If there is one place that small space gardening should be more widely practiced, it is in front yards. We have surrendered the front of our homes to foundation plantings of overly pruned evergreens and uninspiring dots of geraniums. It is intimidating to experiment in full view of every passer-by, but the payoff is great, and I think you’ll find most people, neighbors included, will be delighted.
Front yards actually lend themselves to gardens. We just don’t see it any longer. Driveways, walkways, sidewalks, and entrances all cry out for some type of soft framing. And even city dweller should have at least a front stoop to fill with flowers.
If you have room for more than a container in your front yard, add some curb appeal and interest to your home.
The obvious choice for entryways is matching pots on either side, containing anything from topiary evergreens to cottage annuals. These are obvious, but still great choices.
If you have an awning or cover over your entryway and a square of soil, you have the perfect situation for a flowering vine. Think of roses, clematis, morning glories, and trumpet vine.
If you have lawn surrounding your walkway, you have a place to put a flower border. If your walkway curves, rim it with casual flowing plants like geraniums, lady’s mantle, Dianthus, catmint, and valerian.
If you have a straight path to your door, you have at least two options. You can go with the formality of straight lines and create a border of low-growing shrubbery, like box or germander. You could soften the formality with plants like lavender, sedum, yarrow or even roses.
Or you could change the look entirely by creating a curved border along the straight pathway and filling it with anything you like. Soft cottage pastels or hot, spiky plants like Celosia and zinnias. Either way, it’s more intriguing than a straight concrete pathway.
The area alongside driveways is often wasted space. Wouldn’t you rather pull into a garden oasis than a landing strip to your garage? Driveways can be edged, like pathways, or taken to extremes. Who needs to mow that little section between your driveway and your neighbor's yard? This may offer just enough space for you to play with dwarf evergreens or large imposing plants like Cimicifuga, Eupatorium or canna. Create a sitting area with a gravel path. You may never sit in your front yard, but it will beckon you home just the same.
If you’re lucky enough to have a sidewalk, you may either have that strip of lawn between the sidewalk and the road or perhaps a small square area where the city planted a tree. Either one of these is an opportunity to garden.
No one wants to mow that detached strip of grass. And you can make it that much more enjoyable to walk along with a casual border of plants that can withstand a little foot traffic and road salt. Be prepared for some vandalism, intentional and accidental. But eventually, people learn to appreciate your efforts.
That solitary tree planted out front can be spruced up with some hardy ground covers or Hosta, primrose or ferns, depending on the soil and exposure. Think of it as a place to play and experiment.
Take a drive around town and see if you can find a house that stands out because of its front yard plantings. You’ll have even better luck finding some interesting front yard landscapes when you travel to Europe. Now take an honest look at your home the next time you pull into your driveway. Can you see the opportunities?