Landscaping your home's front yard is like creating a painting on a blank canvas. Just as the artist plots out his vision, line by charcoaled line, you can do the same with your landscaping project. Find your overall vision and then add the individual pieces, one creative endeavor at a time.
One of the best ways to get landscaping inspiration is to view your home the way others do. Instead of looking out your front window, walk across the street and study the curb appeal. Take walks past your home and study its architectural lines from different angles. When you drive home from work, notice how your front yard looks as you approach. Take photos for future reference.
Another idea is to visit a local flower park or botanical garden and note what types of features and plants appeal to you. Study the layouts. What types of hardscaping, the non-plant elements, appeal to you? Softscaping covers the living, plant-based elements of landscape design. Take photos here as well.
Planning Your Garden
Just like that artist, you may not have your entire vision plotted out when you start your preliminary sketches. Use a pencil; this allows you to change your mind without much effort. Better yet, use a white board and erasable markers. Once you have your landscaping plotted out, take a picture and carry the picture with you on your shopping trips.
- Look at your photos and plot out the basic shape of your yard. Then figure out where you need pathways, such as from the driveway to the front and/or back doors. These are no-plant zones.
- Then decide if you want lots of lawn with plants around the edges or a patterned garden with shrubs and flowers planted in strategic spots. Keep the size of your yard in mind, as well as the architectural style of your home.
- A Victorian home with lots of gingerbread trim and a multi-colored scheme would clash with a very busy front yard space. The lots-of-lawn idea might work best, with just enough flowers and shrubs to make it interesting.
- Hacienda-style homes are often white or tan, usually with red tile roofs. The simpler design and more muted colors can usually handle a front yard with more shrubs, flowers or even a fountain.
Deciding on Hardscaping
Once you have your basic design down, it's time to consider your hardscaping materials. Options include paving stones, bricks or various forms of concrete. Gray slab concrete is one option, but colored concrete is catching on. Colored concrete can be stained or dyed almost any hue. The concrete can also be stamped to create the look of natural stone or brick. Hardscaping also includes the gravel in flower beds and the materials you use to frame them, such as curbing stones.
Choosing the features for your front yard can come before or after you decide on the plants.
- A fountain is a decadent addition to a front yard, but don't get one that is so big that it overpowers everything else. Try and match the architectural style, such as getting a tiered Spanish-style fountain to complement a hacienda-style home.
- Waterfalls are also an option, but unless you have a large front yard, it's best to keep them on the small side. Tucking one in between the shrubbery is a nice touch. Placing a large waterfall in the middle of your yard might have the neighbors complaining about all that splashing.
- Oriental lanterns, or Japanese deer chasers, called shichi-odoshi, are nice additions to an Asian-style garden. The shishi-odoshi have an added advantage. These fountains are made from bamboo and stone and were designed to keep deer and other animals out of the rice fields. The rhythmic hollow sound from the bamboo also helps keep browsers away from your shrubs and flowers.
- If you've decided on a lawn, select at type of grass that is compatible for your area. Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis L.), is one option that does well in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 6.
- Shrubs that work well in front gardens include the Korean boxwood (Buxus sinica var. insularis), USDA zones 4 to 9. It's a slow-growing evergreen with dark green leaves that works well as a border plant. It tolerates cold well and is resistant to deer and rabbit predation. The common juniper, (Juniperus communis), USDA zones 3 to 7, is another slow-growing evergreen. It has dark blue-green leaves that keep their color year-round.
- If you're looking for a splash of color, the roseshell azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllum), USDA zones 3 to 8, is an option. Each spring, bright pink flowers emerge, contrasting with the bright green leaves and attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. In the fall, the foliage steals the show, changing to an orange-bronze tint. Roseshell azalea works as an accent plant or in a mixed border setting.