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Central Midwest Gardening: Freshen up the Front Yard

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Freshen up your Central Midwest front yard and add a little personality with decorative, practical or whimsical details.

A flock of flamingoes greeted Mike's 50th birthday.

Flamingoes are not native to the Midwest, but a flock of them came through my neighborhood a few years ago, on the occasion of my neighbor's 50th birthday. One bright, blisteringly cold morning in January, 50 pink plastic flamingoes appeared in Mike's front yard.

Some people might cringe at the thought of pink flamingo yard art - especially in January - but the display was a big success. Everyone passing by thought it was a lot of fun. The big, pink birds in Mike's front yard enlivened the block for a few days, and then one day they moved on.

A touch of whimsy lights a garden path.

More fun: Whimsy has a place in the garden, and the front yard is a fine place to express it. My friend Roxanna recently installed a beautiful bluestone front walk, and as you can see, the garden gnome responsible for lighting the last bit of the way up the stairs takes his role seriously. A pot full of tumbling, bright-orange calibrachoas complements the gnome's purple hat. His old lantern may be dim, but a proper porch light backs him up.

A bench accents the flowerbed.

On the bench: A couple of years ago Mike and I bought garden benches at garage sales and brought them home in his truck. Mike's bench has seen better days, but he didn't intend to sit on it anyway: He painted it a bright teal blue and displays flowerpots on it. The bench lifts the pots of flowers above the carpet of ferns and hostas in his front-yard flowerbed. It looks homey and inviting in the garden all year round, even in the snow.

Great-looking house numbers can liven up a front yard.

Take a number: Sometimes small changes make big differences. Handsome house numbers, chosen to match the style of your home and the colors in your garden, set your home apart. You can easily mount special-order address plaques on the front of the house, on a fence or on a post. Place them where a light shines on them. If you buy individual numbers to screw on the front of the house, lay them out on a piece of graph paper to get the spacing right, then mark the holes with a pencil. Tape your template in the spot where the numbers will go, and start a nail through each pencil mark. Attach the numbers to the house with screws.

mandevilla flowers climb up a pretty pergola.

Going up: Architectural details make a big difference out front. One of my neighbors built a decorative pergola over his garage doors using standard prefab columns, 2x6 lumber, white paint and lots of imagination. The new pergola freshens up the front of his house, softening the garage's otherwise flat and rather stark facade. Pretty pink mandevilla vines in a pot at the base of the middle column have already made their way up to the top.

What's up in your front yard?

See more Midwest Gardening Articles.