Until this spring my husband and I entered our house through our cluttered garage, but it was no place for visitors. And our front entrance wasn't easy. Visitors could turn left, trudge across the lawn, then hop down a low stone wall. Or they could turn right and navigate a small bridge over a koi pond.
There was no getting around it. I needed a new entryway to my front door.
Actually I needed even more. My aging blacktop driveway was a casualty of time and snowplows, and its borders needed hard pruning - all I can say is plants need space, and Bradford pear trees split.
I needed professional help - or at least my entryway did. So I called Setauket, New York, landscape designer Michael Opisso, whose work I admire. Michael believes you only have one chance to make a good first impression, and that goes for entryways to your home.
My front door was blocked by mature trees and shrubs. So we talked about re-angling the driveway, taking down what I thought of as the bridge over the River Kwai, editing plantings and creating an attractive pathway. He called it "refining" the landscape.
Now I have a pea gravel driveway that crunches pleasantly underfoot, and a wide walkway of beautifully cut irregular bluestone leading from a new parking area past the fenced-in vegetable/flower garden in the middle of the yard. It curves around the pond and leads to a circular landing directly outside our bay window.
The landing is part of what Michael calls a sight line from inside and outside the house. It connects with the two rose-covered arbors and the center obelisk of the vegetable-flower garden.
Now I have a beautiful entryway and a cleaner landscape.
I lost a witch hazel, but a graceful pink-flowered elderberry - Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace' - was moved to a place of honor in the front border. A transplanted kerria sprinkles sunshine among evergreens. And an oakleaf hydrangea that was being swallowed by a rhododendron is happy in a shady border.
I moved daylilies and irises and Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' to other parts of the garden, and thinned out daffodils and columbine. I sacrificed a few lilies and yarrow but I'm not crying.
Besides, I gained weeping English yews and dwarf Weigela 'Shining Sensation' and PJM rhododendrons. And Itea 'Henry's Garnet' with fluorescent-red fall foliage.
When it comes to landscapes I learned once again that less is more. And it's good to have a clear path to the front door. They're tips worth sharing.
What are your favorite tips?
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