Professional Landscape and Garden Photographer J. Paul Moore Nashville, Tennessee
Use these landscape ideas for your porch and home to add both appeal and increase your outdoor
enjoyment. We are honored to have interviewed J. Paul Moore, a professional garden, scenic, nature, and landscape
A self-professed "plant nerd", Paul knows how to achieve not only great looking landscaping but also how
to enhance the appeal of your front porch.
A garden nursery owner for 32 years, Paul's passion is native plants indigenous to Tennessee.
His photos appear in publications like Fine Gardening Magazine, Southern Accents Magazine, and Garden Design Magazine.
Paul states, "Photographing gardens is probably kind of where I got really started and then I got
little more interested into the architectural part of it because I was starting to photograph for
landscape architects and for me that's my favorite topic because it is great plants with inspired architecture".
Rhododendron Canescens (photo by j. paul moore photography)
Not only does Paul share his tips, photos, and landscape ideas for enhancing the look of your front porch and home, but he also suggests
specific plants that are sure to increase the pleasure of being on your porch.
The plants shown in photos or discussed in text work wonderfully around or near porches.
Not all of the plants Paul recommends
may be available nor thrive in your geographical area. However, use his suggestions to confer with landscape professionals
in your area who will be able to make alternative recommendations.
General Porch Landscape Ideas and Considerations
Paul: Keep space between your porch and your landscaping.
I see many porches with shrubs growing right up against them or even extending above
the railings which is not very appealing. By keeping a space between your railings
and your landscaping, you increase your opportunities to plant things beyond that space.
In addition, it is easier to maintain your landscaping when you have access to your plants.
Consider what you are framing with your landscaping.
On front porches, you are going not only for maximum curb appeal
but also for your own enjoyment. For the most part, your landscaping is enjoyed from those looking inward [from the street]
Yellowwood Flowers (photo by j. paul moore photography)
For back porches, the view is more outward. You may need to visually hide your neighbor's garage, basketball hoop,
or shed. So instead of curb appeal you should consider what you want to hide and what you want to view.
Most importantly, bring all those wonderful things you want to experience in nature up closer to the porch
where you can see your humming bird feeder, a beautiful tree that flowers at a certain
time of the year, or to capture fragrant flowers.
Azalea (photo by j. paul moore photography)
Plants don't have to be planted directly in front of your porch to gain the benefits of a fragrance; use the prevailing
winds to your advantage. Have plants that bloom at different times of the year so there's always some wonderful
fragrance wafting in.
Evergreens or Not
Paul: One of the landscape choices to consider is whether you want evergreens or not.
If you are going to have evergreens in addition to deciduous plants, place them closer to the porch to create the
foil or the backdrop for anything you want to plant in front.
Choose flowering shrubs and fragrant plants to go in front of the evergreens. These could be
perennials or annuals. [One of the more important lessons that Paul said he has has learned in all his years in the plant business is to use fragrant flowering plants - especially near the porch.]
Fragrant Rhododendron Austrinum (photo by j. paul moore photography)
An All Green Garden
Mary: What are your thoughts about an all green landscape design?
Paul: Even an all green garden can be beautiful if you have
different shades of greens. You can create visual interest by using an amazing range of colors, foliage, and textures
to create a beautiful display. Some of the most beautiful gardens that I have seen have no flowers at all.
Dave: Using perennials always comes up when discussing landscaping ideas. Mary and I like using perennials - any suggestions?
There can be an over emphasis of planting only perennials. Perennials can be a lot of work and orchestrating all the
bloom times, heights, and when to cut back. You really need an expert to help you figure that out. [Paul prefers using more flowering
shrubs and evergreens as the majority of plants along with ground covers.]
In some cases textures are really more important than the bloom. If choosing perennials the foliage has to be as pretty as the bloom. It doesn't look appealing if the foliage looks like a weed when it is not in bloom so just vary the textures.
Different Planting Situations
Dave: A lot of porches are either going to get full sun or full shade. Or it can be wet or really dry.
What are some ideas that our readers can use for difficult planting areas?
Paul: Well this is one area where natives really shine when you get into areas especially when
they are wet. There are certain native plants that really like what is referred to as wet feet.
One of them is Virginia Sweet Spire (shown below). It is a wonderful native with white fragrant flowers that turn brilliant red
in the fall. It will even grow in standing water.
For beautiful color there is another one called Summersweet [Clethra Alnifolia] as shown below, They are usually white,
sometimes pink, or even light red spiky flowers in the summer that will also grow in standing water. They are also great for attracting butterflies.
There is a plant called sweetshrub [Calycanthus] and it has a ruddy red flower, although there is a variety with green flowers and the blooms smell like juicy fruit gum.
Sweetshrub is also the common name for Carolina allspice. My grandmother used the bloom as a sachet.
A really great plant for a dry shady, semi shady condition is St. John's wort [Hypericum frondosum 'Sunburst'] (as shown below).
It comes different varieties and the shrub form is recommended.
Paul: A very important consideration is if you have deep eaves on your porch. If so, refrain from planting directly beneath them as you are almost guaranteed you would lose your plants.
Pull your plantings out far enough where they will receive natural rainfall. Leave a path behind them for easy accessibility.
