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Garden Topics:  An Entry Garden, Making the Trip to Your Door Memorable

The front view of a house tells a great deal about the people inside. With a little bit of thought, planning and planting you can present a very memorable impression. 

Many houses suffer from being surrounded by a single row of plants placed close to the foundation. The most dramatic way to update such a design is to widen the planting area and plant in layers. That means situating the tallest shrubs near the house, medium-sized shrubs in the middle, and lower-growing ground covers and perennials in the front and nearest to the borders of beds. If you have space, include a small tree or large shrub to serve as a focal point and under-plant trees with perennials, ground covers, or low shrubs.

Lead Guests to the Door

Before you get carried away with planting, you have to take care of a couple of practical matters. And the first of those is to clearly identify the front door, so that when guests arrive, they know exactly where to go. Paint the front door a contrasting color. This helps draw the eye to it. Make the sidewalk flow easily up to the front door. Avoid confusion about which door to use.

The front walkway should be a direct walk from the driveway or street to the front door. You need a good path; build one that’s wide enough for two people to walk abreast.  If the walk is too narrow, add brick/stone bands to widen the existing path using material that compliments the home.

A soft curved line is often more interesting than a straight one, especially when they wind their way through a garden, toward a birdbath, or alongside a bench. There are exceptions to this rule. A formal house and planting will be better served with a straight walk.

Add a Bit of Personality

There are a number of other ways you can give your entry personality. Build an arbor over your entrance. Group several eye-catching containers on either side of your door filled with an exciting selection of plants that are changed with the season. The use of large single plants in the containers is a trend that’s becoming popular.

Other ways to highlight the entry would be to install a piece of sculpture, to hang a wall fountain, grow a vine up and over your doorway, or place a bench along the way.

Freshen Up the Plantings

Once you’ve highlighted your entry and established your walkways, you can concentrate on the plantings.  Sometimes, but not often, all that is needed is a good pruning and shaping, and the addition of a few shrubs to help revitalize landscape design.  In most situations the process is more extensive.

Look first to the plantings where the foundation meets the ground. Here the idea is to expand your foundation plantings out with multiple layers of plants that grow at different heights. At the same time it is important to create multi-season interest. 

 An effective method is to group plants, usually in odd numbers, and repeat those groupings throughout the garden. This way, your eye is drawn across the entire property, tying it together, creating a unified look.

Plant a long border beside a fence or in front of a retaining wall. Incorporate a mailbox in a curved bed that links the driveway and street. Allow perennial beds to creep into or border your front walk. Plant some flowering vines—perhaps a climbing rose and clematis—to scramble up your lamppost or garage wall. Consider a free standing island bed that will add drama to a sea of green lawn.

Choose One Plant or Flower Color and Repeat It

Choose plants whether they are shrubs, perennials or annuals that have flowers of a similar or complimentary color palette for an easy elegant landscape. Extend the flower garden beds out towards the street using curving soft lines for a friendly look. Anchor the flowers with a single variety of shrub positioned in groups as mentioned above.

Color and Texture

Plan and plant for eye appeal in all four seasons. While spring and summer flowers and fall color dazzle, it is more difficult to create interest when the flowers fade or the leaves drop. For that reason, include plants with flowering seasons other than spring, with colorful or variegated foliage or distinctive fruit, and trees and shrubs with unusual bark or branch structure. The spent flowers or drying seedpods of some plants are intriguing, and many hardy evergreens (such as junipers, cypress, and rhododendrons) change from green to plum or russet colors in fall and winter.

Contrasting textures add a special appeal to the design, as do curving lines and a repetition of color and repeated plants. An easy way to include different textures is to mix evergreen and deciduous shrubs and perennials. Introduce texture by mixing spiky and daisy-like flowers, small round leaves and long grass-like leaves, and woody shrubs with soft-stemmed perennials. Select shrubs and small trees with different leaf shapes, textures, foliage color, and growth habits.

Also, think in terms of “mixed border” instead of strictly “evergreen foundation plantings.” Start with a base of well spaced evergreen groupings, and highlight them with spring bulbs, flowering shrubs, and small flowering trees. Add splashes of summer blooming perennials and annuals. For autumn color include fall mums, and shrubs that glow like fire as their leaves change for the season. Retain winter beauty with plants that display berries, seed heads, and interesting bark.

Plant Trees

Plant a variety of trees but don’t overdo it. The trees should frame the house, softening its corners at the same time. Place others to provide shade and privacy.  Consider a small tree along the walk to the house, and imagine the feeling of enclosure and comfort your guests will feel as they pass under it. Know the mature size before you purchase.

For best design, situate, or include trees within a garden bed.

Install Outdoor Lighting

Do it for security and also to bring your house and garden to life after dark. You can use solar lights for a quick and easy transformation of your front yard landscaping. Try shining the solar lights on paths and walkways or using up-lights underneath trees for a cool effect. Solar lights are easy to install- no wires or electrical hookup.

Plant Only What You Can Manage

When creating a front-yard garden, it’s important to consider how much upkeep will be required. It’s not terrible to allow a backyard garden to grow wild and rough at times, but since the front garden is always on display. It is important to keep it looking as good as possible. Although ideally you might envision a lush mixed border embracing all sides of the garden—and this could be your goal—it may be best to start with something easier to maintain. Avoid high-maintenance plants that need frequent watering, are susceptible to pests and diseases, or require daily deadheading.

So if you’ve been dreaming of a front yard garden, go ahead. There’s absolutely nothing that says you have a typical American lawn and a single row of evergreen foundation shrubs like most others have. And even if you keep the lawn and shrubs you currently have,  you can still add beauty by adding a new flower bed, draping your mailbox in vines, or placing a couple of colorful container gardens near your entry way.  

In Summation

Use these front yard landscaping ideas presented above, follow the simplified garden and landscape design principles below, and you’ll have a front yard garden and entry that will be fresh, comfortable and welcoming.

  • Balance the design – use symmetry or asymmetry
  • Keep the focus on the front door and welcoming guests
  • Repeat color, shapes and textures
  • Keep design elements simple
  • When in doubt, natural settings always work
Front Entry Way Paint Your Door Entry Way Container Walk Way Fall Colors Winter Perennials Plant A Focal Point Front Entry Garden

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