This beautiful home was suffering from 'plant-it-and-sell-it-itis'.
I see this problem all the time; builders are usually required to landscape the front garden when construction is complete, so a haphazard selection of trees and shrubs are planted with little regard to their mature size, texture, form or even the homes architecture and five years later it is overgrown, over-crowded and needs to be completely re-done.
- Large trees were planted too close to the home, blocking light and threatening the foundations.
- Shrubs were planted too close together and would ultimately become much too large for the space.
- Rather than framing the home, this landscape appeared to be strangling it!
- Use plants of a more appropriate size
- Space plants correctly
- Add some additional color for winter interest while also varying texture
Other design criteria
- This busy professional couple are new parents so the design needed to be low maintenance.
- They wanted some lawn to remain
- The irrigation system needed upgrading
I took my design cue for the shape of the new borders and lawn from this trim detail on the home.
Typically I would design a more serpentine shape but I liked the idea of reinforcing this detail and it mimics the sweep of the attractive roofline. I felt this would also provide a stronger connection between the home and the landscape.
The lawn provides a negative space, keeps the traditional look the homeowners prefer but also enhances the theme by repeating the arc in the trim detail.
A Fireglow maple (Acer palmatum 'Fireglow') was added to the left side of the garden (away from the three square windows that were blocked by the original cherry tree), and its burgundy foliage will be a colorful highlight from spring until fall, contrasting well with the golden threadleaf cypress that we saved. Even in winter the burgundy stems add a subtle color detail.
Midwinter Fire twig dogwoods (Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire') add a splash of color in winter, showing up well against the dark green foliage of the existing rhododendrons. They also repeat the color of the heavenly bamboo planted adjacent to the sidewalk, visually expanding the space.
Overgrown Alberta spruce that once flanked the pathway were replaced with fragrant winter daphne (Daphne odora 'Aureo-marginata') – a wonderful, gold and green variegated, evergreen shrub. What a perfect way to make guest feel welcome.
While there are many cultivars of heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), my number 1 choice is always Gulf Stream heavenly bamboo for its tidy mounding habit and colorful foliage. Unlike the gangly specimens planted by the sidewalk (most likely the species rather than a select cultivar), these have a more refined appearance yet need no pruning. Ample room has been left to allow them to grow to their mature size of 3 feet tall and wide. I love the way the red foliage echoes the Midwinter Fire dogwoods.
Also working with those warm shades are the Winter Chocolate heather (Calluna vulgaris 'Winter Chocolate'). In spring this brick red foliage will transition to bright green and orange with lavender flowers in late summer. This is most definitely NOT your 'builders basic' heather!!
Although I had to remove two large Colorado blue spruce since space and scale simply did not accommodate their mature size, I added two Wells Special Hinoki cypress for sculptural interest year round. I was also able to re-use several variegated boxwood, Rainbow drooping fetterbush and Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica).
Other plants that will come into their own in successive seasons include;
- Rhododendron Impeditum – blue-grey evergreen foliage and lavender blooms in spring
- Little QuickFire hydrangea – panicles of creamy-white flowers in late summer, fading to rose on a dwarf deciduous shrub that has stunning fall color
- Evergreen succulents – rather than a traditional groundcover I added golden Angelina stonecrop (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina') under the Fireglow maple and Hinoki trees and rosettes of our native, green Oregon stonecrop (Sedum oreganum) connecting the existing weeping birch trees to the sidewalk.
A front garden to be proud of, that fits in with the neighborhood yet stands out as one of carefully considered design.
I look forward to being able to photograph this garden again in summer, but when a newly planted landscape looks this good even in the depths of winter you know it's only going to get even better.
How does your front garden look?
Design by Le jardinet
Installation and hard work by Berg's Landscaping