I think of my front yard as my home's public face. Just as we cover our facial blemishes or have our teeth whitened, we keep trying to improve the appearance of our front yards. But we don't need expensive face-lifts.
Instead of showy makeovers often all it takes is perking up a stodgy spot or making a small fix. Add a flower border. Create an island bed. Give up the struggle to maintain turf grass. Instead plant shrubs, perennials and annuals that actually like the dappled shade. The tree above is an oasis of beauty on the front lawn. Gently curved lines give the bed a natural shape.
We don't need huge lawns any more than we need palace gates. "What are you doing with all that grass?" a neighbor once asked me. "Why don't you plant corn?" I laughed but I did plant several rows in a front garden until the raccoons discovered them. Even then I didn't go back to grass - now I grow dahlias in those beds.
The point is that a little fix-up can go a long way. Here are a few suggestions:
Put a New Stamp on Your Mailbox
A clematis or mandevilla vine can dress up that dreary box at the end of your driveway. Take one more step and make your mailbox part of a garden vignette.
Carve out a bed and fill it with annuals and perennials that suit the site: hostas and coleus for a shady area, for instance, or purple coneflowers and yellow roses for a sunny spot. Make your mailbox something to write home about. It's first class all the way, with Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' and burgundy coleus.
Add low-growing evergreens for year-round interest. Try creeping juniper or summer-flowering heathers, which may thrive as far north as Zone 3 with winter protection; or less cold-tolerant heaths.
Spruce up a lamppost too. Just make sure whatever vine or flower you plant doesn't obscure the light.
Brighten Your Borders with Daylilies
There's nothing like a border of rhododendrons and azaleas in the spring to banish our last thoughts of winter. But then they turn into big, green blobs. Transform them into backdrops for daylilies that will light up your summer.
Let your evergreen shrubs do double duty as backdrops for daylilies, which deserve their nickname - "the perfect perennials." They're easygoing low-care plants that are happy in full sun or partial shade. The flowers even are edible.
Now through early fall is the perfect time to add daylilies to your front yard. You can find tens of thousands of named varieties, and all produce a plethora of buds that flower for weeks. Of course each bloom only lives for a day, hence the species' name, Hemerocallis ('beautiful for a day'). If you're a neat freak just snap off the faded flowers. Be sure to leave the developing buds for more flowers in the future.
Otherwise daylilies are self-sufficient low-maintenance wonders that thrive in sun or partial shade and almost any soil except solid clay. Give your daylily a good start by mounding soil in the middle of an 18- to 24-in-deep hole and spreading the plant's roots over it. Then cover the crown - the union of roots and stalk - with no more than 1½ inches of soil.
If you're planting new daylilies or dividing and transplanting established ones, tuck in some daffodil bulbs. Plant them in clusters among the daylilies. They'll brighten spring, and the emerging daylilies will hide the fading foliage. It's a win-win.
Expand the Foundation
If your foundation plantings consist of a narrow strip of shrubs lined up in front of your house, like sentries, put them at ease. Widen the bed - some designers say it should be at least as deep as the height of your porch - so there's room to add smaller shrubs and flowering perennials and annuals. The deeper the bed, the more of a garden your foundation planting will become.
No matter what you do to improve your home's public face, neatness counts. Make sure you mulch and edge your beds and borders. A clearly defined edge keeps the grass from intruding into flower and shrub beds. And mulch is everyone's best friend. It helps the soil retain moisture, keeps plant roots cool, and prevents weeds from getting a toehold. Mulch also makes everything look pulled together.
Because when it comes to the front yard, looks really do matter.
What are you doing to perk up your front yard?
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