Fresh landscaping can breathe life into the dreariest front yard. That's why the owners of this rambling ranch allowed us to revive their ailing entry. This face-lift included a new brick walkway, generously sized planting beds, and a colorful assortment of trees, shrubs, and flowers.
With careful planning, even the most banal landscape can get a new lease on life. This ranch home featured the usual suspects: a few junipers strung along the front facade. The problem is, how do you come up with a landscape plan? And, once you come up with the plan, how do you actually get the job done? To help answer these questions, we decided to transform this ranch home into the jewel of the neighborhood.
Before you start any landscaping project, take a frank assessment of your yard's good and bad points. A cracked and broken walk, for example, will have to be replaced. But, if your foundation plants are in good shape, it's possible all they'll require is a little fertilizer and some pruning. In our case, this part of the job was easy. The home's front walk was in a bad state of repair, and the junipers growing along the facade were old and pruned so severely they resembled large mushrooms.
After reviewing your yard, you might want to drive around your neighborhood and get landscaping ideas from other homes. Take note of your favorite landscaping strategies and think about whether they'll work for you. Remember that sometimes the simplest ideas make the biggest changes. Flowers, for example, are a quick, inexpensive way to improve any entry. Masses of bedding plants along a pathway or pots of roses flanking your front door can make a big difference in your home's outlook.
Repainting is another quick and easy way to give your home a face-lift. Once an outdated rust-brown color, this ranch house was painted a more pleasing dark taupe. To add interest, inexpensive plastic shutters were added to the windows and painted a complementary shade of green.
Next, consider hiring a landscape professional to work with you. The time and money you spend working with a landscaper will probably save money in the long run. Some nurseries even offer free or discounted landscape services.
Once your landscape plan is complete, you have two choices. Do the entire project at once, or break it down into more affordable pieces. We chose to do our project in one summer, but had we broken it down, we would have done the grading and path work first, saving the planting beds for another time.
Mark the location of your path with white spray paint. Then, remove the turf by hand or with a sod stripper. When you're finished, use a spade to excavate to a depth of 7 inches.
Spread a 4-inch base of aggregate over the surface of the path. Use a plate compactor to level the material. Plate compactors are usually available at rental companies.
Adding soil is the easiest way to level out a sloping planting bed. We dumped all the soil from the excavated pathway onto the top of the beds. Then, we dug a low, level trench around the perimeter of each garden bed.
When we landscaped the front yard, our goal was to select a variety of shrubs, trees, ground covers, and perennials that would take turns providing color throughout the year. Evergreens are especially valuable because they keep the yard colorful during the winter.
When you select plants for your own front yard, choose a variety of flowers, ground covers, shrubs, and trees that will stay small enough not to overpower your home. These species are both compact and colorful.
Azalea (shown at right) Barberry (Berberis species) Chinese juniper (Juniperus species) Compact American cranberry bush (Viburnum trilobum compactum) Dense yew (Taxus species) Dwarf burning bush (Euonymus alata compacta) Dwarf Korean lilac (Syringa patula) Flowering almond (Prunus triloba) Spirea (Spiraea species)
Lamium (shown at right) Ajuga (Ajuga reptans) Bishop's weed (Aegopodium podagraria) English ivy (Hedera helix) Epimendium (Epimendium grandiflorum) Winter creeper (Euonymus fortunei) Ferns Liriope (Liriope species) Ornamental grasses Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis) Vinca (Vinca minor)
Kousa dogwood (shown at right) Amur maple (Acer ginnala) Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) Flowering cherry (Prunus species) Flowering crab apple (Malus species) Hawthorn (Crataegus species) Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) Redbud (Cercis canadensis) Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevus)