Front Yard Landscaping According to the Experts
Published August 10, 2016
You know what great landscaping looks like; you’re just not sure how to do it yourself. Let the experts show you how.
Not sure how to create a front yard with a “Wow!” factor? It’s actually not that hard if you understand a few design principals and know the basics of what a good landscape includes. We’ve pulled together the ideas of industry experts to show you what you need to know to make your front yard look its best.
You don’t have to be a professional landscape designer to achieve professional looking results in your front yard, but you do need to know the basics of landscape design and have a plan. If you jump in without much direction, your front yard will show it.
Before you do anything, drive around your neighborhood to determine what landscapes you like and why. (You may even want to use your cell phone to discreetly photograph your favorites for review later.) Create a list of features you like and plants you may want to include. Use this as your starting point.
Next, do a little research into the components of a great front yard. (We’ve compiled a primer here.) As you gain an understanding of the basics, pull out pencil and paper and make a few sketches. If you get stuck, your local nursery or even neighborhood Home Depot garden center, should be able to help out with suggestions on plants and other materials you can incorporate. And, they can provide guidance on how to get the job done.
Know the basics
Landscape design has five basic elements: form, line, scale, texture, and color. Form relates to the shape of plants and the basic structure of their branching patterns and how these varying plants are thoughtfully placed in the yard. Line refers to the flow of your landscape. You want the viewer’s eye to move rhythmically across your front yard. Scale, on the other hand, is how the size of things relate to one another while texture and color make the landscape pop.
These elements work together to create the basic principles, or rules, of landscape design. First, your front yard should have proportion; that is to say that the size of the individual components, such as the landscape plants, are consistent with the landscape as a whole, according to garden writer and About.com landscaping expert David Beaulieu. A landscape that is out of proportion has abrupt transitions in scale.
Similarly, Beaulieu writes, the landscape should demonstrate unity. One easy way to achieve this is through repetition, but don’t overdo it. You want your design to incorporate some variety and contrast. Repetition also helps create a rhythm as your eye takes in the scene.
Of course, you can go into much more depth on topics such as symmetrical and asymmetrical balance or focalization, but just understanding some of the very basic elements and principles will improve your landscape.
Assess your current landscape
You don’t have to scrap your existing landscape to create professional looking results. Once you know the basics of landscape design, you can ditch what isn’t working and add plants and features to improve on what you have. But, first, you need to objectively assess what you have.
Start your assessment by acknowledging that you have a bias, recommends Better Homes and Gardens. When you pull into your driveway after work, you probably feel good about being home, and those feelings flow over to your yard even when maybe they shouldn’t.
To get an objective look at your front yard, walk down the street, turn around, and come back. Next, get in your car and approach your house slowly from each direction. How does your home’s front yard compare with others in the neighborhood?
One quick way to improve your landscape is to add a walkway or improve the existing one. A straight path is the shortest, least expensive, and sometimes most sensible option when planning a walkway, but curves, jogs, and steps, when there is a reason to add them, can add visual interest, according to Better Homes and Gardens. You can also create interest by covering concrete walks with brick pavers, slate, or tile.
A well-thought out walkway creates a natural flow to the front door. It can also lend to a sense of overall balance by establishing symmetry, and its materials can introduce colors and textures that give your front yard depth.
Make your plants pop
You can’t simply incorporate your favorite plants haphazardly and expect to have a cohesive look. Instead, give some thought to color and texture as you pick out plants. Staff at your local nursery can offer suggestions if you need them, but here are some basic ideas to get you started.
First, use color to your advantage by employing the concept of color theory. The colors in your front yard, or in sections of your front yard, should all relate to one another. The easiest way to incorporate color theory is to group warm colors (red, yellow, and orange) together and cool colors (blue, purple, and green) together.
Add some variety. You can do this by introducing new textures Better Homes and Gardens suggests even adding some edible plants, like lettuce, to mix the look up a bit.
Accessorize your yard
Once you have the basics in place, consider a few finishing touches. HGTV suggests adding accessories, such as a fountain or an arbor, to serve as a focal point. Bird feeders, potted plants, and sculptures can give your property a polished look. Use these design features to add height, texture, and visual interest.
Keep in mind that your front yard can be a work in progress. You don’t have to do it all in one weekend, and you can let your look evolve. Don’t like the shrubs along the walkway? Replace them with annuals next spring. Want a fresh look? Replace the walkway. The possibilities are endless.