Ideas for My Front Yard

chardieJuly 24, 2011


I'd like to make my front yard into a garden, somewhat like the sideyard I did in the attached pictures. Basically, that garden was mostly transplants from my mother's cottage style garden that she could no longer maintain. What's left to transplant is: a Rose of Sharon, bridalwreath spirea (very large), chartreuse colored spirea, phlox, iris, Siberian iris, black-eyed Susan, 3 hydrangeas (1 10 feet tall), daylilies, lily-of-the-valley, thyme.

I'd also like to get an oak leaf hydrangea and a red twig dogwood.

I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Here is a link that might be useful: New Garden

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runktrun(z7a MA)

Your home and gardens are really beautiful. It must be a real plus that most of your plants are from your mother�s garden who I am assuming is now able to enjoy them at your home.
It was hard for me to tell how large your front yard is in your photos. Could you give us some dimensions?
It would also be helpful to have more of an idea of your vision for this space. Did you see the plants filling up the outside edges of your property or a majority of the front yard? Were you hoping to screen your beautiful home from the passerby? Is your list of plants set in stone or are you willing to edit it somewhat? kt

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 8:39AM
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Thank you for your interest and the compliments. I thought a lot about the design of that side bed and am generally pleased with it. I was surprised at how full it was because my garden out back took a good 3 years to grow in. My mom says it's because I transplanted mature plants. What do I know--I'm a newbie!

The yard is 36 feet wide and 13 feet deep (to the walkway which is parallel to the front of the house). I'm open to anything woodchucks don't eat (that's why I like roses and hydrangeas). I favor a cottage style garden, with things planted close together to block weeds (like my mother taught me). I don't care for tropical looking or exotic plants.

Almost all of the houses in this area are late 19th century Victorian, a mix of fancy and plain houses. Some of the houses have made their front yards into a garden. I'm a little worried about repercussions of not having a lawn. I don't necessarily need to block my house from passersby. It's a very quiet, little traveled street which is one-way from the head of the street. I get maybe 2 cars a day going by. But the house is very close to the street.

I'm attaching some of the houses I referenced on other streets.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nearby gardens

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 8:10PM
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molie(z6 CT)

What a great neighborhood, Chardie! I'm assuming your house is the first one, the yellow one.. and that the white one is a neighbor's on the left where you put your first garden?

What is to the right of your home? How much of a side yard to you have there?

I would be careful with the taller items (spirea, rose of sharon, large hydrangea). You don't want to hide your beautiful house from the street. You could swing out the curve of the area on the right front and plant one or two of these gifts with smaller plants coming out towards the front, but you'd probably need some evergreen planting or the right side will look bare in the winter. If you swing out the curve a lot, you'd have room for a path that wanders into the garden and along the right side of the house. Just be careful not to plant anything tall close to the house, maybe 6 or more feet away.

I think that once you've established some taller items in the front and put others in the back (?) you'd have fun placing all of your mother's flowers into your new gardens. You might also want to think of transplanting some of what you have to the right for balance. I love what you've done along the side!

I have a red twig dogwood (Ivory Halo) and it gets very wide. Cutting back older stems causes it to set off younger red branches and that looks great in the winter. There are so many beautiful lace cap hydrangeas…. I wish that I had room to squeeze one of those in my yard.

I'd sure like to see what you eventually create!


    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 8:32AM
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Thank you! The first 5 pictures in the Nearby gardens album are on another street. I call them the Seven Sisters, like the ones in San Francisco because there are seven of those cute cottages all in a row, each a different color and slightly different look. The last picture is another cute cottage on another street that was on a recent Garden Tour. My house is the yellow one, the first picture in the New Garden link.

To the right of the house is my driveway and stairs descending to the back yard. It's a fairly steep slope and gets mostly shade. I plan on planting things there in the future, but they won't be seen from the street due to the slope.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 7:40PM
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What do you think the repercussions of no front yard might be?
The website Gardenrant has featured the gardens of Buffalo, NY where there is a Gardenwalk every year. There are amazing front gardens there in front yards of houses that look very similar to yours. You might be able to find them cached on the website or through google.

