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Desperate in Des Peres II

Dear Homework,
Several years ago, you gave us much appreciated advice for transforming our front yard into a beautiful English country floral garden. Recently we had to correct some drainage problems in the area and had to remove most of the perennials and evergreens.

We are requesting your assistance again, this time looking for less maintenance, as age is now a factor. A few other considerations: How should we treat the semicircular brick wall, which now has a 6-inch layer of rocks on top of the soil? The area to the right of the door could use something more substantial to outline it, but it can’t be too high because it would impede water runoff. Also, we would like to remove the original yews to the far left in front of the garage.

Thanking you in advance for accepting this challenge.

We are,
—Desperate in Des Peres II

Dear Desperate in Des Peres II,
I easily can understand your desire to minimize the need for time-consuming maintenance, and I also know how frustrating water problems can be. In this case, I assume that the reason you have filled the semicircular brick planter with rock and added drains is that it was holding water and leaking into the house. Since your façade is symmetrical and there is no planter on the opposite side, I would just get rid of it.

Next, I would create a series of ‘stripes’ in the flowerbed. At the edge of the brick walk, plant a foot-wide row of Ajuga ground cover, which has deep purple leaves and in the spring, upright purple flower stems. Adjacent to this, plant a foot-wide strip of Liriope grass. This will grow taller than the Ajuga flowers, and neither will require any maintenance. Next, I would add a 2-foot ‘river’ of Bluestone. This may need occasional weeding, but it gives you a walkable area where you can simply trim a low hedge of boxwoods. Keep the boxwoods about 9 inches tall. Behind this formal edge (where the old planter was), fill in with medium-tall ornamental grasses.

On the Bluestone river, place an urn or two of seasonal flowers that will add a punch of color. Match it exactly on the opposite side of the house to maintain the property’s symmetry. I also would replace most, if not all, of the ‘toadstool’ landscape lights with something less visible. Finally, leave the yews by the garage alone until the rest of the plantings mature, and then just plant new yews and clip them to 30 inches tall.

Hope that helps … again,

Homework is penned by Paul Doerner, founding partner of The Lawrence Group. If you would like your home critiqued, contact us at