Inula Royleana
Midwest Gardening
My Front Landscape

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Landscaping at the front of your property and foundation plantings can make a statement about what a visitor might expect, not only through the rest of your outdoor spaces but indoors as well.  For me, that statement is “simple but well maintained”.  I have tried to achieve balance without formal symmetry;  inviting without being too casual; and colorful without too many distracting colors.

Front landscape full view by the ordinary gardener

Balancing the overall property can be difficult depending on the lot configuration and original permanent plantings.  I have a very narrow side on the west that drops off in a hill.  The east side of the property is a bit wider but I also have a 60 foot easement that of course is a part of the overall property.  That, in addition to a cluster of three huge evergreens makes it a bit difficult to balance.  I have visually tried to separate the evergreens from the balance by creating a corner boulevard planting adjoining the large space te evergreens consume.  As you approach the property then it seems separated somewhat from the whole.

From the front of the property then, the evergreens became part of a “framing at the outer edges”.  On the west I planted two oak trees for balance, but set back toward the house.  Close to the stree edge the narrow west side would have been overwhelmed what will someday be a large oak.  We had a midsize tree toward the street that worked together well with the oaks to balance the framing.  When it went down in a storm I believe in 2008 I replaced it with a Korean Lilac tree that will take a little time to put the frame back into balance.  It’s getting there though!

You may note that there is a tree planted toward the street offset to the right side of the front door.  Although this puts even more visual weight on the already heavy east side, shade for the front windows was a priority.  “Form follows function” so to help keep the house cooler on the sunny south side, a shade tree was important.  There is the function.  To help the form part I opted for a variegated maple that creates a more open and light appearance.  Unfortunately this tree is growing extremely slow.  But eventually the front of the house will be shaded intermittently by the evergreens, then the maple, then the oak.  As for the specific placement of the maple being slightly off center to the front door, there were two considerations.  First, I don’t like the front entry to the home to be hidden.  I don’t find it welcoming.  I like the front door open and inviting.  Also there is a street light across the street that shines into the upstairs bedroom windows at night and the tree will eventually block that too.  There’s that function again!

Once your home is nicely framed by large permanent plantings (don’t just plant in lines around the perimeter) you can work on the slightly less permanent  foundation plantings.  In the snowy upper midwest I like evergreens for winter color, and I use a lot of arborvitae since they are so reliable and hardy.  Maintaining size is important for foundation plantings and arborvitae shear nicely to maintain both size and shape.

Front landscape foundation plantings by the ordinary gardener

I selected midsized global arborvitae for under the windows so they will never reach sill height.  I planted a pair on each side of the door for balance.  Another pair of short pyramid arborvitae to flank the garage door, again they are midsize so they will never grow to cover the light fixtures.  A very tall pyramid arborvitae sits at the east corner of foundation, the pin oak is just outside the west foundation to balance a create a smaller “frame” for the house itself.  These foundation plantings are what “anchor” the house, creating a transition from house to lawn. 

Front landscape entry walk by the ordinary gardener

Finally, to help create a more inviting entry that entices visitors to the door, I replaced the straight line of square slabs that lead to the door with a curving concrete walk.  The geometric shapes of the arborvitae are softened with loose and airy cranesbill geraniums.  The entry door is punctuated with a pair of urns filled with bright annuals and the windows accented with window boxes of overflowing trailing petunias (or at least they will be overflowing  soon, it’s early in the season here).  A flowing planting area in front of the sidewalk provides another transition from hardscape to lawn.  The walk entry is accented by a spiral cypress topiary and behind it are groundcover roses that bloom bright red.

Like every area of my landscape and gardens, I am constantly tweaking and adding.  The window boxes and containers I stick with a staple of bright red but play around with new annual combinations. At the outer perimeters of the front landscape I still have many plans and ideas.  See more about the individual plants in the front landscape on the next page.

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