I think they'd be a good reality check and an inspiration
Tell us what you think.
And, I want to add my great admiration for your garden. If you are a beginner you've had a few previous incarnations as a gardener.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 9:15PM
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My goodness! I never would have pegged you for a newbie gardener. Your design looks full and the plants mature, and it has structure (shrubs and hardscape) that gives it substance. Well done. I also find it's also a pleasure to have plants with personal meaning.

I'm still having a difficult time picturing the whole yard. Could you post a photo (maybe taken from across the street) that shows the whole width of the yard so we can see how the current garden, walk, house and drive all fit together?

For now, think about how you and others will use the space before you plan your plantings. For instance, the postal delivery person at my mum's house cuts across yards, regardless of planting, to save steps and has worn a path through the neighbor's ground cover. How will you move around the yard? Do you need to think about meter readers or oil or propane deliveries? Will you want to keep dog walkers from allowing their pets to leave deposits on your plants? Do you want a low or open frame around the yard, such as a low hedge or a picket or Victorian wire fence? Where will snow be deposited from walks and the drive? Unless you see a need for grass, my preference would be for a fully planted yard so you wouldn't have to maintain edges or get out the mower for a postage stamp of lawn.

Below I've attached a link to a blog in Buffalo, NY, which does Garden Walk (open garden weekend in which many gardeners and neighborhoods participate.) This one focuses on hellstrips, but shows several fully planted front yards and some that are partly planted. The man who writes this blog helps organize the Buffalo Garden Walk and if you rummage around you will find lots of photos of various kinds of cottage gardens.

And here are some other photos of Buffalo cottage gardens:

Here is a link that might be useful: Art of Gardening Buffalo

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 9:22PM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

Having a front entry garden myself I understand firsthand how this is a garden that will "in your face" 365 days a year while you are coming and going from your home including those weeks if not months that it may not be looking at its peak. For this reason I would recommend that you take some time to get right.
You have already been given some great advice I might add that you pick up Gordon Hayward�s, The Welcoming Garden� Designing Your Own Front Garden that you can find at Amazon for $11.00.
Just off the top of my head I would like to see a small garden tree planted on the right side of your house ( on the street side of your driveway to door walkway) for balance. I also think that a hedge or fence with your garden planted either in front of or behind is what your house and yard is screaming for.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 10:13AM
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Oh, this is fun! I appreciate your interest. I just took some pictures from across the street-my neighbors' house is on a hill. Some of you touched on my concerns. We had four feet of snow last winter, which I doubt will ever happen again in my lifetime, but I pile the snow to the left of the driveway because there's really nothing between my neighbor on the right and me except some forsythia. The oil filler thing is on the right side of the house halfway down the steps in the sideyard. One of my concerns is parking. Our road is only 17 feet wide, barely enough for two cars to pass and not enough room for parking, really. So sometimes people pull up over the curb onto my yard.

I've also wanted some kind of small tree in the front without blocking it entirely. I was thinking of the Pee Gee hydrangea trees but I've seen some that get pretty big.

Thanks for any suggestions. I'm taking it all in, and I'll check out that book, too.

Here is a link that might be useful: Front of House

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 6:43PM
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A good guideline for any plant, but especially front yard "in your face all the time ones" is multiple seasons of interest. Not only do peegees get BIG, but they don't look like anything in the spring and don't look like much until their mid summer bloom. Their winter branching habit isn't particularly interesting. Their flowers stay interesting through late fall, but I don't know if the fall foliage is colorful.
It is too late for me to come up with much, but just google "four season shrubs" and you'll find a bunch. Those, along with the suggestions from posters, should get you off on the right foot.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2011 at 9:30PM
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molie(z6 CT)

Thank you, Chardie, for the additional photos of your house front. I'm sorry I misread the first images. I thought that the grey area along the right of your house was garden and not driveway and gave poor advice.

Many of the other suggestions were wonderful. I loved the link to the Sidewalks of Buffalo and will pass it along to someone who is planning a sidewalk garden in a city. It's always good to think out your plan and prepare for all possibilities and certainly winter damage. The terrible snow cover of this last winter caused several splints along the main trunks of our 8 year old Crimson Queen. Idabean gave sound advice to think about four seasons shrubs.

I hope you keep posting so we can see how your beautiful front area turns out.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 8:03AM
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Thanks to all for the suggestions, encouragement and compliments.

