The front yard is usually the first view people have of your home. This is your home’s chance to make a great first impression. That’s what curb appeal is all about. You want the first view to make the visitor want to see more. The curb appeal of your front garden can have many effects. It should draw visitors to your front door and say welcome. It should be interesting year-round and accentuate the features of your home and minimize any possible negatives. Your front garden can also set a mood. It could project a mood of tranquility and escape from the chaos of the world, or it can stimulate and excite the viewer and make them want to see what is next. There are lots of flower bed ideas that can be incorporated into your front garden.
So, go stand outside in front of your house. Try to see it as a first-time visitor. Sometimes, taking a picture helps to see your garden as it really is. The first decision is to determine if any of the current plants need to be removed. Any shrub or tree that is past its prime or has outgrown its location should be removed. If you have a plant that isn’t doing well because it is too sunny or too shady, transplant it to a different part of your yard. Once you have removed the problem plants, stand back again and take a look at what is left. These remaining plants can be a real asset as they have some maturity and can continue to be features of your garden while your new plants grow. Draw a plan to scale and include the remaining plants. Use your plan to determine what plants you want to add and to make sure they will fit when they mature.
The next step is to decide on the shape and size of your garden. Generally, it should be about six to eight feet deep. You want to have enough room for the plants when they reach their mature size and about a one-foot space between the mature plant and your home. That space is essential for home maintenance like washing windows as well as allowing air movement around your plants. The pavement to your home needs to be incorporated into the plan. The walkway can edge your garden, or it can be surrounded by your garden. A soft curving edge to the garden is much more pleasing than a straight line. Once the garden shape is designed, prepare the bed by adding some good organic material like compost and fertilizer.
The general rule of thumb when selecting plants for the front garden is to plan a mix of 50 percent evergreens, 25 percent deciduous shrubs and 25 percent perennials. The evergreens give structure to the garden and year-round color. The deciduous shrubs are plants that will lose their leaves in the fall. They provide textural interest and could also provide color with blooms and perhaps berries, and even fall leaf color. Some deciduous shrubs also have colorful branches to add interest in the winter. Your perennials will, of course, be the chief contributor of color.
Before you choose your new plantings, find out what planting zone you are in and choose plants for your zone. Keep in mind the light conditions. Determine if you will need shade-tolerant plants or plants that will handle full sun. Consider dwarf varieties that won’t block the view from your windows, or you may want to use flowering shrubs that enhance the view from inside the house.
When choosing the perennials, keep in mind that keeping to a single color will give your garden a more cohesive and restful look. If you want more colors, repeating one of the flowers will give some continuity to the riot of colors.
Here are some great flower suggestions for a front garden.
- Hydrangea. Hydrangeas are a shade-tolerant shrub that produces massive flower heads. This plant has come a long way from the “snowball plant” that your grandma grew. Hydrangeas are now available with blooms in a range of colors as well as shapes. An added benefit is the flower heads can be dried and used in indoor arrangements throughout the year.
- Sambucus. This is a very hardy shrub with lacy leaves. From the elderberry family, sambucus comes in a dark almost black color to a lime green leaf color. It will provide a very interesting texture contrast as well.
- Red Twig Dogwood. The original dogwoods were very large shrubs inappropriate as a foundation planting. Today, there is a patio version that retains the beautiful red color for winter interest, but only grows to three to four feet, perfect as a foundation planting.
- Spirea. Spirea is a great compact shrub with beautiful flowers. The flower heads are flat, so this shrub has the added benefit of bringing in the butterflies.
- Boxwood. Boxwood is an evergreen that should be in every garden. Leave the plant to grow naturally and it will remain a very dense, compact shrub. However, if you want a more formal look, the boxwood is the all-time favorite for pruning into topiary.
- Azaleas. Azaleas have been around for a long time, but now there are azaleas that will bloom repeatedly and there are varieties that are smaller and can even be used in containers. This is a great choice for those southern gardens.
- Coneflowers. These tall, flowering perennials are one of the easiest to grow and care for in your garden. Pick a color because coneflowers come in a wide variety of colors as well.
- Salvia. Perennial salvia is another hard-working but easy-care plant for your garden. The plant blooms in the beginning of summer and then a second bloom later in the season. The spikes of flowers attract the butterflies also.
- Daisies. Daisies are great choices for blooms throughout the summer. They keep a neat rounded form and require very little care.
- Grasses. Grasses come in all sizes depending on the variety. Some are tall and impressive for the back of the border, but there are also petite versions at home in the front of the bed. Grasses give textural interest as well as motion when the wind blows.
The final touch is a good layer of mulch to keep down the weeds, keep moisture in and give a unified clean look to your garden, taking it from looking good to stunning.