Beautiful wisteria (photo by j. paul moore photography)
Water Chains Instead of Downspouts
Paul: I do not have down spouts for two reasons. One, our eaves are large enough that precludes the need for them
and two, they, unless made from copper, are not visually interesting. Instead, I use water chains.
The chain is suspended from the corner and water just goes down the chain.
The chain goes into a decorative container filled with porous lava rock. Planted at the base of that are plants that like the extra moisture. So it is kind of a rain garden.
It's beautiful and fun and it creates a sound as the water goes down the water chain. It is just so much fun to watch.
Mary: What can we do to make walkways more attractive?
If you have a choice in designing the walkway, place it far enough away from the home so as to layer your planting. Avoid
having just a row of shrubs in front of it.
If you have a nice curved walkway or a deeper walkway there is no law that says you
can't cross the walkway. Use landscaping to soften geometric lines.
Mary and I really enjoyed our tour of Paul's native plant garden
Mary: I haven't had much luck with simple things like petunias.
I used to be able to grow petunias really well and in the last few years not so much.
Sometimes I think the hybridizers make improvements for flower color and all these different things but
they breed the fragrance out, the disease resistance out, and perhaps the general toughness as well.
You want to make sure you have really good soil where you are planting. Make sure it is the right plant for the right soil. You need the right exposure and so forth but if you create a pocket
where you plant annuals every year, leave evergreens behind them. You are
going to have flowers from early spring till fall usually. Then the evergreens fill in for the winter months.
Soil is so critical to plant foundation; it is like the foundation of
the house. You get the soil right and then your work is much easier. It is easier to
Dave: We have lots of rocks and clay.
Paul: That opens up a different thing. There are some great products to break up clay.
There are plant mixes made by Espoma; they are a type of soil mix. It is one really good product.
It has permatill in it, a shale, rocky type product with some humus so you get more organic matter and drainage material all in
one. You can just take that and work that into the soil.
But if you have clay soil that doesn't breathe, there is not enough oxygen in the soil, so you want to be able to oxygenate that soil.
So some real coarse particles like that is going to help do that.
Dave: Should you try take out some of that clay first and use that product?
Paul: I would try to; you want some binding properties that clay has so if you can get
the right proportion and mix that together the clay is not bad. But if it is solid clay
you dig it out. It is just going to be like a bowl and all the water is going to run through
that; you are going to have problems with plants rotting. You must have drainage.
Photographing Your Porch Landscaping
Dave: Can you give us some tips for photographing our landscaping?
Paul: When I am looking at something to photograph, it is really all about the light.
You know the quality of the light, what I call "sweet light". Like early morning
or late afternoon light. That angular warm light is really nice to photograph and it really
shows the project at its best.
When the sun is really bright and there's no cloud in the sky, we call that severe clear
in photography terms. And that's when I usually put my camera up. And the human eye can see
much broader ranges of light so we can compensate for that with our brain but a camera just
can't capture all the shadows and all the highlights.
Button Bush (photo by j. paul moore)
It just doesn't work photographically.
But I am always looking at the condition of the plants. Being a plant person you ask yourself if there is
something detracting here? For example if the plant is wilted or dried. Or if there are some
spent flowers that need to be removed.
Is there a birdbath on the corner that is skewed and needs
to be straightened? Or is there a garden hose in the way? You don't want to see a lot of mulch generally.
You want to have those filled with plants so I can instantly look at a garden around the porch or
any structure and say whether it is ready to shoot or it's not.
I look for things that do not belong. Take the time to inspect the area.
You will have to remove those things that I call an eye sore and
really transform the shoot. Sometimes I will just be wetting down the surfaces.
Video: Paul Visits Our Yard and Shares Tips with Us
See our video with Paul Moore as he gives us landscaping ideas in front of our porch.
We were happy that Paul stopped by our home and gave us some good tips on our porch landscaping.
Getting Your Garden Started
Dave: Where does a homeowner start their garden if they are starting from just a
blank slate? They want to have good luck with their garden, they
want it to grow but they also want to take advantage of
native plants and the condition of their location, whether it is sunny,
or shady. Where do they start?
Paul: Well, if you can do this I highly recommend having a professional that
really knows the plants and the soils come look at your particular situation.
Because they can advise you with different plant and soil types, they get you going in the right direction with the right landscape ideas.
They can look at the soil; they can look at the exposure. In your situation, Dave, look at the
surrounding woods and see what types of native plants are growing there and try to adapt
some of those in your landscape. You know those will work.
But I have so many times when people would ask me to come advise them
about a particular landscape and they have cleared out around their house and
we end up recommending that they plant those same things back! If
you have any existing wild areas around your home learn what those are and
try to add more of those types of things to your landscape. But a professional
helping you with the design and some of the plants to get you started is highly recommended.
Just as an Aside
Paul's wife is Nancy Moore, founder of The Porch Company in Nashville TN.
See the amazing porches that Nancy designs and builds.
Mary and I had the pleasure of touring Paul's native plant garden!
Paul's exquisite photographic work is featured in fine magazines and he is a sought-after landscape and architecture photographer.
The most stunning aspect of Paul's personality is his passion for nature, plants and photography. He has a contagious love for the tiniest elements of a plant, noticing the beauty that most of us never notice.
Looking for a talented and enthusiastic landscape photographer? You cannot go wrong with J. Paul Moore.