Poor drainage doesn't have to mean the end of having a gorgeous landscape. As this homeowner found out, proper drainage clears the way for a dry home and thriving garden.

drainage garden dry stream bed french drain
Credit: Jason Reeves Garden 2016

What gardener wouldn’t welcome a good rain? Jason Reeves knows the answer to that question.

Even during a light summer shower, water flowed across his sloping front lawn toward the front door, where it was joined by runoff from the gutters. Water lapped at the doorstep and turned the walk to the front door into a sodden, muddy mess. With a designer’s vision, a farmer’s know-how, and a modest budget, Jason undertook the landscape redo around his ranch-style starter home in Huntington, Tennessee, beginning with the yard’s serious drainage issues.

Before & After

drainage garden house front yard before plain
drainage garden front yard wooden path
Right: Credit: Jason Reeves Garden 2016

His solution was a system of French drains that capture the water and carry it downhill away from the house. Jason also designed and built a pergola-covered front porch and joined it to a low boardwalk running to the driveway. Raised beds flank the elevated boardwalk, providing well-drained spots for a wide variety of plants to flourish.

As a professional horticulturist in charge of the grounds and trial gardens at the University of Tennessee West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center in Jackson, Jason isn’t interested in a token row of plants along the front of his house. He wants the entrance to his home to be an appealing garden worthy of his creative expertise. Today the path is dry and easy to navigate, offers up-close access to colorful plantings, and is punctuated with his collections of vintage watering cans, grinding stones, and favorite garden ornaments. Even in winter, a framework of carefully chosen evergreen and deciduous shrubs continue to make his front-yard garden a welcoming destination.

Having a full-time job and part-time consulting business, Jason has minimal time to spend in his own garden. By following smart gardening techniques, he gives it all the attention it needs to look great but not at the expense of other commitments.

Even the busiest gardeners eventually sit down, preferably where they can enjoy the results of their work. “I always wanted a porch,” Jason says. Originally, this home did not offer that comfort. Now there are vine-draped pergolas sheltering the deck and flowering containers to furnish it with color.

This is where Jason unwinds many summer evenings, screened by his plantings from passersby on his country road. He can watch the fireflies twinkle amid his plants and the moon rise above them—and not worry a bit about tomorrow’s rainstorm.

drainage garden raised flower beds yellow orange
drainage garden cat pergola
Left: Credit: Jason Reeves Garden 2016
Right: Credit: Jason Reeves Garden 2016

Hardscape Design

Long raised beds edged in stone allow plants from trees to annual flowers to thrive in the low-lying yard. A second boardwalk topped with a pair of pergolas hugs the house and doubles as a porch. Potted flowers and foliage fill corners and make it all feel cozy.

drainage garden potted plant soggy soil
drainage garden potted shrub front door
drainage garden fossils edge
Left: Credit: Jason Reeves Garden 2016
Center: Credit: Jason Reeves Garden 2016
Right: Credit: Jason Reeves Garden 2016

Potted Plants

Not all pots need to be well-drained. This pot of white-topped pitcher plants (Sarracenia leucophylla) shows that this bog-loving plant can grow anywhere, especially if the pot has soggy, peat-rich soil and a mossy blanket. A large pot with an even larger specimen of Degroot’s Spire arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Degroot’s Spire’) calls attention to the front door. Among Jason’s various collections, fossils—such as these ammonites he collected in Texas—are a standout. They serve as both ornament and edging.

drainage garden watering cans metal design
drainage garden yellow flowers emperor’s candlesticks
Left: Credit: Jason Reeves Garden 2016
Right: Credit: Jason Reeves Garden 2016

Vintage Watering Can Collection

Jason is the proud curator of an extensive collection of watering cans, acquired from flea markets and estate sales. He owns more than 100, owing to his eye for the details that make each one special. Attractive to Sulphur Butterflies, emperor’s candlesticks (Senna alata) bloom with spectacular yellow flower spikes.

drainage garden Yellow Flame zinnias flowers
drainage garden shed grinding stone
Right: Credit: Jason Reeves Garden 2016

Garden Decor

Yellow Flame zinnia combines Jason’s favorite colors in one flower: pink, orange, and yellow. One of his many vintage grinding stones and an artisan-made bench decorate Jason’s shed.

Comments (1)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
May 31, 2019
Beautiful job! Love the boardwalk look. And, 100 watering cans, a man after my own heart.