Landscaping The Public View
Winter brings a slower pace to gardening. Now is a good time to think about the home landscape and how it can be improved. An attractive front yard can enhance the appearance of your house and neighborhood. The expanse of lawn and surrounding plants creates the most pleasing picture if designed or planned rather than allowed to take shape on its own.
How you plant the front yard depends mainly on your house. On most home sites, the house is the prominent feature. All plants, driveways, fences and other items are meant to complement it. Shrubs and trees unite the house with its surroundings by softening vertical lines and making the building seem a natural part of the terrain.
The two major landscape design areas around your house are at the corners and doorway, as both have harsh vertical lines. Your front door is the house’s focal point and short plantings on either side of it are appropriate. Taller plants are suitable for corners, where they will funnel the viewer’s eye toward your doorway plants and front door. Houses that are too tall, appear shorter if the corner plantings extend like wings on each side, with the tallest plants at or near the corners.
Trees frame the house, focusing interest on it as the main feature of your property. Plant trees whose mature size is in scale with the house, or low houses will look dwarfed and tall houses will appear even taller than they actually are.
Select trees to match the house design. Steeply-angled roof lines and dormer windows call for pyramidal trees such as spruce and birch. Trees with rounded or horizontal form, linden, crabapple and Bradford pear, are better companions for the low lines of a ranch type dwelling.
Low shrubs and ground covers along house walls provide a smooth transition from building to lawn. Shrubs along the front wall reduces the apparent height of a tall building. Having open spaces with natural mulches and ground covers in the planting, can make low-built houses appear more massive.
The simpler a planting near the house, the better. Use only a few kinds of shrubs, but plan for some variety in size, form and texture. Consider adding areas for flowers or ornamental grasses, but keep these at a minimum height. Select shrubs whose natural height and growth pattern fit the desired space to reduce pruning labor. Avoid pruning shrubs into unnatural shapes as they are difficult to maintain and don’t always enhance the landscape.
An open lawn area can provide an impressive setting for a house. A front lawn uncluttered by specimen shrubs, flower beds and garden ornaments can make your property seem spacious. Shrubs will appear lost and floating unless planted in groups or cultivated beds.
Flowers are most appreciated where you spend time relaxing outdoors, usually the backyard for modern homes, the front yard for older homes. Lay out beds with a combination of straight lines and bold, sweeping curves. Numerous small, wiggly curves have lowvisual impact.
Make a big splash with flowers using large masses of single colors. Plant a group of 50 ‘Red Emperor’ tulips next to a bed of 50 white ‘Mount Hood’ daffodils, rather than a checkerboard mixture of various colors.
Home landscapes, like clothing, go in and out of style. After years of growth, many yards are ready for landscape renewal and improvement. Analyze yours and proceed with a plan.