After purchasing your first house, your thoughts will tend to go on a continuous loop thinking up ways to either spruce up the interior or improve living conditions in general.
But, if you’re the outdoorsy type, your thoughts will probably focus on landscaping the front yard. You’re probably thinking a few trees and shrubs, some bushes by the borders, and some potted plants on the corners will do the trick.
Maybe a pergola with a blaze of colourful flowers floating downwards? How about an entryway, too, and a path that leads to the front door? Or maybe a fountain.. or a koi pond.. or a fire pit? Oh, don’t forget the water fountain! The list could go on and on and on.
But hold it!
Like everything else, landscaping has rules to follow, too. For where there are no rules, there can only be chaos, right?
Why Is it so Important?
So why landscape? Do we really need to do it?
Absolutely. Let me count the ways.
1) Environmental - Trees and grass both provide cooler temperatures and act as a windbreak. They give out oxygen while taking in carbon dioxide. They provide shade and reduce glare. They reduce runoff of stormwater which prevents flooding.
2) Economic - They increase the value of your home and can significantly reduce heating and cooling costs.
3) Health - They filter the air and reduce the pollutants that you breathe in. They provide a beautiful and relaxing environment allowing life outdoors and reducing your stress levels.
4) Social - They reduce noise pollution and heat in the community. They enhance the livability of communities that are gradually becoming denser.
Regardless of how large your space may be, these elements of an entryway are necessary to achieve a successful design: vehicle circulation and parking, creating an inviting walkway to your door, and accenting the front entry.
So the rule is: Create a walkway that flows. Follow the natural patterns accessed when laying them out. This will prevent your kids or pets from creating their own walkways straight towards your most prized blooms for the season.
Tip: Make colours and textures work for you. Plant blooms in a variety of colours. Pave your driveway with textured stones and hues that compliment your foliage.
Do Choose Quality with Trends
Sometimes, all you really need is an enhancement, not a major revamp. Update your driveway and replace the boring concrete with creatively-patterned bricks, or pavers with exposed aggregates to add texture. Bluestone is also popular for being extremely hard and durable.
Do Complement Designs
For an inviting entryway, make sure it’s created to complement your home.
If your home has a modern design with neat sharp edges, a front yard overflowing with unstructured foliage will contrast highly against it. Incorporate trimmed bushes with mountain ledge stones to form flower beds instead, this will give your entryway a striking appearance that blends well with your facade.
Tip: When planning your entryway, go across the street and take a view from the curbside vantage point, and visualize your plan. Sometimes, stepping outside to “look in” can inspire ideas that, otherwise, never would have occurred to you.
Trees and plants contribute significantly to the success of your front yard. So significantly that at least 50% of your yard should be composed of them.
Landscaping means you will need to plan the form your yard will take once all the plants are fully grown. It’s practical to choose plants that grow naturally in your area, and those that require very little maintenance.
Plant perennials like cherry pie and purple cornflowers so they can become the backbone of your yard, allowing you to experiment with seasonal blooms from time to time.
So the rule is Plant from big to small and in masses.
Do Plant Strategically
It’s important to place your trees and shrubs strategically. Make sure those tall trees are not planted under dangerous utility lines or very close to your property’s boundaries. Make sure the trees you choose are in scale with both the house and yard.
Don’t plant a chenille or place pots of flower-bearing cacti in shady areas. Don’t plant tall shrubs underneath windows. When possible, make your pathways a metre wide and don’t plant hedges too close to them so as not to make it difficult to walk in pairs or carry packages to and from your home.
Tip: Plant masses of the same variety of plants but avoid placing them in a straight row to avoid monotony. Remember: symmetry is key.
Don’t Over Crowd
Overcrowding your front yard not only gives it a frazzled look it also doesn’t do your plants any good. Trees should be planted far away enough from your home that they don’t infringe on you.
Remember trees have thick roots and some drop messy fruit on the ground, so make sure to account for those when you choose your trees. Plant shrubs at least three feet from the house wall.
But if you’re planning to plant taller shrubs (that your facades' height can accommodate), plant them at least five feet away. The ideal distance between them is at least half of their mature spread, so be sure to trim them when they spread more than that.
Garden edging is a staple in front yard landscaping. It can serve as a framework for your space and provide contrast to the monotonous greens that are typical to front lawns. So the rule is: The vertical edge of space should be at least ⅓ the length of the horizontal space. Otherwise, a feeling of enclosure creeps in. But how do we address the creativity aspect?
