What to do with my front yard?
I've lurked in this forum often, but haven't really posted. I hope it's okay for me to post this question now. I figured I'd post it here since I love cottage gardens, and you all seem so friendly and helpful! If I'm posting in the wrong forum, I really do apologize.
So here's the thing. I hate the front yard of my house. The back yard is coming along, but I haven't done a thing with the front ever since I moved in. I've included a picture for reference, taken earlier today. The house is northfacing, so in the picture you are looking toward the south. As a result, the beds are shady, and only get probably, at most, an hour or two of sunlight in the early morning on the left bed, and about the same amount before sunset on the right. In thinking about redoing the front, I'm concentrating mostly on the bed on the right side of the picture, since the bed on the left side is basically hidden by a hydrangea.
In the spring, tiger lily-type daylilies come up in the front bed on the right side of the picture, and lilies of the valley come up on the left side, behind the hydrangea bush--along with a good helping of bindweed and ground ivy all over.
Somehow, the front yard always ends up looking both overgrown and straggly at the same time. I think it's mostly the daylilies, especially after the first flush of blooms are over. They tend to look messy, and there's nothing else in the beds to provide interest. And I also have a tendency to completely neglect the front yard, which creates a vicious cycle: The front garden looks bad, so I neglect it (because it seems futile to do anything with it), so it looks even worse, so I ignore it even more... etc.
I'd love to move the daylilies to the western side of the house (would be on the right in the picture, but the side of the house isn't really visible), but that would leave pretty much a blank slate in that right-hand bed. I feel like the daylilies would do better getting more sunlight on the western side of the house, rather than growing in full shade as they are now.
Here's my quandry--we rent our house. I have all sorts of ideas for lovely beds full of shade-loving perennials, but I really can't afford to spend hundreds on a new front-gardenful of beautiful plants for a rental, when that money should be going toward a downpayment on a place of our own! All the colorful, cheap annuals I can think of that will actually grow in full shade won't grow high enough to replace the daylilies and screen the plastic lattice at the foundation of the house.
Does anyone have any ideas for (relatively) inexpensive plants that do well in the shade, and will look good in the space/reach 2-3 feet (or higher)? I did think about using ferns, since I've seen some ostrich ferns for an affordable price this spring. But I worry that, considering that our house is kind of ramshackle (did you notice our front steps lean to one side?), ferns may end up looking weedy and monotonous if used by themselves.
Anyway, I'd appreciate any ideas that folks may have for me. It might be that what would look best would be to just leave the daylilies where they are, and better define the beds with mulch? Maybe some companion plantings? I am really interested in all ideas at this point, because at this point, I'm tired of being the ugly house on the block!
Thanks again for any input (and my neighbors will thank you too!), and so sorry that my post is so long!