Consulting with an experienced landscape architect can help you assess your property and determine what plants, trees, and other features can help turn your boring front yard landscape into the landscape of your dreams. A professional can also make recommendations for improvements such as relocating, removing, or adding plants and trees, as well as modifications to hardscapes such as the driveway and front walkway.
The possibilities for landscaping are as unique as each homeowner, and we all want the yard around our home to express something special – and perhaps even spark a bit of admiration from the neighbors. That’s why it can be frustrating for the owner of a newly built home once they become aware of the underwhelming impression those “builder-grade” plants and hardscapes bring their front yard.
These “placeholder” landscapes serve a purpose – they are intended to make a house show well and create basic curb appeal – but builders often lack the knowledge and skills to fashion a truly luscious landscape.
Design Some Personality Into Your Front Yard Landscape
Every incredible landscape starts with a great design. The so-called builder-grade landscape is limited in scope and often lacks a “big picture” point of view. It tends toward cookie-cutter designs that keep costs down and appeal to many tastes based on marketing research.
At the outset, this type of basic, fill-in-the-void landscaping usually works for most homeowners because, instead of being concerned about the yard, they have been focused on what’s inside the home. But landscapes built with fast-growing, inexpensive plants aren’t made for longevity. And while initially lower in cost, these plants may require extra maintenance to keep them in control, which can turn into added expense later on.
A well-designed landscape will employ a selection of plants that are suited to the conditions of the site. It will include a variety of heights and shapes, proper spacing between plants, and layers which create depth throughout the landscape. The designed landscape will present a “tiered” or layered effect with evergreens, shrubs, perennials, and ground covers that utilize the strategic placement of plants to offer a sensation of depth and clarity, as well as a greater variety of textures and colors in the overall composition.
Additionally, ground preparation is essential. A builder will usually just install plants with a covering of wood chips, while a professional landscaper will mix amendments into the soil to give plants a good base of nutrients. This is important because successful landscaping requires tilling, adding soil and compost, and crowning the beds (higher at the center than at the edges) to ensure proper drainage, as well as adequate irrigation.
Tree Placement in the Landscape
Large trees that have been planted in the front yard to satisfy county requirements or HOA rules may eventually get too big and block views of the house if they haven’t been located strategically. The roots of large shade trees such as oak, sycamore, and maple will have a lasting impact on the lawn and other surrounding plants. That type of tree should be placed where it has plenty of room to grow and be viewed as a focal point in the overall landscape.
When planted with intention and care, a large tree can, in time, become a masterpiece – and finding the right place for that in a typical suburban front yard can be tricky. Most often, you will want to put a large tree where it can be viewed in its entirety. It’s similar to standing too close to a massive work of art in a museum – you need to step back a little to get perspective.
Detailing Hardscapes and Lighting for Maximum Appeal
Drab walkways and driveways can detract from the appeal of a landscape. A typical concrete walkway wraps around from the garage door and follows the foundation of the house straight to the front door. A typical driveway may be simply asphalt with a concrete skirt at the curb.
Hardscape elements can either support or detract from the aesthetic effect you wish to achieve in your front yard landscape.
A custom designed front walkway often will meander through garden beds and present a view of the house before arriving at the front door. An aesthetic upgrade for a walkway would be concrete pavers, and a step up from that would be flagstone or travertine. Similarly, you can dress up an asphalt driveway by replacing the surface material with pavers to introduce patterns and colors. If you want to limit the expense of replacing the entire surface, you could add a cobblestone border along the edges of an asphalt driveway.
Finally, landscape lighting puts the finishing touch on it. It creates night-time curb appeal while offering visitors a safe path from the driveway to the front door. A custom lighting design will employ a mixture of downward-facing lights to illuminate the path or walkway, under-mounted lights to highlight steps, and sconces or a pendant at the front door. The front door will be slightly brighter than the pathway to avoid over-saturating the front yard with light.
Discover the Ideal Path to Your Front Door
Often the best place to start a redesign of your front landscape is with the front walkway because you want that hardscape element to be functionally integrated into your planting plan as well as the overall design. A skilled landscape architect can help you decide what materials to use, as well as determine the walkway’s ideal path to the front door.
Landscapers also look at the grades of a property to determine where plants should go. Sometimes a house is set high but slopes off very quickly towards the road, so landscapers will create level areas connected by steps leading to the front door that may also include sidewalks and retaining walls to create a user-friendly and visually appealing space.
A more ambitious project could involve altering where the driveway begins to correct a logistical issue with getting to and from the house. For example, your architect might suggest moving the driveway entrance from one side of the property to the other to cut across a steep grade. While solving that logistical issue, it offers flattering views of the house on the way to the garage.
A properly designed front yard landscape frames inviting views – not only for guests approaching the house or passersby, but also for residents as they look out a window. The best front yard landscape designs express a visual rhythm that draws attention to points of interest all centered around the house, presenting it in the best way possible.
Thinking about investing in a landscape design project? Our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.