulch Calculator
Compost Calculator

If you make your purchase at a reputable garden nursery or garden center, not a big box store, they will often help with design at no charge. They will also do the planting and mulching at a cost of about the same amount you spend on your plants/shrubs. If you plant yourself I would think you could easily get 6 potted perennial plants in 1 gallon containers or 3 or 4 shrubs in 3 gallon containers in the trunk of your Toyota.

If you decide to plant yourself, I can give you sites that show how to plant.


Last edited by Newt; 04-06-09 at 07:18 PM.
Old 04-06-09, 02:07 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: NJ
Posts: 446
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Thanks Newt for the great advice.

I live in NJ in Zone 6. The oval island is part shade/sun more shade than sun. There are 4 oak trees in this island as well.

My wife and I both want to plant shrubs that require little to no maintenance. We dont want any plants that need replanting each season. We have two other smaller beds that my wife plants her annual flowers in. Also, shrubs that deer wont eat would be good.

My wife likes pretty pink, yellow flowers. She does not know much about the different kinds of shrubs but pretty colors is what she likes. We would not mind shrubs that would spread out a little so we dont have to plant so much in this area.

For me, I know nothing about shrubs. I am more a lawn person. The only thing I am concerned about is cost.

We really dont have a lot of funds to spend on this so keeping this nice and simple is key. This island is in the front of the house near the street so we would like it to be neat and presentable.

Hopefully, someone can recommend some nice shrubs based on the criteria above that wont cost so much. I was envisioning 3 - 4 shrubs that stand out and 3 - 4 that have a supporting role surrounding them. We plan to go to a garden center nearby this week to take a look.
Old 04-06-09, 07:28 PM
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Maryland zone 7
Posts: 1,654
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
You are so very welcome! If your wife plants flowers and you maintain the lawn, there is no reason that the two of you can't do this. You could even do this in stages, preparing the bed, planting one variety of shrubs and mulching. Next year or in the fall (best time to plant) you can add the rest of the shrubs and/or bulbs to extend the season of color. Bulbs are carefree and, if you select the right ones, will return each year. More on that later. Adding the compost to the planting beds will help to insure the soil makes them happy. Since you are planting shrubs you won't get a second chance to enrich the soil.

Btw, I made a BIG mistake in #7 above and will correct it, but that should read, "Most planting beds are best amended with organics such as compost. A 4" layer of compost mixed into the soil..."

Ok, so now to your shrubs. Considering your hardiness zone, the part sun conditions and your need for them to stay small, your choices will be a bit limited. If you purchase them in smaller containers such as 1 gallon or 3 gallon size, they will quickly catch up with any you might purchase in a larger size. That will save you several dollars. Nurseries transplant in the fall and put the one or two gallon shrubs into the next larger size container. Purchasing the smaller size won't change what you will see in maturity in 2 to 3 years. Since this is the front of the house, I would suggest at least some be evergreen.

If you get 4 to 6 hours of sun you could plant PJM Rhododendrons. They like acidic soil, and with your oak trees, they should be happy as the soil should be acidic. These are a cross between two different types, have smaller leaves then the larger rhodos and tend to stay smaller in size.

If you deadhead your rhodos after bloom each year you will have fuller plants with more blooms. How to deadhead and prune Rhododendrons.

Leucothoe fontanesiana aka drooping Leucothoe aka fetterbush is a native.

Leucothoe axallaris aka coast Leucothoe is also native. There are dwarf varieties.

Leucothoe racemosa aka swamp sweetbells is native to Mass.and gets much larger and tends to form colonies so you may not want that one. It also is NOT evergreen. If you do find one and it's a named cultivar, research it before you purchase. Just mentioning it so you know the differences.

Leucothoe are toxic to livestock such as sheep, goats and cattle so I doubt deer would eat them.

Most Daphne are said to be difficult to grow, but I planted some in my daughter's front garden 4 years ago and they are thriving. She had never been a gardener. They don't like to sit in wet soil. There is a very dwarf variety called Daphne 'Lawrence Crocker' that is said to bloom on and off all season long. You may have to mail order this lovely!

If you get at least a half day of sun on the outer edges of the bed consider evergreen Mountain laurel aka Kalmia latifolia. They like acid soil, good drainage and come in many different cultivars with different colors and plant habits. The species tend to grow large, open and leggy and often have a 'wild' look. There are a few that are dwarf, rounded and compact.

Kalmia latifolia 'Elf'. We planted 3 of these at my daughter's and they too are thriving.

Here's many you can read about. Kalmia latifolia 'Linda' and Kalmia latifolia 'Tiddlywinks' also stay very small.

Camellia is an evergreen shrub that will grow in the shade. I have some on the north side of the house and they never get any direct sun, yet they bloom beautifully in the fall. There are different varieties and cultivars with some that bloom in spring and some that bloom in fall. With your requirements and hardiness zone you won't have too many choices, but you would do best to plant dwarf varieties (most grow VERY slowly) that bloom in early fall before you get hard frosts that will kill the flowers. Finding dwarf varieties for your hardiness zone will be difficult. There are very few dwarf varieties, so you may have to look far and wide for them.

Here's the dwarf Camellia 'Winter's Rose' that blooms in fall with beautiful peony-like pale pink flowers. It was the only one I could find that is a dwarf for your hardiness zone and I searched for over an hour!

I was able to find 4 spring blooming Camellias for your zone BUT they all grow 5' to 8'. They can easily be pruned to keep them smaller and they do grow slowly.
Camellia japonica 'April Dawn'

Camellia japonica 'April Snow'

Camellia japonica 'April Tryst'

Camellia japonica 'Spring's Promise'

Virginia sweetspire aka Itea virginica could also work well and there is even a dwarf variety that I grow. They are NOT evergreen and only come in white flowers, but the white flowers tend to be more obvious in the shade which is when they will be blooming. They stay neat and tidy in an informal way. They are native as well and would do best away from the roots of the trees as they don't like the soil to be too dry. Even though they aren't evergreen, they have lovely fall color and the leaves persist most of the winter in my zone 7 garden. The first one is what I have. The second one stays even smaller.

For any plant material you might order you can check references here and even search by plant material and state.

Here's how to plant and mulch your shrubs. At the second site there are good sketches and info, but I don't agree with some of their fertilizer recommendations.

For ideas for bulbs you should hold on to these sites.

I'm sure I've given you lots to think about, but don't hesitate to ask questions.


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Your question will be posted in: