Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop: Heirloom Gardener's Four Year Makeover of Her Front Garden - How to Improve Boring Suburban Landscaping

April's Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop on Front Yard Gardens is very timely for me seeing that my spring project was to complete the four year redesign of our front garden, which is made up of the Front Border immediately in front of the house and, standing in front of the house to the immediate left, the Egg Garden.

When we moved into our house, the front garden had the usual foundation plantings: evergreen trees and shrubs with two flowering trees for color. It was dull, static, and uninspiring. The first three pictures show the front border before I began replanting it.
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To my neighbors' amazement, I proceeded to take out the whole thing and replant it myself. The first year, I replanted the existing borders and created the Egg Garden. The existing borders had three problems: they did not change with the seasons--summer looked the same as fall and spring, and winter was only slightly different; some of the plants had grown so large that they covered windows and were out of proportion with the house; and the borders needed very little maintenance which meant there was little gardening to be done.
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I started by removing the large problem plants: the huge rhododendron which was out of proportion with our two-story colonial, the two amorphous evergreen cones flanking the front door, and a weeping cherry which obscured the windows of the library. Then I took away anything that was poorly suited for the site, like the leucothea in full sun, or that did nothing for the border, like a deformed Ceris 'Forest Pansy.' Next, I improved the soil by adding four inches of mushroom compost. Finally, I began replanting with small trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vines, grasses, and bulbs. I also added a bird feeder.
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The Egg Garden was created almost entirely from the space that was formerly occupied by the rhododendron and is bordered in the back by the fence and arbor that enclose the Cutting Garden. Small six-by-six stepping stones through the grass connected the front walkway to larger, but not large enough, twelve-by-twelve inch stepping stones through the Egg Garden to the Cutting Garden.










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In the second year, I expanded both the Front Border and the Egg Garden, and spent time planting both more densely. I also decided to remove the bird feeder which seemed more appropriate in the backyard. In its place, I installed a tutuer on which I decided to grow the rose Lavender Lass and clematis Blue Bird and Francesca.
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In the third year, I added a large pot and a semi circular boxwood hedge in front of the library, to give that area definition and a focal point. In the Egg Garden, I widened the path and replaced the twelve by twelve inch stepping stones with loose gravel. As always, I looked for ways to expand the floral display with more bulbs, clematis, and annuals.
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This year, I am completing the final phase of the front border renovation. I replaced the old path of brick pavers with a wider one of irregular blue stone to compliment the other stone work in the garden. I also continue the blue stone stairs on the other side of the driveway. Previously, the steps took you from the mailbox to the driveway through Goldberry Hill. From there, you were expected walk down the driveway and then onto the entrance of the path leading to the front door. No one did this, not even me. One of the cardinal rules of my garden is that there should be paths where people walk.
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Further on, in place of the small six by six inch stepping stones that connected the front path to the Egg Garden, there are now more appropriately sized two by two foot blue stones. Throughout, I chose irregular blue stone pieces to harmonize with the less formal plantings.
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The borders in the front were also to be expanded to flank each side of the new stairs. I wanted continuity in plantings around the new steps and those already there, so that it would not be obvious that they were installed at two different times. I chose to use the same plants or plant types so that the steps would echo each other.
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The project is just about complete now. I will have to see how the plants grow in before I add more to the new plantings. In the fall, I will plant more spring blooming bulbs.


2 comments:

Nan Ondra said...

Wonderful, HG! How interesting to see the year-by-year progression and find out how you solved the challenges of the site. The new path is a beautiful addition to the garden and your home. It's clear that a real gardener lives there!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Wow, your vision has improved the front of your house greatly. I love the paths through your plantings.

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