Thinking outside the Ilex

Before the housing market crash and subsequent bale-out, developments were popping up like a bad million dollars…that cliche use to reference a penny but, well, need I say more?

With this mass development, came mass market and appeal…they were building, because people were buying, and they will build again.  This happens.  But do the gardens all have to look alike?  I think not.

Gardening With Confidence was called in to help with this:

The problem

The problem

There are 15 hollies spaced every 3 feet…I couldn’t get them all in the photo.  Imagine the creativity involved in creating this space.  I shouldn’t joke; this is bad enough as it is.  But it got worse when my client tells the whole story.  She tells me that she was the first to buy this house; even before it was complete allowing her to have some input inside and out.  When it came to the huge side, she was at a loss as to what to suggest.  So, she told the landscaper to, “Use their creativity and design something with broad appeal.”

She learned a lesson that day, one man’s creativity, is this womens row of identical Ilex.

All tidy in a neat row. That's my truck, Cosmos, at the top

All tidy in a neat row. That my truck, Cosmo, at the top

My job is to make this row of hollies more interesting, but I can’t go outside the lines or cover the window, and she wants input in the plant selection.  Can you blame her?

Once we sort this out, I will show you a post photo of the redo.  I’m afraid, it wouldn’t be what I could do with this space.  She is a little afraid to rock the boat with anything too interesting.  She has a point, anything interesting will not go unnoticed since near as I can tell, 90% of this entire half million plus dollar per home develeopment has a choice of 3 hollies.

If only she called me in from the beginning…




  1. AnnA said

    This is something I complain about non-stop. They got the hollies cheap, they charged her per pot to plant them, and they didn’t have to use their brain. I’m thinking keep them trimmed and plant some type of low growing dark purplish evergreen between every three–take some out…. I think there is a loropetalum that is short–or the new crepe myrtles?? that are small. An espaliered pyracantha would love it there. Big maintenance though during the summer. Pencil Hollies? It needs height. You really are stuck with patterns….good grief! She sure should have called your first. I’ll look forward to seeing what you do.

  2. Hey AnnA, I could probably could have just posted the photo, a picture says a thousand words. Yes, good choices I like the loropetalum, CM and sky pencil holly. I also wanted to put a climbing fig up the side, but she thought that would be too non-conforming. I’m thinking the same thing, every third, and change out a new set of three. I need some movement though. Either give me a straight edge or allow me to add a curvilinear line to the side of the bed. She would have to get approval. As if anything we do wouldn’t be an imporvement. H.

  3. This reminds me of HOA/ARB requirements: must have foundation plants on all sides of the house. I understand the burn-out from house building and all the decisions, having built three houses. Between the emotional drain and the budget drain, it’s easy to just say “whatever” and get on with one’s life at that point.

    That said, I actually think it’s a good thing to let everything settle down before creating a real garden out of the foundation plantings. Perspective of using the house and land is better understood after living there awhile.

    So, while it seems stark…I understand how this happens. At least now the homeowner is ready for a beautiful garden in that space.


  4. The obvious problem with this space is the identical row of hollies. What is not so obvious is the bed edge is the property line. The open land next to the bed is an easement to allows people to access the “lake.” The first thing we will try to do is work with the HOA to allow us to curve the line. We have two reasons to want to do this. The first being to improve the overall look and two to be able to move the plantings away for the house (we don’t want these soon to be monster hollies growing so close to the foundation) and then recommend plantings to offer year round appeal without being all evergreen or one species. And if we can have them ante up or reimburse us for the hollies we don’t use, all the better.

  5. So what plants did you decide to go with?

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