Designing the Front Yard

This is a switch for me. Usually I am working in other people’s gardens, but this week I’m focusing on my own front yard. My goals: less lawn to mow, more color, little added maintenance.

Everything in front of the house changed a couple of years ago when a Linden tree split during a storm and had to be removed. The area went from full shade to full sun. Out went the pachysandra – never a favorite but it did the job – and in came an old-fashioned Annabelle hydrangea, new Limelight hydrangeas, a caryopteris ‘Blue Knight,’ a few day lilies, some forget me nots and lady’s mantle.

Deciding What to Grow

I like plants that are undemanding and bloom for a long time. Hydrangeas do that with flowers that start in July and go until frost. I also like to dry the blooms and use them to decorate the house for the holidays. So, I enjoy these big, fluffy panicle of flowers for a long, long time.

frontofmadisonIn front of the hydrangeas is a 12 by 5 feet rectangle on each side of the front walkway. This is currently lawn. The plan is to take this out and plant something low maintenance that flowers as long as the hydrangeas. My choice: Double Red ‘Radtko’ Knock Out roses.

For this year, the plan is to plant the 3 roses on each side which means they will have plenty of room to spread to their mature size of about 4 by 4 feet. If it looks too spare next season, I will add petunias to fill the space visually as I did in the photo above.

In time, the roses won’t need fillers. If you had more room and wanted to add plants in front, you could add perennials such as Walker’s Low catmint or Lady’s mantle with its frothy flowers and appealing green round leaves — either of these would look very pretty.

Getting Started

The area is grass now and there are bricks to be move to line the sidewalk and create the rose bed. The next step will be to add topsoil and peat moss to the sandy soil that is the base of the garden. Then digging holes, planting the Knock Outs, putting down cardboard under a high quality landscape fabric and mulching. The cardboard will smother the grass and weeds that grow there now.

To water this section, I plan to use soaker hoses on a timer. This method has worked well for me in other areas.

The Plan

Today I am shopping for a specimen tree for the corner of the house. I’m thinking of a Rose of Sharon ‘Diana’ which is pure white and reaches a height of 8 to 10 feet. In front of it, I will plant another white hydrangea and to the side a Hinnomaki Red gooseberry.

Growing food is an interest of mine and I already have honeyberries, blueberries, strawberries, elderberries and quince in the home garden. Adding gooseberries is a natural and this shrub will produce lots of vitamin-rich fruit, not outgrow its designated space, and add interest with red berries that should be made even more visible with the backdrop of white hydrangeas.

That’s the plan. I’ll keep you posted.

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