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The Welcoming Front Entry Garden

By Sandy Phelps Garden Design Consultant

How often do you drive down a neighborhood street and see one particular house that stands out among all the others? Landscapers and realtors would say that house has “curb appeal”. It’s that little something special that captures the interest of the viewer. Curb appeal does not happen all on its own. It takes planning and vision to create a welcoming “red carpet” front the very public street to your very private front door.

The front entry garden is often a very public space on view from the street. One way to capture a sense of privacy is to construct a meandering path from the street or driveway to the front door rather than a straight line. The first step is to do a “test run”. Watch how people walk to the front of the house. Don’t try to fight the natural path, just enhance it. Along both sides of the path create mini borders filled with low, colorful plants to explore along the way. A slightly curving path will create a sense of destination rather than just a means to an end.

If the view from the street to your house is too exposed instill a sense of privacy with a curving raised bed in the front yard, a short fence, arbor or even a long, low border of shrubs. This new entry “room” should be about the same distance from the front entry as the height of the house. A 20 foot high house would have a “room” 20 feet out from the house. The correct proportionality suggests balance between the two spaces and a feeling of openness. Think of this as a foyer that sets the stage for the front entry and welcomes your guests. Select plants that won’t outgrow the space and create a claustrophobic feeling as they mature. Keep the bed open and simple with low shrubs and perennials that encourage the guest to look down and around while walking to the front door.

I often see front entry gardens planted too tightly against the house. Even the smallest plants will feel crowded and overgrown if packed into a small space. Open up the entry garden by varying the depths within the walkway bed. Gently weave your path back and forth along the front of the house giving both a sense of intimacy and openness along the way. A slightly wider bed will create depth and allow for several layers to be installed within the bed. An easy rule of thumb is to “step up” or layer the plants in 3 separate tiers. The backbone should contain varying heights of taller deciduous and evergreen shrubs and small trees. Shorter shrubs should make up the middle tier. Planting perennials and flowering annuals in large drifts of color along the front of the bed gives the feeling that the garden is large and flowing. The view from the street will be one of a deep, full and welcoming front entry garden.

The most inviting front entry garden should be a window to your family’s personality and compliment the style of your house. If your family is playful and energetic use plants that are fun and colorful. If your house is more formal or architecturally balanced the use of soft, rounded shrubs and monochromatic soothing colors are the plants you should select. Invite your guests into your home by using a variety of evergreen and deciduous plants and bulbs that say “welcome” all year round.

Landscaping can boost the value of your home if done correctly. A carefully crafted design plan can help the homeowner visualize the message your home will say to visitors while evoking a sense of privacy and intimacy from the street. Take the time to have a design personally created for your home that will make the difference between saying “welcome to my home” and “no visitors allowed”.

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