Also, thanks for that great link re: Buffalo gardens. It's so fun to find a new garden blog online!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 6:43PM
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I've been mulling this over for a few days and here are some more random thoughts:
- First, with regard to what is there now, it seems like you need to leave some area along the road (maybe the first 4-6 feet from the street?) for plowed snow and parking: either leave it in grass or mulch it or use flat stones with spaces between them for planting groundcovers like thyme. If you really don't want to give up the space, I'd use a fence or low rocks along the road to discourage parking on your garden. Otherwise, I'd use a low fence or dry-stacked low rock wall to create a divide that doesn't block the house, but gives the garden a bit of a frame and makes it clear where the garden begins and the parking space/lawn ends.
- The twin pointed conifers by the house look too close together to me. One may need to be replanted elsewhere, probably the one on the left which will eventually block the window. You will have to evaluate this suggestion based on the plants' ultimate size and nearness to the house. Evergreens planted close together tend to have uneven foliage, so if you remove one later, it will tend to be unattractive as one side may be rather bare.
- The angle of your driveway takes up a large chunk of the right front of the house. Could you add a large pot at the right corner of the house at the end of the drive if you have only one vehicle? or even remove left side triangle of paving if you don't use it? (though obviously not if you have two vehicles) The pot could have a clematis growing up an obelisk or trellis, or contain some large and statueque annuals with some of your smaller pots around its feet and maybe a few on the other side of the entry path as well to tie it together.

When you start planning, first decide on practical things like paths, any accomodations for watering or lighting, power outlets, walls or fencing, seating areas, etc. It's lots easier to do all that first than retrofit. In particular, if you think you may want wiring (since lighting for your main entrance may be a safety issue), investigate what type of conduit and the depth it needs to be buried, even if you won't do the actual wiring and fixtures now. Use strong string through the conduit instead that you can use to pull wires later.

Then I'd move on to the great advice from KT and Ideabean/Marie about needing it to be a four-season garden that is attractive every day since you will be walking through it and driving by it every day. I'd start with some thoughts about winter interest:
- hardscape (paths, rocks, birdbaths, obelisks,etc)
- plants: evergreens - shrubs, perennials and groundcovers
deciduous plants with interesting form, long-season berries, bark that is colorful or has interesting textures
season-extending plants that either have early flowers like bulbs, hellebores, or some of the winter heaths; or late flowers and fall color (low bush blueberries, Fothergilla, colchicum bulbs, etc)

Then you can start thinking about where to place your current plants:
I'd say you can fit all of your perennials and small shrubs in the front yard, but you have lots of large stuff left, too much to all fit in the front yard reasonably without causing a jungle look or at the least hiding much of your attractive house. Evaluate your plants for interest in all seasons to help you decide placement; many of those large plants are really nice for a shorter period of time, so I'd plant to put some in the back yard or your side yards. For instance, put your tall hydrangea or rose of sharon at the back of the left side cottage garden where the birdbath is now and then move the BB to the front garden since it will provide year round interest as it can be kept heated for winter birds. Or put that large hydrangea at the top of the steps to your back yard to grab seasonal attention; it is tall enough so it will show when blooming, but fade from attention when it is not as attractive. Just be sure that where you place it near the end of the driveway it leaves the oil fill pipe accessible. If you want, you could replace some of your forsythia with the bridal veil spirea to extend the season of interest on that side of the drive and put the forsythia you removed in the back yard or give it to a friend.

As others have said, you want something to create balance to the right of your house (just to left of the drive) midway between house and street. This would be a perfect place for a smaller tree with four seaon interest such as a pagoda dogwood/Cornus alternifolia, Stewartia, Japanese maple, Kousa dogwood, or Hetacodium miconioides/Seven-Son flower. Or a medium height, relatively narrow evergreen. Then put in a combination of low shrubs and perennials to fill in the area around and beneath it and continue the planting across the rest of the front yard from there. Be sure that you take the ultimate width of the plant into consideration when deciding on its position so that it doesn't block the drive.

Be aware that sometimes lily-of-the-valley expands beyond where folks want it and it is difficult to remove later. If there is any chance of this, you might want to plant it with a barrier such as a buried large plastic pot with the bottom cut out.

Have fun with the planning and the planting! Push comes to shove, if you don't like where things are you can always move them. Heavens knows that my front entry garden is ready for a bit of reworking!! Let us know how it's going and be sure to post some photos when you are done.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2011 at 11:18PM
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