Do Have Neat and Sharp Borders
Your front yard can be easier to maintain by using borders. You can do this in a variety of ways, your imagination really is the only limit. Place crushed stones to separate flower beds, or install sweeping and curved garden walls to emphasize your more delicate flowers.
Tip: The objective is to separate garden beds, lawn, and other plants to create symmetry.
Do Create Stylish Pathways
Whether you’re coming into your home from a long day’s work or inviting guests to meander through your garden creations, there exists a basic need for a functional pathway.
But why not make it stylish, too?
Use stepping stones that lead to focal features in your garden, and step stone pavers to access the clothesline by the side of the house or get to the shed mud-free. So the rule is: Choose substance over form. Pick quality materials that are fit for the function the pathway will serve.
Do Have a Designated Area to Entertain Guests
Your front yard can serve not only as an aesthetic balm but more importantly, it can provide a functional area where you can entertain guests.
An alfresco seating area, an outdoor dining table, even an outdoor kitchen complete with grill, will allow you to gather friends and enjoy a quiet night ‘out’ or a ‘rambunctious outdoor party’ while still being embraced by the comforts of home.
So the rule is: Don’t base your decisions on the advice of those who don’t have to deal with the results. Your choice should be based on the kind of lifestyle you want to cultivate.
It’s always a wise decision to learn about the craft before digging in (pun intended).
If you want to create a well-planned front yard, you will need to hone a few more skills, especially how to keep plants thriving, installing pavers and pathway stones, even fitting in the drainage system.
In today’s technology, though, where online resources are aplenty, that won’t be too hard to accomplish. The trick will be absorbing the things you learn and turning the vision into reality. So the rule is: The key to success is to never stop learning. And have fun while you’re at it!
Do Care for Your Yard
So what happens when your front yard is finally looking smart and spiffy?
Of course, that’ll be the day you can finally sit back, relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Not. Entirely.
Keeping your front yard neat and thriving needs care and attention. The bushes will spread to uncontrollable widths, the trees will rain dried leaves and maybe fruit on your lawn, the grass will grow - or wither and die if you just neglect it for months on end.
But no need to brood - all you need to do is take action. So the rule is: Doing it regularly makes doing it easy.
Do Mow the Lawn Regularly, but Don’t Cut Wet Grass
Keeping the lawn healthy means you’ll have to mow it around once a week to keep the ends healthy and to stimulate growth. Cutting it too short will inhibit growth, though, so be sure to cut only up to half its stem’s length.
Tip: It’s always advisable to mow the lawn during the afternoons because then, the grass and ground will have dried and the mowing will not affect the compaction of the soil. Additionally, the combination of the disturbed soil and wet grass will clog your mower blades (yikes!) and make the work a lot harder.
Do Fertilize and Prune Regularly
You can fertilize your grass and plants as regularly as mowing. It’s best to use organic, all natural fertilizers as opposed to store-bought synthetic ones in order to protect your family from harmful chemicals. Pruning plants and trimming bushes will also keep your plants healthy and a lot less looking neglected.
Tip: Don’t fertilize during hot days as this can burn your plants.
Do Water Regularly, but Don’t Overwater
If you live in a dry area or if it’s a particularly hot season of the year, you should make sure to water your plants and grass regularly. Around 6 am to 10 am would be the ideal time so as to give your plants enough time to absorb the water before the sun heats the place up around noon.
Water deeply, aim for a good soaking. But don’t overwater as this will cause the soil to get soggy and fungi to grow.
Tip: Consider installing an irrigation system to make caring for your lawn easier.
Do Be Patient
Planning for your landscape, acquiring the needed materials, the actual work of landscaping, installing the desired features, and then waiting for the plants to fully grow and mature all require a lot of painstaking details, hard work, and perseverance.
This is why if you’re considering doing this project, be sure to have a lot of patience to prepare you against some inevitable frustrations.
A bit of advice: Patience is not sitting around and waiting for things to happen, it is anticipating. It is looking at the night and seeing the day. Remember to look forward to when all that hard work pays off and you can finally take pleasure in your handiwork.
Do Consult an Expert
Despite all that talk about hard work and patience and perseverance, and, in the interest of full disclosure, there’s actually a less laborious option available.
You can simply hire a contractor!
Or if the budget can’t keep up, you can outsource some of the trickier parts - like hiring a landscaping expert to evaluate your design, or hiring a tradesman to install the pavers or bricks and fitting the drainage. It all boils down to the level of commitment you’re willing to give your lawn.
So a bit of advice: When in doubt, ask. No one ever got hurt asking for help.
Are you planning to landscape your front yard? Contact us and get a professional’s help today!